Have hope, chase joy, embrace life – recovery is possible.

Archive for December, 2010

Something To Celebrate

With 2010 about to draw to a close, i find myself reflecting on another incredible year in recovery.

This year i:

  • Found freedom & joy in intuitive eating
  • Embraced vulnerability
  • Cried,
    & loved a whole lot
  • Found peace through forgiveness, & let go of past hurts
  • Found hope
  • Travelled halfway across the world to meet my beautiful friends A. & L.
    – an incredible adventure, filled with rule-breaking growth & insight
  • Learnt how to appreciate the little things
  • Skipped,
    & sang – a lot
  • Broke some more rules
  • Said “i really do love myself” for the first time in my life – AND i meant it
  • Learnt how to bake vegan cupcakes (& baked A LOT of them)
  • Gave, but received so much more
  • Chased joy,
    embraced life,
    & saw the beauty in everything (even if it took a while)
  • Met some of the most beautiful, magnificent, & all-round amazing people in the world
  • And, for the first year since i was diagnosed in 2007, i have not had any hospital admissions due to my eating disorder
    – i am freaking AWESOME! 😀

But, while it has taken a lot of my own courage, strength, & determination to achieve these things, it was not without a whole lot of support & encouragement from my beautiful friends, family, treatment team, & even the strangers who touched my life this year. To all of those beautiful, incredible, amazing people who have shared yourselves & your lives with me this year – thankyou so very much. What an honour to have such amazing people in my life!

And so, with just 4 hours until the new year is upon us here in Australia, i wish you all a wonderful 2011. May it be a blessed year for you all, filled with peace, & love, & joy, & excitement, & laughter, & dreams, & dancing, & discovery, & health. *catches breath*
And remember – have hope & chase joy, because recovery IS possible! 🙂

What have YOU achieved this year? (I guarantee it’s a whole lot more than you think ;))

(Images via: We ♥ it.)


Another Splash Of Colour

Why hello there lovely people 🙂

Just wanted to let you know, that lifeinfullcolour now has a Facebook page!

I wanted to create a space where i could share even more with you – those exciting developments in the field of eating disorders, those interesting articles & blog posts on self-love, media literacy, & body acceptance…..all those little things that are not quite big enough to post about here, but simply too good not to share.

I’ll also be posting my some incredible quotes & encouraging images, to help bring a little more colour to your day 🙂

I really hope you will join me over at lifeinfullcolour’s Facebook page.

Until next time – have a super shiny happy day 🙂

New Year’s Resolutions

Giving up on giving up

Why is it that New Year’s Resolutions are so often about giving something up? Giving up smoking, giving up food, losing weight, etc. By “resolving” to give something up, we are setting ourselves up to feel deprived, & feelings of deprivation rarely do anything to enhance our mood. In fact, our desire for satisfaction is so strong, that any feelings of deprivation we may have are likely to see us rush right back into the comforting arms of what we have “given up”. We want to feel satisfied, & why shouldn’t we?

Now, i’m not saying that you should keep smoking, or continue to engage in behaviours that are otherwise damaging to your health or well-being – if you are keen to make positive changes in your life, then by all means, go for it! But perhaps it would be helpful to think of thee changes in a different way – rather than “giving up” something, what if we were to gain something instead?

What if, instead of “giving up” smoking, your resolution was to increase your cardiovascular health? To breathe more freely & deeply? To save money? What if, instead of losing weight, your resolution was to develop a deeper connection to your body? To nourish yourself? To find a fun new way to move your body? What if your New Year’s resolution was about increasing your positive experiences, rather than trying to eliminate others?

All or nothing – or something else?

“Resolution” sounds so final – so all or nothing. It sounds so rigid – so inflexible. While setting goals is great for giving us a sense of purpose & direction, “resolving” to do something doesn’t leave much room for error or adjustment. When we set ourselves up to feel deprived, we make it difficult for ourselves to maintain any changes we make. So what happens then, if we have resolved to maintain this “deprivation”? How do we feel if for some reason we were not able to maintain those changes?

Most people i know who make New Year’s resolutions, feel guilty if they were unable to maintain the changes they had resolved so adamantly to adhere to. Even if it was through no fault of their own, they blame themselves – they blame their lack of “willpower”, their “lack” of organisation, or any other of their perceived “lackings” or “inabilities”. They approached their resolutions with an all or nothing attitude, & did not allow themselves the patience & flexibility they needed to really grow & develop, or to learn new skills. There was no contingency plan, & no space for wrong turns.

