Body Acceptance, Eating Disorder, Emotions, God, Recovery

Robbed and Reborn

I often say my eating disorder helped make me the woman I am today.  That statement is not false, as it developed at the start of my adolescence and carried me into adulthood.  My eating disorder comforted me through the stress of middle school; the pressure to be perfect in high school; fear of failure in college and the desire to be the best female officer in my military unit.  My eating disorder was the third wheel in my marriage; the shoulder to cry on during death of my father, and the driving force behind my postpartum depression and anxiety following the birth of my daughter.  While the eating disorder held and overwhelmingly large role in my life during my developmental years, it also robbed me of a plethora of youthful experiences throughout my life.  It took away time that I’ll never recover.

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As a 30-year-old wife and mother, I have grown to realize while most people my age where identifying their personalities, likes and dislikes, and exploring the world around them I was focused on food.  Nearly every memory I can conjure up over a 16-year span in my life involves food—or the fear of it—in some form or fashion.  It is almost as if my adolescent and college years were laser-focused on calories, food, exercise, and fear of public opinion.  I did all I could to remain the innocent and sweet girl the adults in my life knew and wanted me to be.  Very rarely did I push the boundaries of what was permissible and, when I did, it was under extreme peer pressure.  I never attempted to sneak out of the house in high school, despite having the perfect bedroom setup for such a feat.  I was never late to anything and panicked over timelines and deadlines.  I watched Center Stage on repeat, longing to have the body of a ballerina.  Instead of reading mysteries, romance, or what was popular, I was reading Reviving Ophelia and Stick Figure as triggers and an attempt to further normalize my eating disorder.  Something about reading books like that in adolescence hardwired my brain to forever only find eating disorder and recovery-based books interesting.

In college, when friends stayed out late, I was pulling late-night study sessions in the library because my fear of failure wouldn’t allow me to have fun.  Instead of bar hopping and enjoying my new-found freedom in turning 21, I would gym hop and spend hours exercising.  I didn’t buy beer for my birthday, I bought a second gym membership off campus.  Rather than participating in “Pizza and Real World” nights my friends would have in their dorm room, I pulled marathon sessions of HBO: Thin, Secret Between Friends, and Dying to Dance; making absolutely sure I burned every last calorie I had eaten that day.  Sometimes I would break down from extreme hunger and drive to Wendy’s in order to buy my favorite “binge foods” off the dollar menu, only to go home and purge.  Sometimes I didn’t even make it that far before I had to do the deed.  I remember how my thoughts raced in fear the night my roommate and her boyfriend brought home a Chicken Alfredo pizza; calories upon calories that I would have to attempt to eat and would subsequently purge.  Rather than attending a local fraternity party, I went running on the dark streets of Ypsilanti, Michigan late at night only to pass the fraternity party a friend was attending and he insisted on walking me home because he was worried.  All I could think about was how I was missing out on burning more calories instead of being thankful someone was looking out for my well-being.  When President Obama was elected in 2008, I watched his victory speech from the treadmill at my 24-hour gym…it was past midnight.  I was the only one in the gym other than the employee.  The eating disorder robbed me of a true college experience; made of bad decisions, pizza, and making fun memories with friends.  My memories involve all those things, but most are far from positive memories.

By the time I commissioned in the Army I knew I had a serious problem.  I would do training on as few calories as possible; fortunate not to become a casualty by means of mental illness.  Knowing I was my body’s biggest enemy while attending Airborne school at Fort Benning couldn’t stop me from restricting my caloric intake and purging before training to jump out of airplanes.  After nearly passing out on a five-mile formation run, and being forced to drink copious amounts of water by my peers in an attempt to keep me from getting booted out of Airborne school, I ate a little more for the duration of training…which was all of one week longer.  After I was assigned to my unit, I purged lettuce while on training missions out in the field in order to cope with the perceived stress of my job.  After going to dinner one evening with my superior officers, I purged in the restaurant bathroom then had an anxiety-filled meltdown on my cot later that night about what I had done and the fear of being caught.  The eating disorder robbed me of being the best officer I could’ve been by being healthy.

When I got married the eating disorder played a role in everything.  My husband is a saint for putting up with it—in many ways, he still does.  I didn’t want to have him feed me cake at our wedding because I didn’t want to eat cake.  We did the wedding ritual but that was the only cake I ate.  The eating disorder became my partner when TJ went away for work.  We lived our lives in three or four week increments at that time and each time TJ went away, the eating disorder returned full-force.  Then TJ would come home and I would have to resume eating like a “normal” person.  It was a vicious cycle. I would argue with him over food, my body, and how I viewed myself.  To this day I don’t know how TJ dealt with the grief I was giving him.  We have had to work hard to establish our marriage in recovery because TJ married a different person than the woman he is married to now.

Finally, by the time Vivienne came along, enough was enough.  My dad died while I was pregnant, and instead of restricting my calories or purging, I ate my feelings.  I ate everything.  I thought I was granting myself reprieve from the eating disorder in order to nourish a healthy baby, but really I just exchanged my traditional eating disorder behaviors for a new set of behaviors.  Instead of eating less to be “healthy” I was eating anything and everything in order to help numb out the grief.  I ended up giving birth to a nearly 10-pound baby girl, but she was healthy nonetheless.  The eating disorder robbed me of experiencing joy and a true emotional attachment to pregnancy.

While the eating disorder has given me many, many memories and robbed me of so much, it also gave me many positive things.  My senior year of undergrad I attempted to get help when my Army ROTC program forced my hand a little.  I attended therapy and an off-campus support group.  I still remember the phone call and conversation with the treatment provider at the Ann Arbor Center for Eating Disorders. Even though I was often a less-than-willing participant in my therapy sessions, I was given the first (albeit shaky) foundation for my eventual recovery.  In the support group, I met four brilliant and beautiful women with whom I formed a very strong friendship that remains to this day.  We called ourselves the Monday Night Enthusiasts because, let’s face it, when you’re spending time in therapy and support groups instead of partying it up in college, you connect with those who understand you and your situation.  Some of my best, happiest, and most fond college memories involve those women. (T-rex arm fight, anyone?)  Down the line, when I attended IOP in Columbus, I met another woman who I would call a best friend—more like another sister.  We barely knew each other in treatment, as she was leaving in my first few weeks of attendance, but down the line she lived with us and we formed an amazing friendship.  She helped fill the support gap when TJ went to work, offering me accountability in recovery after treatment.  I often think I wouldn’t be where I am today if she hadn’t come to live with us for those six months.

The eating disorder gave me the chance to go to treatment and truly get to know myself.  Over the course of two years I dug deeper into my past and myself than most people ever will.  I learned how to view the world through a different set of lenses, ones that allow me to love myself with open arms.  Being on this earth and occupying space in this body is a gift; one that many people take for granted every day.  Society tells us we should hate our bodies and compare our lives to everyone else—for these is always something better, right?  Recovery, which was only possible because I struggled with an eating disorder, taught me to value it all.  Value my experiences, my body, and my life.  That doesn’t mean it will all be pretty and wonderful, but with each experience is a lesson and it is up to me to value the lesson.  The eating disorder gave me the chance to be a healthy role model for Vivienne because I chose to recover.  I will continue to teach her to love her body, value her experiences, and see that life is a precious gift.

