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

Posts tagged ‘rules’

I Don’t Have An Eating Disorder

“I don’t have an eating disorder.”

I have uttered those words so many times in the past 4 years.

“I am not sick. I am not thin. I don’t need treatment. These is nothing wrong with me. I am fine, fine, fine, fine, FINE.”

Even after multiple hospital admissions due to complications from my disorder, even after starting treatment, i was still in denial for a very long time.

“I don’t have an eating disorder. I just have “food issues.””

In fact, it was not until my second year of treatment that i was able to admit to having an eating disorder. It was not until then that i could say those words & not feel like a fraud.

My thoughts last year, had been to finish up with treatment in December, just before the holiday break. Therapy had been going incredibly well & i had made a lot of progress, & my psychologist was also about to resign. My ED behaviours were under control, & any lapses were only momentary. My life was not lived according to the rules devised by my disorder, & i felt ready to pursue the next chapter of my life & my recovery on my own. Things came up however, & i felt rather overwhelmed – my biggest, & really my only lingering trigger for ED behaviours – & although i had stopped seeing my psychologist, i continued my connection with my dietitian.

Yesterday i met with my her for the first time this year – it had been 5 weeks since we’d last met. Those 5 weeks had been challenging for me in many ways, but not overwhelming. I had managed to navigate my way over, under, around, & through any challenges that had popped up, & i had resisted any urges to return to my disordered behaviours. I had enjoyed blogging here over the holiday break, & it had helped to keep me afloat during those challenging moments. It was not an easy time, but i got through it – the wonderful story of my life these days! ๐Ÿ™‚

When we met yesterday, keeping in mind my progress, & my thoughts on finishing treatment, my dietitian asked me what i would like from our sessions – what did i need? Where to from here? It was a simple question for me to answer, & a joyous answer to give ๐Ÿ™‚

“It might sound funny, because i guess i have known this for a long time, but it hasn’t really hit me until now… But i really do know what i am doing with food now. I know what foods make me feel energised & strong. I know which foods don’t. I know how much i need to eat to feel good, & how frequently. I know what it’s like to feel hungry, &ย  satiated, & i can respond to those cues – the way i eat now is determined by how i feel, rather than a set of ridiculous rules.ย  And i found myself thinking, “What else is there? I don’t think there is anything else.””

She agreed wholeheartedly with me, & with that we decided to meet once more, in a month, & if all is well to say our goodbyes ๐Ÿ™‚

I have come to realise over this holiday break (& again, it sounds somewhat strange, even to me, that this realisation is only just “hitting me” now), that i don’t have an eating disorder. I am well & truly in recovery from an eating disorder.

I am no longer afraid of food. In fact, cooking & eating food is one of the greatest joys in my life! Most people i know would not hesitate to call me a “real foodie!” – a claim that is undeniably true yet equally shocking, for those who know of my past. In fact, it is true, that i have now discovered a freedom around food, that many of my friends & family are yet to acquire for themselves. Most of the time, i am able to eat very intuitively, eating what i want, when i want it, & trusting my body to balance everything out – i eat for enjoyment as well as nourishment. I love cooking & sharing food with others, & i love trying new foods. I. Love. To. Eat. ๐Ÿ™‚

I am also incredibly accepting of my body now. Sure i have days where i look at myself in the mirror, & my eyes zone in on my thighs or my tummy, & i find myself thinking “My thighs are so fat. My tummy is so bulgy. I would look so much better if i lost a little weight”. Sure i have days where i feel utterly miserable based on whether or not i can fit comfortably into my jeans. But these thoughts & feelings now rarely dictate my behaviour – they don’t dictate how much i eat, how much i exercise, or whether or not i can leave the house. They don’t dictate my worth as a human being, as a friend, as a sister, as a daughter… I am lovely, & i am loved, & those things do not change in relation to my jeans size ๐Ÿ™‚ It is now much easier for me to resist the urges to manipulate & reduce my body’s shape & size, because i know that those things have no bearing on who i am as a person – i know that what i look like does not make me any more or any less of a remarkable human being, & my self worth is no longer tied up in my appearance & my ability to manipulate it.

