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

Posts tagged ‘happiness’

“Taking Care Of Myself” Is Not A Euphemism.

I’ve just finished reading a great post from this ain’t livin’, ‘On ‘Taking Care of Your Body’ and Value Judgments’, & it got me to thinking – what does “taking care of myself” mean to me? Because while others may use those words as a euphemism for how “healthy” (aka thin & toned), or appealing i may appear to them, the truth is, that how i take care of myself , & the level to which i do so are very personal, & have very little to do with how other people define “taking care of themselves”.

So what does “taking care of myself” mean to me?
It means:

  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Spending time with friends
  • Speaking to myself with kind & loving words
  • Taking time out to relax (jigsaw puzzles, DVDs, colouring books, board games, or reading work great for me :))
  • Connecting with nature
  • Eating lots of fresh fruits & vegetables (oh how i love a big fruit salad or a fresh vegie juice!)
  • Moving my body in fun & gentle ways – like going to the beach, dancing, or even climbing trees! 🙂

It means making time for, & allowing myself, to nourish not only my body, but also my soul. It means being gentle with myself, & seeking out balance. And it has nothing at all to do with what i weigh or how toned my arms are.

What do you do to take care of yourself?
What do those words mean to you?

(Images via: We ♥ it.)

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You Are Amazing! YOU are GREAT!


[Image via: SooBoo Designs]

Sometimes, all we need is a little validation to remind us how amazing we are 🙂
And so, i have a challenge for you 😉

I want you, to make someone smile.
I want you to give someone a genuine, heart-felt compliment.

It could be your partner. It could be your child.
It could be your co-worker, your friend, or your neighbour.
It could be the person who makes your morning coffee, or the person you sit next to on the bus.
Or it could even be the first person you pass in the street.

Whoever it is, i can guarantee that you will make their day 🙂
And you never know, you might find yourself on the receiving end of some pretty great compliments too! 🙂

Did you make someone smile today?
Leave me a comment & let me know – i’d love to hear how it went! 🙂

If You Had Told Me Life Could Be This Overwhelming Beautiful, I Never Would Have Believed You.

To the -oh-so-lovely M.
[my mermaid – the dietitian who swam beside me during my first year of treatment],

You saw me through my first year of treatment, holding my hand as i took those first shaky steps towards recovery. You helped me to consider that my worth was greater than any number on a scale – that i deserved to recover. While it took me much longer to truly believe this, you helped to sow this seed of value in my soul – one which i would continue to nurture over the next two years, into the beautiful, flourishing blossom of self-worth that rests in my heart today 🙂

[From the ‘thankyou’ gift i made for M., when we finished our work together.]

To the brilliant M.C.
[the psychologist who gave me the space to discover ‘me’],

You were the first person to provide me with a space that was truly my own. At first I didn’t know how to fill it – it took me quite a while before I learnt how to “just say whatever comes to mind”. When we first began our meetings together, I filled them with the expectations & offerings of others, but as time went on, I realised that this was not a space for the ideas of others – it was a space for me to discover my own. And it was in these meetings, that I began to discover myself – one beautiful, hidden piece at a time 🙂

Thankyou for being consistent.
Thankyou for being reliable.
Thankyou for being here when I needed you to be, & thankyou for the times when you weren’t.
Thankyou for your silence, even though it made me uncomfortable.
Thankyou for your words.
Thankyou for the pushes when I needed them, & for supporting me when I needed to stay still.
Thankyou for helping me to feel safe again.
Thankyou for teaching me that crying is actually okay.
Thankyou for your lack of criticism, but thankyou also, for not always agreeing with me.
Thankyou for your reassurance.
Thankyou for giving me this space, & the time to learn how best to use it.
Most of all, thankyou for helping me to feel worthy of filling it.

[A bag i sewed as a ‘thankyou’ gift for C.T.
Yep – those are my feet!]

To the beautiful C.T.
[the dietitian who helped me explore an exciting lifeinfullcolour during my 2nd & 3rd years in treatment],

You taught me about so much more than food & eating. In teaching me to trust my body, you taught me to trust in myself. In encouraging ‘experiments’, you helped me to replace my fear with curiosity – & that curiosity has led me to discover beauty & wonder in every place I look. You helped me discover the things I value – you helped me to discover MY value.

