Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Shape, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Exercise, Feelings, Friends, Hope, Recovery, Triggers, Uncategorized

My “Friend” Gym

In the dark of the “Cardio Cinema” at Gold’s Gym I struggled to fight back the tears that started to come to my eyes.  My mind still isn’t healthy enough to do this, I admitted to myself in utter defeat.  The workout seemed easy enough but fighting back the demon that still plagues my mind is another story.    

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I found a rabbit hole and couldn’t resist the shiny object at the end:
thinness and weight loss. 
Instead of following my recovery mind, I followed the eating disorder right down that hole.  That stupid, big black hole. 

In a matter of weeks I could feel myself slipping and, once again, becoming a woman possessed by workouts, “clean” foods, and my body.  Things I thought were long gone and replaced by more enjoyable life experiences such as happiness, writing for BBA, and health.  I wanted to build my strength and cardio endurance so hoisting the sails on our floating home would be a little less tiring each time I did it; fully acknowledging the risks associated with entering a gym.  In my case the risks are not so much physical as they are mental and emotional, but I thought I put a good support system in place.  I didn’t hide my gym membership from my husband and I even decided to start going with a friend who is in excellent physical condition to help me get back at it.  We set a time limit, and often broke it, but had a plan for our time at the gym nonetheless.  I couldn’t just exercise endlessly without accountability.  That was my plan.  My plan had one major fault: my brain.

By entering the exercise arena again, I opened up a corner in my brain that allowed the eating disorder to slowly creep back into my life.  I could “hear”  it before I wanted to admit it was back.  The voice telling me not to eat because I had done such an excellent workout that I shouldn’t poison my caloric loss with more calories.  Red Flag.  Talking myself into eating over a grumbling stomach; knowing I had only eaten twice but now it was after 7pm so I shouldn’t eat anything more.  Red Flag.  My brain telling me to just make some green tea and sip on it until I am no longer hungry.  Maybe I should.  Maybe then I could actually lose some weight.  Red Flag.   I found myself obsessively looking in mirrors and reflective surfaces with a consistency I haven’t had in months, berating my body and appearance.  It took over my mind every time I saw my reflection with a vengeance for giving it up in the first place.  Red Flag. I found myself utilizing the same old excuses with family and friends who voiced concern over my return to the gym, reassuring them I knew what I was doing and I was ready for this.  Red Flag.

Red Flag.
Red Flag.
Bright, red, you-can’t-freaking-miss-it flag. 

My recovery mind was fading into the background fast; replaced with thoughts dominated by the eating disorder instead of the real me.  But why?  Why now?
I’ve been doing well for so long…

I returned to the gym during a period of high stress.  Mistake número uno.  My sister and the son of my Army Soulmate/BFF were having surgery and I was stressed.  I needed an outlet and I felt my life was too hectic to sit down and write.  Instead of utilizing safe outlets such as yoga, writing, and paddleboarding; I opted for one of my bigger triggers because I thought surely I was ready for a triumphant return.  

I traveled to Pittsburgh, PA to be with my sister and Army Soulmate for the surgeries; requiring I stay at a hotel.  Only I didn’t stay at a hotel.  I stayed at this quaint little place, Family House, for people who have loved ones at local hospitals.  Upon walking into the place it felt eerily like walking into an eating disorder treatment facility; a feeling that made me want to rebel against recovery with every fiber of my being.  The large kitchen with two industrial size refrigerators, large sinks, and multiple microwaves screams community meals.  The environment is meant to feel inviting, like a home, but instead feels like what it is–a place where people stay when something serious happens.  I stood in the oversized kitchen after both surgeries had been completed and I had been up for 18 hours, when my mind flashed back to my time at the Center for Balanced Living.  At least this time my food wasn’t being checked and re-checked for meal plan accountability and I wasn’t going to be watched while I ate.  I suddenly felt devious.  I could sit alone at a table where I could eat as slowly as I wanted and throw out food without the need to hide it first.  What I couldn’t believe was that I was even entertaining this thought.  I sat at the table, playing with my food, and eating it incredibly slowly; pushing the thought out of my mind that I might actually be starting to struggle again.  Despite being very busy while in Pittsburgh, I made time for exercise because I couldn’t “undo” all the hard work I had recently been doing.  

All these red flags and I kept ignoring them.  Excusing them away and dismissing them as paranoia.  I mean, when will I get my life “back” if I don’t start now?  I do enjoy the occasional run and the feeling of  being back in the gym, but I went too hard too fast.  The safeguards weren’t enough because I started out doing too much too soon. I didn’t ease back into the gym, I went at it like my mind and body were fully healed and not susceptible to relapse.

I was wrong.

