What happens when someone in recovery is terrified of gaining weight and sees someone who recovered and did just that? You get me.
There is something with which I’ve been grappling for several months now, this idea that people in recovery do not want to hear what I have to say because I am their worst nightmare. I am the woman who entered recovery and has gained a solid amount of weight as a result. My natural set point is much heavier than what is remotely deemed acceptable by society; to the point where even I wouldn’t have listened to what someone my size had to say about recovery when I was in the disease. Why? I wouldn’t have been able to see beyond the body size to listen to his/her story.
When I was in the disease my goal was to eat as few calories as remotely possible to sustain life. As a result, I went through periods where my body weight and size were much smaller than they are now, and yet I never “looked” like I was ill. Well, except for two truly memorable times when, looking back, I’m amazed and grateful my body didn’t give out on me. My body, my set point, were always heavier than a “normal” or an “average” woman for my age and height. That was invariably how God designed me…and I loathed it. I would be lying if I said I didn’t still struggle to accept this fact every now and again.
In fact, just today I was reflecting on this, as I recounted why I haven’t bothered finding a medical doctor in Charleston. When we moved from Ohio last year, I had an excellent eating disorder treatment team that I knew I could lean on to not judge me for my body weight or size. My doctor never belittled me because I am technically obese, she knew the struggle through which I walked and understood my body was trying to find its way. I fear the judgement of others. I can speak to myself in very realistic terms: I starved myself, purged, and overexercised for 16 years; wreaking havoc on my metabolism and body. Knowing this began when I was barely a teenager, my body never had a chance to mature and grow, or figure out the true weight and size it was meant to be. I jumped in and tried to hijack my body to manipulate it into what I wanted it to be. Ultimately, I sacrificed my body and my mind in order to live in fear of the judgement of others and living to please people.
Often, the eating disordered part of my brain still speaks to me and tries to tell me that no one can see beyond my body. What I have to say about my 16-year struggle, and the never ending road of recovery on which I walk, will fall on deaf ears because of my size. When someone with anorexia or bulimia sees me, s/he sees a nightmare: a woman who is overweight as a result of recovery. The positive is, I recognize that is my eating disorder speaking and not me. My reality lies with those who never fit the strict diagnostic criteria of anorexia or bulimia, according to the old DSM, but still struggled and felt unworthy of treatment because of weight and size. Just like I had to convince myself (with some help from TJ) that my life and body were falling apart and I needed help, I learned that I was worthy of love, respect, and self-acceptance.
My body might be someone’s worst nightmare, but it is my greatest reality.
Every day I wake up I am reminded that I am this size because I chose life.
I chose to fight for my life by choosing recovery.
Walking in recovery means walking in this body, at this size, knowing I am healthy despite what society says. No, you won’t catch me romping around in a bikini at Folly Beach this summer, but more power to the women society labels as “plus size” who are comfortable enough to do so. Sometimes, I am just grateful to be walking around without a stress fractured pelvis, heart palpitations, and an extreme dissatisfaction with life. Other days, I rock this thing called life and love the body in which I am living.
So, sometimes I see myself as a nightmare and other times, I see the reality of a life being lived in recovery–an ever-present struggle between fear of judgement and a disease, and being who I was meant to be–regardless of size.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, nothing more.”
The holidays are challenging for people struggling with, and in recovery from, eating disorders and I don’t think it really matters how long a person has been in recovery–the holidays can be rough. Food, and tons of it, at every gathering and family members who are either talking about their own diet and work out regimen or commenting on the progress of the person in recovery. Sometimes it is difficult to tune out the diet talk or know how to handle comments about recovery, but that is why it is of the utmost importance to be mindful and present at all times.
