There is something remarkable about talking to thirteen year-olds about eating disorders. They’re old enough to understand the complexities of a very uncomfortable subject, yet young enough that they aren’t yet fully engulfed by society’s obsession with weight loss and diet culture.

Shame is a pervasive side effect of weight loss and diet culture. Shame often manifests as defensiveness or silence. There isn’t a lot of defensiveness or silence when I talk to middle schoolers about eating disorders. They often blow me away with their insightful and thought-provoking questions.

I had the privilege of presenting an eating disorder awareness program at a middle school last week. As I walked through the halls of the middle school after my presentation, a few posters caught my eye. They proclaimed, “You’re beautiful!” “You’re amazing just as you are because you are beautiful, smart, talented and funny!” “Don’t let anyone tell you aren’t beautiful! Because you ARE!”

The primary focus of the positivity campaign was reassuring students they were beautiful. Most signs were posted in and around the girls bathroom so girls were the target market.

My heartbeat quickened and my face reddened with anger. I just had a wonderful dialogue with amazing kids about how our bodies are vehicles, not objects. We talked about how what we do, what we say and how we treat others are the foundation of our value and self worth.

But there it was. “You’re Beautiful!”  Despite all I said and all we talked about, when those kids roam the halls, check their phones, watch tv, read magazines, go to the movies, they will be told in subtle, and not so subtle ways, that being beautiful matters. Repeated exposure to this singular message convinces people that their value and self-worth start with how they look.

 

The hard truth is those messages start long before middle school. We start indoctrinating girls into our culture’s obsession with physical appearance at a very young age. As a child, the word “beautiful” doesn’t mean much. Playing and having fun take precedent over looking “beautiful.” But as she grows, she hears the word “beautiful” (or variations like: cute, pretty, adorable) more often. And while beauty can describe different things, she most often hears it associated with her physical appearance. She has pretty hair, she looks beautiful in her new dress, she has a beautiful face, beautiful smile, beautiful eyes, beautiful skin. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

As she gets older, the first, and often only, thing people remark on is her physical appearance. She may be smart, talented, driven, witty, kind, compassionate and/or courageous but people don’t remark on those qualities as often as they remark on her beauty. How she’s growing into a beautiful young lady. It makes her feel good. So she starts focusing on her appearance.

She starts commenting on other girl’s physical appearances, too. She notices that telling another girl she looks pretty makes the girl’s face light up more than telling her she is kind, smart or a good friend.

She’s not conscious of it yet, but she accepts that physical beauty brings not only social acceptance but an elevated social status.  Beautiful people all seem to have one thing in common: thinness. Beautiful (thin) people are healthier and happier than everyone else.  Beautiful (thin) people get to follow their dreams and live their best life. Popular (thin) girls are beautiful. Famous (thin) girls are beautiful. Successful (thin) women are beautiful.

She doesn’t just want to be beautiful anymore, she has to be.

As she enters adulthood, any success or accomplishment is often tempered by how she feels about her physical appearance. She wins a scholarship based on her academic achievements, but she’s mortified by how ugly (read: large) her face looks in the in the official photo. She vows to lose a few pounds. Or she receives a well deserved promotion, but feels self-conscious running her first meeting because the scale told her she gained a couple of pounds that morning. Again, she vows to lose weight. Or she successfully argues a motion in court, but is deflated when opposing counsel says she’s unattractive. To her, unattractive translates to overweight, so, again, she vows to lose weight.

She’s trapped. Unbeknownst to her, she’s always been trapped. Trapped by our culture’s misguided value system that tells her what she looks like matters more than what she does. She’s unhappy. She fights to maintain “beautiful.” She diets and works out. But she often feels like a failure. It’s her fault she can’t keep up.

It is not her fault. It’s not ours either, unless we fail to accept responsibility for this dangerous narrative. We have an obligation to ourselves and the next generation of girls to flip the script.

