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Psychotherapist Leora Fulvio and other mentors/professionals guide you through the journey of self-worth through Body Dysmorphia, Binge Eating Disorder, Anorexia, Bulimia, and more!!
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Shamed, Blamed, Stigmatized and Stereotyped-Health Myths Exposed
with Dr.Shawn Horn LICENSED
@drshawnhorn Host of "The Sassy Shrink!" Podcast Founder of @pyschologydirectory Shawn Horn, PsyD is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, in private practice, with 27 years’ experience in the mental health field. You can hear her podcast, “The Rock Your Awesome Show with Dr. Shawn Horn” on iTunes and google play and find her on social media @drshawnhorn. This column is for educational purposes and is not intended as direct medical advice nor constitutes a professional relationship with Dr. Shawn. If needed, please seek support in your community.
Imagine being up to your neck in quick sand and people are telling you, “Just swim and get out. It’s easy…all you have to do is swim.” To make it more complicated, the more someone attempts to escape quick sand the more they sink. This is a great analogy for the mental struggle with eating disorders. Individuals who struggle with all forms of eating disorders often report feeling completely stuck, paralyzed by their mind, behaviors, and compulsions. It can be even more confusing when the “skinny” are celebrated and the “overweight” are shamed. When in fact, the “overweight” person may be healthier than the “skinny” person. People are shamed and blamed, stigmatized and stereotyped just by their body size and shape. Let’s clarify a few health myths promoted by todays diet culture. Myth #1: BMI is accurate measure for health. False. BMI is not an accurate measure for health. Being “overweight” may not really be overweight. Being within the healthy range does not mean your healthy. Two hundred years ago a mathematician (not a physician) developed the BMI formula that we continue to use as a standard for categorizing weight and measuring health. Today we know of many factors that affect healthy weight including general health, height, muscle-fat-ration, bone density, body type, sex and age. We also know there are other measures to determine ones health such as cholesterol levels, cardiovascular health, blood pressure, drug and alcohol use, etc. Therefore, BMI is not an accurate or inclusive measure for health. A more accurate and current measure for health risks include fat percentage and waist circumference. In my opinion it is barbaric to use the scale as a measure of health. We need to throw away the scale and break this diet culture mindset of measuring ones health success by the scale. We can support this change by not celebrating and focusing on pounds lost. You may not even realize you may be celebrating anorexic or bulimic behavior, or other unhealthy causes of the weight loss. Instead, celebrate the achievements such as increased physical fitness (i.e. being able to walk, jog, hike, kayak, etc). Celebrate the new found freedoms in becoming healthy. Measure your success by your ability to recognize your hunger signs, eat clean foods that provide good nutrition to your body, mastering mindful living, and the freedom found in stepping out of diet culture mentality.
Myth #2: Being a “health fanatic” is healthy. Obsessive preoccupation with health and fitness may actually be an indicator of an eating disorder. There is a new category being discussed in the eating disorder community called Orthorexia. Orthorexia describes the obsessive focus on dieting and clean eating. All interactions, social, relational, are wedged around being able to get foods that are healthy according to their rules. This obsessive preoccupation interferes with their quality of life, ability to be spontaneous, their health and may potentially be fatal. Now don’t misunderstand, there is nothing wrong with eating healthy. Orthorexia is an obsessive preoccupation with healthy eating and food; including preoccupations with food preparation, where it came from, the ingredients, etc. These warning signs might point to a problem, but not necessarily indicative of an eating disorder. Myth #3: Overweight people are lazy, sit around all day and overeat. OK, I’m going to work on lowering my blood pressure right now cause this one gets me burning up! This can not be more false! If you want to meet a diet expert ask someone overweight. I guarantee they could tell you everything you need to know about nutrition and fitness. Many of them have been hitting the gym for years and trying every diet on the market. On the flip side, “skinny” people may never set a foot in the gym, move their body, etc. We must stop falsely judging and stigmatizing people based on their body shape and size. There are many more myths and stigmas regarding eating disorders, body size and shape, dieting, exercise and more! I am not able to address them all in the context of this column. Bottom line, you can not judge a person by how they look. We cannot determine one’s health on BMI, appearance or cloth size.Our society is plagued by diet culture mindsets that are creating more of the problem. Diet culture falsely measures one’s value by faulty external standards which promotes toxic shame and are hurting ourselves and others. We must guard against celebrating problematic physical standards as if the person is “better,” works harder, is more disciplined, etc. than others. Our bodies are not the measure of our worth. Our struggles do not separate us from the masses as flawed individuals. Everyone struggles, everyone.
Some struggles are more obvious than others. We must also guard from determining what others “should” do or how easy or hard health transformations could be for others. What may look like water to you, may be quick sand to another. There is no way of knowing another’s journey, their challenges, struggles or underlying health conditions, cultural, or socioeconomic factors which may be contributing to their struggles. What we can do is hold compassion, focus on what we want to create in life (not what we don’t want) and extend love and support to others. Being human is difficult, we don’t need to make it harder on ourselves or others. Be kind, hold compassion and support one another. It makes a difference. To learn more about eating disorders go to www.nationaleatingdisorders.org Additional Resources include: National Eating Disorders Association Helpline: 1-800-931-2237
"BE KIND, HOLD COMPASSION AND SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER. IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE."
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t u o b A
ME My hometown is Barnegat, New Jersey but I currently am living in Delray Beach, Florida. I went to school originally for finance but now work as a Personal Trainer as well as online mindset + nutrition coach. My main hobbies are exercising, going to the beach, spending the weekend with my friends + boyfriend, and reading.
My journey with binge eating began when I was in college. I remember I had gained the “freshman 15” and was looking for a way to lose weight. I did basically every diet that was out there and found myself in a place where I was eating anywhere from 800-1,200 calories a day. I had lost a ton of weight of course, but noticed that when it came to a weekend cheat meal, I would struggle HARD and eat just about everything in sight. This always led to guilt + shame afterwards, and the need to restrict myself once the week rolled back around. This eventually got worse as college went on, and I found myself in a few deep downward spiral of being obsessed with trying to be skinny + lose weight, avoiding carbs because I felt the were bad, eating as little calories during the week as possible, shaming my body constantly & picking myself apart mentally as well as physically, and then completely breaking down over the weekends. I always felt like I didn’t deserve to overcome this, but deep down knew I was capable of doing so. It took a very long time to work through it all, but I took it upon myself to dive deeper into mindset work, personal development, as well as work with a certified coach & nutritionist to help me overcome my issues. Both of these things was the game changer for me. This is what helped me understand how carbs + more food can actually HELP my body, the real damage I was doing to myself mentally and physically, as well as realize that I AM worthy of a different life and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My entire experience with binge eating & restrictive dieting/eating has not only made me stronger, but it has led me to where I am now & to be able to do what I do now which is help other women mend their relationships with food, understand proper nutrition, and love who they are from the inside out.
I got to a point where I was just really sick of being in the position I was, trying so hard to get out of it, and feeling like I had failed over and over again. I wanted to live a different life; I didn’t want to be so stuck where I was and I wanted to just feel normal again.
Accepting Weight Fluctuation
I think the biggest changes that I’ve noticed is that I’m much more accepting of my body fluctuating in weight from time to time, and I’m much more forgiving of myself if I’m not “perfect”. I used to feel like my nutrition + workouts had to be perfect 24/7 otherwise I was a failure. Whereas now, I recognize that I am human and will have “off” days from time to time and that’s okay! I also have learned to love my body through all of it’s phases. I no longer strive to be super skinny, I strive to be stronger and better than I was the day before. That is what matters most to me, and the confidence that has come with that I truly believe shines through.
My Past Experience Helps Me GUIDE My Clients
I don’t just feel like I can relate to my clients; I genuinely feel like I UNDERSTAND them and can FEEL their pains and emotions. I’m able to take myself back to my past when I was in similar shoes as them, and give advice that is genuine. I believe it’s a true gift of mine to be able to do so and to hear them tell me how much my words help is truly amazing.
worthy OF A DIFFERENT LIFE Not What You Think.
I think the biggest misconception is that you must be overweight or super underweight of some sort to have disordered eating. Especially with binge eating disorder, someone suffering can look completely normal on the outside, but be struggling so hard internally. For me personally, I have been extremely skinny while eating very low amounts of food, but I also have been at my heaviest weight while also eating extremely low amounts of food because of damage I was doing to my metabolism. There is a lot of factors that go into it all and it isn’t just as black and white as the media may portray it to be.
Advice If You Relate To My Story
I would tell them first off that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and they can overcome what they are going through. I would also tell them that it’s OKAY to ask for help and reach out! There is no need to be afraid to do what is best for you, your health, and your happiness. You deserve to live a life that you enjoy and you are strong enough to push through and get there.
Can You Still Love Yourself After This?
Yes it definitely is possible! It takes time, and it takes a lot of inner work with yourself + your relationship with yourself, but you can get there. When you start to heal, you start to forgive yourself and with that forgiveness, starts the process of loving yourself again.
Do I Struggle with Negative Thoughts Even Now?
I do, but I am able to move past them. Normally they pop up when I’m feeling extra emotional and it just triggers negative thoughts, but I have learned how to move past them. The best way to power through is to do something that makes me feel good and is a form of self-care for myself! Whether it’s reading, going for a walk, journaling, watching my favorite show, exercising, whatever it is I do that and the thoughts tend to fade away. I also remind myself of how far I’ve come already and focus on that.
I am thankful for the struggles that I have faced in regards to my body image, mental health, and disordered eating. It has taught me so much about how to love myself, but also how strong I am deep down which is something to really admire. It also has led me to where I am now as a coach helping other women with their struggles and that brings me so much joy and really is my passion.
I spent the majority of my life growing up in England. I moved to Canada in 2017 by myself, and have since lived in Nova Scotia. I always intended to travel at some point, and experiencing living in a different country was always a goal for me. I studied Psychology for 2 years at university, until having to drop out due to health reasons. Since then I have worked for a Financial Firm, and as a Financial Sales Representative at a major Bank. I intend to return to school to continue my studies in the near future.
During treatment I learned that my genetics are that of a “super feeler” meaning I feel my own emotions and the emotions of those around me very intensely. Spending large amounts of time in social settings such as school, can be overwhelming and mentally draining. It also means I am prone to anxiety and depression, and struggle connecting with others as it can be hard to explain what I am feeling, and understand why others don’t feel things as deeply. I have always had an abnormal relationship with food. I was always hungry and would overeat from primary school years. In hindsight I believe this was a way for me to manage my emotions and social anxiety. I remember being self conscious about my body as young as 6 years of age. I always felt larger than my class mates and uncomfortable in my skin. I have always had an abnormal relationship with food. I was always hungry and would overeat from primary school years. In hindsight I believe this was a way for me to manage my emotions and social anxiety. I remember being self conscious about my body as young as 6 years of age. I always felt larger than my classmates and uncomfortable in my skin. At the time I was extremely happy about the weight loss, and began to socialize more from gaining self confidence. However I noticed when reintroducing food, it was very easy for me to gain weight, therefore I had to learn to be restrictive with food, and allow myself occasional “treat days” as a compromise. However after indulging in food after long intervals without, I would panic from discomfort of extreme fullness and guilt, so I began purging to compensate. The next ten years rotated between food restriction, and bulimia. My weight fluctuated from extreme lows to extreme highs. Over time it got more difficult to restrict food, my body became weak and tired from years of mistreatment. It also became harder to lose weight or maintain weight, therefore episodes of bulimia increased as a way to stay in control. At the worst I would self induce vomit 5+ times each day. This had a severe impact on my physical health, and caused me to take a lot of time off work for illness.