I used to wonder why God “made” me suffer from an eating disorder for so long.  It wasn’t to punish me or because He didn’t love me.  No, God wanted me to recover all along but it was up to me to choose when to fully immerse myself in the joy of recovery.  What was supposed to be “the best years” of my life were no where near what I am experiencing today.  Being a healthy, recovery-minded mom and wife are definitely the best years for me. Every day I see God using my struggle for the benefit of others and I realize all that pressure–16 years of pressure–was to help form a diamond.  A rough around the edges, uncut diamond that is still being shaped into a shining gemstone for Christ.

With Body Love,
Lane

This post is dedicated to K.K.M.  Your light was beautiful, bright, and will always be remembered.  I know you’re t-rex arm fighting in heaven.

Alcohol, Appreciation, Body Appreciation, Body Love, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Faith, Feelings, God, Hope, Journaling, Recovery, Sobriety, Social Media, Triggers, Uncategorized

Seeking Sobriety

Recovery teaches individuals to replace unhealthy behaviors for positive practices, coping mechanisms.  Often that means instead of purging after a meal, the individual is taught to do something such as coloring, knitting, etc. to help take the individual’s mind off the temptation to engage in harmful behavior.  However, there are times when an individual picks up another harmful habit to replace the original harmful habit.  In my case, I was starting to become a closet drinker to replace the emotions the eating disorder attempted to drown out.

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In my family there is a history of addiction.  Without throwing all the people under the bus, I will say my dad was an alcoholic.  He may not have admitted it, but he was; I believe it played a part in killing him.  To some degree, I believe I inherited his addictive personality.  The eating disorder was similar to an addiction in that it gave me a “high” when I restricted food or purged.  I used the eating disorder to cope with stress, loneliness, sadness…well, just about any emotion or feeling possible.  While I have not been using alcohol to fill all those voids, I was using it to cope with loneliness and stress above all else.

Living in a marina, I am surrounded by people who drink on an unhealthy level.  The ship store offers a wide variety of craft beers and wines that are easily accessible.  There are people who drink early in the morning and continue to do so all day long.  Smelling alcohol on someone’s breath at 10am is not abnormal.  I feel into the trap of thinking drinking every night was completely fine for me.  Perhaps for some people having a beer after work stops there, but for me, it became something that made me salivate.  Got in an argument? Grab a beer.  Feeling lonely?  Open up that wine.  Boat troubles got ya down? No worries, a rum cocktail should fix that right up.

Before I knew it, I was having a beer or two nearly every night and drinking them without eating much on top of that.  I had moments where I would want a drink so bad my mouth would water and I was having an all-out craving so I would walk up to the ship store and take care of it.  While I love living on the boat, the availability of alcohol when I lived on land in a house was not like it is now.  On land I would’ve had to drive 10-15 minutes to get to a store, buy the beer, then drive 10-15 minutes home.  By the time it was all said and done I didn’t think it was worth it, and at that time I was still in treatment so utilizing positive coping skills was easy.  Convenience is everything.

Over the years I thought I had found my balance with alcohol.  For example, I realized three years ago that I can’t drink vodka because it makes me incredibly angry and argumentative.  Just ask my old iPhone that got thrown down in a fit of vodka-fueled rage onto the pavement and shattered.  Wine makes my nose stuffy, but I drink it anyway because it is socially common since it “pairs well” with food.  Of course mimosas for breakfast and brunch; especially in the South.  Then there is beer.  Not your run-of-the-mill Anheuser-Busch beers, but the well-crafted, flavorful beers.  They come in all flavors now–cold brew coffee, PB&J, notes of citrus fruits–I could go on and on.  Lets not forget my Caribbean island favorite–rum…or rhum, depending on where it is from.  Just typing that all out makes my mouth water thinking about it.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been down this road.  The first time I ever went to therapy for the eating disorder, back in 2008, my therapist was concerned about my drinking.  Of course, at that time, I was a senior in college so drinking a lot and often was not uncommon.  Again, alcohol was and is an accepted societal norm.  I still have the charts from that therapist regarding “how much should you drink” based on your age, weight, and other factors.  At the time I didn’t think anything about drinking; even though I still feel bad about the one time I showed up for my appointment a little tipsy.  My reasoning?  It was St. Patrick’s day so Ann Arbor was full of green beer.

I’ve said the words, “I’m going to quit drinking” several times over the last few months to my husband.  I would try and it would last a few days, maybe a week then I’d be back at it again.  While my husband has been away on business I realized I really don’t think my behaviors toward alcohol are healthy.  My mindset isn’t simply having a drink with dinner, but having a drink to drown something out.  Quite honestly, the prevailing thoughts are similar to what made me want to restrict food to numb out feelings and get a high from it in the first place.  Either way, none of it is healthy.  Therefore, I’m calling myself out and making it public to work toward accountability.  I’ve been living my eating disorder recovery as an open book, so I’m adding this to it.

If you’re reading this and you want to offer me a drink next time you see me, please don’t.  Social drinking is so common and accepted that I struggle to say no.  I don’t want to be the odd duck; which makes me smile a little when you consider in high school I wouldn’t drink at parties, but instead would drink plain orange juice to try to fit in.  Alcohol is a socially accepted drug.  Heck, I studied that in graduate school.  Some people can have a drink and that is that; there is no deeper emotional reasoning behind it.

That person is not me.
I am the person who uses it to replace “my” addition of disordered eating.

Once again I find myself returning to tried and true coping mechanisms I learned in treatment, as it is obvious I still need them.  Finding my center and my ability to cope with loneliness and stressful situations in a healthy manner is of the utmost importance for my recovery and my future; therefore, I must give up alcohol.  I know this is not going to be easy, as I’ve said, it is socially common and acceptable; however, many before me have done it and I know it is what is best for me.

During a phone conversation with a friend and mentor the other day she said, “When you crave it is an opportunity to spiritually connect.  Discontinuation of a behavior is trusting in God’s power.”

If you need me, I’ll be crafting a little memo with that on it to post in my kitchen.

With Body Love,
Lane 

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Friends, God, Gratitude, Hope, Joy, Love, Recovery, Social Media, Uncategorized

Identity

“Identity cannot be found or fabricated but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go.”
-Doug Cooper

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 Identity.  This is a concept with which I have struggled in recent months.  For nearly two decades my identity has been wrapped up inside a neat little package I refer to as the eating disorder, and subsequently my recovery.  When the satin bow on that neat little package was untied it led to the contents spilling out over the table like puzzle pieces without an order.  Each facet of my life lay before me, upturned and mixed up, waiting for me to pick it up, examine it, and set it in its proper place; in hopes of uncovering my true identity somewhere in there, or perhaps when the puzzle formed a picture.

I started this blog when I was merely months in true recovery after leaving treatment, and it has provided an outlet for my thoughts as much as it has provided inspiration for people who read it.  Each day I grow stronger in my recovery and take more steps away from the life that once defined me; almost as if I am stepping out of my old body and life to move forward into a new one.  Taking off my mask and revealing my true self.  The eating disorder was the mask for so long and the space between the mask and my face formed the majority of my identity for the last two years–my recovery.