Rooting the foundation of our self-esteem in our physical appearance is misguided and dangerous. Our societal obsession with being beautiful often leads to disordered eating and/or a full-blown eating disorder because at some point, long before we were born, society determined thinness was a prerequisite for beauty. Consequently, women feel they have to make themselves beautiful before they can start living and enjoying life. Like being beautiful will protect them from something or make them more acceptable.

In a society that profits off our low self-esteem and preoccupation with beauty, let’s stir things up. Let’s teach girls that the foundation of a her self-esteem rests in the power and potency of her voice. Let’s empower her by showing her that her thoughts and actions matter. That she can lead, govern, invent, innovate. Let’s talk to girls about connection, compassion, empathy, shame resilience and creativity. Let’s encourage them to follow their interests in math, science, art, theatre, politics, children, technology, party planning, athletics, music, business, etc.

As women, we have a tremendous amount of power. Let’s use it. Let’s start posting signs like:

Your voice matters!

Kindness and compassion connect us!

You belong.

You matter.

We belong to each other.

You are worthy of connection and belonging.

Including others makes us stronger.

Be unique! Be different! Be YOU!

 

 

 

337: Dinner Crew, (top pic)  Me, Jean and Laura

One of the best things about starting this blog is that it’s connected me with amazing people and experiences. A couple weeks ago I posted about my love affair with Blue Apron. It turns out my neighbor Laura also loves Blue Apron and cooking in general. She mentioned a local meal prep place called Time For Dinner (you can check out their website here) and suggested we go.

Yes, please!

Laura and I figured out a day and time that worked, signed up for spots via the website (only two spots left for the day and time that worked for us, whew!) and picked our meals (you can pick four or six meals). I picked four meals because I wasn’t entirely sure I’d have enough freezer space. Plus, I didn’t know how the meals were packaged. Per the Time for Dinner website, each meal served eight. And since it’s just me, Steve and two fairly picky little people, I had to consider the “leftover” situation.

One of the really cool things I discovered about Time for Dinner is that each “spot” is really two spots. So my mother-in-law, who happened to be in town on our prep day, got to come too.

We all had a blast!

The Time for Dinner wizards have meal prep down to a science. They have a couple of work stations for each meal and you go from station to station to prep and package your meals. Each station has detailed instructions on how to package each meal. I absolutely needed this. Anytime I  thought I had a question, all I really had to do was re-read the instructions. I’d like to say it was so easy a toddler could do it but I feel like that might be insulting to a toddler. It was so easy that I, an incredibly inexperienced chef, could do it.

We packaged each meal in two separate containers. So instead of four meals, I got eight (each meal serves four)! And they all fit in my freezer (huzzah!) Finally, we labeled each meal with specific thawing and cooking instructions.

 

336: Freezer packed delights.

 

It was such a great experience and I LOVE having a few meals at the ready. Tonight we’re having the chicken and dumplings. I’ll keep you posted….

 

 

339

On March 1, 2017, the Missouri Eating Disorder’s Association (MOEDA) is sponsoring a screening of the film Embrace as well as a panel discussion after the film (I’m on the panel 🙂 ).  It’s a phenomenal documentary about letting go of the often deeply embedded belief that our value and self-worth rest in our physical appearance. And that “to be healthy” we have to look a certain way (which requires us to eat a certain way and workout a certain way).

In the film, Taryn Brumfitt and several others talk about embracing our bodies as a vehicle to realize our dreams. Our bodies are not meant to be ornaments. Our bodies aren’t for decoration. They are for doing. Getting involved, living life.

So often we get trapped in the mindset that there is a prerequisite to loving our bodies. That our body has to look a certain way before we can present ourselves to the world as happy and fulfilled. I.e. We have to have the dramatic “before and after” photo showing how much weight we’ve lost or how ripped our muscles are to prove how happy we are now.

I was trapped in that mindset for most of my life. Especially during recovery. I thought, “How are people going to know I’m Recovered and happy if I don’t have a proper “after” photo?” “How are people going to know I’m happy and healthy if I don’t lose weight or have six-pack abs to prove it?” That thought tormented me for a long time.