The Most Difficult Part of My Journey
I would say the most difficult part would be the impact it had on my social life. I spent most of my life trying to change my body to gain the approval of others. I have missed out on many family events, social activities, parties, dates, vacations and memories either as a way to avoid food and hide my disorder, or due to body anxiety being so high I would isolate myself to my room from fear of being seen in public. My biggest regrets will be time lost without really living and experiencing all that life hasn’t to offer.
The NEED To For More Awareness
I believe unless you have an eating disorder or are close with someone who does, there is little knowledge on the subject. There is still stigma that eating disorders are only for extremely underweight individuals and caused by a desire to look “thin”.
My Honest Recovery & Treatment Journey
My eating disorder started around age 8, but fully developed into destructive behaviours around age 16, however I only considered treatment at age 25. It took until then to finally admit to myself that it wasn’t something I could manage alone. I believed that my problem wasn’t serious as I was usually in an okay BMI range. I thought I could simply “stop” when I finally reached my desirable weight. The reality is enough was never enough, even at my lowest weight I still felt as huge as I did at my highest weight. I was never satisfied or comfortable where I was. It took me being in a toxic and abusive relationship to realize how broken I was, and how I needed help repairing myself to prevent that from ever happening again. My advice to those considering treatment for the first time, would be to fully commit to it with an open mind by putting yourself in the hands of your treatment team and trusting that everything they do is in your best interest. It is likely your mind is not nourished enough to make healthy rational choices, and your eating disorder will do everything it can to survive. The fear of the unknown, change, weight gain, uncomfortable emotions that surface as your mind gets healthier, can be extremely overwhelming. I promise it gets better and easier over time.
Realizations & The Dangerous Consequences of An Eating Disorder
I realized I had an eating disorder when I was studying at university. It was the first time I lived alone and I used it as an opportunity to stop eating entirely. I became dangerously underweight and struggled with fainting, nose bleeds, migraines, insomnia and other physical symptoms. One day I was walking along the side of the gym pool and completely lost my sight. I was scared to move whilst I couldn’t see as I could fall into the pool and not be able to see which way to swim. I waved my hand in front of my eyes and blinked repeatedly but all I could see was black darkness. I feared that I had gone permanently blind. After the longest few minutes of my life, my sight slowly began to fade back into blurred vision. I became extremely aware of the dangerous consequences of my eating disorder. I believe a number of factors influenced my eating disorder. Primarily genetics, my personality type and being prone to mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Those things potentially led to low self esteem, body image issues and an unhealthy relationship with food. I was essentially a ticking time bomb for a severe eating disorder to
develop, and all of these traits only needed to be combined with a traumatic life event for the bomb to go off. The traumatic event for me was being sexually assaulted at age 16. My eating disorder developed as a way to cope with processing trauma, numbing painful emotions, and disassociating from everyday life.
I don’t believe it is coincidence that I ended up moving to Nova Scotia where a treatment facility was located a ten minute walk away. Treatment was not easily available in England and would be extremely costly therefore I never considered it. When I moved to Canada I had no idea that treatment was available. It was only by chance that a friend noticed an advertisement seeking participants for a study based on eating disorders. When I applied for this study, I was still unaware of the treatment program until the doctor informed me treatment would be offered to me when finishing. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I have been given to receive intensive treatment. The staff have been so amazing. It is clear that they genuinely care about each individual patient, and if you are willing and wanting to recover, they will do everything they can to help you achieve this. In 6 months of full time treatment, it starts to feel like the place is home, and patients and staff become family in a way. Since starting treatment I have learned a great deal about myself, the reasons for my past, and what I want my future to look like. I have learned coping skills to avoid relapses and to make decisions that align with recovery. The biggest change is being able to give myself love and kindness, and believe in my self worth even when unhappy with my current body. In my experience once you start showing yourself compassion even on bad days, you are on your way to leading a happier more fulfilling life.
Something I Wanted To Add…
I can’t stress enough that professional treatment is an absolute necessity in order to recover from an eating disorder. I encourage anyone struggling to seek out an eating disorder specialist for a consultation. Simply speaking with somebody who has training in this area could save years of struggling. To anyone reading this, you are worthy of help and asking for it does not make you weak. You are deserving of a brighter, happier future. Regardless of how you look or feel, if you have any type of eating disorder then you ARE sick enough. Lastly to anyone who has doubts, I believe that full recovery is possible, not just for myself, but for everybody else who wants it. It is normal to fear that change is impossible, especially if you have gone many years with an untreated eating disorder and aren’t familiar with any other way of living like myself, but it is never too late. You have the power and ability to change, all you have to do is acknowledge your disorder and ask for help.
Regardless of how you look or feel, if you have any type of eating disorder then you ARE sick enough.”
Yourself From Binge Eating WITH @bingeeatingtherapy
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About Leora I grew up in New York City but moved to San Francisco soon after I graduated from college. Because of my own journey in dealing with my disordered eating as well as watching both my mother and step-mother have life-long Eating Disorders, I always knew that I wanted to treat Eating Disorders. I wanted to do everything I could to help people understand that they didn’t have to live like that. They they could heal. So as soon as I moved out here in 1999, I began my journey of learning different healing techniques. I went to school to learn Hypnotherapy, EFT (or tapping), Reiki, Energy work and all sorts of healing modalities that were more esoteric. However, I did feel that I wanted a strong clinical background because an eating disorder isn’t just an eating disorder, there are so many things that come with it. So I decided to apply for a graduate program in Psychology. In 2003, I began Grad school so that I could have a deeper clinical understanding of Eating Disorders and how different people with different life experiences came to the similar methods of coping. After many years of school and practical work and working in In-patient and Outpatient Eating Disorder facilities as an intern, I became a fully licensed Psychotherapist in the State of California in 2009. It was a long journey, but so, so very worth it. Currently, I live just outside of San Francisco and am the Mom of two young boys, one with profound special needs. I am also a Mom of 2 cats, one with also extreme special needs.
My Experience with BED My binge eating started a lot like many others. I grew up in a household with a single Mom who worked a lot. My Dad wasn’t around very much, he lived very far away and had a lot of his own issues going on. This meant that I was alone a lot. And I was lonely. I because I was alone so much, I had this sense that I was not worthy of love. At this point, I started to fill my lonely times with food and eating. Each afternoon when I got home from school, I’d sit alone in my apartment and watch television while I poured myself bowls and bowls of cereal and ate piece after piece of toast slathered with butter. It was the only thing that helped me feel less alone, less bored and less afraid to be home alone. I had this joyous secret, this thing that I did all by myself that helped me to feel comforted and relatively peaceful. As I got older and my weight began to rise, my Mom became anxious. She was afraid that I would get “too big.” She told me that women who weren’t thin weren’t happy and would not be treated well by others. Her fear seeped into my own psyche and at ten years old I became afraid that I’d never get a boyfriend, never get married, never have children, that I’d be doomed to a life of loneliness if I didn’t lose weight. I was already lonely and sad that my mom worked so much and that my Dad wasn’t around. This caused me to believe in so many ways that I was just not good enough. Her own fear caused her to put me on a diet (via Weight Watchers). This diet began my years long cycle of restricting and bingeing. I would spend days not eating anything and then days eating so much that I fell deeply into a food coma. I’d wake up in the middle of the night so sick from eating. My stomach would hurt and my brain would hurt. I felt sick and full of shame. I just wanted to hide from the world.
It took me many years of this cycle to find my deepest places of recovery and healing. This wasn’t a place where my body was good enough. This was a place where I as a human being knew that I was worthy of love and respect. I began to accept myself. I stopped dieting and I stopped trying to lose weight and I started eating actual meals every day. I learned how to trust myself and I learned how to trust my body in its inherent wisdom and knowledge of what it needed to eat, how much it needed and allowed it to be the size that it naturally wanted to be, the size that it came to easily when I wasn’t bingeing and wasn’t restricting. I learned different ways to deal with the loneliness and the unrelenting chatter in my brain. I learned that so much of my dieting and bingeing was to help me stop thinking. I just had a brain that thought too much. It was relentless. There were times when I felt as though my brain would burst out of my head. I realized that my biggest addictions were to “thinking” and “doing.” I would actively do things like binge eat or go on severe diets to keep my busy brain occupied. Thinking too much was uncomfortable. A lot of people with binge eating issues are super smart and find that they eat (or diet) to keep them from overthinking. It was a coping mechanism that I learned when I was young to keep me from thinking about how lonely I felt or thinking about how unworthy I was and how my lack of being pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough (and all the other things that I never thought I was enough of) and from feeling doomed to die alone. I couldn’t deal with it back when I was a little girl because I thought that the fear would swallow me whole. Learning how to quiet down my busy brain was life changing. It wasn’t that I made all the noise turn off, but I learned how to disengage from the noise and chose new ways of thinking about myself and the people around me. I learned to see myself, my experiences and the people around me as gifts and opportunities for learning and growth – not just for me but for the people in my orbit, the other human beings who were also learning and growing around me.
The Effects of Having Support Support is everything in ED recovery. An eating disorder grows and thrives in isolation. Eating disorder thoughts, the ones that tell you that you’re not good enough, that your size tells you how much you are worth – that the numbers on the scale, the numbers on your size tags, the amount of calories you eat or burn are what make you either a good person or a bad person, a person who is worthy of love or not- those are the voices that need to be challenged and transformed. But being all alone with these thoughts makes them difficult to change. You can’t pull yourself out of the thoughts when the thoughts are all you hear and understand to be true. It’s like the fish asking “what’s water?” When you are alone with your eating disorder, it can be difficult to question the “truths” that your eating disorder tells you. Of course everyone’s eating disorders have different causes and manifest in different ways, but having a support team in place to pull you out of the innards of your brain is crucial. What I often hear from clients are the terrible stories that their inner critic tells them, things like, “you’ll never get a good job until you lose weight,” or “nobody will want to date you until you are thin…” or “you are worthless… you’ll be alone forever and die all by yourself…” and so many other terrible things. The response to these horrible thoughts if often eating disorder behaviors in order to manage the thoughts. For instance, someone believes that they will never find a partner until they lose weight and so the idea of losing weight becomes synonymous with finding love. They then diet, then diet excessively, then the diet becomes a binge, then they hate themselves and tell themselves that they are worthless losers and so in order to make those voices stop, they either go back on the diet or keep binge eating… it takes a person outside of that voice in their head to pull them out of the eating disorder. None of this is objectively true, but we convince ourselves that it is and so we get trapped in fear. Your recovery team can help to pull you out of fear.
Misconceptions We tend to think of eating disorders coming in one size - small. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are women and men who are suffering with atypical anorexia, not eating enough to fuel them even though they are what the BMI would be medically classified as overweight, obese or morbidly obese. There are people (men, women, and non-binary folks) of all different sizes, shapes, ethnicities and races suffering from all types of eating disorders. But they don’t tend to get treatment or even consider what they have to be an eating disorder because society has characterized eating disorders as a condition that afflicts young white thin women. I’ve worked with so many people who originally start looking for help with Binge Eating Disorder because they believe that they are needing a weight loss program, but then they realize that they actually have a full-fledged eating disorder. They think that they can’t stop eating but actually the problem is really that they can’t stop dieting or buying into all the outcomes that a diet promises. Diets for people with eating disorders is like vodka for someone who is in recovery from alcoholism. It triggers more and more disordered eating. Eating disorders are also mercurial – in that they move around in different ways. There is specific diagnostic criteria for the “big” ones (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating) but each eating disorder flows in and out of each other. The anorexic binges and purges, the binge eater restricts and over exercises, eating disorders don’t tend to follow a consistent path. They sort of crawl all over each other and flow in and out of each other.