Christmas is right around the corner, closely followed by New Year’s and those *wonderful* resolutions. We are about to be spammed more than usual with diets, before and after photos of half naked people praising the latest boot camp style at home workouts, and the pushing of gym memberships. Not only that, but this year my 30th birthday happens to be sandwiched between the two. Yep. The big 3-0 in two weeks. Talk about time to practice being mindful and present at all times! It can really be challenging to stay mindful but here are some tips on how I plan to do it and you can always use them too…
Yoga, deep breathing. These are always my go-to for mindfulness and bringing myself back to the present. I live on a sailboat in South Carolina where the weather has grown chilly and doing morning yoga outside isn’t really an option and neither is doing yoga in a very small space; therefore I don’t get to do this one as often as I like anymore but even a few simple poses can help. Take time on the morning of a gathering to do a quick 10-minute sun salutation to start your day and get yourself into the right frame of mind to deal with negativity and diet talk. Clear your head and throughout the practice remind yourself that you are enough and you are beautiful exactly as you are in this moment. Find things you appreciate about your body and speak them gently to yourself. Once you reach the gathering take a few moments before going inside to breathe deeply for five breaths and again remind yourself that you are enough and there are many wonderful things about you. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety during a gathering take a step back in a quiet room and repeat the deep breathing exercises.
Power Playlist. I love music. It is huge motivator and mood changer for me so I have playlists ranging from caribbean/reggae, Christian, to recovery oriented positive playlists. Depending on my mood I select something to help lift it. Typically the recovery positive playlist is my go-to when driving to gatherings or places where I know anxiety will automatically increase. Singing the songs in the car helps immensely to bring myself into the present moment. Listening to my recovery positive playlist helps me feel empowered, strong, and prepared to deal with any eating disorder thoughts that pop in my head.
Small Reminders. I have a thin rubber bracelet that says “Beautiful Body Acceptance” on it that I wear often. Earlier this week I received an e-mail from a treatment professional who said she loaned her BBA bracelet to a client over Thanksgiving to help bring about mindfulness in times of stress. While not everyone has a BBA bracelet there may be a small piece of jewelry you can look at to remind yourself that you are beautiful, unique, and your body is something to be loved and appreciated. Maybe it is a small silver wave ring or bangle to remind you to let the emotions roll over you like waves, acknowledging them but not being taken under by them. The same could be said of an ocean blue colored piece of jewelry or something with sea glass. However, the sea is not calming to everyone (I love it and practically live on it, as I live on a sailboat) but surely there is something that could help remind you to acknowledge the emotions but not be swept away by them. Be creative!
There are so many ways to be mindful and bring yourself back to the present during the holidays. The most important thing is to remind yourself that you need to take time for self care. Constantly being around others can take a toll on anyone, but especially someone who is trying to recover from an eating disorder. Anxiety, stress, worry, and the eating disorder voice and take over at any moment which is why it is so very important to remember to take time for mindfulness. Experience joy this Christmas season by believing that you are worthy, loved, and beautiful just as you are. Take time to breathe and remember why you are fighting so hard for recovery.
In the dark of the “Cardio Cinema” at Gold’s Gym I struggled to fight back the tears that started to come to my eyes. My mind still isn’t healthy enough to do this, I admitted to myself in utter defeat. The workout seemed easy enough but fighting back the demon that still plagues my mind is another story.
I found a rabbit hole and couldn’t resist the shiny object at the end: thinness and weight loss. Instead of following my recovery mind, I followed the eating disorder right down that hole. That stupid, big black hole.
In a matter of weeks I could feel myself slipping and, once again, becoming a woman possessed by workouts, “clean” foods, and my body. Things I thought were long gone and replaced by more enjoyable life experiences such as happiness, writing for BBA, and health. I wanted to build my strength and cardio endurance so hoisting the sails on our floating home would be a little less tiring each time I did it; fully acknowledging the risks associated with entering a gym. In my case the risks are not so much physical as they are mental and emotional, but I thought I put a good support system in place. I didn’t hide my gym membership from my husband and I even decided to start going with a friend who is in excellent physical condition to help me get back at it. We set a time limit, and often broke it, but had a plan for our time at the gym nonetheless. I couldn’t just exercise endlessly without accountability. That was my plan. My plan had one major fault: my brain.
By entering the exercise arena again, I opened up a corner in my brain that allowed the eating disorder to slowly creep back into my life. I could “hear” it before I wanted to admit it was back. The voice telling me not to eat because I had done such an excellent workout that I shouldn’t poison my caloric loss with more calories.Red Flag. Talking myself into eating over a grumbling stomach; knowing I had only eaten twice but now it was after 7pm so I shouldn’t eat anything more. Red Flag. My brain telling me to just make some green tea and sip on it until I am no longer hungry. Maybe I should. Maybe then I could actually lose some weight. Red Flag. I found myself obsessively looking in mirrors and reflective surfaces with a consistency I haven’t had in months, berating my body and appearance. It took over my mind every time I saw my reflection with a vengeance for giving it up in the first place. Red Flag. I found myself utilizing the same old excuses with family and friends who voiced concern over my return to the gym, reassuring them I knew what I was doing and I was ready for this. Red Flag.
