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, 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 

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, Friends, God, Gratitude, Hope, Joy, Love, Motivation, Recovery, Social Media, Uncategorized, Weight

Motivation

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

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

What was my motivation to recover?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What motivates you in recovery and in life?

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

With Body Love,
Lane

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

Challenges-Changes-Conclusions

“No Mud, No Lotus.” 
-Thich Nhat Hanh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m still blooming.

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

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With Body Love,
Lane

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, 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