What is my 5 week program called and about? Who does it help? It is called the Five Week Step-by-Step Program to Help You Stop Binge Eating For Good. It is a self-guided online program with lots of peer support and support from me via Facebook. Even though it’s called the 5 week program, it’s really a lifetime program that people can work on forever. I started working on creating this program in 2005 while I was working as an intern at an Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program for eating disorders. What I noticed is that intense treatment was so helpful for people grappling with eating disorders because they received the education to understand how their brains and bodies worked but also the support that they needed from others going through recovery at the same time. But intensive treatment isn’t possible for everyone for so many reasons: The cost is usually prohibitive, people work, people have families, most people can’t spend all day sitting in group therapy and with several different therapists and doctors. But millions of people need this treatment and have no access to it. So my goal was to create self-guided treatment for people that would be both affordable and accessible. Back then it was just an idea –I didn’t know what it would look like or how to put it together. But I desperately wanted to create something. I knew that there was a crucial need for it. I’m so happy that I had so many years to build it, work with clients and continue learning- because now I have a complete program that I know can help so many people. The program is separated into 5 weeks, however most people work through it for months and many stay active in the group for years. People can take as long as they want to go through it as it’s a lifetime program. There are 28 psycho-educational videos to help users learn the basics of using their minds to deal with cravings. This mindfulness based education helps people understand how hunger and their body work, helps them to create nutritional patterns that will help them to beat binge eating and teaches them how to utilize neuroplasticity (which is
the way the brain makes changes) to help them integrate new habits and behaviors as well as complete instruction on mindful eating and intuitive eating. There are 18 self-guided meditation sessions to help the unconscious mind make the changes. As we know, meditation significantly lowers your stress level, regulates your blood pressure, reduces anxiety, helps manages depression, strengthens your relationships, improves sleep, increases your day-to-day happiness, decreases stress… I mean it really creates significant healing for your brain! However, there is a certain type of meditation that actually changes behaviors. Some people call it hypnotherapy, other people call it movies of the mind. Multiple studies have shown that this meditation is the most effective in helping people permanently change habits and change their brain. This is because when you are able to deeply visualize yourself doing something and feel it, your brain believes you actually experienced it. For example, when you go into a deep meditation and visualize yourself seeing your binge foods and actively making the choice not to binge, your brain actually experiences that as though it really happened. You then strengthen the part of your brain that chooses not to binge when you have the desire to. That’s why when you see something scary in a movie or in the news, you might feel traumatized and stressed out, even though it didn’t really happen to you -- your brain experiences it as if it did. So what I’ve done is created safe, calming and empowering pictures for you via deep meditation so that in your mind, you will actually decide that you are NOT a binge eater, that you don’t have to binge eat, that you have all the tools and the choices available to you to act and react toward food and stress in a way that doesn’t involve bingeing. You will feel confident, loved, at peace and empowered. You also get worksheets and homework to help you dive deeper into yourself to learn more about your behaviors and your motivations. This will help to uncover your unconscious motivations for acting out in behaviors that aren’t for your highest good and help you to make different choices. You also get the support of the community of others who are in the program. There is support in a Secret Facebook Group so that you can check in every day- multiple times a day with others who are in the exact same position as you- you can talk about how your day was, what your challenges were or any up and coming challenges that you might need support with.
How has your (Leora) program helped others? Oh my gosh – so many people have told me that it has changed their lives. They’ve done things that they never thought possible. They have gotten married, had babies, gone to grad school, gotten new jobs… all the things that they never felt that they could do because they were waiting to be thin enough. Quitting binge eating is the smallest part of the program. The self-love and self-esteem that people gain from working the program is awe-inspiring.
Advice When Enrolling Into My Program I would tell them to take it slow, be patient with themselves, to allow them to digest and heal. They’ve been living with disordered eating for a long time, it is not going to be overnight to recover. People who struggle with this type of eating disorder tend to want what they want when they want it. They want it done yesterday. I encourage people to be patient with themselves and with their process.
Signs To Look For With BED Ponder the following questions: Do you eat in secret? Do you restrict certain foods sometimes but binge on them at other times? Do you go off and on diets repeatedly?
Do you obsessively read health and fitness blogs and magazines and diet books? Do you follow lots of wellness and weight loss influencers on Instagram? Do you drink a lot of coffee or diet soda to keep you from eating? Do you eat a certain way in front of people and completely differently when you’re alone? Do you steal, hide or hoard food? Do you eat when you are not hungry? Do you eat until you are uncomfortably full? Do you feel guilt and shame after you eat something you think you shouldn’t? Do you ever try to compensate for what you’ve eaten by exercising excessively, taking laxatives, throwing up, or restricting food the next day? Do you often say things like, “this is the last time I’m going to eat this way, I’m starting my diet tomorrow.” Do you avoid certain situations because of food? Do you avoid certain situations because you feel uncomfortable in your body? Do you feel as though you can’t stop when you start eating certain foods? Do you think about food much of the time? Do you eat when you are sad, lonely, anxious, tired, scared, or bored? Do you ever feel unsatisfied after a meal, even if you know that you are no longer hungry, and still try to find some kind of taste or meal that will satisfy you? Do you justify your use of food as a reward or as medicine, such as, “well, I’m sad today, it’s okay for me to eat this…..” Do you justify your use of food because it’s a special occasion, “my best friend who I never see is in town! It’s necessary to eat this food at this restaurant!” Do you often eat large amounts of food in inappropriate places such as in bed or in the car? Do you find yourself scavenging for food? Searching for something to satisfy a certain urge and continuing to eat until you’ve found it? Have you ever thrown out food to avoid eating it? Have you ever eaten out of the garbage? If you answered yes to 2 or more questions, you likely have a difficult relationship with food. If you answered yes to 4 or more questions, there is a good chance that you are suffering with Binge Eating Disorder.
Advice To You If You Feel Shame Towards Bingeing
“Do you avoid certain situations because of food?” “Do you think about food much of the time?” “Do you eat a certain way in front of people and completely differently when you’re alone?” We are all human. Binge eating is a coping mechanism that many people use to deal with the difficulties of daily life. That’s okay. Life isn’t easy, but it is possible to learn coping mechanisms that feel better and help you to embody yourself and enjoy your life. Be kind to yourself. We are all fighting a difficult battle daily. No one is immune. Whenever one of my clients binges and then hates themselves I remind them that they are a human being who did a very human thing. Our bodies are evolutionarily designed to binge in order to maintain survival in times of famine. This is why when someone diets or restricts, they will then compensate with a big binge. If you think about it, humans were designed to hunt and gather. They could go days without eating, but when they saw what they were looking for, they gorged themselves on it. When we go on diets, then we see what we’ve been depriving ourselves of and we binge on it, we then hate ourselves and blame it on not having enough willpower – when in fact what happened was we behaved in the way evolution caused us to. We feel shame not for bingeing, but for believing that we are not good enough. When you are in this place of shame, remind yourself that this is okay. That you are good enough. That you deserve to be loved and cared for and that it’s okay to want those things. The antidote to shame is love and compassion. So when you are feeling so full of shame, so self-hating, put your hand on your chest to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, this is the part of your autonomic nervous system that slows down your heartbeat and relaxes your body. Once your body is feeling more relaxed, you can use soothing statements to yourself like, “you’re okay, you did something very human, you ate more than your body wanted in the moment. People do that all the time, it doesn’t make you bad, it makes you human… “ and remember that binges are often a result of dieting and restriction, so if you’re able to no longer restrict your food, you WILL find that your desire to binge does decrease. Binge eating is for the most part, a direct result of diet culture. People believe that they are supposed to look different, so they diet to decrease the shame that comes from looking a certain way. Dieting leads to restriction which then leads to binge eating. Binge eating leads to shame which then leads to more binge eating to help you feel better. Food is consistent. Even though it doesn’t help you to feel better in the long run, in the present it can help mitigate the feelings of shame that are present when you binge. So it becomes a cycle. The best thing to do is sooth yourself completely and remind yourself that you are perfect, whole, and complete in this moment. You are human and human beings do human things like eat and eat too much at times.
My Friend has An Eating Disorder. What Do I Do?
The best thing to do is to be a supportive friend. Don’t food police ever. You are not their keeper. You are their friend though, so you can check in with them and say things like “How have you been doing? How is your recovery going? Do you need my support? How can I best support you?” Don’t ask your friend if they think that they should be eating that, don’t ask them how much they’ve eaten today or what they ate and most of all, don’t comment on their body or even on their clothes or on their appearance in any way at all. Even a kind comment on someone’s appearance can trigger their ED. I remember once a friend who was very well meaning said to me, “you look so good in that dress, so much better now that you can actually fill it out…” which is a very loving comment to someone who has recovered from an eating disorder but my wise self
couldn’t hear it, only my ED brain could hear it and my ED brain told me that I wasn’t good enough. Telling someone with an ED brain that they look amazing or healthy or anything that is nice could make them go into, “Did I look like shit before?” The best “compliment” you can give someone is, “it’s so great to see you, I always love to be around you – your energy and your kindness always lights up a room…” If you notice that someone seems to be doing something with their food that seems disordered like not eating or eating fast or excusing themselves to go to the bathroom, you can just check in and say, “Hey are you doing okay? How can I support you?” but don’t push it. It’s not your responsibility to heal or fix anyone just to love and support. And if they ask you, you can help them find a therapist or a treatment facility. But you cannot and should not take on the job of fixing. The best thing to do is stay open and let them know that you are there for them. If they do take you up on your offer, that’s great. If not, just know that you are there for them and continue to be their friend. Just them knowing that you love them unconditionally, whether they choose to be in recovery or not is so helpful. It shows them that it’s okay to love and be loved unconditionally.
Is There Hope For Me As Someone with an Eating Disorder?
It is 100% possible to have a healthy relationship with food no matter how intense and hopeless your eating disorder has been. I have seen so much recovery in my work and I have seen so many people come to a really neutral place with food where they are able to eat what they want when they are hungry and really be able to enjoy delicious food without eating too much or bingeing on it and without shaming themselves for it. Food and eating is one of the joys of being alive and we should all be allowed to access that rich part of life, that gift that we’ve all been given. It is your birthright to enjoy and love food.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article. It is truly my desire to help anyone reading this to find their path of healing or to lead those closest to them toward their path of healing. Life can be very difficult, very, very difficult and I am so grateful to have been able to do this work for the past 20 years. If my life had been easy growing up and if I’d not had my own battles with food and body image issues, there is no way that I’d be doing this work. I find that all of the struggles that seem hard for me in the moment and even for years are the very same things that have enabled me to grow as a human and do the things that I need to do to really have the important kind of life that I want. I love my work, I love my clients, I love being able to help people all across the world deal with their own food and body image issues. My life unto itself hasn’t been a typical one. I lost my Mom at a young age, I didn’t grow up with the kind of family that created a lot of love and kindness toward me unconditionally and in my current situation, I have two children with disabilities, one with a major and profound disability and one who has an easier time integrating into the world. I truly believe that all of these experiences that have been brought to me have made me a stronger person. I love my children, my husband and I really love my work. I feel as though my life is stronger and I am a person who can be solid for myself, my children and the people around me due to the experiences that I’ve been through and healed from.
About Me Hi, I’m Irini! I’m from a small city in the Netherlands and I study Forensic Child and Youth Care Sciences in our capital, Amsterdam. After I finish my master’s programme I want to work as an educationalist (similar to a child and youth psychologist). When I’m not studying I like to take pictures and post them on my Instagram. I post things about fashion, lifestyle and recently I’ve started to post things about mental health. I also really enjoy being creative in other ways such as writing and journaling and I like traveling. Recently I visited Marrakech and I’ve got many more places on my bucketlist.
