There have been two commitments I have made in my life. The first was too recovery and the second was two my husband. Both were utterly terrifying but both have made me feel more secure than I ever dreamed possible.
I have always been an anxious person and for many years used the avoidance behaviors of an eating disorder to control the anxiety. Now matter what happened, as long as I used a behavior I was going to be ok. Losing that one, reliable thing in my life was so scary. However, it was consuming me. It was ruining me and every hope and dream. It had to go and when I finally decided to reject the eating disorder, something magical happened.
I found out that I could survive anxiety and still be ok. It turns out there is no other choice but to be ok. None. No other choice. In discovering that lone fact, the resistance to recovery I had always felt transformed into a resistance to the eating disorder.
That abusive, horrible voice in my head started to fade. It became the enemy it always was. As I fought, it faded and as it faded, I fought. Commitment to recovery, in the end, relieved me of that burden.
Committing to my husband was a similar process. I had a deep, overwhelming fear of marriage. From my experience, marriage only led to suffering, heartache, and anger. I wanted to part of it. Event e positive marriages I saw, I considered flukes and time-bombs. Eventually, those people were going to destroy each other.
My perceptions started to change after a conversation about children with my now husband. We had been dating almost 2 years. You would think that I would have begun to see the light at that point but I’m stubborn, apparently. I had asked him about having children and he brought up marriage. I told him my opinion of marriage. The look on his face was heart-breaking. He said “You would want a child with me but you wouldn’t make that commitment to me?” I dropped the conversation at that point but it made me think.
Long story short, we did end up getting married. It was a traumatic experience for me. We had a small ceremony because I couldn’t handle a bunch of people watching me jump of a cliff. Sadly, that’s what it felt like. I was hoping against hope I would find out I had wings but had no faith that it would happen. I simply loved my husband enough to try.
We’ve been married two and half years now and for most of that, I have not believed we would make the long haul. Somewhere in there though, I started to take the end off the table. The D word isn’t an option. How that happened is a mystery to me but it did. And guess, what…I feel alot better…about everything. I trust myself, my husband, my life more than I ever have. Turns out, I do have wings. Or rather, we have wings.
What positive risks have you taken in your life? What has brought you long lasting relief? What holds you back in recovery?
Family members and friends always wonder how to help their loved one who is suffering with an eating disorder. Here are a tips.
Tip 1: Express love unconditionally.
The impulses of a loved one is typically to express love and concern in the same breath. It’s natural and understandable. It’s also risky. Concern often comes across as controlling and directive. Instead, try just saying “I love you” without anything else. Don’t say “I love you and I’m worried.” or I only say this because I love you.” A simple “I love you” will suffice.
Tip 2:Reflectively listen.
People with eating disorders sew routinely invalidated and misunderstood. Don’t continue the cycle. When that someone speaks, don’t respond with an suggestion or advice. “Reflect back.” Say what you think they meant or identify the emotion they are feeling.
For example, if your person says “I hate food,” respond with “Eating makes you feel pretty anxious, huh?”
By reflectively listening, you communicate that her experience is real and that you understand. Feeling understood is invaluable!
Tip 3: Don’t ask questions about weight or meal plan.
This seems pretty obvious but please, leave weight and meal plan questions to the professionals! Even if you are an ED professional, do not counsel your loved one. Leave it to her team. Let her interactions with you be a place of calm normalcy. Grilling her about what she ate today is counterproductive and often, just plain rude.
Have you ever had a loved one with an eating disorder or are you struggling? What’s the best way to support recovery?
I just wanted to say thank you for publicly announcing your decision to go into treatment. Seeking treatment for an eating disorder is often the most difficult decision. It feels like there are so many things in the way: work, school, fear of people knowing your secret, not believing you are worthy of treatment, not believing recovery is real, etc. Everything seems to get in the way.
I imagine, for you, the barriers to treatment seemed insurmountable but you’ve done it and you’ve shared it with the world. So much for keeping it a secret! So much for shame and guilt! Well done!
Honestly, the term “role model” is not one I would have applied to you before now but you’ve shared a deeply personal experience with the world. For that authenticity, I thank and applaud you. I hope others out there who are struggling with the decision can take a leaf out of your book.
Thank you again,
It’s that time of year. We’re all making promises to ourselves that we really can’t keep. But what if we did something a little bit different. What if we based a New Year’s resolution on what our body is already telling us, but we’re not listening too. What if our New Year’s resolution is to listen to our bodies and eat intuitively?
