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.

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

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

The Mountain and The Molehill

Two years ago I was ending my time in intensive treatment and facing outpatient treatment.  I was working hard identifying my triggers, creating a bank of coping skills, and spending more time at treatment-related mental health, medical, and nutritional appointments than I ever thought possible.  My life changed in many ways when I made the decision to finally get serious about getting better, and the mountain I thought I was facing has become nothing more than a molehill.

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Prior to entering treatment I knew I was staring  at a mountain before me.  I was preparing to have my way of life taken away in order to teach me how to face life in a healthy way.  At 28-years old my food was monitored and carefully portioned, followed by being watched by treatment professionals as I ate it all within an allotted time.  If my nutritional needs had not been met during the day I was given a Boost nutritional drink to supplement.  I was prevented from using the bathroom after eating, and told not to exercise.  My life was getting turned upside down, voluntarily, but it was anything other than pleasant.  I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to face life without the close “companionship” the eating disorder provided.  With each new challenge I conquered, I climbed a little higher up the mountain and toward full recovery.  I slipped and stumbled along the way, sliding back down the slope and often feeling like I was starting over.  However, with every slip I was never back at the bottom staring back up at the mountain in its entirety.

Fast-forward to one year ago when I was in outpatient treatment, still working diligently with my therapist and dietician to reach my nutritional and mental health goals.  One year ago I was close to ending my time in therapy while sorting through the remnants of my past trauma and striving to overcome anxiety.  I was struggling to eat in restaurants, sit with my back to the door, and go out in public to crowded areas.  I worked hard with my therapist to identify what made me anxious and how to cope with it when the symptoms of anxiety would arise.  At the same time I was working hard with my dietician to become comfortable eating in public and eating foods that were challenging to been seen eating (i.e.: pasta).  Nothing about recovery has been easy but it has been completely worth it–and the journey isn’t over yet because I am still learning.

Now, nine months discharged from all types treatment, I am still working to stay strong in recovery but these days the challenges don’t look like a mountain but more like a molehill.  While there isn’t a giant mountain for me to climb, I do stumble over the molehills from time to time.  I have to work hard not to fall on my face as a result.  For example, it took me a few months after moving on our boat to realize I wasn’t giving myself the time for self-care that I did prior to moving aboard.  Instead of crafting, journaling, or doing daily yoga and meditation I was constantly rushed with adjusting to life on the water.  As a result, I fell over that molehill and spent a few months on the ground in a relapse state.

My recovery is nowhere near complete, as I believe it is a life-long learning process, but what I have learned about myself is worth the fall.  I thought I didn’t need the amount of self-care and meditation that I once did, but that is the beauty of recovery–I am always evolving and proving myself wrong.  I thought I didn’t need intensive treatment in 2014…I was wrong.  The memory of my therapist and dietician talking on the phone, and coaxing me to call the treatment center while in a therapy session, will forever be burned in my memory.  Only after a month of intensive treatment did I realize I spent so many years of my life trapped in a disease and in need of recovery.  Then, as I continued to meet with my dietician even after ending treatment with my outpatient therapist, did I realize my thoughts surrounding certain foods and my body image still needed work.

Today, I love being in recovery and continuing to learn more about myself and this life.  There are times I wish I could talk to a therapist, but that is when I remember I harbor within me the ability and strength to pick myself up from stumbling over a molehill and learn from it.  I’ve come a long way from the scared woman I was in 2014 when I passed through the doors of the treatment center.  My triggers are fewer than ever before.  I mean, I am sitting here watching the Miss Universe pageant while I type this; something I couldn’t have done even last year.  (Which, by the way, Miss Canada was just interviewed about body shaming and loving who she is in her own skin. LOVE!)