After 3 years of treatment, i am now able to say “i don’t have an eating disorder”. I can say those words & know deep within myself, that these are no longer words of denial. They are not a denial of my current state of health, nor are they though a denial of my past. I don’t have an eating disorder, but i did suffer greatly with one in the past. There are still some lingering symptoms & signs – the way restriction still pops into my head as an option when i’m feeling overwhelmed, the lingering digestive issues that my body & i are still working on healing, the struggle i have to moderate my level of activity…. But i do not have an eating disorder. Today, no words have ever felt truer than “I am in recovery.” ๐Ÿ™‚

(Images via: We โ™ฅ it.)


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?

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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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

(Images via: We โ™ฅ it.)

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 โ™ฅ it.)

Learning To Trust My Body – And Myself

Parts of this post may be distressing to survivors of sexual abuse.
If you need support, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or the NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017 .
May also be triggering to those suffering with, or in recovery from an eating disorder.
In you need support, you can find a list of services in you state on The Butterfly Foundation website, or call them on 1800 33 4673.

Eating disorders are incredibly complex, multi-dimensional illnesses. Many things have been linked as contributing factors in the susceptibility to, development of, & maintenance of eating disorders, including biological & genetic factors, psychological, emotional, & cultural factors, & the research is ongoing.

Despite having suffered an eating disorder myself, & having gained some incredible insight during treatment, i still do not fully understand the complexities of my own illness. But that is not to say that i do not understand it at all, & indeed, i have much insight into many of the factors that influenced the development & maintenance of my eating disorder.

One of these things, i found, was an incredible lack of trust.

This realisation came, when i began exploring intuitive eating with my dietitian early on this year. Although quite flexible in terms of food choices, i had spent the few months prior following a very structured meal plan – making sure i was eating at regular intervals throughout the day, making sure i was covering all of my food groups… I was feeling quite comfortable with it – it had become quite manageable – but it was beginning to feel quite rigid at the same time.

When i started treatment, it was all about meal planning, covering my food groups, getting enough calories….i thought that if i could accomplish these things, if i could follow these “rules”, that i would have achieved “normal” eating. But then, it dawned on me – at this point in my recovery, i had simply replaced one set of rules with another. Sure, i wasn’t using rules to starve myself anymore, but i wasn’t eating with spontaneity & freedom either. I looked at the people around me, people without eating disorders, people i saw as having “normal” eating patterns, & i realised that not a single one of them was following a structured meal plan like i had been. I had made a lot of progress, but i wasn’t quite there yet.

At first, intuitive eating was an exciting adventure – i loved the idea of truly connecting with body, & trusting it to tell me what it needed (or didn’t). I was excited by the idea of being able to make food choices based on hunger, & my desire for certain foods. I loved the thought of being able to say no, as well as yes, & eating with freedom & spontaneity. Intuitive eating was a concept that i had believed quite passionately in for quite a while, & i was excited by the possibility of a new & forgiving relationship with my body & with food.

It wasn’t long though, before the true difficulty of this exercise hit me – & hit me HARD.

Earlier this year, Melinda Tankard Reist published a piece on her blog, where i described my experience of sexual abuse, & resulting criminal trial for which i was a witness. While i do not believe in any way, that this abuse was the sole reason for the development of my eating disorder, it was this experience which left me with a complete & utter disgust for my body, & a need to be entirely disconnected from it in order to survive.

As soon as my second week of eating intuitively, i was overwhelmed with panic & fear – ‘I don’t want to “connect” with my body!’ I didn’t know exactly what it was that was lurking behind my fear, but i knew that if anyone threw the words “body” & “connect” together in the same sentence, it would terrify me. My panic soon gave way to anger – a deep seething anger, that i was, up until this point, oblivious to. I felt betrayed by my body – it had reacted to my abuse in ways that were abhorrent to me, & despite understanding the biology behind these reactions, i still carried a lot of shame. A shame which i blamed wholly & solely on my own body.

Thinking back on it now, while i recognise that a lot of my reasons for starving myself, were about disconnection – from my body, from my emotions – there was also an element of rebellion to it. I was angry, & i directed that anger at my body’s perceived betrayal – it told me it was hungry, & starvation was my way of saying “f*ck you”. Denying my body it’s needs made me feel strong. In control. But that need to manipulate & control my body, was a dangerous one to implement.