My eldest son is 21 months and is the very definition of intuitive eating. When he is hungry, he eats with enthusiasm and gusto. When he’s not, he turns his dinner into a sensory exercise. (Either way, peanut butter ends up in his ears.)
It’s beautiful, really, to watch him eat. He has not yet been influenced by commercials that equate over-eating with manliness or under-eating with self-control. He has no shame or body hate. He’s just a toddler giving his body the energy it needs to play.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all eat so intuitively…sans the food all over our faces? Listening to our bodies and let it tell us what it needs…it’s what we all could be doing.
As we start this new year, maybe our resolutions don’t need to be to go to the gym a million times or anything else that sets us up for failure. Maybe we just need to resolve to eat like a toddler!
Those of us who treat eating disorders, disordered eating, or just women in America would like see our clients have more positive self-talk, especially around body image. Unfortunately, body positivity may be a little ambitious…for all of us, not just our clients.
Let’s face it. Our bodies do no always do what we want them to do. Sometimes, we get injured or have a chronic illness. Sometimes, it’s just age-related changes. Whatever the reason, our bodies are imperfect. It may even feel like it fails us at times.
Because we are continually dealing with the limits of our bodies, that aspired-too body positivity can lack the authenticity we need to believe it. Know what? That’s ok. You don’t have to love your body. The most important thing is to let go of body hate.
Body hate is detrimental in ways most of us don’t appreciate. To assess your own self-talk around your body, check out The Reflection Exercise . You probably found that your self-talk around your body is pretty harsh, and that you end up feeling hurt, anxious, or otherwise terrible. It’s easy to see how unproductive those feelings are. How can you get anything done when you’re so distracted by those intense feelings?!
The trick here isn’t necessarily to go in the opposite direction entirely, into thinking why you love your body so much. It’s to much of a leap to really internalize and make useful.
The middle step is BODY NEUTRALITY! Maybe one day you’ll get to body positivity. Maybe not. The important thing is to get away from the hate and the negativity.
So, how do you get to body neutrality?
Step 1: Go back to the reflection exercise and take a look at your thoughts.
Step 2: Take a DEEP BREATH! 7 seconds in, 7 seconds out. Even if you do nothing else, take that breath. Give yourself a reprieve from the negativity. Oxygen will flood your brain and you will be able to think clearer.
Step 3: Write down a neutral statement about your body for every negative thought that you had. Remember to FOCUS ON FACT. For example, if one of your thoughts was “My thighs are too big”, then you can write “My thighs allow me to walk.”
Step 4: Whenever you find yourself hating your body, repeat your body neutral statements.
Step 5: After a week or so of repeating neutral statements, try the reflection exercise again.
Please share your thoughts about body neutrality. Is it easier? Does it ring true for you? How did the exercise go?
Today is the day after Christmas and this one was particularly special. I gave birth to my second son 17 days ago. My dad and stepmom traveled all the way from Pensacola to be here. And we my parents, my new family, and my husband’s family all spent the day together. It really was a gift.
When I was a kid, my dad never got any of us more than one token present each. Christmas was not about presents. It was about going to Grandma Mary’s house across the street, visiting with my millions of cousins, and eating cheese grits. My dad hated the commercial materialism and pressure of Christmas and refused to participate in it.
It’s a great lesson, isn’t it?
We do not have to bow to social pressure. We can live out our values and be proud of it. In fact, life will be more enjoyable for it. I do not remember a single present I got for Christmas as a kid, but I do remember listening to my dad tell a story that somehow combined Santa, Batman, and the Nazis. It wasn’t the most coherent story ever told, but “the cousins”, as we were called as a group, were riveted.
This year, I saw my dad hold my newborn and play with my eldest. We shared a meal. We all laughed and told stories about my brothers. We were missing a few people and the cheese grits, but otherwise, it was a an amazing day.
As we leave the holiday season, I must also reflect on recovering from an eating disorder. My first Christmas in recovery helped me remember who I was and figure out who I wanted to be. Being recovered allowed me to have the children to whom I will pass these lessons. It is because I recovered that I have my new family and can enjoy my parents. It’s a beautiful gift…so beautiful I feel unworthy of it.
I’ll take it though, and hold it tight. I might be unworthy but I am not going to pass on it!!
What has your recovery brought you? What is better about your life now?