At some point, it dawned on me that it doesn’t matter what other people think of my body, all that matters is what I think about my body. And I can like, even love, my body just as it is right now. Everyday can be my “after” photo.

338: My “after” photo.  No make-up, no filter, no dramatic change in my body. The only dramatic change is my mindset. Special thank you to Michelle of Sunshine Designs for this amazing shirt. Check out her incredible work here.

Embrace is an incredibly moving and captivating film (I got to see it at a screening a couple months ago). I highly recommend it for everyone. The film isn’t specifically about eating disorders (although they are discussed). The primary focus of the film is on how incredibly powerful body acceptance can be. And what a tremendous impact it can have on your life and others.

I would LOVE to see you there! Tickets aren’t sold at the door so you have to buy them via this link:   https://gathr.us/screening/18992

**UPDATE: If you follow the link it looks like the screening is sold out. You can click on “Alert me when or if tickets become available” and put in your name and email. I am pretty sure MOEDA will release more tickets.

 

 

340

Self-care is incredibly important. It is not something that ever came naturally to me so I had to learn it. Like sit down in a class and learn specific steps on how to take care of myself (I kid you not, I took a class: Brené Brown’s Living Brave Semester).

Learning to listen and take care of myself took longer than any other part of recovery (including letting go of weight-loss as a goal) and continued well into Recovered. My eating disorder was rooted in self-loathing and magnified by anxiety and depression. At first, even the idea of taking time to care for myself triggered anxiety. My eating disorder told me self-care was selfish and had to be earned. Consequently, I never felt worthy of self-care.

Brené Brown taught me I was worthy of self-care just as I was (am) and that self-care would, in fact, make me more selfless. Because when we take care of our own needs we are more open to others and less likely to spread feelings of negativity and shame. She taught me how to give myself permission to take care of myself and set boundaries. She assured me this would make me a better mom, wife and friend.

And she was right. I am a better mom (read: more patient), wife and friend when I take care of myself. To be fair, self-care is still a work-in-progress. Sometimes I get lost in the stress of a moment (for example: lose my temper with the boys or snap at a loved one for little to no reason) because I think I can “handle it” and not take time for myself. In those moments, my feelings of stress, anxiety and negativity find a way to negatively impact someone else.

Rather than berate myself or pile on an abundance of shame, in those moments I try to regroup and focus on self-care.I remind myself that when we get on a plane, the flight attendant tells us if we lose cabin pressure to put on our mask first and then our child’s mask. Because we’re not going to be much use to our children if we can’t breathe. Whenever I start to feel guilty or selfish about taking time for self-care, I repeat this to myself as a mantra. It helps give me permission to focus on what I need.

As I continue to grow, I continue to learn new ways to take care of myself. One of those ways is puzzlin’.

Oh how I love to puzzle (and oh, have I been doing a lot of puzzles lately). Give me a 1000 or 500 piecer and I am content. When my anxiety flares up and starts to make everything in my head get all tangled up in a negative and uncomfortable web, shifting my focus to a puzzle helps. It gives my brain something active to focus on. To solve. Something tangible I can look at and see progress. It helps. It both distracts and soothes at the same time.

Happy Monday Friends 🙂 Puzzle on!

 

 

 

342: Outtake from Jan 1, 2017. The night I decided to take on this challenge.

Good Morning Friends! You may notice things look a little different at Road to Recovered today. With some playing around (and some help- Thanks Aaron!), I changed the blog’s layout and my profile picture (you can check out my new profile pic in A LITTLE BACKSTORY).

It took over a year to change my profile picture because a) I couldn’t remember how to do it and b) I wasn’t ready to go solo. It felt safer to have the boys in the picture with me.

Back when I started the blog my body image was pretty neutral. Which meant I didn’t hate my body but I didn’t love it either. My blog needed a picture and it was important to post a picture of myself during recovery. I didn’t want to gaslight people and post a picture from when I was sick. It had to be a recent picture.