Now, a year into my intuitive eating journey, with a good deal of therapy, & a lot of painful & confronting (but equally exciting & beautiful) self-exploration, i am happy to say that i have found that new & forgiving relationship with my body & with food. Everyday my connection to my body becomes deeper, more respectful & more loving, & the freedom & spontaneity i experience around food now, is greater than i ever imagined.

I once found myself pondering whether or not my body was a reliable judge of what it needed – was I a reliable judge of what I needed? When i shared these fears with my dietitian, she responded with a ‘YES! Definitely!’. I will always remember that moment as the moment i was given the reassurance & permission i needed to trust in myself again. It is a trust that has filtered down through all aspects of my life experience – not just those which relate to food & eating. And really, that should come as no surprise – after all, eating disorders are about so much more than food.


Breaking All The Rules

When it comes to the beach, society seems to burden us with a long list of unwritten rules.
The most common of which seem to revolve around body shapes & sizes, & who, depending on those shapes & sizes, is allowed to participate in the joys of this beautiful ocean environment.

How many times have you agonised over what you might look like on the beach?
Whether that tummy bulge is too prominent for a bikini?
Whether those jiggly thighs should be hidden away beneath boardshorts?
How many times have you missed out on the joys of the beach, because you believed your body simply wasn’t good enough to be present there?

Yes, there is pressure from society to follow these ‘rules of acceptability’, but who makes up this society?
I do.
And you do too.
We are the people that are helping to create & enforce these invisible rules.
And guess what – they aren’t going to change unless WE change them.

I love the beach.
I love the smell of the salt spray in the air.
I love the sound of the waves breaking, & their foamy white crashes over mossy green rocks.
I love the feeling of soft, warm sand between my toes.
I love the way the crisp, cool water leaves me breathless, as i first wade out from the beach.
I love the clear water, & the shadows that dance on the sand beneath my feet.
But most of all, i love the waves. In fact, i adore them.
I love to watch them roll in towards me, & i love picking which ones to jump or swim under.
I love swimming right out beyond the other swimmers, to where the surfers sit resting on their boards waiting for that perfect wave.
I love to fight them for it ๐Ÿ˜‰
I love that when i am in that water, i am entirely present & completely in the moment – there is never another thought in my mind outside of that wave rolling in towards me.

Today, i needed that peace.
Today i needed that calm.
But what about those rules?

Well, pretty much – they suck.
I do not exist to be asthetically pleasing to others.
It is not my job to manipulate & modify my body shape, or pick out clothes (including a swimsuit), based on what will make others feel comfortable.
It is not my job, & i have given up on trying to make it so.

Today i went to the beach, bulgy little tummy, jiggly thighs & all.
I went swimming in a t-shirt & knee-length leggings, because i don’t own a swimsuit that fits me.
Yes, people looked at me a little funny, when i first put my towel down, & trotted off to the waters edge with my clothes still on.
But guess what? They didn’t really care. And even if they did, i didn’t.
I do not exist to be asthetically pleasing to others. I exist for my own reasons.
And one of them, is to live joyously & with freedom.

Jumping & diving, over & under those waves felt amazing.
Bobbing around in the cool clear water, i felt strong & relaxed at the same time – my body felt strong & my my mind was clear.
It was exactly what i needed – a beautiful, healing moment.

Next time you go to the beach, & you find yourself agonising over those rules – stop.
And take a moment to consider if there is anyone who would truly benefit from you following them.
Then, consider who might benefit if you didn’t.

Be brave. Break the rules.
I guarantee that a world of joyous new opportunities will open up to you.
And by opening yourself up to those experiences, you will be helping others to break those rules too.
Show people that you don’t always have to do what society deems acceptable. Help change what acceptable means.
We ARE society. We have the power.

And when you get the chance to swim (or dance, or sing, or anything else that fills you with joy), i hope you throw those rules out the window – i hope you choose to swim.
It was certainly the best decision i made all day ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s just really struck me this year that:

a) it is not my responsibility to make other people feel comfortable with my appearance, &
b) by obeying these unwritten rules that society has created, i am helping reinforce them – i am taking part in their creation & maintenance.

To heck with rules – i’m gonna swim! ๐Ÿ™‚