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW) and usually I flood my social media accounts with facts, stories, and information about eating disorders, treatment, and statistics.  Not this year.  My choice to not participate wasn’t a conscious one, it just happened.  My newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram have been bombarded with NEDAW images, sayings, and statistics; yet I have not shared any of them.  It isn’t because I no longer care about individuals struggling with and recovering from eating disorders–not at all–but my identity is not longer wrapped up by the satin bow of recovery or the messy puzzle of the eating disorder.  I still greatly care about and pray for individuals who have not yet discovered the freedom recovery will bring.

I have found myself writing for BBA less and less over the last six months, as I have been stepping away from the eating disorder and recovery communities more and more.  Writing for BBA only once each month wasn’t a choice I made with logic or reason, but it one that has happened as my life is being lived.  Eating disorder thoughts no longer dominate my mind and a “proper” meal plan isn’t something that I cling to in order to give me normalcy while eating now.  My exercise isn’t obsessive or damaging to my recovery and my body does not define me.  I’ve started to leave the role of eating disorder recovery advocate and step with my whole heart, mind, and body into the roles of Christian, mother, and wife.

Earlier today I found myself sitting with a friend and discussing this very topic over coffee.  Identity can be confusing for adolescents and young adults, sure, but it can be equally confusing for adults; especially those impacted by trauma or mental illness.  My friend and I talked about finding our identity in Christ and what that actually means.  Whether or not you are a Christian, or have a Higher Power at all, your identity is found in your personality, beliefs, etc.  While I do not hold the answer as to what it means to have my identity in Christ, I know my “roles” fall under that identity.  My confidence comes from Christ and knowing I am created in His image.  Outward beauty holds no power over my heart and the acts of kindness I can perform for others.

Struggling with my identity 0ver the last several months culminated itself today when I realized my identity is found in more in my heart than anything else.  My identity is my calling and purpose.  Christ has given me a heart for people society tends to overlook or despise–inmates and individuals struggling with substance abuse–and how I focus my heart, energy, and attention speaks to my identity.  I still love and care about the eating disorder recovery community, as it helped form who I am today and I’m eternally grateful for the individuals God placed in my life to help get me here, but it isn’t the biggest identifier of who I am anymore.  My BBA posts may not be as numerous as they once were, but they will still show up every so often, as I wholeheartedly believe everyBODY is beautiful.  There are self-acceptance and body-acceptance lessons to be gleaned in every day life and when a lesson smacks me in the face, I’m going to share it.

My identity is in Christ and the courage I have to serve the community He placed in my heart many years ago.  My identity is found in the life I lead; not in my body, recovery, or past history of an eating disorder.  For me, this is not my identity anymore but a building block to help form who I’ve become.  I may live on a sailboat and enjoy sailing, but I don’t identify myself as a sailor to define who I am any more than formerly struggling with and in recovery from an eating disorder makes me a person with an eating disorder.

In the last six months I’ve found the courage to “let go” of the mask, and the space between the mask so my identity could emerge.  It has been there all along, waiting for me to realize that my identity is found in the calling Christ placed in my heart long before recovery was on my radar.

 Identity.

Yes, I struggled with an eating disorder for 16 years, and yes, I am in solid recovery after two years of ridiculously hard work, but neither of those things solely define me anymore.  Christ defines me.  The heart He has given me for the incarcerated and addicted population helps define me.  My role as a mother and wife are part of my identity.  I will continue to write for BBA but I no longer feel like my recovery or being a writer for BBA is the biggest part of my identity; a feeling that is even more freeing than recovery itself.  As my husband said when I explained all this, “I’ve waited for years to hear you say that.”

I’ve waited years to feel it.

With Body Love,
Lane

Body Acceptance, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, God, Journaling, Recovery, Uncategorized

My Demon Has A Name

I’m calling out my current demon for what it is: depression.  While this isn’t directly related to body image, depression can indirectly impact my mood, self-worth, and all other aspects of my life.  Until today I didn’t realize what was happening; until today I didn’t know to call my demon by its name.

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Two years ago at this time, January 2015, I was in treatment at The Center for Balanced Living; chipping away at the emotional baggage that accompanied a 16 year battle with an eating disorder.  I felt safe and surrounded by treatment professionals as I unloaded that baggage, learned my triggers, and exchanged all of it for pieces of my “new” personality and purpose in life.  Two years ago The Center was helping me along by calling out my demons when I couldn’t and walking alongside me as I found my way through the dark.

One year ago, January 2016, I was still in treatment but on an outpatient level.  Each week I drove to Columbus to see my outpatient therapist and dietician; further chipping away and the old and making room the new.  When my demons came calling my team was there to help me call them out and cope with the subsequent feelings and negative thoughts.  The hard work was getting easier and I felt more confident with each trial that came my way.  Support meant steps toward success.

Today, January 2017, I am out and “on my own;” having been completely discharged from treatment since April 2016.  There are times, lately more often that not, that I question whether I was fully prepared to step out on my own when I did.  At the time I felt healthy, strong, and emotionally able to knock down all my demons through positive thinking, coping skills, and Christ.  However, today I am not so sure.  Today, and nearly every day for the last six weeks, my demon has come to call and I’ve answered instead of fighting.  I’ve allowed depression to seep back into my life through the unsecured cracks in my recovery walls.  I stopped using coping skills, convincing myself I no longer needed things like journaling, yoga, or “me” time to decompress.  I threw myself to the wolves and the wolves have been winning–but today I am calling myself out.

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The week before Thanksgiving my husband lost his job.  He was, at that time, the sole provider for our family; working weeks away from home in the oilfield.  Then he lost his job and our world was turned upside down.  I called the marina where we live to explain the situation and see if I could work there to help our family along while he figured out what was next for his career.  Graciously, I was given a job as a dockhand doing physical labor for $10.50 per hour.  Well, it was something, so I agreed in order to help support my family–benefits would not be included.  Despite having two degrees I do not hold a social work license in the state of South Carolina, so finding something in a related field would be nearly impossible; for most other jobs my degrees rendered me “overqualified”.  So now I find myself chipping oysters off cement pilings and washing dock boxes, lost in a sea of depression.

Each day I put on my happy face, staff t-shirt, and walk to work; returning at the end of the day exhausted and on the verge of tears.  Much of my depression can be chalked up to anxiety.  I constantly stress and worry over my much younger co-workers talking about me (doubtful), whether or not I’m making big mistakes (usually I’m not), and how long I can keep up this job before I have a breakdown in the employee bathroom (seriously, not much longer).  I put my headphones in and listen to praise and worship music as I chip away at the oysters, begging God to help me handle this anxiety and depression that, at times, seems almost debilitating.  Over the last few days some revelations have occurred during these oyster-chipping-worship hours, causing me to realize I have to confront my demons head-on and recognize where I am in life.