My Journey Ahh I never know where to start with this question! I’ve been insecure about my looks from a very young age (I’d say younger than 12) but never really thought much of it. Everyone’s insecure sometimes and I thought it was normal to be insecure about your body. Eating didn’t really become an issue until I was about 14. It began with something that must be very familiar to a lot of people with an ED. One of my friends had mentioned she wanted to lose weight and I thought it’d be a good idea to join her. I cut down on unhealthy foods like sweets, junk food, etc. Then I stopped eating snacks in between meals. After that I started to eat less during meals, until I slowly began to skip meals completely. I banned entire food groups from my diet because
I thought they’d make me gain weight. This went on for about a year. After a year of messing with my food, my parents started to worry about me and took me to my GP, who then referred me to youth care. I think I realized something wasn’t going quite well with my eating, but I didn’t want anyone to get involved or help me. Yes, counting calories and doing sit ups at night was exhausting me, but it also made me feel calm and comfortable in a strange way. I didn’t want anyone to take that away from me. I was diagnosed with EDNOS (now called OSFED), which made me feel like it really wasn’t that bad and I didn’t actually need or deserve help. I spent a few months talking to a psychologist but felt very misunderstood, which is why I decided to recover on my own. At this point I saw I had an ED and I wanted to get better. My motto was ‘be scared and eat it anyway’, which is what I did. When I was 17 I felt a lot better. I started to experience freedom around food and felt good about my body. I considered myself fully recovered. Sure, I had bad days and sometimes a bad week. But it never got quite as bad as it was and all the bad moments eventually passed. Fast forward: I graduated from high school, finished my bachelor’s and I felt good. This summer I noticed I had more bad moments than before. They came more frequently and they
lasted longer. They didn’t pass. The beginning of my master’s was really tough. There was so much work to do and I felt anxious about failing every minute of every day. So I stopped eating unhealthy foods. Then I stopped eating snacks. Then breakfast. Then lunch. Then dinner. In about a month I’d reached that low place (mentally speaking) that the first time, 8 years ago, took me over a year to get to. Certain foods scared me and I came up with very strict rules about eating and exercising again. The good thing is that this time I almost immediately recognized this as disordered behaviour and I reached out for help. I’m in the process of intakes as we speak and I’ll start a treatment for anorexia in January. This all happened in such a short period of time so it’s feeling really fresh still. It feels like I’m at the beginning of my recovery (again) but I’m so determined to take back my life for good!
Bridging the Gap Between ED & Getting Help The decision to get help and recover was a hard one to make. In a weird way, my ED can make me feel calm, safe and strong. It makes me feel like I can pause everything that’s going on around me, just by counting calories, preparing meal plans, weighing myself and restricting all day. But then it hit me. I can’t pause life by counting and restricting. Because while I sit on my sofa,
worrying and crying about the calories in a banana for hours, life goes on. And I’m missing out on it because of a stupid banana.
Did You Ever Feel That Your Eating Disorder Served You and Helped You? How Do I Fight These Thoughts? Yes, absolutely. Like I mentioned before, my ED made me feel safe and strong. It made me feel like nothing else mattered as long as I didn’t eat. I didn’t have to think about exams or any other things that stressed me out. All I had to think about was eating and not eating. In a way it made my mind feel clear and calm. And in a really (really) strange way it gave me an easy goal and an easy identity. I wanted to lose weight, so I did. I was that sick girl with an eating disorder. Easy as that. I didn’t have to think about anything else I wanted to do or wanted to be. But it also made my world really small. It made me unhealthy. And it made me feel like I was surviving instead of living. And that’s exactly how I’m trying to fight those thoughts. Recovery and letting go of this sense of security and identity may be hard, but it’s not as hard as living with an eating disorder. It’s only going to get better from now on.
Did Those Thoughts Ever Affect Your Recovery? It’s made it hard sometimes to hold onto recovery. Because to recover I have to let go of things that make me feel comfortable. In fact I have to do things that make me feel really uncomfortable at times. For example, I struggle with feeling full after a meal. At those moments it’s so easy for those thoughts to get back into your head. “See, now you only feel worse. You really shouldn’t have eaten that. It’s really best if you stop again tomorrow, because you certainly felt a lot calmer when you didn’t eat”. So hard to stick to it sometimes when your own head is telling you this. So it’s definitely made me have some bad days to be fair but I’m working hard for more good days!
Describing An ED If You Don’t Have One To me, having an eating disorder feels like my brain was somehow split in half. One half is my healthy side and the other half is my unhealthy, eating disordered side. And those two sides of me are constantly at battle with each other. One side wants me to eat and get better. The other side wants me to restrict and lose weight. The confusing thing is that all those thoughts are still my own. So it feels like my own mind is attacking itself. At some point my eating disordered side just got stronger and started to take more and more of me. Almost all my mind consisted of rules around food, eating and exercising. I felt like I wasn’t my own person anymore.
A Coping Mechanism I don’t think there was ‘a cause’. I think I was sensitive to the feel-good effect of losing weight and susceptible to developing mental health problems at the time. And as time went by my eating disorder became my way to cope with things when life got difficult or stressful.
Guilt. I did when have guilt I was younger. Having an ED isn’t cool, it’s not something you just mention at birthday parties. And I was afraid about what people would think of me. So I didn’t tell anyone. I don’t feel as much shame and guilt now as I did then. Studying Youth Care and mental health etc. made me feel tolerant and open about mental health issues. So many people suffer from mental illnesses and knowing and understanding how they can develop in a person made it a normal thing for me. So having an ED, though still not cool, became a normal thing too. Just a thing that can happen to people and nothing to feel shameful or guilty about.
Misconceptions There’s so many! First of all the misconception that everyone with an eating disorder has an extremely low weight. When I told people close to me that I have anorexia, some of the reactions I got were ‘But you don’t look like that!’ or ‘So, how much do you weigh then?’ I get where those questions come from, because the image of eating disorders (and of anorexia specifically) in the media is that of extremely underweight girls. It’s true that anorexia has an effect on someone’s weight and it also did have an effect on my weight. However that doesn’t
mean that everyone with anorexia is extremely underweight. Let alone people with other eating disorders, like OSFED, bulimia or BED. Long story short: Yes, there are more eating disorders than just anorexia and no, an eating disorder is not always visible. Weight also doesn’t define how bad your eating disorder is. It’s an eating disorder. Not a weight disorder. The second thing I noticed is that as I started to eat better again and look a bit healthier again, people assumed that I was feeling better mentally as well. Truth is, I felt even worse. Just because I’m eating and looking a bit better, doesn’t mean I’m actually doing better. Because eating and gaining weight means I’m fighting hard against my eating disorder, and my eating disorder half doesn’t like that at all. My disordered thoughts go through the roof when I’m eating better and gaining weight. The last thing is that I noticed is that some people assume I don’t eat anything at all or I don’t like food. Even on my worst days I did eat something! Most people with anorexia probably do. And I actually love food, maybe more than the average person. I love chocolate, I love pasta and I *** love pizza. My eating disorder just made me too scared to eat it.
Getting Help: Qualifying A Therapist The first time I received help I felt really misunderstood and I didn’t feel like me and the therapist connected at all. I explained it to her and quit the therapy, which went ok. I can’t exactly remember her reaction but I think it wasn’t a big deal at all. Studying Youth Care now has made me realize that it’s so important to have a good relation with your mental health professional, but also that it’s normal and quite common to not experience that connection. So it’s important to talk about it and maybe switch to seeing someone else. Now that I’m getting help for the second time I specifically looked for an organization that works with professionals who’ve been through the same thing.
My Support So far it’s been really easy and helpful to talk to my boyfriend. He doesn’t always understand me but that’s ok, because he always listens to me, gives me space and supports me in all the right ways.
Hardest Part of My Journey Now The hardest part for me now is sticking to my meal plan for a longer period of time. At first I was ok with it for about three days, then the panic kicked in and I had some bad days. I started over and was ok with it for four days, until the panic kicked in again. Then I lasted about five days, etc. I’m working on sticking with it for a full
week now! But I know every time I overcome these bad days I’m getting stronger. The only way through it, is through it.
Advice To Those In Secret About Their Eating Disorder I know this is scary. And it’s hard. And it can seem impossible. But getting help and recovering will never be as scary, hard and impossible as living with an eating disorder will be. Because you don’t have to do this alone.
Closing Words To close, I’d like to share one of my favourite quotes. “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. (…) Do the thing you think you cannot do” - Eleanor Roosevelt.
Recovery and letting go of this sense of security and identity may be hard, but it’s not as hard as living with an eating disorder.
No More Labels. HAES. RDN, LDN, Owner of Monadnock Nutrition Services, LLC
Monadnock Nutrition Services @monadnocknutritionservices www.monadnocknutritionservices.com
I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) specializing in the treatment of eating disorders utilizing a Health At Every Size, intuitive eating, weight inclusive and body acceptance practice. I am originally from New Ipswich, a small town in southern New Hampshire and currently reside close to where I grew up in Rindge, NH. I did my undergrad at Keene State College and completed my dietetic internship there in 2009. Since then, I have worked with all age groups ranging from prenatal and infancy to geriatric nutrition. Since the start of my career I have been a registered dietitian for a local WIC program, at a boarding school in Massachusetts, at an Intensive Outpatient eating disorder treatment program, a small private practice, and even ran a Meals on Wheels Program for a couple of years. Within the last year, I have opened my own private practice in Peterborough, NH with a focus in eating disorder treatment. I provide in-person as well as virtual nutrition counseling from a Health At Every Size, non-diet, weight-inclusive lens. I am a mom to three children ages (are you ready?!): 18, 9 and 2 as well as a 4-year-old beagle rescue named Jack. In my spare time I love practicing yoga, going for walks, cooking and connecting with friends and my partner. As a fun fact, I am also an expert in the field of breastfeeding and was a Certified Lactation Consultant for just under eight years.
I do fully disclose with my clients that I, myself, have never struggled with a diagnosed eating disorder. That being said, I remind them that I did go to “nutrition school,” which at the time was very weight- and size-focused. When I passed the exam to become a registered Dietitian, I was pregnant with my 9-year-old daughter and working for the WIC Program. I felt (and received the message from diet-culture) that in order to be the best dietitian-mom I could be, that meant I had to feed my daughter
in such a way that modeled “health” (and then, by proxy, made me a “better parent”). So I did ALL the things: I became very particular about what we ate, how my daughter’s food was prepared, made sure she was fed according to my “standards” when she was in someone else’s care, etc. She never had access to things like juice, soda or fun foods simply because I believed they were not “healthy” for her, and so I didn’t purchase them for our house. I labeled things as “junk food” or “healthy food” and made sure she knew the difference so she could understand why mommy chose to feed her the way that I did. Over the years, I received a lot of praise for the way I parented her. People would say things like, “Your kids eat so healthy! I wish my kids would eat like that.” It became part of my identity; I was the “healthy” mom who really strived to make sure her kids had access to the best nutrition available. I have to pause here and acknowledge my own privilege in my ability to feed her the way that I chose to. I had the financial means and time available to me to cook homemade meals for her, to buy the more expensive foods that I deemed healthier, and to not have to worry about where the money to purchase those foods would come from. However, when my daughter entered kindergarten, things began to change. She started asking me why she couldn’t have things like Fruit By The Foot in her lunchbox like her friends, or why I would never allow her to get hot lunch from school. Any celebration or party where food was present, I would find my daughter downing as much juice, soda or fun foods as she possibly could, as she never knew when she would have access to it again. A couple years ago, I stumbled across Christy Harrison’s Podcast FoodPsych, and my mind was blown. The more research I did into Health At Every Size and the more I took a look at my own biases, the more I realized that I had been creating a negative relationship with food for my daughter. I had also grown up in a body size that was considered “normal,” and for a long time, though I never realized it, I believed that my body size and shape was a result of the way I chose to feed myself. Ever since I can remember, my mother had lived in a body that was deemed slightly
larger by cultural normative standards. And while I never remember my mom having a strained relationship with food, her dislike of her body was always a present part of the conversation. She used to elevate my body shape and size while demeaning her own. And while it was done from a place of her wanting me to know how beautiful she thought I was, the message I received was that my body size was good and hers was bad. So, as you can imagine, that became a strong piece of my identity. I was the “healthy” dietitian mom, who, because of her lifestyle choices had a culturally desirable body. And knowing what I know now, that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
Hardest Part of My Journey
I think the hardest part of my journey has been twofold. First, knowing that I had been (unknowingly) setting the stage for my daughter to have a very complex and strained relationship with food and her body really scared me. Thankfully, this did not end up having any long-term effects for my daughter, but it could have. Second, as I’ve gotten older and had more children, my body has changed. It is beginning to change and resemble my mother’s current body type, which at times feels difficult because for so long I was taught that her body type was undesirable. Thankfully, this shift in my body has come at a time where I have really made peace with food and even built a business on the principles of Intuitive Eating, Health At Every Size and Weight Inclusivity, so coping with the change did not have the same effects as it may have, say, 10 years ago.
