What anorexia recovery looks like 2 years later

Eating disorder recovery during the holidays feels like swimming against the current. Pushing against the flow of people, friends, and family who all ride the desires of wanting and striving to eat better and live in better bodies.

The triggers at the holidays are exhausting for me. When I first entered anorexia recovery in 2014, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were excruciating because I was in the re-feeding phase. My body was learning how to accept and process food again, so I spent 12 weeks feeling swollen and ill. In 2015, I was focused on figuring out which holiday foods I loved, getting them on my plate, and noticing how I felt: “Am I hungry? Am I full? Do I like this turkey? Do I actually not like green bean casserole or am I just scared of it? Do I want some more mashed potatoes?Did I enjoy that gluten free pumpkin pie?”

///

This year, the food was easy. I know what I love. I am confident in the kitchen (borderline showing off my culinary skills), and I am publicly outspoken about there being no rules around food. A giant spread of good eats splayed in front of me causes no angst and I feel freedom to eat.

Yet the eating disorder that lives in my brain is pounding on the walls. I’ve written and talked about and advocated for food and body love all year long; I am learning, expressing, living and enjoying the freedom to eat and move intuitively without being bound by the rules and expectations of cultural norms. But the people with whom I share the holidays–from the friends in my Facebook feed to the family members sitting across from me at the dinner table do not feel freedom to eat and verbalize judgement of their bodies, the food on their plates, and the food being served. Constant chatter about pre-meal workouts, post-holiday cleanses, new year bodies, new and improved eating grows louder as the new year creeps closer.

The triggers are everywhere and it takes copious energy to remain strong against the flow of old thought and behavior patterns because they align with the current cultural… well, current. The eating disorder in my brain is casting doubt on everything I’ve learned in my two years of recovery. I know the truth about calories, food, and how the body works. I understand and believe the power my body has to be healthy without the need to control it. However, the old feelings of wanting to “just not eat” are strong; insecurities about my body shape and flaws are rising to the surface.

The thing about anorexia recovery, though, is I know too much now. Recovery has opened my eyes to what happens biologically and mentally to my body when I starve. To blatantly skip meals or snacks would be like running a red light on purpose. On the other hand the eating disorder is a sneaky  because it argues that I don’t have to skip eating altogether, I could just little by little put less on my plate or not eat every bite. It tells me that even though my stomach is growling, I’m actually not that hungry so eating less is okay.

///

I can’t control the anorexia voice; it just sort of inserts its opinions into my life without invitation. I can recognize it, though, and use my healthy voice to respond. I’ve worked hard the last two years to find and grow that healthy voice, and it has served me (and maybe you) well this holiday season. The following posts were born from that healthy voice as I was coping with triggers:

Why you’ll enjoy Thanksgiving dinner this year

You’re already in shape

What is self-love?

Resolution Revolution

What does healthy mean?

You guys, I’m tired. Each of these posts is me swimming against the current, and it takes lots of mental and emotional energy. Recovery has made me better, no doubt. At the same time, I am only two years into healing from a disease I’ve had for over 13 years. This is what recovery looks like for me. I’m doing awesome while at the same time living with the reality of an ongoing process of a mental illness.

 

Why, God, why?

I hear your cries of “Why, God, why?”
I feel your laments within the depths of your heart.
You wonder if I’m even listening let alone caring about the wiles of this world.

Please understand, my dear child, this is my world and my country too. It all belongs to Me. All that has happened and all that’s been lost; the injustice and death are my greatest grief. Don’t you trust I feel it too?

You cry out “Why?” and I say to you, Thou shall see what I will do.

Do I only get your hand and heart when life is grand and goes your way? When things are as you expect or understand? Will your faith remain with Me as I lay out my full plan?
Faith only matters when it’s tested and too hard to hold on. Will you? Straining and wiggling with a white knuckle grip or will you let go and let Me set you free? Free from the struggle and what you think you understand. I’m asking you, dear child, to please trust Me.

This season of time about which you lament and cry was harsh and wild and shocking and surreal. I know. “It’s too much to handle, dear God, why?” Sweet child, I don’t ask you to handle or deal. I ask you to listen, to trust what’s Real.

All those times I gave you space to breathe and fresh eyes to see; from the trip across the ocean, warmth in tropical air, to the solitude of your cabin at the grand mountain’s base, to the dawn of that Thursday morning in your bedroom silent and calm. All the family you hugged, the friends of cheer, to the new lives and new love born–I gave you blessings dear one, I promise I did. In the midst of the pain and the plan, I heard you. Don’t you trust Me?

