Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Accepting that You Have an Eating Disorder

My weekly video is up and this week I respond to the viewer question:
"How do I come to terms with the fact that I have an eating disorder? I know rationally that I have a problem, but until I am completely willing to accept that I am not sure that I can even think seriously about recovery."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Question # 6: Therapy's Role

Question # 6 is from Licketysplit. She actually asked me a few questions, but I’m going to answer them in separate posts, because my responses are rather long! :)

She asks: “What role did 1:1 therapy play (if any) when you were in active recovery, after you had the tools you needed and were utilizing them and rarely using behaviors but still not yet 'recovered'?”

I was in therapy with the same professional for several years. I started out hating it, grew to tolerate it, and eventually—to even be eager for it. While I was away at college in a different state, I still had phone sessions with her each week. I also saw a therapist on campus at the university’s counseling center. I also did group therapy. Sometimes I was therapy-ed out, but for the most part, I think I was collecting as many forms of therapy as I could in order to help pull myself out my hole.

But back to the question at hand—as I progressed to a place where I had the tools, used them and rarely used behaviors, but still was not “recovered,” one-on-one therapy was a way for me to know that I had an outlet. Once I was doing fairly well, I didn’t have therapy sessions once a week or even twice a week. I spaced them out to once per month, and sometimes with even longer spans in between. I knew that if I was having a rough time with something—a situation, a person, a behavior, etc.—I had an appointment in the future, however far away. It allowed me to breathe and find the balance between living completely independent of any help and being dependent on help. I was able to live on my own and take care of myself, but knew that if I needed some help, it was there.

One thing I learned from therapy that I will always take with me is this story (I call it My Claim to Shame):

Shame. It's a word that trembles with negative feeling. It's a word that has a lot of power. It's a word that I used to associate with my eating disorder.

I felt shame when I restricted, when I counted calories, when I fit into tiny clothes, when I threw away food that I couldn't bring myself to eat, when I worried my friends and family. But most of all, I felt shame when I cried.

When I cried, I felt so weak and so helpless and so out of control that I was absolutely disgusted with myself. I couldn't fathom someone being as stupid as I was. I couldn't understand how a girl with a brain could hurt her entire family and all her dear friends by continuing on a path of self destruction. It wasn't rational. It was shameful. At least in the eyes of a girl struggling with anorexia.

My shame when I cried overpowered me. I took to crying in private, waiting until doors were locked and my dorm room/apartment/bathroom where empty and I was the sole occupant. I cried in the shower. I cried in bed at night, in the dark, silently, when my room mate was but feet away in her own bed. But sometimes--when my life and my emotions and my pain became too much--I cried in front of someone. And that was when the shame flooded my face with heat and made me wish I were dead. If I cried in front of a friend, I would instantly apologize over and over again. I would shake my head and cover my face as though to say, "Don't look at me!" If I cried in front of my parents, it was worse still. I had to walk--no, run--away; the shame was just too great.

Once, I cried in front of my eating disorder therapy group. All eyes were on me. I was explaining something or telling some weekly tale, and out came the tears in a torrential cascade. I was mortified. And the therapists and participants alike were stunned--because they'd never seen me cry before. I couldn't SPEAK for the rest of the group session; I was so overcome with shame. Shame had in me in a fierce and unyielding grasp.

I'll never forget the time I cried in front of my former therapist. I had been going to her for about 2 years. One particular day, she was prodding me about something that was a tender point. I was getting angry. I was getting upset. I was getting... overwrought. I was becoming a mess. I let go. I cried. I bawled. I couldn't stop and I couldn't speak for a moment or two. I played my old game of covering my tear-sodden face with my hands and apologizing. When I looked at my therapist again, she was smiling. No, grinning. I was dumbstruck. But I'll never forget what she said to me: "I can finally see YOU. The real you." I questioned her with my disbelieving eyes and she said, "Finally you are giving me something. You're not closing off or holding it in. You're crying. Sometimes you need to cry." It had a real effect on me.

I've since transformed her words to mean: "Sometimes you need to cry in order to get better." I've learned that being ashamed of something real serves no purpose and will only keep you from gaining ground. I've also learned that by crying, you can get out some of the bad that's inside and make room for the good. I apply this whole concept and attitude to my eating disorder in general. So much shame enveloped me that I couldn't get past what was going on inside me. I had to come to terms with the shameful behaviors and feelings in order to move forward.

Shame is a dirty word. An anagram for shame is: has me. And have me it did. I think of that when I feel shame about something. I don't want to be had by anything. I want to turn it around. If eating disorder = shame, then it stands to reason that if you get rid of the shame, you are that much closer to getting rid of the eating disorder. It certainly was an important step for me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Eating with Others

Just a quick video in the middle of my responses to reader questions.