Healing from an eating disorder doesn’t happen overnight.
Recovery and healing happens over years; marked by struggles, slips, and points of higher learning.
My experience in the gym is a point of learning.  Learning I am not able to exercise daily like I used to because my mind isn’t ready for it.
The trigger to return to the eating disorder is still there, lying in wait, for me to choose it.
I chose it.
I tried to ignore it but thankfully I’m stronger than that now.  My husband is stronger and knows when to call it to my attention.
Together we won’t let the eating disorder retake my life.

******

On a similar, yet slightly different note, I hate myself a little for supporting a business that thinks posting crap like this is appropriate, but it is what it is.  Besides, I haven’t been a “girl” in quite some time…I’m almost 30!   

golds-crap

I much prefer the cover image I’ve chosen from Women’s Running Magazine that both demonstrates and states that weight doesn’t matter.  Because it doesn’t. 

With Body Love,
Lane

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

No Mirror, No Problem…Or Is It?

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

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

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

Sad Frog

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Body Love,
Lane

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

Symbolism and Self-Acceptance

Rising out of darkness, the lotus flower emerges to float on top of the water;
unstained by the mud that binds it.

******

After a long weekend visiting family in a very health-conscious city (i.e.: people always running and biking regardless of the time of day, and gyms on every corner), I found myself really struggling with body image and wanting to return to eating disordered ways.  RED + FLAG.  For the last two months I haven’t really struggled with the eating disordered thoughts or body image nearly as bad as I did for the last few days.  Feeling in such an awful place about my body made me question why I am even running this blog and Facebook page.  However, last night I got some serious rest and this morning I woke up with a new frame of mind.  While I am still struggling I am ready to fight harder again because that is recovery: moments of fighting hard, tooth and nail, to remain in recovery and learning to love myself and my body along the way.

This is the official BBA logo, designed by Megan Anderson
This is the official BBA logo, designed by Megan Anderson

 I have also been thinking a lot about the symbolism behind the BBA logo and what it means for me in recovery and with my body acceptance.

The BBA logo is rooted in deep meaning and symbolism; everything from the lotus flower to the color scheme was chosen carefully and to represent something.  The lotus flower sits delicately, cleanly on top of the water after it comes up from the muddy bottom and murky water that holds it in place.  It is rooted firmly and opens with the rising sun.  A new day, a new beginning for the lotus flower.  The flower is unstained by the mud from which it rises. Beauty rises out of darkness.  Body acceptance is beautiful, especially when it comes from the darkness of self-doubt, self-hate, and struggle to love.  The lotus flower in the logo is not fully open, showing body acceptance and love is an ongoing journey.  It takes time, patience, and continuous effort to learn to love myself; just as recovery times time, patience, and continuous effort.  Neither body love or full recovery came instantly when I stepped into the sun and started living in the truth.  Like the lotus flower blooming in the sun, petals open slowly and each one is examined in truth (sun) before the flower is fully open and the heart is revealed for the world to see.  I am like the lotus flower not fully open.  While some petals have received the sunlight others are just beginning to open as I figure out what triggers me most and causes me to feel such dislike for my body.

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The blue and purple hues used in the logo also hold meaning for me.  Purple is my favorite color but, as I wrote in a previous post, I believe purple to be dreamy and daring.  The color blue, especially light blue, is calming and comforting to me.  While purple represents the side of me that dreams of full recovery and body love, blue represents the calm state of mind it takes to practice radical body acceptance.  

Finally, the water under the lotus and the droplet of water above it represent sustaining life and relaxation.  The ocean and water speaks to me and calms me.  Much like a lotus bobbing on the water and making ripples, becoming a body acceptance advocate also makes ripples.  It isn’t a commonly embraced concept, as we are a society fixated on changing our appearance.  BBA seeks to make waves.  Water is also sustaining.  We need water to survive and water helps give life.  The water droplet coming down on the lotus helps sustain it, such as food, water, and God help sustain me.

While the last few days have been a struggle, I needed to return to the root of why I started this blog.  It is an honest look at radical body acceptance through the lens of eating disorder recovery.  This is the honest side of it.  I still struggle; I haven’t perfected this process.  I have days when I don’t even remotely love my body and it is difficult to practice radical body acceptance and find the things I do like and appreciate.  There are days when I don’t want to fight for recovery because it might be “easier” in the moment to go back to eating disordered ways and just let go of the rope in this tug-of-war.  However, I don’t let go;  I keep pulling and practicing radical body acceptance no matter how difficult it is.   I find the things I do appreciate and hold on to those.  I see the sunlight as I am rising from the muddy, murky waters of the eating disorder and self-hate to examine my petals in truth.

This is the truth:
I don’t appreciate my body all the time, but I am learning.  I fight to find the things I do like, even when the eating disordered part of my brain says there is nothing to like or love about myself.  I appreciate that my body could take my daughter trick-or-treating last Saturday in that health-conscious town because I enjoyed living in the moment with her.  I also appreciate my brain and heart for fighting to fully recover from the eating disorder that bound them in hate for so long.  What is your truth today?