Regardless of stumbling over a molehill a few times this year, I love myself more with each passing day.  I grow stronger with each new revelation about my body, myself, and my life in recovery.  Being confident in my body and who I am as a woman helps me enjoy life with a passion I’ve never before experienced.  My personality has grown and I’ve developed likes, dislikes, and favorites that I never had the opportunity to do before.  I may look vastly different from five or ten years ago (see photo below) but I feel more beautiful than ever.  I don’t often post photos from when I was sick, but in this case I look at the photos in amazement.  My eyes are brighter, my smile is genuinely happy, and I am truly living life instead of existing in it.

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L to R, Top to Bottom: 1. The absolute lowest point in my eating disorder; 2. Two weeks prior to entering treatment in 2014 (my eyes look hollow, sad; 3. June 2016;  4. July 2016–happy, healthy, strong, and confident 

My body is this beautiful, unique instrument with which I get to experience life and nothing, not even the eating disorder, can take that from me.  

With Body Love,
           Lane

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, Hope, Journaling, Joy, Love, Motivation, New Year, Recovery, Triggers, Uncategorized, Weight

Happy Holidays

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough.  Each moment is all we need, nothing more.”
-Mother Teresa

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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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

With Body Love,
Lane 

Body Acceptance, Body Image, Body Love, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, Forgiveness, Recovery, Triggers, Uncategorized

The Man Who Set Me Back

To The Man Who Set Me Back:

I don’t know why I allowed you to have so much power over me.

As I posted earlier this week, your judgement of my parenting angered me but also made me feel self-conscious and unworthy.  I let myself feel that way because of your domineering, harassing attitude…and I didn’t need to.  I let you get inside my head and the nasty words you used to describe me, the words you used to put me down, took on their own voice and put me right back into the grasp of the eating disorder.

When you came to my home and got in my face, calling me names and blackmailing me about my parenting, I was so shocked and angry I didn’t know what to say.  In reality anger is a secondary emotion and I realize now that I was afraid.  I was afraid you would call social services on me because you believed your opinion to be greater than mine without giving me the opportunity to discuss it with you.  When I should have told you to get the hell away from my property and to mind your own business I allowed myself to shrink back into myself, as I have always done in the past.  At a time when I’ve already been vulnerable and struggling to keep my food on track you only helped make matters worse.  Your behavior sent me back into an almost full-blown relapse.

While I realize no one can control my behavior but me, you actions did not help.  When I already felt terrible about myself your “confirmation” of that put me over the edge.  Days had passed before I realized I had hardly eaten anything for that amount of time.  Small things here and there dotted my meal plan but it was predominately made up of caffeine and negative energy.  I was volatile and wanted war with you.  I let you tell me how I should feel and that was wrong.

You don’t know me.  You don’t know my story and yet I allowed you to control me.  I allowed your negative opinions to infiltrate my brain and tell me how I should feel about myself and my parenting.   I allowed your words to dominate my thoughts and help control my actions–which meant caloric restriction until I was well into starvation mode for several days.  You don’t get to have that power.  You don’t get to have ANY power over me.

You don’t get to dictate my parenting or my recovery.

I never should’ve given you the time of day and the subsequent hours of worry.  You aren’t worthy of my brain power.  You aren’t worthy of my time.  In my eyes you are almost worthy of nothing but that wouldn’t be correct because everyone is worthy of God’s love. While I am going to struggle to show you that over the next several months while we share a marina, I am going to try.  I am going to show you that while you don’t believe I am worthy of the dirt on your shoes, I believe you are worthy of God’s love.  You don’t get to send me back to the temptations of the devil, instead I will overcome your negative words with the power of Christ.  Just watch me.  Watch me treat you with the respect and dignity you won’t extend to me.  Watch me show you that I can rise above your ridicule and continue to be the bright light I was before you.

I am going to win this war against relapse and I’m going to show you that God wins the war of hate.  His love conquers all–my eating disorder/relapse and your emotional outburst.  I don’t know what from your past has you angered but I hope that God can show you the way out.  I hope God can show you that demeaning others won’t make you feel better but instead alienate you from others.  Rather than be the pariah of the marina why don’t you try treating me with the same respect and courtesy with which you treat the other residents?  I am not a threatening individual and if you would come talk to me like an adult you might even learn about me, my parenting, and my life.  I’m not the bad person you tried to paint me to be and if you would get to know me you would see that I am intelligent, kind, and a fighter.  Why don’t you try it sometime?  Just come by the boat and try learning a little more about me before you pass judgement and try to belittle me.