Red Flag. Bright, red, you-can’t-freaking-miss-it flag.
My recovery mind was fading into the background fast; replaced with thoughts dominated by the eating disorder instead of the real me. But why? Why now?
I’ve been doing well for so long…
I returned to the gym during a period of high stress. Mistake número uno. My sister and the son of my Army Soulmate/BFF were having surgery and I was stressed. I needed an outlet and I felt my life was too hectic to sit down and write. Instead of utilizing safe outlets such as yoga, writing, and paddleboarding; I opted for one of my bigger triggers because I thought surely I was ready for a triumphant return.
I traveled to Pittsburgh, PA to be with my sister and Army Soulmate for the surgeries; requiring I stay at a hotel. Only I didn’t stay at a hotel. I stayed at this quaint little place, Family House, for people who have loved ones at local hospitals. Upon walking into the place it felt eerily like walking into an eating disorder treatment facility; a feeling that made me want to rebel against recovery with every fiber of my being. The large kitchen with two industrial size refrigerators, large sinks, and multiple microwaves screams community meals. The environment is meant to feel inviting, like a home, but instead feels like what it is–a place where people stay when something serious happens. I stood in the oversized kitchen after both surgeries had been completed and I had been up for 18 hours, when my mind flashed back to my time at the Center for Balanced Living. At least this time my food wasn’t being checked and re-checked for meal plan accountability and I wasn’t going to be watched while I ate. I suddenly felt devious. I could sit alone at a table where I could eat as slowly as I wanted and throw out food without the need to hide it first. What I couldn’t believe was that I was even entertaining this thought. I sat at the table, playing with my food, and eating it incredibly slowly; pushing the thought out of my mind that I might actually be starting to struggle again. Despite being very busy while in Pittsburgh, I made time for exercise because I couldn’t “undo” all the hard work I had recently been doing.
All these red flags and I kept ignoring them. Excusing them away and dismissing them as paranoia. I mean, when will I get my life “back” if I don’t start now? I do enjoy the occasional run and the feeling of being back in the gym, but I went too hard too fast. The safeguards weren’t enough because I started out doing too much too soon. I didn’t ease back into the gym, I went at it like my mind and body were fully healed and not susceptible to relapse.
I was wrong.
Healing from an eating disorder doesn’t happen overnight.
Recovery and healing happens over years; marked by struggles, slips, and points of higher learning.
My experience in the gym is a point of learning. Learning I am not able to exercise daily like I used to because my mind isn’t ready for it.
The trigger to return to the eating disorder is still there, lying in wait, for me to choose it.
I chose it.
I tried to ignore it but thankfully I’m stronger than that now. My husband is stronger and knows when to call it to my attention.
Together we won’t let the eating disorder retake my life.
On a similar, yet slightly different note, I hate myself a little for supporting a business that thinks posting crap like this is appropriate, but it is what it is. Besides, I haven’t been a “girl” in quite some time…I’m almost 30!
I much prefer the cover image I’ve chosen from Women’s Running Magazine that both demonstrates and states that weight doesn’t matter. Because it doesn’t.
“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:
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.”
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.
I found myself standing in the cold plastic surgery center; looking into a full length mirror while a doctor measured and pinched my very pale, saggy, three years postpartum abdomen. I suddenly felt vulnerable, exposed, and insecure; incredibly aware that the eating disorder had found a small window of opportunity and taken it.
If you have been reading my blogs long, you know I start my posts out with a quotation, usually of the inspirational variety. Today, however, I started it out with my own words and my own experience. I, Lane McKelvey, went to a plastic surgery center to get a consultation about my stomach; the one part of my body where true body acceptance is often so elusive. The small eating disordered voice preyed upon that insecurity and in a moment of weakness I made a phone call and scheduled an appointment. An appointment the healthy, wise-mind, recovery-oriented part of me rescheduled twice before I actually went.