Radical body acceptance is a journey on which anyone can embark.
So why not start today?

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, Recovery

Self-Discovery and Encouragement

Encouragement: 
the act of giving someone support, confidence, or hope 

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All too often I talk to people I met in treatment who haven’t yet experienced this part of recovery:
 true self-discovery and the lack of eating disordered thoughts  

One of the most amazing aspects of recovery is it has opened my mind and given me time to think about more things than food, weight, and exercise.  My mind has been able to wander and critically think about what I like, what I want to do with my life, and where I want to be.  I’m not only unearthing a new appreciation for my body but also a passion and a purpose for my life.  I’m enjoying new experiences, trying new things, and loving with my whole heart instead of just the part that isn’t consumed by the eating disorder.

You know what I discovered a few months ago?  I love the color purple.  I always thought my favorite colors were light pink and light blue because blue brought out the color of my eyes and pink looked nice with my blonde hair.  I thought they were my favorite colors because they made me look good, not because I loved looking at them.  Purple is calm and relaxing to me, especially the darker hues.  When I think of the color purple it seems dreamy and daring all at the same time; much how I see myself these days.  I see myself as a dreamer, uncovering the thoughts that I have never allowed myself to think and daring by making plans and taking chances on my dreams.  In someways I feel like a new song that fits me is “Wild Child” by Kenny Chesney.  (Why, yes, that is the song you are hearing.)

I really like cooking.  Before recovery I always thought I hated cooking but in all honesty I never gave it a real try.  I had my “safe” and eating disorder “approved” foods, from which I would not often stray when cooking for myself.  If I allowed myself to cook when I was actively living in my eating disorder I might have liked it then and wanted recovery, which was not an eating disorder approved mindset, so I avoided cooking.  Since I’ve grown stronger in recovery I’ve really started experimenting in the kitchen, especially as of late.  I made homemade bread (more than once!), cinnamon rolls, and actually opened the cookbooks my mom gave me over five years ago.  I even bought enough ingredients to make 20 (yes, 2-0) freezer meals for my crockpot.  The crockpot we received as a wedding gift four years ago that I hardly used because “I didn’t like cooking.”  I even made a healthy, wise-mind decision to stop eating gluten (for legitimate health reasons) and have taken an active interest in cooking gluten free meals.  I must say, the gluten free veggie pizza I made the other night for dinner was ah-mazing!  It is definitely a learning process but I still really enjoy cooking even though I have to use really random flours now.

I hate running…and lifting…and zumba.  These are activities that never brought me true joy.  I did them in an effort to lose weight, tone up, or punish myself for calories eaten.  I have friends who love lifting and friends who love running…and those really crazy friends (just kidding) who love zumba…but that is not for me.  I have found the physical activities that make me happy, that I look forward to doing, and I stick with those.  Swimming.  I love swimming.  When I hit the water the world disappears.  I am alone with my thoughts to problem-solve, dream, and relax.  If I notice an eating disorder thought starting to creep in I stop swimming laps and start “mermaid swimming,” as my dietician calls it; which is really just playing around and lazily swimming.  Swimming is a safe place and the eating disorder thoughts that might still be lurking around in my head are not welcome when I am swimming; they don’t get to invade my safe place. Before recovery I liked swimming but rarely did it because I didn’t want anyone to see me in a swimsuit and judge me.  Now I just don’t care.

I love writing.  This one might seem obvious but I didn’t realize I loved it (or that I was any good at it) until I entered recovery.  Writing allows me to clear my mind, express myself, and encourage others.  When someone tells me they have been encouraged by my writing it makes me smile but makes me appreciate my recovery that much more.  I thank God for blessing me with this gift and being patient with me until I was ready to use it.  I only hope He continues to use my writing to help encourage others.

I love being a stay-at-home mom.  I have said before I did not fully appreciate Vivienne for the majority of her life, but now I do.  I wasn’t thankful for the opportunity to be home with her on a daily basis because all I could see was the money I “wasted” on graduate school because I wasn’t using my degree; completely forgetting degrees don’t expire and I can always have a career later.  Now I love playing with Vivienne and structuring her days at home.  Mozart Mondays, Witness Wednesdays (we do random acts of kindness around the community), and Field Trip Fridays maximize my time with her and allow me to teach her about our faith and to be a good servant for Christ.  She is my “career” and my main “mission field” for Christ.