  1. I took being a stay-at-home-mom for granted, as well as the ability to freely write whenever I wanted and now I’m mourning that loss. For the last three years I’ve been a full-time mother and more often than not I was frustrated by the end of that day that I wasn’t doing “more” with my life.  I would clean up messes and meet up for playdates while wishing I could be doing something else.  At the same time, I had the freedom to write and work on my future (hopefully) Kindle Single but rarely did because I was convinced I had writers’ block or something of the sort.  Now I find myself wishing I could be the one running my daughter to school, dance, or a playdate at the park instead of soaking up the strong scent of bleach into my skin.  Lately I’ve been praying for God to give me a second chance at both of those things, as He is the one who gives and takes away.  I don’t always know His plans but I know He has a purpose for me being where I am in this moment and while I pray He changes it, I know He has me right where He wants me.  Clearly there is a lesson to be learned in all of this.
  2. Self-care and the use of coping skills is not a bunch of bologna.  When we moved aboard our boat I stopped doing yoga every day.  It wasn’t because I didn’t have time or space, we live on a catamaran so space isn’t really an issue; it was because I was convinced I no longer needed yoga to center myself and start each day balanced.  I thought being on the water every day would be life-balancing enough but, until recently, I didn’t realize how wrong I was.  I need daily yoga in my life for balance and mental health.  The same goes for journaling.  While I greatly enjoy writing for BBA and our family sailing blog–McKelveys on the Move–neither one can replace my trusty pen and paper journal for my mental health needs.
  3. Wishing my life and current situation could be different won’t solve anything.  Wishing for circumstances to change is a lot like crying over spilled milk; as you cry the spill seeps everywhere creating a bigger mess than the one with which you started.  Right now my life looks a lot like spilled milk that I’ve been crying over instead of cleaning.  Each day I wish my situation was different, that my husband had a good job again, and I would given back that time to write and play with my daughter every day.  Wishing for all those things doesn’t change where I am but only seeks to further my depression and squander the time that I do have doing the things I love.  So today, I’m going to stop crying over the spilled milk and start cleaning.

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No where in the unfinished, utterly unwritten Book of Life does it say I have to love my job or be thrilled with my current situation.  It also doesn’t say that I have to be happy go-lucky 100 percent of the time.  What I am choosing to write in my Book of Life is this:

Depression comes and goes, the only thing that remains constant is Christ.

My current situation isn’t the most favorable but it is part of the greater plan for my life.  Aside from trusting God I can do my part to ensure the demon of depression stays at bay by committing to doing yoga, journaling, and appreciating each moment and opportunity for what it is.  While that is often easier said than done, choosing to make a commitment to my mental health is important; no one needs to read about the woman who had a mental breakdown in the employee bathroom…but if I do, it won’t be the end of the world because this is my life and so much of it has yet to be written.  This small paragraph in my book won’t last forever but there is always something to learn from every word.

With Body Love,
Lane

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, God, Gratitude, Hope, Joy, Pregnancy, Recovery, Social Media, Uncategorized, Weight

Faith, Food, and Faulty Thinking

“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are you’d never think a negative thought again.”

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Thoughts have the ability to determine our day, even our outlook on life.  Our thoughts, when verbalized, have the ability to shape the minds of children and support or break down others.  Thoughts, especially in conjunction with words, are the most powerful weapons in the human arsenal.  Sometimes thoughts feel so uncontrollable, so overwhelming and demeaning to ourselves that we act based upon those thoughts.  This is the case with me when eating disordered thoughts once controlled my life.  Sometimes the thoughts are still powerful and it takes all the remaining mental strength I have to reason with myself and convince myself that an eating disordered life is no way to live.  Due to my own faulty thinking regarding food and body image when I am being controlled by the negative eating disordered thoughts, I am able to recognize the potential dangers in others when they verbalize their faulty thinking.  

In September I was added to a group on Facebook that seeks to support women on their weight-loss and healthy eating journey though a biblically based plan.  In order to protect the women of that group I will not name the plan or the group but the basics are this: balance your blood sugar through different types food/fuel combinations; typically resulting in weight loss but at a minimum resulting in change in energy level.  The principles are solid and I have reaped some of the benefits of utilizing this notion in conjunction with the knowledge base I have from working with a dietician for 18 months.  I have more energy and I’m less sluggish when I follow the food combinations outlined by the plan but I have not, and will not, go “all in” as so many in the group say.  I see the faulty thinking in this.  Food becomes about rules, competition with self and others, and all too often becomes about the weight loss.  Daily in this group women post photos of their feet standing on a scale to show how much they weigh or body comparison photos demonstrating their weight loss over the last few months.  I shake my head because I know weight alone does not signify health.  In fact, multiple women in the group have commented that since starting the plan and going “all in” they have lost a significant amount of weight (in too short amount of time, in my opinion) and, as a result, are struggling with hair loss.  That raises a red flag to this woman in eating disorder recovery.  Hair loss in the land of eating disorders symbolizes a lack of nutrients, and potentially a serious caloric deficit.  In fact, when I was in treatment we had a lengthy discussion about weight loss and hair loss.  The body is preparing for starvation.  This is not something I want.  I happen to like my blonde hair and would prefer not to lose it.  

Women also post almost daily about being discouraged, hating their stomaches/thighs/etc, and begging for tips on how to make the plan really work for them to lose weight.  It seems very reminiscent to pro-ana discussion groups in which I once found “support” and encouragement.  However, this group does it to “glorify God” by taking care of their bodies, as they are a temple for God (1 Corinthians 6:19).  I am not mocking the faith of these women, as I believe in God and have a strong Christian faith, but I believe most of them are not doing it for this reason alone but also because they absolutely hate and are ashamed of the way they look.  Some women who utilize this plan have been urged by medical professionals to lose weight or death and disease will ravage their bodies and, as a result, lose weight and truly become healthy.  Everyone has their own motives but I know not everyone has pure intentions and use the group as a means for comparison, self-deprecation, and a motive to lose more weight.  

The most worrisome posts to me are the ones where emotions are clearly tied to weight and body size.  Women who say they cry because they gained two pounds instead of losing two or saying they “feel fat” because they aren’t dropping clothing sizes.  These are borderline eating disorder thoughts, especially when combined with the strict rules being followed when going “all in” on the plan.  So often the “rules” associated with the plan remind me of the rules I followed when I was living in the eating disorder, which is what scares me for these women.  The most disturbing trend I keep reading and seeing in this group deals with the children.  Women post selfies standing sideways in the mirror often but the photos that really rip at my heart are the ones where these women are posing with unhappy, self-loathing faces (words to match) and their child is standing beside them, silently observing the self-hate and learning these behaviors.  I’ll be the first to admit that I still fall into the trap of body-checking by standing sideways in a mirror (when I have access to one) to determine whether not I like how an outfit makes me look but I never, NEVER do it in front of Vivienne.  However, some day she may catch me doing it and it is for that reason I need to continue to strive to change my behavior.  I can still clearly picture the photo that hurt me the most and it is of a woman who is doing just as I described and her daughter, the same age as Vivienne, is standing beside her with a sad face, too, while clutching her blanket.  Is this really what we want to teach our children? 

I know it isn’t what I want for Vivienne.   I don’t want her to look at her body after it has birth babies and hate what she sees because her stomach is no longer flat and her breasts aren’t perky.  We were all created unique in God’s image and that uniqueness extends to our bodies.  Some people are built to be heavier than others.  We aren’t all going to look like models, have well-defined muscles, or absolutely zero cellulite.  Sometimes we forget that while God created us with different personalities He also created us with different bodies, but all are still created HIS image.    All I can do is strive to take care of my body to the best of my abilities in this life I have been given.  I can’t get bogged down by playing the compare and despair game and I don’t want to pass that game on to my daughter.  

It is time to change the conversation.
We, as women, have a responsibility to the young girls in our communities to teach them to love who they are, regardless of body size.
We, as mothers, have the chance to change how our daughters look at themselves in the mirror and the dialogue they have about their bodies.
We, as Christians, have a responsibility to celebrate all bodies and the uniqueness God created.