Driving to the surgery center I was nervous, a little anxious even, contemplating whether I could even maintain this blog if I went through with the suggestions from the consultation or if I would be another sellout to society. I mean, I had already rescheduled twice, wasn’t that proof enough that I wasn’t even certain I should go? Apparently not. Apparently the eating disorder had the wheel and I was heading for the surgery center regardless of the nagging, healthy voice in the back of my head.
Upon arriving at the surgery center it was pouring down rain; the heavy afternoon rain that comes with the Lowcountry summer heat. I ran inside and thought I might have been in the wrong place because the waiting room looked and felt more like a spa than a surgery center…except it was cold. Why are doctor’s offices always so cold? Glancing around I saw autographed photos from Miss USA contestants, models, and local “celebrities” thanking the good doctor for making them “perfect.” The receptionist with her very perky breasts and nonexistent wrinkles gave me a nice welcome packet; which included a pamphlet about the services offered, a pen with the doctor’s well-chiseled face on it, a drink koozie bearing the logo and name of the surgery center (in case all my friends want to get some work done), a gift certificate for a free microdermabrasion (still not sure what that is exactly) and a magazine called New Beauty. I suddenly felt like a fraud and I knew I had been duped. I mean, the magazine even had an article in it called “Striving for Perfection”. Yeah, this was not my kind of place.
Frantically I sent my husband a text telling him my insecurities about even being in such a place and contemplated walking out but it felt like it was too late, I had to go to the consultation. I also conveniently left out the part where I felt like I had been tricked by the eating disorder and tricked him as well by saying I was going in to learn more about taking care of my belly fat, “since it squishes your organs and is so unhealthy” (quotation courtesy of the eating disorder). I silently cursed myself for not catching it sooner–ED had been really sneaky this time. Somehow that sly devil found a weak spot in my defenses and preyed upon it until that spot collapsed and I was standing in an office being pinched and told how my body could use some changes to be perfect. I thought to myself, “Damnit, Allie was right. This was ED all along and I didn’t believe her. I thought I knew for sure this was just me trying to make myself a little healthier and it wasn’t all about the aesthetics. I haven’t even seen myself in a full-length mirror in months, maybe even a year, and now I’m doing it with someone else. What. The. Hell?”
“You’re an excellent tummy tuck candidate,” the doctor said, snapping me back to the reality of the situation. “Sagging, excess skin and these pockets of fat could easily be taken care of with a tummy tuck procedure.” Walking back over to the table filled with “before and after” images of women who have done everything from a tummy tuck to the latest trend of CoolSculpting to rid themselves of fat, the doctor also tells me I would be a great candidate for the hCG weight loss program. “Oh sh*t, I’m in trouble now. Is it inappropriate to cover my ears? Weight loss program?” My healthy brain swirled but the eating disordered part was all ears; “A rapid weight loss program promising no less than 20 pounds lost in 40 days? COUNT ME IN!” I finally escaped the consultation with more handouts on the suggested procedures and the hCG weight loss program. I couldn’t get to my car fast enough.
Sitting in my car in the rain I was extremely sad about what I had just done. Not only had I been tricked and gone to a consultation with a plastic surgeon–something I am usually adamantly against–but now I felt like I was the worst looking woman in the world. My body image tanked in a matter of minutes because I listened to ED without even realizing it. Doing the most responsible thing I could do, I drove to the nearest outlet mall and went shoe shopping to try to take my mind off the very tempting weight loss program offer…it didn’t work, but I did end up with some cute (and comfortable) wedges.
I got back in my car and began researching the hCG diet. I found the following:
The hCG diet consists of three stages. The hCG Diet stages are:
Loading — 2 days of eating fatty, carb-filled foods. Burning — 26 to 43 days of a 500-calorie diet, depending on your goal. Maintenance — 3 weeks of a starch/sugar-free diet.
Record your weight each morning, and if you have gained more than two pounds in any given day, you should skip a meal. This helps your body regulate your appetite and weight.
hCG can be administered as daily injections.
As I drove away I started contemplating what I just read. A highly restrictive diet of 500 calories a day? Skip a meal? Was I really considering spending $600 to open Pandora’s Box and potentially undo the two years of hard work I’ve done? Finally, my brain kicked in, “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!? This is the anti-meal plan. This is the anti-Anne, anti-CBL, anti-recovery plan. You just spent two years learning you don’t have to cut out food groups and living on 500 calories is not only stupid, but deadly. DO NOT DO THIS.” As I was having an internal debate, okay less civilized, an internal battle a song I hadn’t heard in a very long time started playing on my iTunes: Courage by Superchick.