IMG_3898

Finally, I love how resilient my body is when it is healthy.  I love how clearly I can think when my judgement is not clouded by eating disordered behaviors.  Decisions that, in the past, would have been made with great difficulty seem easy now.  I am so thankful for my body’s ability to heal itself.  While my brain is still making new pathways and erasing old habits like a bad mixed-tape (you know you remember making those), I am consistently reinforcing recovery oriented behaviors because the choice is easier.  Most days I don’t even have to think about eating all my meals and snacks because I actually want them now.  There is no debate about whether or not I should eat, I want to eat.  My body is beautiful and amazing all the same time.  I look at myself now and my thoughts are not dripping with disdain for my body but with positivity and joy.      

Recovery has allowed me to discover parts of myself I never knew before because my personality and my likes/dislikes were masked by the eating disordered brain.  I know myself better than I ever thought possible and I have days where the eating disorder doesn’t even cross my mind.

Recovery, and days without the eating disorder taking over your every thought, are absolutely possible
.
You can do this.  You can recover. ❤

With Body Love,
Lane

Body Acceptance, Body Image, Eating Disorder, God, Recovery

Mirror, Mirror

Mirrors are liars.  They tell us what we expect to see.
-Susanna Fraser

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Too many times I have looked in the mirror once and thought, “Wow, I look great!” Only to turn around not even five minutes later and think, “Crap.  I look like I just gained 10 pounds.”  How is that even possible?
It is simple: my mind, the mirror, and my eyes play tricks to create my perception of myself.

My Mind: The mind is powerful; dependent upon how we use it.  All too often I use my mind in its negative capacity instead of for the good of myself and others.  Prior to looking in the mirror I am already experiencing some sort of feeling, positive or negative, that will greatly impact how I view myself once I step in front of my bathroom mirror.  When I get dressed for the day or to go out on a date with my husband, I am telling myself I am confident, attractive, and on top of the world.  I’m not even thirty and I have accomplished much and been many places.  I am loved. I am beautiful.  I am a child of God and I am bringing up my daughter to know His love.  Even typing that now makes me sit a little taller in my (not so comfy) desk chair.  What I say to myself has the power to increase my confidence or break me down.  Once I see myself in the outfit I have chosen I usually step away to do something else, coming back to double check my appearance before leaving.  By the time I return to the mirror, which I realize I really need to NOT do as it is incredibly vain, doubtful thoughts have crept in and my perception changes. Whether I am consciously thinking the negative thoughts or not, they are there.  “Maybe this outfit doesn’t flatter my body.  Maybe I should change.  I will just go double check.”  For my mind, double checking spells doom for my mood and mindset.  Instead of feeling like the confident, successful, beautiful mother and wife I am, I find myself feeling frumpy, unhappy, and disgusted.   My mind plays tricks and I bet yours does too.

The Mirror: By definition a mirror is “a reflective surface, now typically of glass coated with a metal amalgam, that reflects a clear image.”  I am inclined to say I disagree with this definition.  While the mirror may truly be glass coated with some metal something-rather, the image is anything but clear.  The image is clouded by our judgements of ourselves.  It is merely a reflection of what we want to see, or what we think we see, and our mind makes the image unclear.  We do not accurately see ourselves because we are simply looking at a reflection; a trick made of glass and thoughts.  One lesson I am learning, over and over again, is to trust those around me.  I am learning to trust my husband when he says I am beautiful and I don’t see myself has he does, or as God does.  I am learning to trust my friend when she says I am beautiful because I care for others, I show love to people in my path, and I am an inspiration.  The mirror doesn’t reflect any of those things.  The mirror only reflects the outward appearance upon which my own harsh judgements and the judgements of those who do not know me are reflected.  

My Eyes: I always used to say my eyes were my best feature when asked what I liked best about myself.  However, I don’t find that to be true anymore.  While I still love their sapphire blue color, they are not the best part of me.  My eyes don’t speak to who I am as a person and they are part of what plays tricks on me. Lets review how the eye allows us to see things:

The Eye

How can something that takes a real-life object and turns it upside down in a normal setting show us anything close to reality when it is looking at an image on a metal coated piece of glass?  Simply put: I don’t think it can.  Now, I obviously do not have scientific proof of this but I believe it to be true.  While our eyes are amazing and they allow us to see the world around us, when it comes to seeing ourselves they aren’t much help.  We either have to look at the mirror or a photo, which still is not an accurate view of ourselves.  Our eyes play tricks. They work in conjunction with our preconceived thoughts and judgements to show us what we think we see.

I would like you to really listen to the song on this post.  My favorite lines are repeated over and over throughout it:

“Hey you in the mirror, I like you!”
“I’m feelin’ mehself!”
“Nobody don’t have to love me because I LOVE ME!”

I am the culprit of my own mood, good or bad, and as long as I stand in front of the mirror (as much I am trying to decrease that practice) and tell myself I am sexy, special, and love myself my mood is likely to be good….along with my confidence. 

With Body Love,
Lane