Not Spoken About Enough
I feel that we need to have more conversations around addressing our own biases as healthcare providers with regard to the subjects of weight and health. In the professional milieu that I work currently, there is controversy with regard to the practice of Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size. It seems that, generally speaking, the idea of eating what you want and learning to listen to your body sounds good, but I face a lot of resistance to this way of practicing when the “issue” of weight and health is in question. One example of this is working with clients in recovery
...know that there is another way and an entire community of health and helping professionals practicing evidenced-based treatment that doesn’t seek to “fix” someone’s body size, but celebrate it.”
from an eating disorder. I sometimes receive pushback from either the clients, the family members, or other helping professionals when we are broaching the topics of weight, weight restoration or nutritional rehabilitation during their recovery process. It can be hard to convince someone with a strong internalized weight bias that a patient’s set point, or point at which they are fully weight-restored or nutritionallyrehabilitated may not fall within the nice and neat “normal BMI” range. The issue then becomes about “fixing” that person’s weight, rather than respecting and fully re-nourishing that person’s body. And I have a real problem with treating those that live in larger bodies with less aggressive eating disorder treatment than those that live in smaller bodies. The idea that smaller-bodied folks can practice intuitive eating and listen to their bodies, but larger-bodied folks can not and should be forever “watching their portions” or their weight is discrimination, plain and simple. And I’m not here for it.
Advice If You Can Relate
I know for myself, for a long I didn’t feel like there was space for me as a Registered Dietitian because, in addition to eating the “healthy foods,” I also included and had a normal relationship with foods that are considered not as “healthful” by societal standards. I felt I had to hide that about myself to be an effective dietitian. But when I discovered the treatment of eating disorders and the Health At Every Size way of practicing, I finally felt like there was a space for me. It strengthened my confidence as a professional in this field, and finally made me feel capable enough to open up a private practice on my own. So my advice to others who feel at a loss in this weight-focused, health-centric diet culture: know that there is another way and an entire community of health and helping professionals practicing evidencedbased treatment that doesn’t seek to “fix” someone’s body size, but celebrate it.
Why I Became A RDN
Initially what inspired me to become a RDN was my interest in health and nutrition. I find it so interesting to learn about how food interacts with the body for different outcomes. In the beginning my understanding on food and body was more wrapped into diet-culture, and I was drawn to this idea that we could “control” our own health outcomes based on our nutrition. Later on, I was humbled to learn that the process of wellness and health is not as black and white as I once thought it to be, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to continue to learn and grow this understanding and to teach it to others. What satisfies me about my career is being a part of people’s journeys to healing and self-appreciation. We are all influenced by diet culture, and I think it’s fair to say that we are all (at some point) strained in our relationship between our food and/or our body. To be able to offer a bit of permission to not “do it perfectly” with regard to food, movement, weight, shape or size has been the greatest gift of all to my clients, and also to myself.
I am forever thankful to all the Health At Every Size, Body Positive, and Weight Neutral helping professionals who have influenced my journey. If I could let each and every one of them know how big of a part they played in my own journey, both personal and professional, it would be an honor. I would like to mention just a few of the names who have inspired me to become the strong and influential dietitian and business owner I am today. Thank you so much to Christy Harrison, Anna PeabodySweeney, Marci Evans, Jennifer Gaudiani, Haley Goodrich, Virgie Tovar, Ragan Chastain, Tiffany Roe, the Multiservice Eating Disorder Association (MEDA), Karin Lewis, Amanda Bullat of Alpine Nutrition, Hillary Kinavey, Dana Sturtevant, Anna Lutz, Jesi Haggerty, Jes Baker, Fiona Sutherland, Fiona Willer, Jennifer Rollin, Isabel Foxen Duke, Lisa Dubreuil, Kara Harbstreet, Louise Adams, Summer Innanen, Linda Bacon, and Jennifer McGuirk: your work and presence in this community has truly inspired and given me the courage to pursue my dream.
Men and Women are Equally Subject to Eating Disorders Words by Dr.Jake Linardon @break.binge.eating About Dr.Jake
I am a 27 year old Research Fellow at Deakin University, Australia. My work is centred around evaluating and testing a range of different treatment approaches for eating disorders. I am very passionate about this topic, and I hope that I can help as many people as possible through my work. I grew up in Melbourne Australia. I have many different hobbies, including watching Australian Rules Football, watching movies, hanging out with friends, going out for dinner, and going for walks.
Education on Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are characterized by dysregulated eating patterns and body image concerns that profoundly impact a person’s health and wellbeing. There are many different “types” of eating disorders, but the three common ones we typically here about are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Although these eating disorders are different in several important ways, they also share many similarities, including an intense preoccupation with weight and shape, restrictive eating practices, and anxiety around food and eating. In addition, all of these eating disorders are very debilitating to the individual, in that there are associated with many different medical, psychological, and social complications. The most common eating disorder is bingeeating disorder, followed by bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. It is important to note that whereas the sex split of bingeeating disorder are roughly similar for men and women, the sex split for the other two eating disorders are very female-dominated.
Hardest Part of Recovery
In my opinion, the hardest part of recovery is trying to change a person’s attitudes and thoughts about their weight and shape. This is because these attitudes tend to be so entrenched in the person, lasting several decades, that it can almost be impossible to break out of. It is much less difficult to modify people’s behaviour (e.g., stop their binge eating), but if we aren’t successfully able to modify their underlying thoughts about their body, then there is a good chance that the maladaptive behaviours will return once again. This is why in treatments for eating disorders we spent a great deal of time trying to attend to the person’s perceptions, attitudes, and feelings towards the self and the body. There are several evidence-based techniques we can use for this, including cognitive restructuring, self-monitoring, and value clarification.
I think the increasing prevalence of eating disorders in men is something that is largely neglected. There is a heap of research and clinical attention devoted towards studying and understanding eating disorders in women. I can’t say the same for men, although this is changing more recently. We know that rates of eating disorders and body image problems in men are increasing at rapid rates of the past decade, so much so that some eating disorders are starting to become male-dominant. Hopefully as time goes on, we have more effective treatments for men with eating disorders.
Stepping Into Recovery
I would say you need to give it your absolute best shot. Recovery is possible, but your best chance it recovery is if you devote most of your time, energy, and focus towards the therapeutic process. Do the recommended homework prescribed by your therapist, practice the techniques you learn in therapy, and keep on finding new and innovative ways to challenge the eating disorder mindset. Over time, this will get easier, and you will realize that you will be able to break free from it permanently.
Why I Choose To Bring Awareness
Good question! I feel that I have a lot of important research, knowledge, and information to share. And I think the best way to do this is via social media. The purpose of the instagram page is to spread awareness and offer brief self-help tips for someone fighting with eating and body image problems. As an academic, it can be hard to reach populations with information other than my colleagues. So, I thought what better way to do this is to create an Instagram page. It’s been great so far, I have had a lot of positive feedback and people seem to be loving the posts.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak out about this issue! It’s an important topic that I am very passionate about. My goal is to help as many people as possible with these types of problems, and I am grateful for platforms like these that help me speak out.
We know that rates of eating disorders and body image problems in men are increasing at rapid rates of the past decade, so much so that some eating disorders are starting to become maledominant.
Emotional Eating business page: Carolyn Coker Ross MD @the_anchor_program
Carolyn Ross MD @carolyncrossmd PODCAST â€“ carolynrossmd.com/podcast
Particularly, emotional eating is so very common, but not very well understood so I wanted to delve into what causes emotional eating and how best to understand and treat it. About Dr. Ross I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. My grandfather was my inspiration for becoming a doctor as I “worked” in his medical office ever summer from age 8. I went to medical school at University of Michigan and then later did a residence in Preventive Medicine at Loma Linda University. I’m the mother of 3 sons and have 1 granddaughter who is 18. In the past, I’ve been an avid windsurfer and snow skier. I also love reading mystery novels, traveling and finding great restaurants on my travels.
Why I Created “The Emotional Eating Workbook”?
food is used to deal with pain, emotions and the past I feel that the connection between early life adversity and eating issues is not spoken about enough. As well, we are just learning about how trauma that goes back 2-3 generations can also impact a person now. For example, people whose grandparents survived the Holocaust show signs of psychic numbing (numbing their emotions) for example that is passed thru the generations. The same can be true about the legacy of slavery or racial oppression with coping behaviors such as drinking or using drugs to numb emotions persisting across generations.
Signs To Look For
I have been working with people with food and body image issues for many years now and noticed how much time and energy people with these issues spend worrying about what to eat, how much to eat, stress eating and worrying about their appearance. Particularly, emotional eating is so very common, but not very well understood so I wanted to delve into what causes emotional eating and how best to understand and treat it.
Some of the signs are: obsessing about food or your body, feeling out of control around food, inability to control cravings, spending lots of time and energy thinking about their bodies or about food (sometimes up to 80%!), having lots of negative thoughts about your body or being embarrassed or having emotional distress about how much you’re eating, feeling judged by others for how you look.
I feel very blessed to get emails from people about how the book has helped them understand what they are going through and validates their feelings.
The most important thing to know is that there is help and hope. So reach out to an expert in eating disorders to get help. There are many books on the market (such as mine) that can also help. I also offer a free consult with people to help them find resources and they can book this Through my website: https://AnchorProgram.com
The chapters about the 5 levels are my favorite as this summarizes what someone has to do over time to really be in a strong recovery. You can find Dr.Ross’ book on www.amazon.com or on YouTube, reviewed by Kate Noel.
Emotional Eating & Eating Disorder Emotional eating is a type of disordered eating but is not recognized as an eating disorder by the medical establishment.
Consistency of Those w/BED The vast majority of the people I work with who have BED, food addiction or emotional eating have some history of adversity or trauma in their lives. They may have experienced abuse (sexual, physical or emotional) or have come from families that were troubled – a parent with addiction or their own eating / body image issues or domestic violence or a parent with a mental illness. Also neglect is a big one especially for those with BED. There can be bullying or just feeling you’re unloved or unloveable.
It Isn’t About The Food. I think one big misconception is that these disorders are about food. They are not about food, they are about how
Dealing with Strong Negative Feelings
My Advice To Loved Ones The best thing a family member or loved one can do is NOT TO JUDGE them. To listen to what they are feeling. Share any observations you’ve had, share your concerns in a non-judgmental way and support them in getting help when they are ready. You might say something like: “I’ve noticed that you’re not coming to family dinners anymore. Has that been difficult for you?” OR “I’m here to listen whenever you’re ready to talk.”
Is There Hope For Me, As Someone with an Eating Disorder? Absolutely! It takes time and some work to find the root cause of your disordered eating and to learn new skills to cope with emotions, stress and the past. But it is doable and I’ve seen many of my patients develop healthy relationships with food.