Thankyou for your encouragement.
Thankyou for your smile 🙂
Thankyou for your patience – especially in the face of my many shoulder shrugs & “I don’t know”s.
Thankyou for your flexibility – for allowing me to work with you, in a way that worked for me.
Thankyou for your humour.
Thankyou for sharing you enthusiasm for nutrition with me – & for helping me to uncover my own shared passion.
Thankyou for your metaphors, analogies, & crazy hand-waving.
Thankyou for recognising, that the smallest of steps can sometimes be the hardest to take.
Thankyou for celebrating those steps with me 🙂

[Every cloud has a silver lining…]

M.C. & i had already said our goodbyes back in December after he moved on from his work at the ED service, but i had still been keeping appointments with C.T. C.T & i met again this past Tuesday, & although we had been working together for a couple of years now, there was something very different about this particular meeting…. This time our appointment was not for my ‘treatment’ – this time, we were celebrating 🙂

Three years after entering treatment for an eating disorder, i was ready to move on. And so, on Tuesday, the 8th March, 2011, after a beautiful celebration, i walked out of C.T.’s office, & through the door of the big cream building that was now so familiar. I walked out of that building for the last time as a client of the Eating Disorders Service & into the sunlight, ready to embrace the next exciting chapter of this beautiful lifeinfullcolour 🙂


[C.T. & i celebrated my recovery with my favourite raw, vegan chocolate cake 🙂
We even wore party hats ;)]

To those who have not experienced the devastation of an eating disorder (whether directly, or indirectly), there is little i can say to convey just how heart-wrenchingly painful, & overwhelmingly exhausting the journey to recovery can be. So many times i feared that i would never recover, or in moments of relative stability, found myself thinking that ‘this is as good as it gets’. But as overwhelmingly challenging as this journey has been, it has been equally beautiful. And you know what? My life becomes richer & more beautiful every day 🙂

I often refer to my recovery as a journey of self-discovery. I have learnt so much about myself – my likes, my dislikes, my strengths, my passions, my dreams… I’ve just begun to uncover my potential, & it is far greater than I could ever have imagined. I am vulnerable, yet strong, & more resilient than I know. I am beautiful, passionate, intelligent, creative, magnificent! And I have a courage that roars like an open fire in my heart.

For so many years of my life, I truly & deeply hated who I was, & I didn’t think that could ever change. But you know what? I really do love the person I see now – a magnificent, complex being, full of surprising beauty – & I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life getting to know her better 🙂

I feel such immense gratitude to be here now at this point in my life, & for every beautiful, scary, & painful moment that has led me to it. Sometimes I feel as though my heart might burst with all of the hope & joy & love it holds nowadays. I am grateful to have had these 3 years to heal, & to begin this incredible journey of self discovery, & I am especially grateful for having had access to the treatment I needed to save my life. I feel truly blessed to have been able to work with such an incredible team of people, & i am deeply grateful to everyone who has helped support me on this journey – i would not be here without you.


We made it through the darkness to the light
Oh how we fought, but still we won the fight
Oh, yes, we stand together
Sia, ‘The Fight’

With much love, & gratitude,

Day 2: Joyful Movement

Welcome to Day 2 of lifeinfullcolour’s 6-Day Exploration of Health At Every Size (HAES) 🙂

So lovely to see so many new names visiting my blog & the lifeinfullcolour Facebook page – it’s great to have you along on this adventure 🙂 Today’s theme is Joyful Movement, but if you are just joining us, feel free to go back & try my Self-Care Challenge from Day 1 🙂

I have always loved moving my body, & especially like “outdoorsy” type activities.  I love hiking, kayaking, cycyling, running, & going to the beach. I like team sports like netball or cricket (on a social level), & i love all kinds of dancing. Kickboxing is also really fun 🙂

When i first began struggling with an eating disorder, i was still engaged in these activities, though my motivation & focus began to shift – instead of exercising for enjoyment, i began to exercise for weightloss. Instead of long peaceful bike rides around the park, where i would enjoy observing the people & the trees, & breathing in the clear air around me, i began to ride laps, around & around & around the block, oblivious to the world around me, & focused soley on how long & how far i could push myself to burn more calories. Instead of running to clear my head, & observe the power & strength in my legs & the sound of my feet on the pavement, i began to run as a punishment for “being fat” or “eating too much”.

As my illness progressed i eventually gave up all of those “outdoorsy” activities that i had loved so much, in favour of daily workouts in the gym, where i could time my workouts, & monitor how many calories i was burning – there were no pleasant distractions there to break my focus on ‘thin’. Exercise had become a compulsion, rather than a joyful pastime, & i exercised through both illness & injury. Exercise had become “torturcise”*.

The sad truth is, that you don’t need to be struggling with an eating disorder in order to have an awkward & conflicted relationship with exercise.

It is incredibly rare to hear any sort of talk about exercise, without hearing talk of weight-loss. This focus on exercise for weight-loss shifts our focus, & turns the movement of our bodies away from pleasure, & toward the path of tortucise. TV shows like The Biggest Loser (oh how i despise that show!), as well as more general advertising for gyms & exercise equipment, tell us we “should” exercise, & promote a “no pain, no gain” approach that focuses solely on weight-loss, rather than total body health & vitality. There is certainly no talk from them about exercise for enjoyment, & with a “no pain, no gain” message & images of people huffing & puffing, & slogging it away in gyms, is it really any wonder that so many of us dread exercise?