The problem was I didn’t have a lot of pictures of myself during recovery. Recovery was a very vulnerable time and getting in pictures was an easily avoidable trigger. But I did get in some pictures. Usually with our boys. Our boys made me feel comfortable. So much so, there were times I wanted to capture fun/silly moments with them. Kinda like this:

341: First profile pic for Road to Recovered

I chose this picture because I remembered how much fun we had in that moment. We were having a snack at the counter and being silly. I was about five months into recovery ♥ Recovery was incredibly hard but this picture reminded me that there were bright spots too.

Have a great weekend!

 

343: “It’s not me Twitter, it’s you.”

 

Social media is driving me crazy. Specifically, Twitter. I feel compelled to check it every two minutes to see what’s going on. And lately, I find myself in a perpetual state of fear and outrage.

Super.

To be fair, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to do a self-imposed Twittervention. From time to time, I find myself using social media, specifically scroll therapy, to distract me from something I need to deal with. All because a couple times I scrolled onto something that actually made me feel better.

Basically for every hundred times I check Twitter and it freaks me out, there is one time it makes me feel better (usually courtesy of Lin Manuel-Miranda or my dear friend who sends me Parks and Rec Memes♥).

Not worth it.

Most of the time scrolling through tweets makes me feel horrible. During recovery, weight-loss or diet talk was an immediate and acute trigger. After I Recovered, I still found diet and weight loss tweets frustrating and triggering but not like I did when I was struggling accept my body. The divisive election, however, sent my anxiety into over drive.  What a year to be fully Recovered and feeling all the feelings. Recovered under fire.

Over the last year, I went through phases where I’d delete Twitter from my phone (and then put it back, delete, then put it back, and so on). Steve and I even set up rules at the house. No checking our phones from 5 pm to 7pm. Two hours. Seriously, how hard can that be.

Ummmm….

Guess who got busted checking her phone?

Yeah. 🙂

I struggle because I want to stay informed and stay active. But I also want to stay sane.

So for purposes of my sanity, Twitter and I are on a break. It’s not like I can’t access news anywhere else to stay informed. The fear is real. But if I’m going to be of any use, I need balance.

 

Vulnerability

354: Me. Trying to look cool, calm and collected before my presentation. (I was really nervous)

Hello Friends,

I’m back! I definitely needed the weekend to regroup and recharge.

On Sunday night, I presented Beyond the Stigma and Misconceptions: The Truth About Eating Disorders to a group of dear friends. It was an incredibly personal presentation so I was nervous. I worked really hard to minimize triggering language and get to what people with, or with a history of, an eating disorder want others to know about eating disorders.

I used my story as a catalyst to move beyond the basic eating disorder talking points. My goal was to create a safe environment to share and connect with others. The only way I know how to do that is to show up and be vulnerable which was a bit intimidating. But so worth it.

It was an experience I won’t soon forget. We had a vulnerable, open and insightful discussion about eating disorders. I am so grateful for the amazing women who held space with me Sunday night to comfortably talk about a really uncomfortable subject. Ladies, you know who you are…. Thank you ♥

 

@Nesby’s

344: Date Night Jazz

On Saturday night, Steve and I got to go on a date (thank you Nana and Papa!) Steve arranged for us to go see some live jazz at a place called @Nesby’s.

It was a phenomenal evening. The food was fantastic! We had an amazing time catching up with friends before the music started. And then the music, oh the music!

Tim Cunningham and his band played for well over two hours and they were spectacular! @Nesby’s is an intimate venue which enhanced the experience because the music filled the entire space. Plus you could see and feel how much Tim and his band love playing music. They played a wide range of music from Stevie Wonder to Adele. Tim’s cover of Adele’s Hello brought the house down and me to tears (incredible talent makes me cry).

All in all it was a bit of a weekend. 🙂 Have a great Tuesday friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Hi All!