No two people were created exactly the same and that is something we should celebrate!
It is time to quit playing compare and despair.  
It is time to teach our daughters that bodies change over time but their abilities should still be praised over appearance. 

With Body Love, 
Lane

Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, Forgiveness, God, Hope, Joy, Love, Recovery, Social Media, Uncategorized

Faith and Forgiveness

“This is the body of Christ broken for you,” said the layperson, as I tore off a piece of bread from the communion loaf.  I took a few steps to the side, “This is the blood of Christ shed for you.” I dipped the piece of bread into the cup then put it in my mouth as I walked away.  “Surely the body and blood of Christ has calories,” my 13 year old, very eating disordered brain reasoned. I held the bread dipped in grape juice in my mouth until I walked back around to my seat, where I promptly spit it out into a tissue; feeling only slightly guilty. 

******

I grew up going to church; the same little Methodist church in which my mom was raised and where her entire family attended (still attends) church.  I liked the ritualistic, methodical nature of it all but I didn’t understand the deeper meaning.  While I believed in God I didn’t care to dig much deeper than the surface.  I didn’t read my Bible, in fact I didn’t have the slightest clue where the books where located much beyond Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy… five books.  I could easily locate the first five books and Psalms because it was somewhere smack dab in the middle.  While I believed in God and believed Jesus died for my sins, I was not finding my worth in Christ but in food, losing weight, and being thin.

A few weeks ago I was talking to my husband about my faith and why I am so silent and unwilling to openly share my beliefs.  I rarely write about them on this blog and I don’t openly share them on social media very often either.  I was afraid.  I feared judgment by others for my outward showing of faith because I lived most of my life in a less than Christian manner.  Quite honestly I feared the meme that sometimes circulates on social media would be what people thought about me:

E Card

Only my “wild” live-for-yourself days weren’t in high school but in college.  In many ways I put on airs; in front of large groups of people I was this demure, sweet girl from the middle of Amish country nowhere Ohio while secretly going to parties, and going beyond what any true Christian girl would with boys.  My dad walked out on my 17th birthday and instead of finding comfort in God and looking toward my heavenly Father I turned toward earthly comforts–most often found in the growling of my stomach and the attention of men.  I felt abandoned, unloved, and unworthy of being loved by my dad so I found it where I could.  When I went to college this pattern of beliefs and behavior was amplified by a culture where drunkenness and intense sexuality was widely accepted and eating disorders ran rampant.  Instead of really searching to find a church home, despite one of my closest friends always inviting me to her church and praying for me constantly, I found my own path to the bottom of alcohol bottles in place of food.  I exercised a lot because I knew that a thinner but still muscular physique would be attractive and I could feel wanted.

My brain suffered from my lifestyle.  As I’ve stated in other posts I lack memories from my 16 years in the eating disorder because my brain was starving.  My brain was starving, sleep deprived, and drunk.  I made a lot of mistakes and sometimes went to Catholic Mass with friends to feel better about what I had done before going back out on Saturday night and doing it again.  In reality my relationship with God was almost nonexistent because I was so angry with God for what had happened to my family.  I was a good faker about how I believed and loved God but in reality acted in any way but faithful.  My body became my enemy, despite the knowledge that my body is a temple for God, and the weapon of choice for God’s enemy to turn me against Him.  The war waged on with the eating disorder but instead of battling the eating disorder and trying to get better I was battling God.

After college I did what I used to do so well and ran from Michigan down to Savannah, GA where I was living with a man I met through a friend in the Army.   He, like me, was an Army officer and gave me so much attention it was easy to continue using my body as a weapon against God.  I continued in the eating disorder and continued to be sexually immoral.  He was a believer, but a believer like me–on the surface level.  It was easier and more fun to indulge in a lifestyle against the Bible than to follow as God commanded and save sex for marriage.  Before too long I realized his attention for me was a drive for control and he wanted to control me, my actions, and my career by advising me not to be the best officer so my career could tank and I could get out.  I got out, out of that relationship and moved to another state.

Enter my husband.  My husband who wasn’t just a surface level Christian but a true believer in the Bible and teachings of Christ.  TJ invited me to go to church with him and I did.  I started to go to church again and actually listen to the teachings.  I started to read my Bible like I never had before and started to realize the eating disorder was a weapon against myself and God but I wasn’t ready or able to stop it just yet.  I also realized that my actions over the previous four-and-a-half years could be forgiven.  I prayed for forgiveness for my actions often but never really forgave myself.  My past was a big, dirty, shameful secret.  A secret I shared with my husband before we got engaged and married but a shameful secret nonetheless.  I had treated my body poorly not only by starving it, purging food, and overexercising but by how I had allowed it to be something for the Devil to use to turn me against God and the teachings of the Bible that I had held true until I was 19 years old and in college.

Finally, a few weeks ago, after TJ and I had this conversation about my fear of sharing faith I realized my prayers for forgiveness had been heard.  My sins during that time in college when I was a very lost, very ill sheep from God’s flock had been forgiven long time ago when I first asked and I didn’t need to hold it against myself anymore.  My forgiveness isn’t greater than God’s forgiveness.  I’m healthy now.  My body and brain are healthy and God was one of the biggest proponents for getting me through the eating disorder.  My faith grew stronger over the last two years and that means the secrets that continued to plague my mind and make me feel unworthy of being able to share my faith needed to be shared.  I might have grown up believing in God but I got lost along the way and turned my body into a weapon to wage war against myself and God.  I’m not perfect, I never was and never will be.

Striving for perfection nearly killed me and did kill my faith in the process for a few years.  My body isn’t a weapon but an instrument through which God uses me to spread His love and message of forgiveness.  I believe God has forgiven me for using my body against Him and for mistreating it for so many years.  I kept from my body the physical and spiritual nourishment needed for my survival.  I had forgiven myself for struggling with the eating disorder long ago; realizing it played a part in turning me away from God but He has since used it for His greater glory as well as the good of myself and others.  However, I had not truly forgiven myself for my sexual immorality until a few weeks ago.  It was a grudge I held against myself in silent shame and it was hindering me from outwardly sharing my love for Christ and my faith.  Judgment from others may come because people may not have forgotten my actions in college, but I know the greater truth:  God has forgiven me.

“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving even though we have rebelled against Him.”
Daniel 9:9  

Forgiveness

My past holds no power over me now because I keep no secrets.  Everything I’ve done, experienced, and survived make up my story that God uses to show is unconditional love for His people.

With Body Love,
Lane

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, Friends, God, Gratitude, Hope, Joy, Love, Motivation, Recovery, Social Media, Uncategorized, Weight

Motivation

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

******

I found myself sitting in Starbucks a few days ago with a woman who is walking her own eating disorder recovery journey.  I respect all people who walk this journey, as they are courageous enough to fight a difficult fight, but this woman in particular.  She had never met me but reached out online and asked to meet up while I was in town.  Naturally, because I love sharing my story and learning about others walking a similar road, I agreed and found myself sitting across from her talking about our recovery road.  That is when she asked me the question I wasn’t quite sure how to answer, “What was your motivation?  I find myself wanting to give in sometimes and resorting to old behaviors.”

What was my motivation to recover?