A resolution to recover

I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, but on December 31st, 2007, i made a resolution for the upcoming year. I was sharing my evening with friends, & when one of them insisted we write down a resolution, i felt obliged to join in. I had recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder, & was awaiting treatment at a specialist eating disorders service.  My resolution that year (although i can’t remember it’s exact wording), was to “give up” my eating disorder – to stay out hospital (which was, at that time, a regular occurrence), leave my ED behaviours behind, & find happiness & health. I know, right? Talk about setting myself up!

The resolution i made (while well-intentioned), went against every piece of advice i have given here. First of all, i set myself up for some major deprivation – i was completely entrenched in my disorder, reliant on it in so many ways, & stuck in a pattern of behaviour that had just as much to do with physiology as it did with psychology. I was in no real position to “give that up” yet.

Recovery from an eating disorder is a very long process, but my resolution seemed to ignore that fact, & insist instead, that i could recover by the end of the following year. It left me no room for the backward & forward steps of the recovery dance. It left me no room to test out new skills & techniques. No room to seek medical help if i needed it. It didn’t really leave much room for anything other than “success”. Needless to say, i did not keep my resolution that year. Within weeks i was back in hospital again to be stabilised, & i continued to have multiple emergency room admissions throughout the year. I was not able to “give up” my eating disorder behaviours, & health & happiness continued to elude me.

Despite how it sounds, i did make some incredible progress in that first year of treatment. It was a year of progress, not perfection – the beginning of my journey to recovery, with steps taken bite by bite. These changes could have been the result of a more powerful resolution – a resolution that focused on that idea of progress, rather than absolute perfection. And it is this idea – progress, not perfection – that now helps to guide me through my goal-setting.

A change of wording can make all the difference

Since that December back in 2007, i have not made any new resolutions – New Year’s or otherwise. I have, however, set myself some goals. To me, goals are much more flexible than a resolution. While a resolution is by definition fixed & unwavering, goals can be adjusted, or changed completely. A goal, is something you would live to have, or do, or be – it is something to strive for. But if you decide one day, that you no longer want to have that thing, or that you want to do something different, a goal provides you with the flexibility to change paths.

My goals for next year?

  • Above all, to be gentle with myself
    Which for me, means to continue developing my self-compassion, to acknowledge that i am still learning & growing, & to be forgiving of myself. It also means learning more about setting & maintaining boundaries, & practising saying no (or yes!).
  • To continue the practice of intuitive eating
    To continue the practice of connecting with my body & it’s needs, & providing it with nourishment in a way that is life-giving & enjoyable
  • To continue experimenting with different ways of moving my body
    Perhaps i will try yoga this year,or take a dance class. Perhaps i will spend more time hiking, or kayaking. Or perhaps i will discover something completely different!
  • To continue to find new ways of learning, & exercise my mind
    I have planned to go back to university, to explore  a different way of learning, & to engage my mind in learning more about a variety of different subjects. The idea of exercising my mind in new ways is very exciting! 🙂
  • To continue exploring ways in which i can give back to my community
    I really love volunteering with Vinnies Youth, but it would be nice to explore some other ways to spread the love 🙂
  • To continue exploring ways in which i can be involved in the discussion around eating disorders & their treatment
    Including continuing my support & increasing my involvement with the National Eating Disorders Collaboration & The Butterfly Foundation here in Australia, as well as increasing & maintaining connections to others who are passionate about these issues.

For all of my use of words such as “exploring”, or “practising”, it may seem to some that my goals are rather wishy-washy, or that they would be easy to “back out of”. While i am a huge believer in the power of positive affirmations & a “can do” attitude (which i hope to post about soon), i find, with the flexibility i have offered myself, i am much more likely to achieve these things, as i have given myself no rights or wrongs – no absolutes. These goals help create a sense of curiosity & exploration around the coming year, & allow for growth & development in whichever direction it may take.

Hope for the future

What do you think of New Year’s resolutions?
Have you ever made one? Will you make one for the coming year?

What are your goals for 2011?
Will they be flexible & forgiving? Will they allow you the space you need to change your mind, take a detour, or find a new path?
Will they focus on progress, not perfection?

Help, Hope, & The Holidays

Christmas can be a really joyous time of year, but it can also be a really tough time if you are struggling with an eating disorder.