Gratitude I want to thank my patients over the years who have been my best teachers. I also would like to thank my family for putting up with a “driven” physician / mother / sister / aunt.
Realizing the Strength Inside @Courtneyrose_recovers
Since I first went to treatment, I’ve always thought choosing to live, when I so badly wanted to end it, was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I still stand by that today. It’s definitely helped me recognize the strength inside of me. About Me My name is Courtney and I’m a 23 year old student from Michigan. I’m graduating this year with a Bachelor’s in Social Work, and I plan on getting my MSW directly after. I’m obsessed with dogs, love yoga, snowboarding, and traveling to new places!
My Journey I’ve had anxiety and low self-esteem for as long as I can remember. I was an extreme perfectionist and never thought I was good enough- not at sports, at school, at anything. I started restricting and over-exercising in middle school, and binging came later. My ED actually started with me just wanting to be “healthy,” but it quickly became an obsession that was the furthest thing from that. Social anxiety was a HUGE struggle of mine as well. I constantly thought people were looking at me, judging me, and it caused so much isolation. My family expressed concern often, but I was too embarrassed, ashamed and terrified to talk about it. I knew I had a problem, but I told no one, and suffered in silence until my mother found old suicide notes in my drawer. I spent the first half of my senior year of high school in and out of hospitals, refusing to admit that anything was wrong. I was finally sent to residential treatment, where I finally broke and started talking. I started talking about the all the pain and suffering I had been hiding for years. I talked about how badly I wanted to die. I talked about the social anxiety that kept me from leaving my house. I talked about the depression that left me in bed for days. And eventually, I talked about the eating disorder. It was a complete and total rollercoaster, but I’ve learned that’s how recovery is. After treatment, I did pretty well in recovery for a couple years, despite some struggles here and there. I went back to school and decided I wanted to major in social work. When I started my program at a new college, my anxiety greatly increased. Then I randomly started struggling with pelvic pain. I was in constant agony, but doctor after doctor couldn’t tell me what was wrong. The added stress of anxiety, poor body image, and most of all my medical issues, made up the perfect storm for me to relapse. All of my social anxiety came back, along with severe depression. In times of great stress and unpleasant feelings, I went back to the best thing I knew how to do: my eating disorder. With a lot of pushing and encouragement from my boyfriend, I finally decided to take a leave
of absence from school and checked myself in to another treatment program. It was just as terrifying and painful as before, but I got through it, and I will forever be grateful for all the help I received. I know what it’s like to feel helpless- to feel lost, broken, and see no way out. I’ve been in that darkness, and I’m here to tell you that it can get better. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t see it right now.
Bridging the Gap Between Have An ED & Getting Help To Recover It took a long freaking time. No one wants to have an eating disorder, but you just don’t know how to stop, and you can’t imagine your life without it. Shame is what kept me in my ED for so long. I felt so disgusting, pathetic, and embarrassed. I always felt weak showing emotion too, and in my head, asking for help made me a failure. When I relapsed a couple years ago, my boyfriend is what really pushed me to enter recovery again. I wanted a life and a future with him, and I knew I wouldn’t get that if I kept my eating disorder, because when you have an ED, you end up losing everything and everyone. When my eating disorder starts taking over my life, suicide feels like the only way out. I knew how badly it would hurt my boyfriend and family, so at times, that was my motivation.
Did The ED Seem Like It Served You? Absolutely. When something becomes your whole life, and especially for a long period of time, it becomes your identity. It feels like it has become WHO you are. I felt that if you took it away, there would be nothing left. And that’s a scary feeling to sit with. It’s terrifying to let go of the ED and give up the control. But once you start to, there’s a huge space in your life for new things. During recovery you start to explore yourself. Try new hobbies, go to new places, learn what you like and dislike. You’ll start to discover who you are and learn to live again. It feels terrifying, but it’s also a really exciting place to be.
How I Would Describe An Eating Disorder To Someone Who Has Never One I guess I would say it’s kind of like being a slave to your own mind. Imagine there being someone who has complete and total control of you. There’s a voice constantly bullying you, namecalling you, and controlling what you what you can and can’t do. You can’t disobey; you have no choice. You get to a point where you are living in hell and you do want to stop, but you can’t. I’s complete misery and I wouldn’t wish it on my
worst enemy. No one deserves to live in the hell that is an eating disorder.
The Cause For Me… Eating disorders are SO complex and caused by so many different factors. I would say a combination of perfectionism, low self-esteem, and underlying anxiety and depression were the main contributors for me.
Misunderstandings with EDs Gosh I could go on and on with this one! I think the biggest misconception is probably the stereotype of what they “look” like. You cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at them. A vast amount of people struggling are of a “normal” or “above average” weight. They effect people of all races, genders, sexualities, ages, and of course, body sizes. Not everyone with an eating disorder is an extremely thin girl with anorexia, despite what the media likes to portray. Some with eating disorders don’t even struggle with restriction. This stereotype is horrible, because it prevents so many from accessing treatment. A lot of people are afraid to ask for help because they don’t “look” like they have an ED. Even sometimes when I share with someone that I’m in recovery, a common response is, “Well good for you, you look super healthy now!” They mean it as a compliment but it’s not. I could be really struggling, but because I “look” healthy, people think you’re cured. Another huge misconception is that it’s all about food and weight. Eating disorders are so complex and the causes go so much deeper than that. It’s not just a diet, and we can’t “just eat.” *eye roll*
Getting Help Qualifying A Therapist I’ve had a TON of therapists in the past 5 years. It can be really difficult to find someone you clique with, and that’s completely normal. Therapists know this, and they won’t be offended. It’s really exhausting having to go through the process of trying a new one over and over again, but it’s worth it! Being comfortable and having a good relationship with your therapist is so crucial for your treatment. For someone struggling with an ED, it’s also extremely important to find a treatment team who specializes and has experience in the field of eating disorders, because so many lack the knowledge needed to treat this population.
Who Supported Me My therapist for sure. You have to learn how to reframe and rewire your brain, and that takes a lot of work. My boyfriend was insanely helpful as well. He’s been my biggest support and motivator, and I’m incredibly grateful for him.
Hardest Part of Recovering One of the hardest parts is dealing with whatever is causing the ED in the first place. For me, when you take away the ED, I’m left with severe anxiety and depression. I’ve had to learn how to go about my life and face these struggles, without resorting back to my eating disorder. I’ve had to learn how to have a bad day, and not use an ED behavior to cope with it. It’s like learning how to walk again.
Body image is another HUGE struggle in recovery, and I think for most, it’s the last part to go. It’s hard to attempt recovery when you’re surrounded in the diet culture we live in, where every other person is on a diet, or obsessing over their body. Learning about diet culture, Health at Every Size (HAES), fatphobia, and intuitive eating really opened my eyes to the insane culture we live in. It is truly mind-blowing. Getting angry at the patriarchy and diet culture in our country has actually been a key point in my recovery.
Advice To Those In Secret About Their ED or Struggling I would tell them to start talking, even though it feels impossible. Talk to a close friend, family member, teacher, or try a crisis hotline or online chat. I would tell them that I know how terrifying it feels to think about letting go of your ED, but you are truly stronger than you think. I can’t lie and say that it will be quick or easy, but I can
promise that it will be worth it. No one looks back years later and thinks, “Wow, I wish I would have kept my eating disorder.” I know how hopeless it can feel when you’re at the bottom, but recovery IS possible, and you do have the strength inside of you. You deserve to LIVE, and a life with an ED is no life at all. You deserve freedom. Take that jump, you won’t regret it.
Mindset Change Recovery has really shown me that I have a voice, and I deserve to be heard. I deserve to take up space in this world. It’s taught me self-compassion, which is a work in process, but is so crucial to finding happiness. It’s opened up my whole world, honestly.
Realizing the Strength Inside of Me Since I first went to treatment, I’ve always thought choosing to live, when I so badly wanted to end it, was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I still stand by that today. It’s
definitely helped me recognize the strength inside of me. I am passionate about this topic, and part of me wants to work in this area, but I have a lot of different interests, so who knows! I’m not sure where life will take me, and right now I’m just trying to enjoy the journey.
Closing Words I used to spend a lot of time feeling angry and full of regret that I spent most of my life struggling with mental illness. I’ve learned to find gratitude for my journey, because it made me into the person I am today. I’m also really grateful that I started my recovery page on Instagram. I never saw it going where it has and it’s amazing to receive messages from others struggling, telling me how much I’ve helped them. I used to have so much anxiety that I could barely speak, and now here I am spreading awareness and using my voice to make a change in this world. It truly is crazy to think of how far I’ve come.
Eating Disorder @itsfitmadiwilson
Its Fit Madi Wilson
In the middle of writing this I called my dad and my step mom picked up. I told her what I was doing and I started to cry. I opened up and told her how grateful I am for her and my dad. I am so grateful that I made it here today. I wish I could go back and hug my younger self and tell her that it is going to be ok. ED was the hardest thing I’ve faced so far but living in recovery is the best thing I’ve ever done. About Madi Everyone says “I’m not other girls” but I think I am pretty “basic” in what I like. I love playing with make-up, swimming (I was on swim team for 10+ years), doing crafts, making youtube videos and hanging out with the people I love. I went to 6 different schools in high school all around Washington. From Bellevue to MossyRock, North Bend, Renton. With moving all around and never having a true home growing up, it was really hard to make friends but I’ve finally settled near Seattle, WA and have made a lot of new, great relationships.
My Journey From a little girl I had constant pressure to lose weight. I didn’t know what being healthy even meant, I just knew that skinny = happiness (which it doesn’t, I PROMISE) My mom was always on some diet, low fat, no fat anything, just shakes to diet plans to having ‘cheat meals’ (that was just her eating when something bad or good happened) I thought that was just the norm. From being in a swimsuit 1-4 hours a day on swim team, I felt so much pressure to be skinny. On top of moving around so much and feeling so out of control, I started to control my food intake. I wasn’t happy and again, I thought if I could be skinny, I would be loved/happy. These huge cheat meal my mom and I did (binging) was something I started wanting more and more. Things were hard, very hard, growing up and I thought that food would make me happy too. (It doesn’t) But I HAD to be skinny. It was a battle in my mind so I started throwing up a few meals here and there but then it turned into a few times a day and then to full days of
binging and purging. Up to 20+ times a day. All living in secret. This was my little secret. Something I could control. Something for ‘me’. This ‘me’ time ruined my life. I lost friends, I stopped talking to family. The only thing I had was ED/ MIA (eating disorder/bulimia) and they liked it like that. I still don’t know how I let go. ED was all I had but a small voice got me into treatment at 18 years young. I learned so much and I am so proud of myself for making that decision and my story doesn’t end here. After living at the treatment center for awhile, I thought MIA was gone. Everyone told me that eating disorders are always with you but I truly thought that I was “fixed”. I wasn’t purging anymore but binging became my daily norm. I was in a mentally abusive relationship and went to food for answers. I gained 100lbs in just three years after being in a treatment center. I was so depressed. I started therapy again and it helped so much. I finally learned that HEALTH is what matters and that is when it really clicked for me. I wanted to lose weight the RIGHT way this time, to feel better, to live longer. I wanted to give myself food that made me feel good. After losing weight, I started sharing my weight loss story on Instagram. But now I share about body positivity, mental health, PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) the good and bad about everything I go through. I should of listened when I was in treatment, eating disorders are always with you. You have to keep in recovery. You have to talk things out, feel your emotions, use your coping mechanisms (reading, crafts, games, journaling, whatever works for you) and be honest with yourself.