My immediate answer was, “Vivienne, my daughter.”  At least Vivienne and TJ, my husband, were the initial motivators but upon further reflection after leaving Starbucks I began to dig deeper and remember my bigger motivators when I was in the depths of the disease.  Sometimes it is hard to recall what I was thinking at that time because my world was spinning so fast and I was working all day, every day to recover.  My motivators changed like the tides but I boiled it down to be concise enough to fit on this post.  So, to the woman I met in the coffee shop, I hope you see this post and know this is how I would answer your question if you asked me again.

External Motivation:  This was the initial motivation that got me into the doors of the treatment center; the motivation that made me reach out to a therapist and dietician in the first place.  I’ll admit, when I started working with Amy (therapist) and Anne (dietician) it was for external factors.  My doctor said I needed a therapist to help deal with postpartum depression and eating disordered behaviors; in order to appease TJ and my doctor, I found one that worked with eating disorders, too.  I knew I wasn’t being the wife and mother I could be and I needed help to figure it out.  So, off to therapy I went.  When I decided it was time to see a dietician I picked one that worked with eating disorders but I wanted lose weight, not necessarily deal with all the eating disordered behaviors.  My external motivators that got me through the doors of both outpatient and IOP were TJ, Vivienne, my desire to lose weight, and my desire to appease people in my life. While those are not the best motivations, they did start me on the path to true recovery.

Internal Motivation:  This is where my goals for myself, my family, and the dreams that extended beyond my body came to play.  These motivators weren’t present in the first half of my time in IOP but really started to show themselves during the second half.  Once my body was starting to replenish the much needed nutrients I began to untangle the web of myself.  The eating disorder started when I was so young that I didn’t really get the chance to figure out my true likes, dreams, and personality.  Once I started to see beyond the external motivating factors that got me into treatment I began to see the motivating factors within myself; my driving forces to recover.   During treatment I realized the primary emotion I ever let myself feel was anger; which, as I learned during an internship with recovering drug addicts, is actually a secondary emotion.  Anger always masks another feeling, and in my case anger seemed to mask every other emotion possible.  IOP helped me start to experience feelings of true happiness and I wanted more of it. I began to have more positive life experiences and started figuring out my goals and passions; such as my sense of adventure (I am an adrenaline junkie) and love of helping others.  Radical body acceptance was introduced and I ran with the idea of accepting my body and myself exactly as I was at any given moment.  I started to let myself dream again and one of those dreams was to move to an island in the Caribbean with my little family.  This was a dream my husband and I shared when we first got married, but as I drifted back to the eating disorder I slowly let myself forget about the Caribbean until I was near the end of IOP.  I wanted so much more than to be sitting in weekly appointments with a therapist and dietician for the rest of my life.  I wanted to be free to explore new countries, cultures, and not be afraid to try the ethnic foods of those cultures.  I wanted to truly enjoy my life instead of merely existing in it.  

Spiritual Motivation:  God is the center of my life and marriage.  I hold tightly to my Christian values and beliefs, and I believe with all my heart God is the primary factor that got me to this point where I can say I am recoverED.  While I do not discount my own hard work and diligence, I looked to Christ for my strength at the times when I was my weakest. My husband and dietician were adamant God was going to use me and this struggle for a greater purpose when I was stronger, and I see now they were right all along.  God has granted me with the ability to write well and the vulnerability to be completely honest about my journey; two things that, when combined, create a greater purpose for my struggle.  God lit a fire in my life when He led me to this path of recovery–a fire to live a life so full of purpose that now I can live it fully for Him.  I get to share this recovery story with anyone who reads this blog, follows BBA on Facebook, or meets me in person and give all glory to God in the process.  God gave me a passion for sharing my story with others and some extremely big dreams for my family that could only be carried out when I was in full recovery.  I am now in that place and those dreams are being fulfilled.  

Musical Motivation:  I’ve always been drawn to music and I love singing.   My mom told me ever since I was an infant I needed music to go to sleep, so it isn’t a surprise that I created multiple recovery playlists to help motivate me.  On the 45 minute drive to IOP, therapy, or appointments with my dietician I would have a recovery playlist blasting loudly through the speakers of my Honda Pilot.  Songs from several different musical genres all came together on my lists: Christian hymns, Christian pop songs, country, rap, SOCA, reggae, secular pop…I have a rather eclectic music collection.  Some of my favorites are as follows:

You Make Me Brave–Bethel Music and Amanda Cook (Christian)
Diamonds–Hawk Nelson (Christian)
Beautiful, Beautiful–Francesca Battistelli  (Christian)
Crushed and Created–Caitlyn Smith (pop/country)
Monster–Skillet (Christian Rock)
Fight Song–Rachel Platten (pop)
Lose Yourself–Eminem (rap)
Part of Me–Katy Perry (pop)
Hearts of Warriors–Casey Montana Rogers (country)
Cleanin’ Out My Closet–Eminem (rap)
Phenomenal–Benjai (SOCA)
Wild Child–Kenny Chesney (country)
Ah Feeling Mehself–Patrice Roberts (SOCA)
Soul of a Sailor–Kenny Chesney (country)
Surrender All–Matt Boswell (Christian, currently playing with post)

******

If I could re-answer the question about where I got my motivation I would say it was (and is) three-fold with a fourth bonus.
My main motivators were
external, internal, and spiritual
but musical motivation is always a bonus!

External motivation is what got me through the doors and into treatment but internal and spiritual motivation were what kept me there for the long haul. 

What motivates you in recovery and in life?

Find your fire, your passion and keep fighting for it! 

With Body Love,
Lane

Body Image, Body Love, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, Friends, God, Hope, Recovery, Triggers, Uncategorized, Weight

TrIgGeRs

“Whenever you get TRIGGERED...get curious.
Ask why.
Dive DEEP.
That’s where the beauty lies.”

******

Sometimes triggers feel like they can break me.  At the very least they shake me to my core and make me question my recovery; forcing me to examine my stance and stability–or lack thereof.  While I once had a running list of things that triggered me, those things now cease to exist and it is the random, small things that force me to dig deeper in recovery.

In the beginning triggers where the glaring, obvious things that often stand in the way of people trying to achieve solid recovery.  Some of those are still triggers for me and force me to step with caution in this dance I call life in recovery.  Triggers would often follow the “people, places, things” rule that those in recovery for substance addiction face.  However, triggers can often be other things such as songs, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and smells. Sometimes triggers are so random they sneak up on me and I feel like they are going to swallow me whole; forcing me to return to the “safety” and “security” the eating disorder once provided.

For the longest time I had to avoid Wendy’s fast food restaurant because in college I would go through the drive thru and order things off the dollar menu to eat and subsequently purge.  Wendy’s became a trigger for me once I started to move toward recovery my senior year of college, suddenly becoming off-limits.  A place could set me down the wrong path.

To this day the song Courage by SuperChick throttles me back in time to lying, hiding, and covering up my actions.  Telling everyone I was fine, I had eaten dinner before I arrived, or that I hadn’t exercised beyond the point of exhaustion more than once that day was a near daily occurrance.  I can still picture myself driving through the University of Michigan campus on my way to the Ann Arbor Center for Eating Disorders  for the Monday night support group listening to that song.  It was on my “triggering” playlist I kept on my old-school iPod Nano to spur me on toward a lesser caloric intake and unhealthy weight loss.