When i was still very entrenched in my eating disorder, i ate according to a long list of very strict & limiting rules. I would prepare all of my own meals, so that i knew exactly what went into them. I would measure & weigh my food, count calories, & exert any other form of control i could over what went into my mouth. But when Christmas rolled around, it became very difficult for me to follow my eating disorder’s rules.

My eating had become very restrictive, & i was, at that time, only comfortable eating from a very limited & “safe” selection of foods, so when i suddenly found myself surrounded with such a variety of foods, i was left feeling incredibly overwhelmed.
Eating in front of others was also something that i had come to struggle with, so the idea of sitting around a table with my family, made eating these unusual foods an even scarier experience.
I also worried about people’s reactions to my eating behaviour – what would they think if i chose this food? What would they think if i avoided that one? What would they think if i ate this much or that much? What would they think if i tried to stick to my timed meals, rather than the traditional Christmas “grazing”?

The fabulous Kendra over at Voice In Recovery knows too how common these fears & struggles can be during the holiday season, & has come up with some really fabulous suggestions for surviving (& pray – even enjoying!) the festive season, & i really encourage you all to pop on over there & check out her Holiday Recovery Tips.

Julie from Beautiful You has also written some fabulous tips on self-love & self-care during the holidays – go take a peek! 🙂

For those of you whose therapists may be on leave, or who just need a little extra support during the holidays, the lovely ladies from BodyMatters Australasia remind us in their ‘7 Things to do to make it through Christmas‘, that The Butterfly Foundation (1800 334 673) & Lifeline (13 11 14) are available to you throughout the festive season.
BodyMatters is also offering extra holiday counselling through their service (which is also accessible via Skype for those abroad), & encourage you to contact them to make a booking. (Check the website for more details.)

This year, i have much less anxiety around Christmas, & am looking forward to cooking up a delicious vegan nut roast, with a sage & sourdough stuffing, mushroom gravy, & all the trimmings – yum! 🙂

I hope that you are able to find the support you need to make the holidays that little bit easier, & that you too may find some joy in the season. If it all seems too horrible though, just remember, it is but one day & ‘this too shall pass’. Take some time to look after YOU, reach out for support if you need it, & don’t ever lose hope – you WILL get through this, & recovery IS possible.

(Images via: We ♥ it.)

“The Body Issue”

I no longer buy mainstream magazines, & it is now a very rare occasion that i would even pay a glance to their covers as i wait in line at the supermarket checkout. But, yesterday, this cover (on display in a newsagent’s window) caught my eye – ‘The Body Issue’. And i was suddenly filled with an all too familiar frustration.

While i have not read the feature, i feel it safe to make a few assumptions about it’s contents. Perhaps it will contain tips on dressing to suit your shape. Perhaps it will contain exercise “tips” (or according to the cover itself, tips to “exercise without trying”.) No doubt it will contain “tips” on how to diet. In fact, it was the words “7 successful women share their diet secrets”, right there under the words “The Body Issue”, that caught my attention in the first place. Right there, first up on the cover of the magazine, they are already linking their body issue to weight loss.

It seems that every “Body Issue” i have ever come across is some varying combination of fat-shaming, celebrated thinness, congratulatory weight loss, myth perpetuation (especially those linking health & attractiveness to weight), interspersed with “diet secrets”, exercise “tips”, etc… Where are the “Body Issues” with tips on eating for health AND enjoyment, rather than weightloss? Where are the tips on how to find a enjoyable way to move your body, while helping it to feel strong & healthy? Where are the tips on self-acceptance, self-love, & how to truly honour & nourish our bodies? Where are the links to support, for those struggling with negative body image? Why do these “Body Issues”, reflect less of the solution & more of the problem? Why do the words “Body Issues” seems so appropriate to describe these features? Perhaps it’s just more clever marketing.

Earlier this year, Who also published a”Body Issue”:

Here are some comments i made after Beautiful You alerted me to this issue of Who earlier in the year.

I found the quotes beneath each of these images (I viewed the gallery online), to be a bigger problem than the selection of images themselves (I don’t have a problem with the images themselves – these people have “real” bodies & they should be accepted – but I do have a problem with their seeming lack of diversity).

“The ideal shape for men is someone who has bigger arms than me,” says Lisa Curry (with Tom Williams).
Could this quote lead men to believe that they need to “bulk up” to attract a woman?