“Did you ever feel that your eating disorder served you and helped you? “ ED was my #1, it made me feel not alone. It thought it was helping me, that it was there for me but with a recovery mindset, I know it was an abusive relationship. I wanted control in my life but then ED took control over me. Realizing that I don’t have to be in control is OK and that health and living a healthy, balanced lifestyle makes me truly happy, not ED. (Those Thoughts) Affected my recovery because I thought I was alone again. I didn’t know who I was without ED. I had to find myself again and that took a lot of time. I am truly grateful that I realized other people, like my family, were really there for me. I just didn’t see or know it because of ED.
Having An Eating Disorder Is Like... Having someone constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough but if you do what I want you to do, you will be. But the cycle never ends. To have no control over anything you do. You want to go hang with your friends? Well you can’t because you have to stay home and binge and purge. Want to just have 1 slice of cake? NOPE, ED will make you eat it all. With MIA, after you have that whole cake, you won’t be able to do ANYTHING else until you purge. It is a toxic, abusive relationship, in your mind! It is a constant battle.
Cause Of ED For Me • • • • • • •
Having a hard childhood Not having stability Not being taught balance Black and white thinking Swim team Media pressure Comparison
Shame & Guilt I don’t feel shame or guilt towards my ED anymore. I believe being open and honest about the struggles and recovery takes the power away from ED.
Misconceptions I’ve heard people say that only young girls get eating disorders but anyone and everyone could have an eating disorder. In my treatment center we had people of all ages and genders getting help. I’ve also heard that ‘you have the choice to have an ED and you just need to stop” It is a mental health issue, it doesn’t just go away, you can’t just STOP. The thoughts will be there and it is something you have to keep working on and good news, it does it easier to manage.
Getting Help: Qualifying A Therapist I always pick a health professional based off if I be open and honest and feel like I can trust them. To me, a first appointment is like a first date, it doesn’t mean that I am going to marry that person. It is ok to date around and find someone that works for you.
My Supporters. I want to give a special thank you to my dad and stepmom. I never thought they were there for me but when I opened my eyes and pushed ED out of the way, they were there. They didn’t have to say anything, them just being there, driving me to meetings after getting out of inpatient treatment, it still means the world to me and I will be forever grateful.
Finding Myself The hardest part was finding myself. What did I actually like? Who did I want to be? Also, setting my boundaries and realizing I had to deal with
emotions when they happened. I can’t just turn to food to ‘fix’ my problems. Feeling and coping with emotions is something I am still working on today and that is ok.
Advice To You You are not a burden. You matter. Your life matters. You can live in peace. It’s not going to be easy but it is worth it.
My Mind Has Changed The fact that I can think about things other than food is amazing to me. I don’t have to live my whole day thinking when my meal is or when I can be alone again so I can binge and purge. It is freedom that I never thought was possible. I am able to solve problems with a clear head. I am able to be present. I am in a beautiful, healthy relationship. I’m not perfect, no one is, but I am the happiest I have ever been.
I Learned... I learned I am a fighter. I learned I can keep
going. I can trust myself and that has helped me in work, with family, friends, everything. I learned I can share all my hardships to inspire other people. I finally know what I want to do, which is to help people.
Great Appreciation. In the middle of writing this I called my dad and my step mom picked up. I told her what I was doing and I started to cry. I opened up and told her how grateful I am for her and my dad. I am so grateful that I made it here today. I wish I could go back and hug my younger self and tell her that it is going to be ok. ED was the hardest thing I’ve faced so far but living in recovery is the best thing I’ve ever done. I also want to thank my followers on instagram, I have never received so much support in my life. I love the community we’ve made! Lastly, thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you got something from this and remember, you can do anything you set your mind to.
The Power of Body Jana Reck @powerofbodyposi
Reading about things like intuitive eating etc. made me open my eyes and at one point I remember feeling relieved. Relieved because I could let go of the food-guilt, the stretchmarksshame and my insecurity most of all.”
About Jana I’m 21 years old and I live in a small country called Belgium. I’m a student at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), where I am getting my masters degree in Psychology. I also already have a bachelors degree in Applied Psychology. When I’m not studying, I’m probably hanging out with my boyfriend. We have pretty much the same interests, like (playing) basketball, video games, eating, etc. Besides that, I also like to cuddle with my cat and hang out with my family and friends.
My Journey, My Story As long as I can remember, I’ve always felt bad about my body. Puberty came early for me which means I was one of the first girls in my environment to get my period, have breasts and gain some weight. This always made me compare myself to all the other girls around me and noticing I was different. I remember going to the doctor every
once a year and always feeling so bad afterwards because he took my weight and it was more than I wanted it to be. I hated to go shopping and see myself in the mirror of the changing room, with my cellulite and hip dips (as they’re called apparently). My days were ruined for the size 36 I wanted to fit in, but didn’t. I would hate myself because I was getting stretch marks all over my body and it made me feel disgusting and ugly. Why? Those things weren’t what I saw on other girls, on my idol in the magazine I bought every week and later on almost every girl I saw on my social media. I’ve wasted so many days feeling bad, where instead I could celebrate everything I was achieving in my life – and focus on what I still wanted to achieve. But those things seemed to be less important for me than what my body looked like. Not until I came across body positivity posts on Instagram, at least. They just kept popping up on my
exploring page. Seeing other people deal with the same thing I was dealing with for so long, made me feel like I found a safe place. A place where other people share their thoughts, experiences, authentic pictures and interesting facts about diet-industry. I’ve came such a long way because of body positivity. I’ve grown and I’ve learned so much already, and I still am (yes, also with off-days). The effect on my mental health has already been huge, which I find very important. I know what body positivity and self-love were able to do to me already. I think there are still a lot of people unfamiliar with body positivity, who could benefit from it a lot. I want to reach them and others already on the journey and I want to be a part of their journey, even if it’s small.
Letting Go Of What Didn’t Positively Serve Me I think the hardest part for me was letting go of all these “facts” and “rules” I had learned but never knew were biased by the diet-industry. It was hard to start doubting what I already knew because it’s what I had been taught my whole life?! “We don’t HAVE to be a size 36?” “We CAN just eat whatever we want??” Reading about things like
intuitive eating etc. made me open my eyes and at one point I remember feeling relieved. Relieved because I could let go of the food-guilt, the stretchmarks-shame and my insecurity most of all.
Advice If You Can Relate Being on the journey of self-love and body positivity doesn’t mean you’ll never have a bad day/moment again. I have them, still quite a lot. Old thoughts still pop up when I’m shopping or see my stretchmarks. But I just give them less power. With everything I’ve learned, it’s easier to let go of them. I know better know. I’m still learning. Don’t feel bad when you realize any of the diet-industry-thoughts of feelings run in your mind.
Gratitude & Continuation of My Journey I’m so grateful for everything I was already able to do in my life and I’m so excited for everything I still want to do. I’ve noticed that there’s now room free in my mind to think about what’s important, since I’m able to let go of my old thoughts. There’s so much more to life than what you look like. YOU are more than what you look like. I’m glad I realized it. Right now, I’m trying to make the most of every day and I feel like I’m going the right way. My journey continues…
Crazy, Alone, or Pathetic. @chloelsouter
About Chloe I’m currently living with my family in Oxfordshire, but I’m originally from the Isle of Wight, where everyone should visit! (I’m bias, but it’s my favourite place)z I work for a jewellery and accessories company, in the head office. I have pretty simple, probably boring hobbies! I go to the gym, which has become a main thing in my life. I nap a lot, after laying under a blanket looking at photos of sausage dogs online (for about an hour) and adore going for coffee; on my own or with friends, depending on how social my mood is.
You’re not pathetic, you’re not crazy, you’re not annoying, and you’re definitely not alone.”
It’s a pretty long ol’ story but I’ve always hated my body, always. I’ve never remembered a time of looking in the mirror and being even a little bit ok with what was looking back at me. I always knew I was more obsessed than my friends, and tortured myself by worrying I was a narcissist or something. It’s always been a constant worry of how I look, how much fat is on my body and how people will see me. I pretty much dealt with it in the background for years, then when I was 18 I was diagnosed with chronic pelvic pain and possible endometriosis. I wouldn’t want anyone to look at or touch my abdomen or legs, aaand I was promptly referred to a therapist. We spoke for a while about my thoughts on my body, and I finally fully opened up to someone about my struggles with food, and my battle with purging. Food was always the enemy, because of course, I only associated food with getting fatter.. She explained what BDD was and diagnosed me with both BDD & Obsessive thoughts/ OCD (I never even knew it could be about more than cleaning!) and I finally felt like I was getting somewhere! It was amazing to find out that my thoughts were thoughts that so many others have about
themselves, and that I wasn’t a crazy narcissist. I still look at my body and want to cry, and live in baggy jumpers (comfy and covering, what more could you want?!) but I know what is wrong with me (ish), and I have an actual name for it. I eat in public more than I used to, because I’ve starting to teach myself that people aren’t staring at my waistline while watching every bite I eat, making it expand beyond belief! My therapist gave me coping mechanisms for bad thoughts, but she wanted me to see someone on a weekly basis, but unfortunately my referral was rejected, so now I’m on my own! Having a social media platform focused on mental health and chronic illness is like a whole new therapy! Knowing other people can relate to the same things as me, makes BDD a lot less of a lonely place. I’m also not very good at talking about myself, so excuse my ramblings!
Hardest Part Of My Mental Health Journey
My constant battle with my mind! I don’t think anyone truly recovers from mental illness, you just learn ways of coping with it. The hardest part is probably that the thoughts don’t stop. I’m always looking for ways to hide my body, by sitting with a pillow or crossing my legs into some weird pretzel shape so people can’t see their true size! It’s so consuming. Sometimes I will cancel plans because I look too fat, which sounds crazy, but it’s all I can think about! We all have good days and bad days, sometimes we have mostly bad! So that’s probably the hardest part, but I’m working on it! Going to the gym helps a lot, it sounds cliché but it gives me something to focus on, and build confidence etc.
Misconceptions of Body Dysmorphic Disorder That it’s not people being crazy or self absorbed! It’s a
horrible attack on yourself from your own mind everyday! If someone asks you I they look ok 10 times before going out, don’t tell them they’re annoyingly or silly! People with BDD, OCD and a lot of other conditions need to feel comfortable, and making them feel annoying or crazy will only make things worse!
Advice to You When I’m having a really bad day, my mother will tell me to list 5 things about myself. It’s something that I find so difficult, but she will stand and wait until I compliment something; even if it’s the vein on my right foot or something! It really helps, even though it sounds a little odd! But honestly just keep going, and stop being so hard on yourself. It will get better, you’ve just got to let it. I know it’s hard,, but you can fade the ugly words sometimes.
My Motivation In Life I have a job I love, wonderful family and great friends. I’ve met so many others with similar minds to me, a lot through social media in fact, but it’s nice to have a feeling of ‘community’. I know that can sound a bit lame but it’s so true. Knowing that I’m not alone and that there’s always someone to turn to, let’s me know that one day I might be better; and if I’m not I will still be ok!
Closing Words Mental illness is something I have in life, but it’s not all I have! I have dogs in my life, which already means it can be pretty great sometimes. As I said, my friends and family are great so they make life pretty bearable. Plus, I live in a world with pizza and blankets, so it’s not too bad. AlsoYou’re not pathetic, you’re not crazy, you’re not annoying, and you’re definitely not alone.
An Honest Take On My
Confidence Journey Beyza Nur Yürekten @beyza.yue
Beyza Nur Yürekten
Do not forget the fact that it all starts and ends in you, and you only.” About Beyza I’m a 20 year old girl, trying to learn german, who lives in Germany and just loves to create content, drawing and writing.