(Me, at a playground in Melbourne in 2009)

As a child, i was never concerned with “exercise” – i don’t even recall using the term! To me, those sorts of activities – riding my bike, going swimming – were simply “play”. I loved going to the park & swinging on the swings, i loved climbing trees, & not once did it cross my mind that “i have to do this” – i did these things because they were FUN.

Do YOU remember what it felt like to play?

Day 2 – Joyful Movement:

My challenge to you today, is to PLAY! 🙂

  1. Remember
    Think back to when you were a child – what was your favourite outdoor play activity?
    Did you like climbing trees?
    Swinging or sliding at the park?
    Did you like playing tag?
    What about going to the beach?
  2. Connect
    Try to connect with the feelings you had while you were engaged in those activities.
    Did you feel excitement?
    Did you feel joy?
    If so, you have found your play activity for the day!
  3. Make time to play! 🙂
    If your joyful play activity was climbing trees, your challenge is to go exploring – seek out the best climbing tree you can find, & climb it! 🙂
    If your joyful play activity was swinging or sliding, find a playground with some lovely big swings, or a long twisty slide, & have a go! 🙂
    Find some friends to play tag with, or if you have children in your life, play with them! Share your playful joy 🙂
  4. Remember – there is no age limit on play.
    Despite what society might tell us about needing to “grow up” & “be an adult”, play can be an enjoyable & health-promoting activity for everyone – of any age! So get out there & have some fun! 🙂

Be sure to pop on over to lifeinfullcolour’s Facebook page today, where our theme of Joyful Movement will be permeating my posts. And please feel free to share with me there, or here on the blog how you have found today’s Joyful Movement Challenge – i’d love to hear about your experiences! 🙂

(Images via: We ♥ it.)

*The word “torturcise” was used in the book ‘Biting The Hand That Starves You – Inspiring Resistance To Anorexia/Bulimia‘ in reference to compulsive exercise.

Happiness Is A Habit

The “power of positivity” – the idea that we can change our lives through positive thinking has been around forever, & has been promoted by spiritual leaders, life-coaches, self-help books, & hippies for years, but these ideas are now also being backed by research into an ability known as neuroplasticity – the ability of our brains to change themselves, based on our experience.

It goes a little something like this:

  • Each time you think a thought, it is communicated between the neurons in your brain via tiny electro-chemical messages.
  • The first time you have an experience or learn something new, a new pathway is created between those neurons.
  • Then the next time you have that experience, your brain will search to see if your have experienced it before, & if you have, it will follow that same pathway again.
  • The more often your have that experience or think that thought, the stronger that neural pathway will become.

Neuroplasticity describes our brain’s ability to create these neural pathways based on our repeated exposure to a thought or experience.

My dietitian once explained it to me with a metaphor – “Imagine a skier,” she said, “the first time he skies down a snowy alp, he makes a trail in the snow. It is shallow but visible. The next time he skies down the slope, he sees that shallow trail & follows it again. With every trip down the slope the trail becomes deeper – easier to find, & easier to follow.”

Neuroplasticity helps to explain habitual behaviour, & the idea that “practice makes perfect.”

Just over a year ago, i decided i would practice positivity, & i started by turning my home into a haven – a sanctuary of self-love & positivity. My walls became a canvas, wallpapered with affirmation cards, drawings, quotes, & letters of love from friends. Everywhere i turn, in every room, i am now greeted with the message that “you are beautiful, you are worthy, & you are safe here – this is a house of love.”

birdcage

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cards

worthy & magnificent

loved right now

People are always telling me now, what a bright & cheerful person i am. How i can take a “bad” day, & turn it into something wonderful. How i can find gratitude for almost anything. And they are right. Of course i still feel the full range of human emotion – of course i still have days where i feel utterly miserable, or enraged, or simply despondent, but through practising positivity, it is now easier for me to disengage from those emotions (& i do not mean avoid or neglect them) & reconnect with more joyful thoughts & emotions.

And so, my challenge for you this week, is to find a way in which you can practice positivity. If you don’t know where to start, why not give one of these ideas a go:

  • Practice positive affirmations
    An affirmation is a “can do” message, & can relate to any aspect of your life. It can be anything from “i am worth loving”, to “i am open to making new friends”, or perhaps “i am constantly finding new ways to express my creativity.” Pick an area of your life that you would like feel more positive about, & create an affirmation based on that. If you get really stuck, you can always buy some beautiful affirmation cards like the ones i have in my home.