ON LOSING 18KG AND COUNTING: “When I look back at pictures of when I was fat, I feel ashamed.”
So Dicko only made it into the body issue after losing weight? Would they have featured him at his previous size? By publishing his comment linking being overweight with shame, is WHO suggesting that this is an appropriate link for us to make?

ON GROWING INTO HIMSELF: “At school and growing up as a young lad I didn’t look like the other boys. They had muscle. I was just lanky and lean. I’m lucky now. I’m about to turn 40 and I still don’t carry much fat.”
Was there something wrong with not looking like the other boys? Is there something wrong with being “lanky & lean”? This quote does seem to suggest that, as well as suggesting that the reason Tom is “lucky now” is because her “still (doesn’t) carry much fat.”

ON GETTING BETTER WITH AGE: “When I was running [swimwear label] Tigerlily, it was so intense, I didn’t have the time to exercise. Now it’s a priority for me. I probably exercise for about three hours a day during the week.”
So becoming obsessed with exercise (which it seems Jodhi is if she is turning down lunch with friends in order to exercise), equates with “getting better with age”?

I don’t mind the quote they chose from Jodi Gordon, or the first quote from Lisa Curry…..

ON BUILDING A BUFF BODY: “It’s not for everybody, but I think strong women look fantastic. It’s a great feeling to continue training, eating well and looking after yourself.”
While I don’t think they needed to label it as “building a buff body”, I like Lisa’s description of her approach to health.

These quotes are simply that – quotes. WHO didn’t write them.
But they did choose which quotes to publish, & I think if they could not choose to publish any other quotes, they could in the very least have offered some alternative views about the links these people were making to their weight & their feelings of shame.
They could have acknowledged (in some way) that while some people might link their feelings of self worth to their weight, weight is not a true indicator of health or attractiveness, & they could have offered some supportive guidance on how to create a feeling of acceptance towards our bodies, & how to nourish them through healthy food & fun movement of our bodies.

I’m not sure if WHO included these tips in their article (as I haven’t bought the magazine & I don’t intend to), but I think it is something they may have neglected to do.
After all, it seems they might have lost their perspective on what good health really means, & I fear they have taken on board the links that were made in these quotes – if you are thin, you will not feel ashamed, you will be “better”, & you will be more attractive.

What do you think about “Body Issues”? What would YOU like to see in Woman’s Day or Who’s next “Body Issue”?

Scars? Cellulite? A “Pooch”? Guess What – You’re Still Freaking Awesome

This beautiful, fabulous, funky, & all-together awesome woman has, in the one of the most incredible videos i have seen, conveyed everything i believe to be true about our bodies & our worth. Check out the awesomeness below 🙂

Crank Up The Positivity

Around the time of my eating disorder diagnosis, when i was deeply entrenched in my illness, my days (& nights) were filled with a constant torment from my eating disorder voice. This “voice” (which i later came to refer to as “neg”) is something that i would love to discuss more in the future, but for now, check out the video below from the lovely ladies at BodyMatters Australasia, for a fabulous introduction to the “eating disorder voice”.

Sometimes i still hear neg.
Most of the time it’s just negative chatter – nothing like the screaming torment i endured when i was still so entrenched in my disorder – but his negativity is still unwanted, & often frustrating.
Frustrating, because while i now very rarely buy into them, neg’s criticisms still, on occasion, play quietly in the back of my mind – a record of negativity, stuck on repeat.

One of the simplest ways that i have found to deal with this, is to drown out neg’s record of negativity, with one of positivity…
Enter lifeinfullcolour’s ‘Recovery’ playlist! 🙂

My ‘Recovery’ playlist, is a collection of songs that counter neg’s criticism. Some of the songs are “fighting” songs – songs that help me to feel empowered – some remind me of my beauty & my strength, & others simply make me happy 🙂
When i am sick of listening to neg’s record, i pull out my iPod, put my earphones in, & crank up the volume on my ‘Recovery’ record instead. Sometimes you might catch me singing or dancing along, but everytime you will see me smiling 🙂

This is not a complete list of songs from my playlist, but i hope you will find a small taste of positivity in their lyrics & tunes 🙂

Other artists on my list, range from Alanis Morissette to the Travelling Wilburys!

Do you have a ‘Recovery’ playlist? Are there any songs that help you to feel more empowered, recognise your beauty, or feel more positive?