My Journey Ever since middle school, or even since I remember myself I had days when I was this confident, powerful, loud, noisy and just a very happy person, but also had days when I had no confidence, no self esteem, quite, emotional and just a sad person. I’m sure there will be people relating to this in the sense of, I didn’t know what to expect at what situation. Even to this day, I have days when I just am so confident and do what i want, but then this huge switch happens and I just feel like im the worst person on earth. As our time now, with social media, we always have this standard of beauty put in front of our eyes all the time, even when we are confident, seeing certain things does really effect. It did take me a while to really look at myself as a confident person. I sometimes feel like I am really not confident. But I like to look at in a way like ; yes, I do have insecurities, but they aren’t the tool for the person that I am. For me, feeling confident is not just how I look or how I do things. Being confident with my mindset and thoughts and rights and wrongs is something I will always be proud of. I am not confident in my body all the time, maybe even close to never. But I always try my best to make up for that with my confidence in my opinions and thoughts. I know that im doing my best to do good in this world. I know im trying my best. How did I learn to feel confident and feel better about myself? It took me a long time. I hated being the centre of attention at certain times, but now that I look back at it, I loved the attention at certain times too. I’m at the point in my life where everybody thinks that i figured everything about myself, my life, my choices, my dreams and my goals, but that’s not the case. I try to, but I didn’t. I have it hard to understand what I want sometimes. The easiest example regarding confidence “Do I want attention or do it not want attention?”. Do people need to approve me, my confidence in order for me to accept and approve myself too? Absolutely not. Nobody has a say in what you can feel about yourself. Experienced first hand, it’s so hard to live with what other people have to say about how you are as a person, it’s even harder to ignore them if you are someone who is constantly thinking and worrying about what other people had to say. As much as i love to show how proud I am with the person that I am today, sometimes it’s sad to look back and see the difference in my confidence throughout years. I was that student who changed more than 2 schools growing up. I was always that “new girl” in crowds. I remember being this extremely playful and happy kid during my first and second schools. My 3rd school change was during middle school, that was when I suddenly met with being an outsider, not fitting in and the first time I felt like I wasn’t good enough in any way shape or form. I was extremely new to the English language as well so nobody could even hold
became easier. Even though sometimes I would go back to my old mindset, I would turn that around and still try to see the light in it.
I’m Still Working At It and that Is Okay No matter how much I preach about loving myself and being confident, there will forever be a part of me just constantly questioning everything I do. It’s a forever journey. I wish that I could actually be nicer to myself in some situations and dont push myself way too hard. The thing I tend to do a lot is to push people who are trying to help me. I can see that they are trying to help me be confident but sometimes I feel overwhelmed and just push them away. proper conversations with me so they never tried. I remember so many moments in that school, that i wanted to run away and go back to where i came from. Ever since then, I always looked for validation. And then, started high school. As hard as it is to admit, I had the full confidence overdose in 1st year of high school. I was desperate for friends, fun and fitting in. I was just the “friend” that everybody needed in my eyes. That was until I had my extreme confidence drop in the 2nd year. The more people I let in, the more they dropped my down. That year made me fit so many hard stuff in a short period of time and i didnt even try to build it up the next year. The last year of high school was where i just let my mentality get to me and just watched my life become this weird mess in a matter of months. Now its been 2 years since I graduated, I’m having a very weird part of my life where I’m trying to figure things out and just build up what is broken. Journeys like this will never stop. You will always learn new things, you will grow as a person.
The Catalyst To My Self-Confidence My biggest move was to cut it out. Cutting the part of me who listened to what other people thought. It still affects me till this day, when I’m walking, if a person looks at me I can sometimes turn that into a huge other thing. Such as; “she thinks I’m fat” “she looked at me, do I look funny/ugly/weird”. This
constant mindset of looking down upon myself was just very tiring. Starting my Youtube channel has been helpful with my confidence as well. I used to panic a lot when I thought about the idea of people I knew from school or my family would make fun of me for my videos, but it all changed completely when I saw that my family members are excited to see me do things, and open and watch my videos and show other members of the family proudly, really gave me so much confidence and more joy to do what I do.
The Shift In Mindset Loving myself was something I always tried to do. Even trying that was a huge step for me in the first place. I didn’t have much respect to myself and looked down on myself. I hated it when someone came up to me when i looked a bit sad and said “What happened again you look sad, just live life, be happy, love yourself” I have always been the type of person to do things only when I set my mind to it. And trying to love myself and be confident was not one of them, or even close to it. I was convinced that life was going, the way that i hated myself, was always mad at people, always complained. But at the end, that’s not how I wanted to live my life. I wanted to be able to look at the things I do and say “I’m doing well” or look back at the things I did and say “ I did well”. And then I tried my best to look at the good and better things in life, the things that I did that made me happy and saw my mindset change, accepting myself
The time also has been going so fast for me recently and i sometimes can’t pick up on what’s happening. My feelings, my thoughts go by so fast and suddenly, a lot of things passed and i didnt do anything I wanted to do. For myself or for anything else.
Advice To You If You Relate Take your time! Do not forget the fact that it all starts and ends in you, and you only. I always say this, if you want something to happen, no one else can make it happen other than yourself. Everyone will have something to add, and maybe you will rely on what other people will or has to say. You can listen to it forever, but it won’t happen unless you start trying or want it to happen. It’s never an easy thing, not a one night thing and it can be hard. But just because it didn’t happen fast, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Never give up. Hold on to your wishes, dreams, goals.
Words To Remember Trust. Have trust in yourself and then there is nothing you can’t do. Proud. Feel proud for the things you’ve done first before you worry about the things you didn’t do. Patience. Have patience for the things that you dream of and forget about giving up because of the matters and reasons you create negatively. Respect. Have respect for your feelings, thoughts, pain, struggles because they are valid. Love. Have love towards yourself and for all.
KATE'S JOURNEY TO
@KATENOEL__ NEW PODCAST!! "TAKE THE CAKE" IS OUT NOW ON MAJOR PODCAST PLATFORMS!!
about me, Kate Noel.
journalism left Los
My Journey My eating disorder began in my childhood around age 13. I was a competitive cheerleader and gymnast for almost my entire childhood until I was 16, which I presume was a huge part of the development of my diet mentality and disordered eating. I felt a huge amount of body awareness and athletic pressure nearly everyday before I even hit puberty. And not to mention the crop top/miniskirt/fake hair/tons of makeup uniforms we just had to sport! It was fun, but in hindsight, I wish I would have stuck with soccer!
My eating disorder started of with restriction, but quickly led to other behaviors like bulimia and
The shame and guilt that hold you back from opening up are not from your healthy mind, they are from your eating disorder mind.
laxative abuse, which became more and more a part of my daily life. In my isolation, I kept my ED from everyone, which perpetuated the isolation and caused me to mis-treat my parents, and become a party-hard teen who used alcohol and experimented with drugs. The bulimia wrecked me mentally and physically. I ended up seeing a gastroenterologist for my weak digestive system, having tons of tests, blood work and a colonoscopy performed. I failed to notify my parents or my GI doctor that I had an
Did These Thoughts Help Me? (ED Serving Me) I think some days it helped me recover, while other days it kept me from recovery. I knew my eating disorder was bad all along, and it wasn’t my friend. But the compulsion and routine of having the control in my life really kept me feeling like I needed the behaviors.
eating disorder, so the doctor gave me an IBS
Describing An ED To Someone Who Has Never Had One
diagnosis and put me on a daily laxative. This is
Gosh, I have no idea. It’s different for everyone. For me, it felt like eating a perfect
essentially when I started to abuse laxatives and
diet and being thin enough would get me to my “best self”. I would have many
depend on stronger and stronger types with each
friends, career opportunities, and I would finally love myself. It was as if I couldn’t
month that passed.
see reality for what it was. Eating disorders talk to you like a terrible, convincing friend.
When I was 17, I met my now husband. For reasons I can’t exactly understand, I immediately felt I could
The Cause of An ED For Me
confide in him, and told him I was struggling with an
I think it started with some trauma and emotional stress. In cheer practice, the
eating disorder. Unfortunately, I only told him
things we did to make us better were exercising and performing the best. So when
enough to make him aware, but manipulated what I
I started feeling the pressures of my early teens that’s what I knew to turn to.
told him into something that was “a part of my past” not something I was currently struggling with. I went off to college after graduating high school, and continued to engage in behaviors daily. In university, I discovered juicing. It makes me cringe to think that something that was once a sweet treat to my childhood self began my orthorexia. I became obsessed with the wellness diet, kombucha and nature remedies before any of these things were all over high school. I remember brewing kombucha in my college dorm with my roommate in 2014! What a weirdo!! The orthorexia made me hate my laxative dependency even more, and I desperately wanted to have my menstrual cycle back. I started seeing a naturopathic doctor, who gave me pills and potions galore. As you can imagine, this was not great for my addictive personality.
In 2015, I moved to Los Angeles and began my
Did I Ever Feel Shame & Guilt Towards My ED? Every single day! I had a screensaver on my phone that said “DON’T DO IT!” (a message to myself to not binge and purge. It never worked.
Misconceptions About Being A Cry For Attention I am going to say what most others say, and I think that they’re a cry for attention. But even if they are, a cry for attention shouldn’t be dismissed. Everyone deserves help when they’re experiencing mental health battles.
Qualifying A Therapist I saw a therapist who specializes in eating disorders so I felt confident she would understand me. After seeing her for almost a year, I decided to go to ED treatment in an intensive outpatient setting for 12 weeks. I told my therapist I needed more support, and I felt it was the only thing that would really get me off the ED path. Now I see a dietician as well, who also specialized in eating disorders.
Who/What Helped Me During This Time?
modeling career. I quickly went down a severe
Treatment, surrounding myself with recovery everyday (through books, podcasts,
restriction path. Coincidentally, I became more and
social media), and telling people.
more successful as a model. A few years into the
Hardest Part of My Recovery Journey
extremely long hours of modeling, thinning hair, extreme fatigue, panic attacks, and dizziness, I hit rock bottom with my eating disorder and began recovery. By the grace of God I got my cycle back after a few months of weight restoring, and started to really feel alive again.
This Helped Me Bridge the Gap Between An ED & My Recovery... The relapse. The feeling of hopefulness that quickly turns to hopelessness in a matter of days. This feeling steals your victories, and I wanted to prevent that from happening after a few relapses for good.
Feeling Like Your ED Is Serving You
My career changed while I was in recovery. I was no longer represented by my agents, and was out of work. I felt very concerned with what my future would look like. The only thing that pushed me through this questioning was God. Plus, my body and mind were finally feeling fed and happy.
In Silence About Your Eating Disorder (Advice) Telling someone is the best thing you can do for your healthy self. It’s an act of service and love for your life that will become a bridge to discovering your true self. The shame and guilt that hold you back from opening up are not from your healthy mind, they are from your eating disorder mind. Fight it!
Mindset Change My outlook on life is completely shifted! I love people better, and I have found so many hobbies I love to do like reading, baking and making YouTube videos. I am a better wife, daughter, sister and friend. I also finally have a voice and passions
Of course during my eating disorder days I did feel it
that extend to others, instead of me only every focusing on myself. That gets
helped me. Through recovery and help I have
realized it was always a coping mechanism and
Blessing in the Storm
distraction from my deeper emotional distress steaming back to childhood. I was scared of letting
My eating disorder recovery is what fueled my YouTube fire! I started a YouTube
my eating disorder go because it felt like my
channel about recovery, and just last week also started a podcast (Take the Cake
autonomy. It was mine, and I was the master of it. In
with Kate Noel)! It is so exciting to finally feel a calling that aligns. I feel so
hindsight it was surely the master of me!
Thank you, Kate, for choosing to be vulnerable. You have stripped down your walls and allowed people in, which has served both you and others in the process. Keep going even when you feel afraid!,
Love, Kate Noel
ARTICLE DESIGN BY AUTUMN FARR
Eating disorder recovery, self-worth, and body-image.