You may have noticed I jumped from Day 349 (yesterday) to Day 346 (today). Instead of including all three of the pictures I posted yesterday as Day 349, I am going to count them as Days 349 – 347 (a collage still counts as one picture).

Yesterday’s post took a lot out of me. Not in a bad way. Being open and vulnerable are incredibly important, essential even, but sharing isn’t without consequence. Today I feel a bit drained, like I just ran a marathon (emotionally speaking). I feel good, like I accomplished something, but tired. I need to take a few days to focus on self-care.

Posting multiple pictures in one post gives me some leeway now and in the future to take time to replenish my self-care reserves while continuing the 365 Challenge.

See you all Tuesday! 🙂

 

**Trigger Warning** I talk about eating disorder thoughts and behaviors in this post.

One of the most dangerous misconceptions about eating disorders is that you can tell someone is sick just by looking at them. People expect someone suffering from a devastating eating disorder to be emaciated and dangerously thin. And sometimes they are.

But most times they’re not.

I took the picture above on February 15, 2015. I wish I had a picture of my entire body from that day but my eating disorder and intense self-loathing made it difficult for me to get in pictures back then.

While I don’t remember much about this day, I do remember liking this photo. The angle, the lighting.  I thought, “I look like I have it all together. I look happy, healthy, and confident.” What I really meant was, “Sweet! I made myself look thin in this picture.”

Four days later I wrote:

February 19, 2015.

I am so unhappy I can hardly stand it.   I don’t feel great and didn’t feel up to doing Gold’s Fit today.  I have no idea why this happens to me sometimes.  I just feel so upset and unhappy and I can’t seem to get it right.  I want to stuff myself and get drunk on food.  That is the only thing that seems to snap me out of it.  Not even my adorable boys can snap me out of my funk.  I love them so much and just feel like such a horrible mom when this happens. 

 I know that after I purge and get drunk on food I will feel numb and then the guilt will set in.  “Why do  sabotage myself yet again?”  I do this.  As  soon as I start getting under control,  my depression and anxiety come back and I feel like a crazy person and sabotage myself and all of my efforts.  I want to be better than this.  I so so so very much want to be better than this.  (This computer is driving me nuts because it keeps moving the cursor as type.)  I just want to feel even and level.  I feel like if I could just stay on an even keel I could be a better person.  The person I was always meant to be. 

Maybe I should take that writing class, maybe that will get me on track.   I think it may start this week.  That is a plan. I’m not sure how much it will help but it may help a bit.  Maybe writing will help me sort out my feelings and help me get through these episodes.  I just want to feel okay and be a better, more present mom for my boys.   

Okay I think I may be onto something because I am starting to feel a little better.  It almost feels like I loosened the valve on my feelings.   The pressure of all the uncomfortable feelings built up so much that I felt like I was going to explode.  It physically makes me very uncomfortable so I tend to turn to food to help change the way I feel physically.  This morning I tried to work out but that didn’t help either.  I felt nauseous and light-headed.  Writing was my last resort and it looks like it was the one I should have turned to in the first place. 

It isn’t surprising.  I think I have always known the key to my mental happiness is through writing.  Instead of binging and purging on food.  It is time to start purging all of those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings onto a piece of paper.  I just want to live my life.  I want to provide a life of fun and adventure for my boys but I am often paralyzed by my own fears, insecurity and, let’s face it, uncomfortable feelings.  I just don’t have healthy coping strategies in place. 

It took everything in me not to edit the crap out this journal entry. I’m posting it because I want people to see that you can’t always tell someone is sick by looking at them.

My smile and non-emaciated body masked a devastating truth: I was suffering.

February 19 wasn’t my worst day. Nor was it the day I committed to recovery. At my lowest, my darkest, I couldn’t write. I could barely move. Depression and anxiety are crippling on their own, add in a merciless eating disorder and the unforgiving darkness of self-loathing can become unbearable.

Eating disorders are incredibly hard to see. Which makes it easy to hide and pretend that everything is fine when it suits our illness.