Do you trust when branches are pruned that new and much fruit will grow? Do you trust that crushed grain will make fresh bread? Dear child, there’s pain in each cut and every thrash, it’s true, but the vine does not die, the grain does not become pulverized. Both bring life–one bears fruit and one of grain flour ready for the finest use. Do you trust My plan, My way to prepare you? To prepare this country? To prepare this world?

To know pain and despair is to know humility; with humility comes quiet wisdom to understand. Do you trust Me?

I hear your cries asking “Why, God, why?”
I’m pulling you close and say to you:
“Trust Me, sweet child. I love you, and thou shall see what I will do.”

Resolution revolution

It’s time for a New Year’s resolution revolution when it comes to body image and fitness. I’m already seeing the propaganda pump for diet programs and gyms, which are all basically subliminal messages telling you that you’re fat, you eat like shit, and you’ll be more valuable if sculpt your unhealthy self into a shiny new healthier you.

I call bull.

I am all for a healthy self, but not the way our culture defines health. Culture defines healthy as having a skinny, rockin’ bod that lives on protein and leafy greens. I define health as being connected with my body right now, listening and responding to what it’s asking for. No judgement. No restriction. No shame.

Of course I didn’t (couldn’t) do this without some help, without some guidance from someone who’s learned how to be connected and continually practices staying so. But I’ll get back to this in a minute.

///

Let this be the year that:

  • Instead of striving for the body you’ve always wanted, learn to love the body you live in today.
  • Instead of regimenting calories on diets and depriving yourself of food,  eat when you’re hungry; stop when you’re full. Eat the foods you like and try new foods; don’t eat foods you don’t enjoy.
  • Instead of focusing on losing weight, focus on reconnecting with your body.
  • Instead of jerking yourself around in the gym, be gentle with your body; show compassion to yourself by moving in a way that you enjoy.
  • Instead of scolding yourself into motivation with harsh and judgmental words, encourage yourself with kind words and positive perspectives.
  • Instead of listening to the noise of media, culture, and societal expectations, immerse yourself in quiet meditative practices.

///

Unplugging from the negativity of self-judgment (grounded in the external world) and reconnecting with your body (grounded internally in self-love) takes practice. It isn’t intuitive. I’m speaking from experience, and I’ve spent all of 2016 practicing with the guidance of Yoga with Adriene. WAIT… don’t click away.

If “yoga” got you all deflated, please understand that Adriene isn’t the twist-yourself-into-a-pretzel kind of instructor. Her mantra is “find what feels good.” She constantly guides her viewers to forget what they think they know about yoga and encourages focus on sensation over shape.  But the best aspect about her teaching is it’s rooted in connection and self-love. She’s 100% counter-cultural and that’s what I love about her.

I don’t do yoga for the workout. I do yoga for connection, meditation, and practice of self-love. The yoga mat is where I’ve learned to connect with my body and God; to speak kindness to myself; to learn how to breathe; to slow down; to be thankful for my body; to notice what my body can do (as opposed to what it can’t or what I wish it would).

///

This is the year for a resolution revolution. This is the year for reconnection. You choose how this looks for you, okay? Don’t listen to the media. Heck, don’t even listen to me. Reach inward and listen.

Peace and love for 2017, dear friends.

**If you’re interested in checking out Yoga with Adriene, I just signed up for her new Revolution series starting January 1. It’s free and all online, so you practice at your own pace, in your own space, and on your own schedule. It’s for all levels, all body types, all genders… so don’t be scared to try if you’ve never done it before.

 

 

What is self-love?

I am a hypocrite. In last week’s post I said the following:

Exercising compassion and love and grace for yourself is far more effective in achieving the body-love you want.

I meant what I said and still advocate for my point. However, the next day I sat in my therapy session in tears struggling to articulate how I could show grace and compassion to myself. How can I possibly invite you to engage grace and compassion (both elements of self-love) for yourself if I don’t do it in my own life. *sigh*

I’m sorry.

We’ve got to do this together, okay? I am going wrestle with it in this space and you can ponder for yourself as I’m breaking it all down.

///

First I have to figure out what these words truly mean; I often use them instinctively and purposely without connecting to my understanding of what they mean. In other words, I know what the words mean, but do I truly understand them and their differences when put into action? I don’t think so.

Grace: both a regard and act of undeserved favor; kindness, courtesy, clemency, protection, provision even though undeserved.

Compassion: “suffering with”; feeling the emotions of another (as in empathy) but with a desire to help.