This week, for my Wednesday video, I responded to the question: "Is this rare or does anyone else find that eating with others can be easier than eating alone?"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eating Disorder Workshop: For Parents Looking for Answers

Just a quick announcement:

I will be co-leading a Parent Workshop this fall in my area, for parents of children or teens with eating disorders. A wonderful woman asked me to do the workshop with her and I am happy to participate. Follow the details on the flyer to sign up or spread the word. Flyer below. Click image for enlargement.

This is for anyone in the Lehigh Valley area, so if you are a concerned parent or know someone who is, definitely think about registering!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Question # 5: "The Vicious Cycle"

On to the next question, one I received from Kia:


"I have got this problem with my anorexia: whenever I'm underweight I like my body and I feel well with myself, but I know it's not healthy for my body, so (with the help of my nutritionist) I gain weight and I get to my set-point weight. But when I get to my set-point weight, I don't like my body, I'm sad and nervous, so I start restricting again, and I go underweight. Whenever I'm underweight... go back to the beginning and read all this several times, as it's all my life in the last 6 years.

How can I like my body when I have my set-point weight?

How can I break this vicious cycle?"



The problem may be an obsession with numbers. It shouldn't be so much about the weight as it should be about being healthy and well. Is there anyway you can stop knowing the number? Get rid of a scale. Let your nutritionist weigh you, but don't let her tell you what your weight is. That way, she will know how well you're doing, if you're gaining or losing, but you won't have to start feeling badly about yourself, because you will be unaware of the actual number.


I know a lot of the time, we can start to feel unhappy with our bodies as we know the number goes up. But if you simply start looking healthy, perhaps you will not hate it as much if you don't see a number on a regular or frequent basis. Part of the reason you like your body when you are underweight could be because you know you are underweight. And that in itself is not healthy. It sounds like part of the reason you dislike your body when you get to your set weight is because you know you have reached your set weight. That is scary for you. It's a number you never wanted to be, perhaps.


Stop thinking of your set weight as a number. Get rid of the numbers in your life. Realize that being healthy is the only way you can live your life. Happiness may not immediately follow being healthy. You can even prepare yourself for being UNhappy when you have reached your set weight. But the unhappiness won't last if you try to accept the set weight and DO NOT allow yourself to restrict. You have the willpower. You have to understand that you may not like gaining weight (many people do not), but you have to do it anyway for a time. And the rest will follow. It is MUCH easier to keep your mind happy and healthy if your body is healthy too.


If you are at a set weight for a short period of time (weeks, a few months) before you begin restricting and turning to old ways, it's simply not enough time to adjust to your healthy weight and come to terms with everything that surrounds it. You never give yourself that chance. You are robbing yourself of progression. You cannot progress in recovering if you keep sabotaging yourself.


It may take a lot of pain and tears and frustration, but if you can allow yourself to stick with the healthy weight for longer than you have, you may find that things do not stay as difficult as you have found them to be. Often, when we are underweight, we are happy with our appearance, but we are not really happy in all things. What you want is total happiness, not just happiness with a body you are forcing into a lower than natural weight.


I know the cycle continues almost without you realizing—believe me, I've been there—but in order to break it, you have to be conscious. Extremely conscious. You have to make yourself stick with it. Employ the assistance of your nutritionist, your therapist, your significant other, your family members, your best friend—whatever it takes. When you hit that healthy weight, you KNOW what will happen. Because you've done it many times before. So you KNOW what to look for. You KNOW what to stop. This is a strength, not a weakness. Turn your thinking around.


It's not all about a number. The weight is silly. Focus on being healthy, and forget the scale. There are professionals who can monitor your weight for you right now without you having to do so. Best of luck!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Future

Here's my latest video for the ED Recovery collaboration on YouTube. This week, I responded to the question:

"People talk about future goals and using those to help motivate them to recovery - what if you dont know what you want in the future?"

I will resume answering reader questions (#5 comes next) in my next post. Leave your questions for me here. :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Question # 4: Beyond Negativity...

“How can you find positivity and strength to fight against anorexia, when all around - and, moreover inside - you spread negativity?”

Start inside and work your way out. It’s no easy task, but if you work on what’s inside of you first, the rest will follow. Positivity and strength aren’t things you find, they are things you realize, things you tap into, things that you must force yourself to remember time and time again.

The strength is there. If you think it isn’t, you won’t find it. If you tell yourself you don’t have what it takes to be positive and strong, you won’t be.

Try simple things to add some positivity and strength to your life.

-Create a special playlist with strong, recovery oriented songs that have a positive message—a message that makes you want to keep fighting.