I told another lie today And I got through this day No one saw through my games I know the right words to say Like, “I don’t feel well,” “I ate before I came.” Then someone tells me how good I look And for a moment, for a moment I am happy But when I’m alone, no one hears me cry
I need you to know I’m not through the night Somedays I’m still fighting to walk toward the light
In case you hadn’t noticed by my usual musical background to my blogs, I am a very musically oriented person. Courage is the song that is playing today. As soon as the song began playing and the lyrics hit me I started to cry. This is NOT what I want for my life. I don’t want to go back to the eating disordered life. I don’t want to tempt it by further considering this weight loss program as an option. I have no desire to go back to treatment, to monitor every bite of food I consume, or sit in group therapy trying to figure out how to cope. I don’t want to have weekly weigh-ins, therapy sessions, and the loss of trust from my family. The secrets, lies, depression, anxiety, stress, struggle, and darkness that accompany the eating disorder are not what I want. A 500 calorie diet and daily weigh-ins, even with the promise of hCG as an appetite suppressant, is too much like an eating disorder.
It is an eating disorder.
Coming “clean” about this is somewhat embarrassing. I thought I knew all the tricks in ED’s playbook…but I missed this one. This shows that I am human and recovery is anything but perfect. While the ED voice is almost nonexistent most of the time I still have to remain diligent to ensure he doesn’t get let back into my life. Today was a little too close for comfort but this is recovery. This is the very real struggle people in recovery, even solid, long-term recovery have to fight for life. In a world where doctors make money preying on the insecurities of people, we must always remain diligent and true to who we are and the people we have become in recovery.
“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.”
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 purposewhen 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!
“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.
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.
“A diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well.”
This is usually where I insert music that accompanies the post, but because we just moved and I don’t have my computer set up I just have to link the YouTube video to a song I just heard (and love) that goes with this post. Please follow the link and give it a listen before reading the post.
I am working on becoming a diamond. Even though I think I look pretty calm and collected on the exterior, I am actually stressing quite a bit these days about my life. While some of these stressors are inevitable when it comes to relocating and technically being “homeless” at the moment, how I handle these stressors says a lot about my recovery and how far I’ve come. Pressure and heat form a diamond and well, I’m under a lot of pressure right now to finalize a new home and move out of our temporary housing and this house is definitely in the land of heat! Therefore, I am becoming a diamond.
On a weekly basis I receive messages from frequent readers who mention how much my openness helps them in their recovery or how much they glean from my willingness to share both my struggle and ways to cope with poor body image. My point is not to brag on myself and my willingness to live life as an open book but to really point out that we aren’t alone. We all deal with stressors in life and many women cope in much the same way–by turning to food related behaviors–previously eating disordered or not. Some women choose to eat more when stressed, some eat less, while others choose other methods of coping that can lead down a slippery slope. Just a few days ago a friend reached out to me asking if I had any suggestions or guidance to help her navigate some stressors and anxiety because she noticed some old eating disorder behaviors returning. We are not alone. We all have stress in our lives and we have to find better ways of handling it. The question then becomes “How do I handle this stress?” rather than “Can I handle this stress?”
While talking to my friend I told her about how our recent move has brought the temptation to handle stress by using my old friend ED (eating disorder) to the forefront of my options; reiterating she wasn’t alone and she can come up with a better way to handle it. As soon as we moved I hit the ground “running” by enrolling in exercise classes and group yoga to keep my body going at an intense pace to help cope. To some this doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, but to my husband it started sending up red flags right away. Needless to say, I backed off the classes and reevaluated my reasoning for doing it. Yes, it was a way to handle stress but for me it wasn’t the right way. Yoga, when used correctly, is a great stress reliever for me and that is how I intend to use it from here on out. Talking to my friend and listening to my husband forced me to see that the way I was handling the stress wasn’t right and it was heading down the slippery slope to becoming unhealthy. I’ve come too far to turn back and go the old route now.So I’m not.