Eating disorders affect people of all shapes and sizes, race, ethnicity, age and sex. They are devastating and complex mental and physical illnesses that must be treated by a professional (preferably someone who specializes in eating disorders).

April 5, 2015

This is me on April 5, 2015, about a month into recovery (I hit rock bottom in mid-march). My family knew I was working through eating disorder recovery and supported me. Being seen, loved and accepted for who I was (i.e. someone struggling with an eating disorder) made me feel safe. So even though I was nervous and self-conscious about my appearance, I got in the picture.

It is so important to look beyond the physical and pay attention to behavioral or emotional symptoms of suffering. Here are a some possible signs and symptoms of an eating disorder*:

How often do they talk about food (calories) and dieting? Do they bring them up at seemingly random times (when not eating)? How often do they talk about their body and/weight?

When I had an eating disorder I thought about food and dieting almost constantly. Which meant I was often distracted and forgetful. If I wasn’t thinking about food or dieting, I was thinking about my body. How it looked, how I wanted it to look, how my body was too big, too ugly, too…bad. I thought, “If I could only lose INSERT NUMBER my life would magically fall into place.”

How do they talk about themselves? Do they put themselves down a lot? Do they often seek reassurance from others that they look or act okay? Do they often compare themselves to others (and find themselves lacking)?

My eating disorder, compounded by my intense self-loathing, made it very difficult to ever think positively about myself. I put myself down a lot and could not accept a compliment. Anytime someone said something nice about me, I found a way to minimize or dismiss it entirely and put myself down.

Do they ever talk about feeling out of control around food or being afraid to eat certain foods? After they eat, do they berate themselves for what they ate? Do they often become moody and irritable after eating?

I often felt out of control around food. Not all food. Certain foods were trigger foods, meaning if I started eating it could lead to a binge. I would feel so much shame after binging that I would belittle and demean myself. Sometimes I would vent my frustrations of my “lack of control” out loud but I mostly keep them inside. Those negative feelings often manifested as moodiness and/or irritability.

Do they seem more moody and withdrawn than normal? Are they becoming less and less social? 

After a binge or purge all I wanted to do was hide. Go to bed and forget the rest of the day. I said no to most social invitations because I often felt ashamed of my body and what I’d eaten that day. If I’d eaten something “bad” or too much of something “good” I felt intense shame and guilt and didn’t want to leave the house.

*Just because you or a loved does one or some of these things doesn’t mean he or she has an eating disorder but these are some red flags to look out for.

November 2016

Here is a picture of me in November 2016, fully Recovered. Aside from make-up, a professional photographer and a different camera angle, I look a lot like I did back in February and April 2015. While I may look similar, the way I look at myself is completely different.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is suffering. Reach out. Treatment is available and a full and complete recovery from an eating disorder is possible.

If you would like more information or have questions, please check out my Helpful Resources page or email me at roadtorecovered2015@gmail.com.

 

 

I woke up today with no idea what to post. I usually have some idea of what picture I’ll use or what I want to write about. Not today.

Today I woke up clueless.

Since the goal of this challenge is to post a picture everyday, I started looking through the pictures on my phone and computer. As I looked through pictures of all our adventures over the last year, I noticed something interesting. Something different.

I was in a lot of them. Actually, I was in most of them.

When I had an eating disorder, and even during my recovery (which included healing my body image), pictures made me painfully anxious. I rarely let people take pictures of me and when I did, I held my breath between the time it took to take the picture and see the picture. Sometimes the picture would surprise me and I would feel relief, but most of the time shame would hit like a sucker punch to the gut.

Last year was different. I didn’t hate myself. I took A LOT of pictures. And I was in a lot of pictures. Sometimes alone but often with a friend or loved one. Since it’s 5:30 in the morning and I don’t want to wake people up to see if I can post their picture, I put together a collage of selfies.

I remember taking every single picture in the collage above. What stands out is that I didn’t take the pictures because I thought I looked good, I took them to capture a moment I wanted to remember.

Live for those moments friends! And get in the picture 🙂