Numbers are still a trigger for me but it is no longer every number related to an eating disorder (weight, calories, numbers, etc.), just certain ones.  For example, I still avoid seeing my weight at the doctor’s office and I have no intention of returning to knowing it because, for me, it serves no purpose other than to instigate evil in my life.  Calories, however, no longer bother me as much as they once did.  Often I don’t even look at them unless they happen to be plastered on the menu at a restaurant, then it seems unavoidable.  When people rattle off their weight, pants size, or amount of time spent engaging in exercise I am often unfazed.  At least I no longer compare myself to others!

Sometimes I don’t have to dig very deep to figure out my trigger; I only have to HALT. I first learned about HALT in grad school when I was working under an amazingly brazen internship supervisor who was in long-term recovery for substance addiction.   She was seriously kick-ass–and still is!  Anyway, HALT was used to help those in substance addiction recovery figure out their triggers and I realized it applied to eating disorder recovery as well.  Never let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  Most of the time what is triggering me fits into one (or more) of those simple categories.  Although, there is almost always more to it if the trigger is in the “angry” or “lonely” category.  A different internship supervisor in grad school always said anger is a secondary emotion so we need to dig deeper to find out what is really causing the problem.

However, I still have those random triggers that sneak up on me.

Today I had to dig a little deeper to find why something triggered me.  I had to ask myself why I was being triggered by something so seemingly small.  What was it?

A sore throat.

An absolutely random thing was triggering me to engage in an eating disorder behavior.  I swallowed a piece of the bread on my grilled cheese and it scratched my throat as it slid down.  The sensation was so eerily similar to the feeling of purging that I could feel the thoughts creeping in and encouraging me to go ahead and engage in that behavior.  The thoughts telling me to do it “just once” because I was already having an “off” day.  That’s when my recovery brain–MY brain–jumped in and thought, “Ah ha! There is the real issue; the ‘off’ day.”  But what about it had been so “off” anyway?  I started to think along the HALT line: I wasn’t overly hungry (since I was eating), I wasn’t tired, but I was feeling angry and somewhat lonely.

Realistically, one of my biggest triggers–if not the biggest–is anger.  Before going to treatment and learning how to feel and experience emotions again, all I ever felt was anger.  I would hold all my feelings inside until a situation that made me angry came along and I exploded; not usually on a person but on myself in the form of engaging in the eating disorder.  Makes sense right?  Not.  I allowed something someone else said/did to anger me (usually meaning I was hurt by their words/actions) and only hurt myself more instead of talking to that person.  I digress, I was feeling angry about things that made no sense to be angry about and determined it was really just feelings of frustration and stress instead of anger.

Aside from stress and frustration, I also felt a little lonely.  As I’ve stated before, we moved  to a new state and, even though we lived here once before, my family and my closest friends are still in Ohio (or Columbia, SC and Saint Vincent in the Caribbean…okay, I have a lot of friends but none in Charleston).  While I used to have almost weekly coffee dates with friends and a standing weekly lunch date in Ohio, I no longer have any of that.  I am usually quick to make new friends (as my sister says, I can make friends with a rock) but our current situation makes that a little difficult.  However, as I turned my mind toward the positives and reasons why none of this was worth throwing in the towel on recovery and allowing a lapse to creep into my life, I counted my blessings.

God is providing for our needs.
We have a place to temporarily stay while we finalize our new living arrangements.  We have food, shelter, and clothing.  We definitely are not “homeless” as I often lament to friends.

I am staring to make new friends in the one area where I branch out.
The Charleston Community Yoga center is ah-mazing.  From my very first class I felt welcomed into the friendly atmosphere.  I started to become a “regular” at a few morning classes and, as a result, met a woman who has a child the same age as mine and we have started planning to have playdates.  Hopefully once we get plugged in at a good church in the area we will make even more new friends.

Finally…

Any day in recovery is better than even one moment in the disease!
Yes, I get frustrated and stressed that God’s timeline isn’t lining up with MY timeline but that doesn’t mean this is an “off” day.  It just means His timing for our living situation hasn’t been met yet.  Patience, Lane.  Seriously, this small amount of time is just that–small.

With Body Love,
Lane

Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Exercise, Faith, Feelings, Friends, God, Gratitude, Hope, Joy, Love, Postpartum Body, Recovery, Uncategorized, Weight

Challenges-Changes-Conclusions

“No Mud, No Lotus.” 
-Thich Nhat Hanh

******

I find it hard to believe it has been a month since my last post and so many changes have occurred in such time that it was hard to find time to sit down to write!  I will try to condense them all into one post…but we all know I can be long-winded!

Challenges:
I love a good challenge (always have) and the last month has been chock full of them!  I’ve knocked a good three off my previous challenge list and even added an additional one.  As some of you more consistent readers may recall, I posted a list of challenges a few months ago that included things that are considered taboo for plus size people.  Well, I took three of those and turned them into positives.  While visiting Charleston, SC a few weeks ago I arrived wearing a tight fitting skirt, something I have never done.  It was certainly challenging, and I really like the skirt, but I have also realized it isn’t really my thing so I don’t know how often I will wear it but nevertheless, I did it and I survived.  I also wore bright patterned leggings not only out in public (challenge #5) but to a group workout class at Studio Barre (challenge #14)!  By the way, I LOVED Studio Barre!  Having a ballet and dance background (way back in the day) the elements of ballet combined with strengthening and conditioning really appealed to me, so when my sister-in-law invited me along I jumped at the chance.  At first my body image and eating disordered brain were definitely challenged, as the room has several floor to ceiling mirrors, but after using the wise-mind skills to talk myself through it I came to several very positive conclusions.  I didn’t need to stare in the mirror and compare myself to the other women in the room.  We were all there to better ourselves and the only real competition we have is within.  For me, the competition was to keep my focus during the class and challenge my body to use muscles I don’t use on a daily basis (boy, did I ever).  My secondary challenge was to not spend time focusing on my body, or that I was the only plus size woman in the room, but rather focus on my strengths.  Thanks to my yoga practice, I discovered I am actually quite flexible and I also realized my muscles are already pretty strong just from going about my daily life and incorporating a yoga practice.  I was really pleased with myself for going to the class and focusing on the positive aspects of my time there rather than paying attention to the nagging, doubting, and overly critical voice that comes with the eating disordered brain.

Now, it has been a month since my post about mirrors.  I realized part of my body image issues stemmed from constantly looking in the mirror and picking apart the image before me.  This challenge has been a bit more… challenging… than anticipated.  I did not realize just how much the eating disorder played a role in my nagging obsession to look in every reflective surface.  Giving up the mirror cold turkey proved to be a bit more than I could handle for the time being.  Quite honestly, for the first week it threw me for such a loop that I could feel a rising urge to engage in eating disordered behaviors in order to cope with “losing” the mirror.  As a result, I lessened the challenge for myself and decided I would look in the mirror as little as possible for 30 days.  Well, the 30 days are now over and I can honestly say it hasn’t been easy!  No, I do not look in the mirror multiple times a day; in fact, sometimes I look only once or not at all.  I have definitely become more aware of the amount of time I spend looking at my reflection and even more aware of the time I spend picking it apart.  Therefore, I am continuing with this challenge until I no longer feel the “pull” to look in the mirror at all.  This is definitely going to be a work in progress for me…

Changes:
In the past I have not handled changes, and the stress that typically accompanies them, very well.  My default coping mechanism has always been to restrict food or engage in other eating disordered behaviors.  This time has been markedly different.  We are preparing to move THIS. WEEK. and here is the real kicker–we are moving to a new state and don’t exactly have a place to live lined up.  Sounds ridiculous, right?  It is…just a little… BUT I’ve been relatively calm about it.  In my recovery life I’ve become very much “go with the flow” and significantly less “plan to make a plan…and multiple backup plans”.  While I still have moments where the uncertainty causes me to have some anxiety, I know it is in God’s hands and will all get figured out once we arrive.  We do have a place to say when we get there so I’m sure that plays into my ability to be more “go with the flow” about not having our new home figured out.