Together my husband and I came up with new ways for me to cope that will fit nicely into our new lifestyle. I took those same principles and talked to my friend about applying them to her life. You have to find what works for you; what protects your recovery or positive body image. Maybe it is something non-physical such as reading a book or having an American Idol style sing off in your kitchen. Find that coping skill and hold on to it. Trust me, I’m taking my own advice on this one! Until we are a little more settled and actually have our next home, I am staying away from group fitness classes and focusing on activities that make me happy: writing for BBA, riding bikes with my family, and simply being outside in the sunshine. I found what makes me happy and helps me handle stress. I’m on my way to becoming a diamond. Considering the making of a diamond takes anywhere from 1 billion to 3 billion years I think I’m doing alright.
“Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.” -Ernest Holmes
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.
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!
“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” -Mother Teresa
In this post I am about to do something I have never done before on this blog. That is a year of writing for BBA and I’m about to do something new. While it isn’t mind-blowing and it isn’t anything exciting, it is more honest than anything I’ve ever written before (and I’m honest in every post). I am going to share real thoughts, with images, from my journal. My most secret weapon in recovery is about to be opened, unedited, for others to use as a tool for their recovery to realize they are not alone and show some serious radical body acceptance. It’s about to get real, folks. Am I a little nervous about being THIS raw and honest? Yep. Is it going to stop me? Nope. So, here it goes…
Last week I did something that absolutely terrified me and brought me to tears. I had my body traced by my dietician. I stood with my back against a wall and let someone trace my body so I could see more accurately the size I am. I’ve known for quite some time that I don’t see myself accurately when I look in the mirror; my mind plays tricks on me from the remnants of the eating disorder. Often it is similar to looking into a funhouse mirror. One second I will think I look pretty good then I will turn to walk way from the mirror (or other reflective surface) only to catch a glimpse and it suddenly looks like I gained 20 pounds. This is my real-life way of viewing myself when there is a mirror present and I’ve been working SO HARD to change it.I mean, that’s the whole basis for this blog!
Before the tracing began my dietician handed me a piece of paper with the same images as the photo at the top of this post. She directed me to circle the figure I thought most accurately represented my body and then set it aside. Anyway, after the tracing was done I stepped away from the wall but I was afraid to turn around. I was afraid of what the outline would reveal about my body. I was afraid it would be bigger than what I thought. I was afraid it would be smaller. I was just afraid in general. Why was I so afraid? Because if the outline of my body was not what I thought I saw then it would show me I still have a lot of work to do toward accepting my body and seeing myself accurately. A difference in size from what I see in my mind would represent the eating disorder still having a heavy grasp on my body image and I didn’t want that to be the case. I desperately wanted to see an accurate size portrayal to show myself that I am doing well in recovery and with accepting my body.
However, when I turned around all I could do was stare.
I had no words for the few few minutes.
My eyes darted to the different parts of my body outlined on the brown butcher block paper taped to the wall.
Finally, I could bring myself to conjure up some words to express what I was thinking and feeling. Initially I was disappointed. There were parts that seemed larger than how I see them and shocked at the parts that appeared to be smaller than what I see. Nothing seemed to be accurate. My mind was reeling that the eating disorder could still have such a strong grasp on this part of my brain, but as I began to really process what I saw later that night, this is what developed…
I wrote…a lot. I thought…a lot. And I went to the all-mighty Google to find the same images I saw earlier that depicted body sizes. Once I found the same body size image I printed it. I stared at it and realized I hadn’t been completely honest earlier in the day. I knew I saw myself as larger than the image I circled, yet I desperately wanted my dietician to think I was significantly further along with my thoughts regarding my body than I figured I was. So I decided to get completely honest with myself about what I thought before and after. This was the result:
As you can see, I decided by the end of writing that my body couldn’t accurately be depicted by just one figure because I am not made from a cookie cutter. Did ya catch that? I AM NOT MADE FROM A COOKIE CUTTER. My body is as unique as my fingerprint because I was created in God’s image and He created us all uniquely. I love it. That was a pivotal point for me in this body image and body size acceptance journey. Realizing that my body doesn’t look like any figure on a paper because I am unique hit me pretty hard.
I. Am. Unique.
Say it with me,
“I am unique.”
Yes, I am talking to you.
YOU are unique.
I challenge you to hang on to that. You are unique. You aren’t made from a cookie cutter. You are not a cookie.
(But it is totally okay to eat a cookie. mmmm….cookies.)