-Keep a journal REGULARLY and get out most of your negativity there. That way, you won’t be berating yourself as constantly because you’ll have an outlet. The plus: you won’t be spreading negativity all around either—it’ll be kept in one place, between two covers of a book.

-Use Post-Its. They’re quite an invention. Force yourself to write positive phrases and stick them where you’ll see them. Your mirror, for one. Your computer. Your desk. Your refrigerator. Right smack dab on the calendar page of your planner. Even on the underside of the toilet seat if it’ll help you.

-Pummel a positive message into your head, especially one that’s difficult for you to swallow. For example, my daily cell phone idea.

I realize that these things won’t keep you positive and strong 100% of the time. But they’re a start. And don’t underestimate the power of asking for help when you need it. It takes so much strength. So if you’re looking to be strong, do that. It’s a test. And it can’t hurt.

One big thing: Instead of getting angry at yourself and calling YOURSELF “stupid” and other choice names, get angry at it. In your case, as the question above states, anorexia. (Insert "bulimia, ednos, orthorexia, binge eating, etc.) You have the power to turn things around. You do. But getting angry at yourself is only going to spread more negativity. Channel your anger in the right direction—at the source of your pain. Not at another person or at circumstances in your life. Not at yourself. AT IT. At this disease.

It might make you feel more empowered... STRONG, if you will. :) Use it.

*All links direct to more elaboration on my answer to the question. :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Setting Goals & Making Plans

Just a brief lapse in my answering of your reader questions to post my weekly video for the ED recovery collaboration on YouTube. This is the last week in our special Confidence, Self-Esteem Building, & Assertiveness Program, but don't worry, there will continue to be weekly videos--we're just going back to the regular "response to viewer questions" format. :)

I'm working on answering Question #4 of the reader questions, so if you have any more for me, let me know and I'll get to them!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

On to Question #3...

Eating Alone asked, "You say you're 'recovered', how do you know? And how long did it take?"

This question is similar to Question #1 from Miss Keira, so if you'd like some more elaboration, look here, however, I do have some more words and will certainly respond to the last question regarding length of time.

First, how do I know I'm 'recovered'?

-Because my life doesn't revolve around food, exercise, feelings of hunger, my own image in the mirror, the way my clothes fit, what people say to me regarding appearance or success/failure.

-Because I actually have a life.

-Because when I wake up in the morning I am content, not filled with despair.

-Because I don't have to work at it. It is now natural.

-Because I can help others without being triggered by them.

-Because this blog is not a bunch of hypocritical paragraphs that I say but seldom do. I live by what I write here.

-Because I like my body.

-Because I even, most of the time, LOVE my body.

-Because I am at peace with issues of my adolescence.

-Because I can eat "junk food" and not care.

-Because I don't binge or purge or starve myself.

-Because I don't even WANT to binge, purge, or starve myself.

-Because I don't care what the number on a scale says and it used to incredibly define me.

-Because I am a healthy weight.

-Because appreciate myself instead of hate myself.

-Because I feel free.

And these are just to name a few of the reasons I know I'm "recovered." Out of the woods. Healthy. Happy. Here in the moment and not afraid to eat, look, live, love.

And how long did it take?

If you start counting from my first onset of disordered eating and self-hatred (in the sixth grade) but BEFORE I was diagnosed with full-blown anorexia, then it's taken about 10 or 11 years to reach "recovered" status... and 13 or 14 years (total) to reach the "recovered" me I am today (which began about 3 years ago, if you see what I'm saying).

My official descent into a rampant eating disorder began when I had just turned 18, but from the get-go I wanted recovery and started almost immediately. It was not easy.

The length of time isn't what's important. It can take 3 years or 30 years. The goal is to get to the point where you can say, "I'm free" and mean it. Don't give yourself a deadline. Don't beat yourself up for slip-ups. Just. keep. trying.

To add a question to the list I'm answering from, just comment in my original post, here.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Okay...Questions #1 & 2

I promised to answer any and all questions, so I'm starting off with two questions I got from Miss Keira. I'll stay true to my word, so if you want to add any to my mix, ask me in a comment here. I'm working my way down the list!

"Did you have a moment where you went from "recovering" to "recovered"? or was it fluid and went by without noticing? I ask because I'm at a stage where it doesn't feel like I'm 'actively' recovering... it just feels like life."

I don't know that I can pinpoint any one moment, but I do remember several times when I would stop what I was doing and realize Wow, the eating disorder hasn't been a part of my life or my thoughts for a while. It's one thing to erase all behaviors and idiosyncrasies from your life, but it's another thing entirely to realize the an eating disorder is no longer part of your thought process.