The body loving fighter across the fairway,
Lane

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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

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

Hampering the Holidays

“But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
-I Cor. 10:13

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The holidays can be a trying time for those in eating disorder recovery.  As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, recovery websites offer helpful tips and positive thoughts on a near daily basis to help those in recovery withstand relapse. Falsely, I thought I was going to make it through my first Christmas season completely unscathed this year.  I was close this year; closer than I have ever been, but the dominance of the eating disorder voice outweighed my own thoughts for a few hours Christmas morning.  In order to strengthen my recovery and remain on the right path without a lapse, I turned to the true reason for the season in order to remind me that I am more than a number…or in this case a (wrong) size.

I know I have bragged about my husband in previous posts and I am about to do it again.  Always thoughtful, positive, and full of joy, TJ looks forward to surprising me and putting a smile on my face.  He enjoys sending me flowers at various times, such as the beautiful arrangement he ordered from Hawaii for my re-birthday a few weeks ago, and finding the perfect gifts for Christmas.  He puts a lot of time and planning into his gifts and this year the eating disordered voice jumped in and made appear very ungrateful.  I hate that eating disorder voice and when it jumps in and becomes my voice.

re-birthday flowers

 This Christmas was a little different than in years past.  We, as a family, are preparing for a new adventure and our gifts were all centered around that new adventure.  Just as I put a lot of thought and time into what I got for TJ, he put a lot of time and thought into what he got for me.  The item that put the eating disorder volume on “extremely loud” was a beautiful, bright red Henri Lloyd sailing spray jacket.

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sporting my spray jacket and sailing gloves

Now, being completely honest and living out the radical acceptance of my body, I have wide hips.  This is a fact and it cannot be disputed.  It just is.  I just do.  Acceptance.   However, that does not mean that I don’t still get sad about it from time-t0-time. When I tried on that beautiful red jacket I suddenly became very sad and upset about my wide hips.  The jacket fit great…except for my hips.  Cue the tears, the eating disorder volume, and the self-loathing.  Then the waterfall of thoughts began…

“I’m too fat to sail.  I won’t be able to fit in the galley to cook food.  Any bigger than my current size and they wouldn’t even make spray jackets to fit me!  I NEED to lose weight.  I can’t eat today.”  

Poor TJ felt terrible, as he tried to console me while continuously apologizing for getting the wrong size; even though the jacket he bought is the same size as a coat he bought me last Christmas.  The difference being, the spray jacket is unisex and the coat is from the women’s department.  Two totally different styles/cuts/materials of clothing.  Of course I see the logic in this now, but in the moment all I could see were the cascading eating disorder thoughts; turning me into an ungrateful mess.  Once I gave myself some space, began to do some light Bible study, and focused inwardly on radical body acceptance my attitude changed.

The size of the jacket does not matter.  THIS is my body and yes, my body has wide hips, and that is okay.  The jacket can be exchanged and the size in the tag doesn’t matter because my body will be protected and warm, regardless of size.  My body is strong enough to sail and sailing doesn’t discriminate against body types.  God is gracious and forgives me when I “hate” the body He gave me.  TJ loves and supports me and knows the reaction wasn’t mine but one that comes from being overwhelmed by eating disorder thoughts and emotions.  In the end I know I am working on staying in sustained recovery, following my meal plan, and truly practicing radical body acceptance.  Speaking of…I even have BBA vinyl stickers for my car and other whatnots now.  See…I told you I have an amazing and thoughtful husband.

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**Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I did eat breakfast and I fully intend to continue eating throughout the day to celebrate the birth of the risen Savior.**

I hope you find body acceptance this Christmas Day and focus on self-care, self-love, and self-acceptance today and every day.

With Body Love,
Lane