    • Repeat your affirmation (this is very powerful when done whilst looking into a mirror) at least 5 times before starting your day.
    • Write your affirmation down (or use a card if you have them), & keep it with you during the day, where you can continue to be reminded of it – try sticking it to your computer screen, your work diary, or your wall. Every time you see it, repeat the affirmation again.

    Affirmations can be really hard at first  – in fact it can be quite confronting, especially when your affirmation challenges a long-held belief. In that case, i say “fake it ’til you make it” -which is exactly what i did when i started out.

  • Create your own haven of self-love & positivity
    Surround yourself with things that bring you comfort & joy – create a space in your home where only positivity is allowed to enter. Hang photos of yourself & your loved ones, decorate with bright colours, post affirmation cards on your walls, invest in a painting that you love & hang it up  – or get creative & paint your own! Cover your lounge or your bed (or both!) in lots of comfy cushions, burn incense, light candles, whatever helps to create a positive & loving atmosphere for YOU.
  • Create a “Positivity Playlist” (not unlike my “Recovery Playlist”)
    Create a playlist on your iPod, or burn your own CD filled with with music that makes you want to sing at the top of your lungs, & dance around your living room (or bedroom, or kitchen, or even down the street). Play it loud & play it often, especially when you find yourself caught up in negativity – crank up your tunes & drown it out with awesomeness. An essential for any positivity playlist? ‘Walking On Sunshine’ 😉 And if you feel like singing, or you want to dance – go ahead & do it! 🙂
  • Engage in random acts of kindness
    In order to increase your own positive experiences, try encouraging some positive experiences for others. Numerous studies have shown that volunteering not only increases the psychological wellbeing of the volunteer, but also has positive effects on physical health – bonus! 🙂 Whatever your interests are, there is a relevant organisation looking for volunteers to help them out. Of course, you don’t have to take part in organised volunteering – opening the door for someone who has their hands full, helping someone carry a heavy or awkward item (don’t hurt yourself!), or a simple smile or “hello” can make all the difference to a person’s day – & knowing you have brought some joy to someone else, might just help to make a difference to yours 🙂
  • Watch this video 🙂
    And watch it often 😉

What will you do this week to practice positivity?
Let me know how it goes 🙂

And remember “practice makes perfect”! (Or at least will form & then reinforce new neural pathways in your brain – which actually sounds much cooler than perfection anyway ;)).

Don’t Put Off Your Happy Life

“We give up the things we love, in order to chase what society tells us we need to be happy. But we will never find happiness through the giving up of what we love – in fact, it is only through a loving participation in those things, & through loving ourselves that we will ever find true happiness.” ~ lifeinfullcolour

I recorded this insight in an email to my psychologist during my trip to America, back in August – a trip which was filled with insights & growth, & one of the most recovery-strengthening experiences of my life.

I had been reflecting on my recovery, & all that i had gained thus far during my journey (both my broader recovery journey, as well as my physical journey to the US), & i realised, that the things that i was now able to find so much joy in, had always brought me joy, but more importantly, had always been available to me.

When i became entrenched in my eating disorder, i began to give up a lot of the things that made me happy, in order to chase society’s thin ideal. I gave up going out with my friends, i gave up going to parties. I gave up inviting people over for dinner, i gave up eating dinner. I gave up going to the beach, i gave up going to uni, i gave up going anywhere at all. I gave up all of these things & more, because they “got in the way” of my eating disorder. Now when i look back, i realise that i had actually let my eating disorder get in the way of my life.

I realised while i was in America, cooking & enjoying meals with friends, swimming, going out, meeting new people (experiences i had reclaimed during my recovery) that i don’t need to be thin in order to do these things. I don’t need to be thin to be happy – i can be happy right now. And knowing that it is possible for me to be happy right here & now at this weight, makes it easier for me to resist those voices that say “lose weight & you will be happy”. I have the experience now to say that being thin in no way guarantees happiness, nor does being a higher weight guarantee misery. When i keep this is mind, it makes it easier for me to “yes!” to life, rather than no, to get out there & do the things i love – the things that bring me joy – & not let my appearance hold me back.

So my challenge to you today, is to think about what it is that you would really love to do – & go out & do it! Don’t let your weight, shape, or appearance become an excuse for not living your own happy life.
Life may be a rollercoaster, but it has no height (or weight, or any other) restriction that you must meet before you can hop on – in fact, you are on that rollercoaster already, so you might as well enjoy it!

Your mantra for the day?

I will not use my appearance as an excuse to put off my happy life. I live my life fully & with joy, right now – i will not wait to be thinner/more toned/more anything in order to be happy.

What will you do today to live a happy life?