Conclusions:
Along with the changes that come with moving to a new state come the conclusions in our current place.  Some of the conclusions are cause for celebration and some are definitely bittersweet.  First of all, in case you don’t follow the BBA Facebook page, I have completely finished my outpatient eating disorder treatment!!  This is ABSOLUTELY cause for celebration, as it has been a long 18 months of hard work, but it is also bittersweet.  I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with an EXCELLENT treatment team and network of supporters, and some have filled both roles.  My husband, on whom I often brag, was my number one supporter through it all and the first to rejoice with me over the ending of treatment.  He was always there for me, even when he was far away for work, and took time to try to really understand what I was going through.  I could not have been blessed with a better partner for life.  He is an amazing and selfless man.

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Aside from my husband, one of my biggest supporters and someone who I consider to be my biggest professional advocate on my treatment team, is where the seriously bittersweet part of this comes into play: my dietician, Anne.  I couldn’t have been more blessed to randomly find her on the internet when I finally made the decision to add a dietician to my team.  Even though I made the first appointment and I went willingly, the eating disordered part of me was still VERY reluctant. Anne recognized this and worked with me very gently so I wouldn’t get spooked and take off; giving up on the nutritional portion of treatment.  She walked me though difficult days with a kindness and caring I had never experienced from someone who wasn’t family.  Countless hours in her office, at least 100 (seriously) e-mails, and many, many tears later I concluded my time of treatment with her last week.  It was hard, it was rewarding, but most of all it was bittersweet.  I’ve poured out much of my heart and soul to her over the last 18 months and she has listened to me without judgement.  She has guided me nutritionally and taught me weight is not indicative of health or worth.  I’m a beautiful, healthy, and wonderful woman regardless of body size or any stupid number on the scale.  I couldn’t be more thankful our paths crossed.  

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In order to celebrate all the changes and conclusions happening in my life, a friend gave me a bracelet with the quotation at the top of this page stamped on it:  “No Mud, No Lotus”.   Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE bracelets and this one has become a daily addition to my wrist; a constant reminder that I am like the lotus–beautiful and still opening–but I needed to get through the dark mud at the bottom before I could really bloom.

I’m still blooming.

I’m still finding mud to go through, but at least now I know I can get through the mud and become something beautiful because of it.

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With Body Love,
Lane

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, God, Hope, Joy, Love, Postpartum Body, Recovery, Uncategorized, Weight

No Mirror, No Problem…Or Is It?

“Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.” 
-Ernest Holmes

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While the above quotation isn’t exactly about a mirror I have come to believe the same idea applies to looking at oneself in a mirror.  The reflection is really a reflection of what we think we see.  Combine that trick, or distortion, with what the viewer wants to see and we can create a recipe for body image disaster.  The mind can play tricks on us in many ways and, for me, I’ve come to realize the mirror is just one way my mind tricks me on a daily basis.

I have a problem.  Even though I no longer struggle with food or eating disorder behaviors, I still have a problem.  My problem is with the mirror and how my reflection distorts and greatly impacts my body image.  Even though I no longer give the eating disorder power in my life, the struggle with negative body image and the power I give the mirror can still spell disaster for my body image on any given day.  In our society we are taught from an early age the mirror and the scale are not our friends but rather our frienemies.  Maybe you’re thinking, “Wait.  What?  The mirror and scale are absolutely my friends; they tell me how I look and whether or not I need to lose weight or change clothing in order to look better.”   To which I would reply, “No, no.  That is how the mirror and scale hold negative power over you.  Society wants us to believe we need these items in order to better ourselves and to ensure we look the best and hide our ‘flaws’ in the best possible way…but they are not our friends.”  From an early age we are taught to use these items to help us pick apart our bodies and find what we need to change.  Sometimes the obsession with the scale and the mirror can go too far, such is the case with me.

Sad Frog

While I haven’t owned a scale in 16 months, I still have mirrors in both bathrooms in my house.  Not only that, but windows and other reflective surfaces have become mirrors for me.  For the longest time I had the mirrors in my house mostly covered with collages and positive phrases.  I left a small little section at my face level uncovered so I could do my hair easily but that was it.  However, once we put our house up for sale I had to take down the mirror coverings and suddenly the little power I regained from the mirror was sucked away, as I again became a slave to checking my body and appearance.  I would feel fantastic about myself, my clothing choice, and my body only to look in the mirror and be greatly disappointed by what I saw.  My hips were too wide, my belly too large, my arms not toned enough…the list would go on until I walked away feeling dissatisfied and significantly less confident.  I was comparing my current body to the body I had when I was 21 and very much struggling with the eating disorder.  My mind was playing tricks on me.  My mind wanted me to see what once was instead of what is; therefore forcing me to relinquish my power and positivity and exchange it for negativity and loathing.  My mind then gives way to the remaining part of the ED by telling me I could be that image in my head again if… Which is the point where I have to remind myself my body has greatly changed and even with a rigorous gym schedule that could be will never be a reality again. The only reality that comes with that could be is a full blown eating disorder. 

The other day I decided to add up how much time I spent checking the size of my body in the mirror, as well as the amount of time I spent before I looked and after just thinking about my body size.  It was a shocking 30 minutes that I spend, on average, looking at myself and thinking about my body size.  THIRTY. MINUTES.  Now, I am a mother to a toddler so my time alone is very precious and oh the things I could do with 30 extra minutes!  That alone was enough for me to determine I need to take drastic action to break this bad body image habit for good.

I decided I am going to stop looking the mirror for the next 30 days.

On the rare occasion I decide to wear cosmetics I will use a very small (think the size of your hand) mirror to apply mascara so I don’t stab my eyeball.  I mean, I kind of like being able to see and all.  Other than that, no mirrors (or windows, cars, or any other reflective surface). It has only been 24 hours and I can already tell this is going to be a challenge that will, at least in the beginning, require a SIGNIFICANT amount of thought.  Have you ever tried brushing your teeth or washing your hands without even casually glancing up at the mirror?  It is really hard! However, I know I need to take this drastic action in order to reclaim my precious time and create an even more positive body image.  I am eager to continue to engage in this challenge and just see how my thought process plays out.  I can honestly say that even without looking at my appearance for 24 hours I already feel a little different–better–about my body.  I keep telling myself to “see what Jesus sees” when I start feeling the urge to look in the mirror.  I recount my many positive attributes to pass the time until the urge to check my appearance passes and, you know what, I actually come out feeling better about myself because I have to do this quite often right now.

Do you think you could go 30 days without looking in a mirror?  
How about just 24 hours? 

I encourage you to give it a try and see what avoiding the mirror does for your body image just 24 hours after that last fateful glance at your body.  If you decide to try it, share your thoughts in the comments below,  I would love to hear what you think!

With Body Love,
Lane