Mercy: withholding harm or punishment (even though you have power or merit to cause harm or punishment). I threw in mercy because I need to understand how grace is the same or different than mercy.

I’ve had no mercy with my body–starving it, insulting it, punishing it, depriving it, abusing it, controlling it.  I’ve thrown ungracious insults at myself, labeling me as lame, ugly, fat, impatient, lazy, stupid, nerdy, dorky, slow, uncreative, undependable, unworthy, a bad friend, a bad mom, a bad wife… In all of this there is no room for compassion–the desire to actively show love to myself.

Are you with me still? Have you ever labeled yourself any of these things?

///

When I view from the outside how I’ve treated myself … as if I were to see someone treat another person the same way I treat myself, I would consider it abhorrent. I would also be (and have been) devastated seeing someone treating themselves in the same manner.

Ugh. Now the understanding is sinking in. And it’s really uncomfortable.

Okay, just like I’d want to step in and help someone who’s hurting because I feel their pain as I try to imagine how they might be feeling, then I need to feel the same for myself. Weird, but true.

I don’t have the power to do this on my own. So often the world–everything from subtle (and repeated) messages in the media, to underlying implications or expectations in Christian culture, to body language from acquaintances, to direct words or actions from colleagues, family and friends (often unknowingly), feeds the abhorrent lies and subsequent behaviors I place upon myself.

However, I remember that I am in this world, but not of the world. I belong to God. Never does He view me as the world or the people in this world view me, or how I view myself for that matter.  When I am a mess, God shows me grace, compassion, mercy and Love–usually through seemingly random happenings that leave me going “Whoa. That was a God thing.” So how do I show myself the same Love God shows me?

    1. I stay connected to Him. He reminds me that I am not “a bad” anything. Imperfect? Absolutely and beautifully, yes. But not bad.
    2. I acknowledge my emotions rather than judge them. If I am mad, sad, joyful, scared, goofy… then okay. No need to avoid, hide, chastise, justify or be ashamed of how I feel. I can just be in the feels.
    3. I rest. For me, resting involves clearing the calendar (maybe for the day, maybe for the month) and avoiding social media so I can eliminate both real and perceived expectations of what, who, and how I am “supposed” to be to the outside world.
    4. I figure out what I want or need and do it. Sometimes I just want to lie down; paint my nails with my daughter; experiment with new recipes in the kitchen; watch cat videos online; write a blog post; sit on the couch holding my husband’s hand; cry; pray; eat a cupcake; read my book; play Wii; have coffee with a friend… whatever it is. I connect with myself and oblige what I need with zero judgement, justification, or expectation to either “deserve” it or punish myself later for having done it (also known as “making up for it later”).

Self-love is fluid movement of grace, compassion, and mercy working together that derives and thrives from a deep understanding of yourself–of who you are are what you need–with zero judgement. Body-love is rooted in self-love. So my message last week still stands only this week it stands firmer!

How do you or could you show self-love in your own life, friends? I’d love to know in your comments.

You’re already in shape

You don’t need to “get into shape.”

You’re already in shape–your shape.

Forcing and fretting to fit into a different shape isn’t better because you change the original design. Nothing is better than the original you.

“But I’m all out of breath when I walk up the stairs or jog with my friend; I get so tired when I stand for too long. I need to be in better shape.”

My friend, you are experiencing what it feels like to be alive inside your own body. The breath you feel is your lungs working; the aches you feel are your muscles coming to life; the fatigue you feel is your body simply asking for rest. Nothing about being alive is bad or wrong.

There are no rules that say how far you have to go before you stop; there is no law that says you have to move in a particular way. Move in a way that feels good to you, that feels right for your body. Dance, stretch, run, walk, jump, roller skate; find movement in yoga, Tai Chi, Taekwondo, Karate; have fun with areobics, jazzercise, zumba; find challenge in climbing walls, mountains, and forest trails; find vibrancy in swimming, kayaking, canoeing, or water dancing. Each body likes and wants to move, but discover how you want to move for you.

Exercising compassion and love and grace for yourself  is far more effective in achieving the body love you want. When you love yourself, you realize your body shape is perfect; you’ve been in the right shape the whole time. You’ll move to connect with your body rather than exercise to force yourself into a different kind of body.

No need to “get into shape” because your original design is already present, you’ve simply lost sight of it. You’re already in a good and beautiful shape. Connect with yourself as you are right now; listen to what your body is telling you; move according to how your body wants to move. Watch how your original design– your heart, your body, your breath, your strength, your stamina–becomes powerful and present again.