For me, on a daily basis, I don't think about having an eating disorder. It seems like a piece of my past. The only time of think about eating disorders is when I post on the blog, make my recovery videos for people, lead my ANAD support group, or post responses to people on the recovery forums on which I'm a moderator. My own understanding of the matter helps me to help people, but it doesn't cause me to think of eating disorders once I'm removed from those arenas.

Each day, I wake up and eat normally. I don't think about what I put into my mouth. That is a big indicator for me. If someone asked me what I ate yesterday, I wouldn't always know. I'd have to think about it. That is telling; in past years I would know everything I'd eaten in the last week and could name it all in 25 seconds. When I tell the women in my group that I drink "regular Coke" they shake their heads in disbelief. When I talk about cream cheese on bagels, they almost gasp. To me, it is nothing. Not anymore. But because it used to be so severely SOMETHING to me, I know how far I have come. It is part of the reason I consider myself "recovered."

The other part is that I don't feel I could help people in the same way I do if I wasn't "recovered." If there was always that little seed still inside me waiting to grow, I don't think I could say the things I say with such certainty. I don't think I could explain myself in the same way and I don't think that I could push suggestions that I know work.

As you say, Miss Keira :), when you feel you are not "actively recovering" but just living life, that is a definite piece of what I'm talking about when I refer to being "recovered." When life is life and all things eating disordered cease to exist. I used to be healthy and well, but still on occasion had to catch myself from following through with an eating disordered thought. I'd have to use positive reinforcement regularly to keep me going in the right direction. It could have been a year since I'd done anything remotely eating disordered, but the thoughts were still there from time to time. I was still recoverING.

Now, it's different. The thoughts don't plague me. My life is...freer. I'm content. I don't have the anxiety that used to follow many of my moves and moods. I'm a healthy weight and have been.

When I started up my support group, I did it not as soon as I knew I was healthy and well, but when I had BEEN healthy and well (mentally, emotionally, and physically) for a decent amount of time. Sure, I could have led my group after a year of being healthy and happy and well, but I wouldn't have felt removed enough from the issue. I wanted to be as sure as I could be that I wouldn't relapse, wouldn't be triggered by things or people, would be able to help with ALL of my being. I started the group about 2 years after being what I loosely call "recovered." I knew I was living life, I knew I was able and capable, I knew it wasn't half wish and half truth that I would always be okay. I knew it was a sure thing (as sure as any confident person can be, that is).

Though I had been recovering for years, I'd still had slip-ups, thoughts thoughts and more thoughts, and was not totally and completely well in all ways. I sit here now "recovered" for what I would say is just over 3 years. By that I mean, a healthy state of well and capable and free of my eating disorder for 3 years. Before that, even though I was committed to recovery, I would have called myself "recovering." I hope that I've made sense. :)

One thing, though--please don't for a second, readers, think that I am perfect or without fault. Please don't think that I don't have bad days and good days like every other human being. And please don't think that there aren't days when I look in the mirror and frown for a moment before I smile. I've only been on this earth for 25 years and I'm a work in progress like anyone else. But I'm free... and you can be too. Trust me on this one. If you knew me 7 years at age 18, you'd think there was no way I'd be the woman I am today. You would have seen a scrawny girl with lack of confidence, lack of hope, and sad eyes. You'd see someone with problems wrapped around her sickly form. You'd see silence, pain, and fear. Today, I'm different. So I know it's possible to achieve freedom. If I didn't know it, I wouldn't have this blog. Wouldn't run a group. Wouldn't make weekly videos with such conviction.

And question # 2:

"What does your job involve?"

I'm a Caseworker for a non-profit agency in my county/state. I help low-income families apply and receive subsidized child care funding so they can work. Day care is expensive! I also give referrals and help out in a variety of ways in the realm of child care services. It's a helper job if there ever was one, but it doesn't pay much at all, being non-profit. Lucky for me, I like the people I work with and I'm also a I'm hoping that will get me somewhere eventually. ...When I can hopefully devote more time to it! :)

For those of you who think I'm a wonder woman fighting EDs all day, every day or for those of you who just want to know the simple me--daily life, funny stories, husband tales, baby longings, writing adventures, and all--there was a blog BEFORE this one... my regular blog One Page at a Time. It's my personal blog (has been for the last few years) and you're more than welcome to see what I'm all about, ED world aside. I know I can seem a bit "unreal" from time to time, so maybe a few glimpses into my life will show you how real I truly am!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Asking For Support

Yesterday's (Wednesday's) video is up! I continue responding to the special program questions. In this video, I respond to the question: " What do I need to bring me to a place where I can ask for support and how do I go about doing the asking?"

Don't forget: check out my last post Q & A to leave me your questions. I will begin answering them (via posts) this weekend!