Food Adventures

For people with eating disorders, situations surrounding food, restaurants, and eating with other people can cause a lot of distress.

Early on in my recovery I used to hear a lot of eating disorder chatter in my head around mealtimes. My eating disorder (ED) would encourage me to restrict my food intake & say things such as:

“You better not have much for dinner….you had ice cream as your afternoon snack; you should be ashamed of yourself. You cannot afford the extra calories.”

“Skip dinner & workout instead…that’s what your body really needs. You don’t need food.”

“I can’t believe you chose an item on the menu that is over 600 calories…who do you think you are?”

“You better not clean your plate….your friends will think you are a pig.”

“In order to eat out, you must look up all of your food options and the nutritional value of them so that you can identify a meal that is safe. You cannot afford any extra fat in your diet.”

“If you even consider getting a roll, no butter.”

“After that binge last night you don’t deserve to eat today.”

“You must workout if you are going out to eat…if there isn’t a way to workout, order a salad, light on the dressing.”

“Your friends and family can go hours without eating and you are starving a couple of hours after each meal…why can’t you just learn how to eat?”

ED doesn’t only use food restriction as a tactic. He also encouraged me to over-eat, eat when I wasn’t hungry, or binge-eat when I was tired, anxious, or bored. It’s all or nothing with ED. This “counter” ED would say things such as:

“You already had one cookie today you ruined the meal plan…might as well eat the whole box.”

“Binge. It doesn’t matter how hungry you are…..binge to numb yourself…binge because you want to…binge just to binge.”

“You don’t need one dessert…you need about 10 desserts. Treat yourself.”

“If you really want to recover you will just eat chocolate, sweets, and fast food each day. That’ll help you out a lot even if it makes your body feel bad.”

“You need chocolate or you won’t be able to make it through the night.”

“It doesn’t matter what your body might be trying to tell you…you need seconds, thirds, & even forths! Eat up while you can!”

“You can only have birthday cake once a year….on your birthday. Make sure you get the biggest piece you can cut so that you can make up for all of the other days that you cannot afford the extra calories.”

As you can imagine, restaurants, sleepovers, traveling, unplanned meals, changed plans, and new environments can be particularly triggering for people in recovery.

In my own recovery process, exposing myself to new or uncomfortable food situations was one of the most helpful strategies that I developed.

For example, even if it was the last thing I wanted to do, I would say “yes” to a dinner invitation from one of my friends. Then, I would go to the restaurant and do my best to order a meal that followed my meal plan + was something that I actually wanted to eat. I would try to ignore the calories on the side & listen to when my body was hungry & when my body was full.

Afterwards, I would reflect on the experience: How was the meal? Did I eat enough? Did I eat too much? Did I honor my hunger? Did I listen to my body? Did I enjoy conversation with the person I was with? Did I choose my order based off of my taste preferences and meal plan or off of the calories? Was the meal enjoyable? One of the hardest (but more important) things that I learned to do was to observe my actions without judging them. For example, if I overate at a restaurant, it was naturally for me to automatically judge my own actions:

“I’m so stupid why can’t I just listen to my body and eat like everyone else?”

“I cannot believe I ate that dish. I am going to get fat.”

“I’m not going to recover because I can’t even go to a restaurant without having anxiety and obsessing over the food I am getting.”

“I should be ashamed of myself for my eating disorder.”

“I have no self-control.”

“I honored my hunger too much. I should feel guilty.”

None of these thoughts are from my healthy self. They are from ED. In therapy, I have learned to step back and look at situations in an objective view, & then identify parts of the situation that could look a little different the next time:

“It was hard for me to read my hunger and fullness cues today, but that’s okay. I know it’s going to take some time. I did the best I could. Maybe next time I will eat my food a little slower and be intentional about not restricting food earlier in the day.”

“I ordered the pasta dish that I wanted. Pasta doesn’t make me fat. Pasta doesn’t make anyone fat. Pasta is pasta. Even if I ordered pasta the next time I went out, it still wouldn’t make me fat. My body needs food.”

“I have an eating disorder. It isn’t unusual for people with eating disorders to have anxiety around meal times. The restrictive and deprived brain starts obsessing over food when it doesn’t receive enough of it. When I keep properly nourishing my body I will stop obsessing over food.”

“My eating disorder isn’t my fault.”

“My body is in a starvation state….it is sending signals to my brain to get food & get it now…what seems like a lack of self-control is really my body protecting me.”

“There is no such thing as honoring my hunger too much. Honoring my hunger is good. The next time I go out to eat I want to honor my hunger again. ”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had meals that were painful, awkward, uncomfortable, frustrating, and even upsetting. It’s all apart of the process. Exposing myself to situations where I felt uncomfortable enabled me to go through the growing pain that lead to transformation. The painful practice was necessary to move into intuitive, mindful, & even enjoyable eating.

Although I hear less ED chatter in my head each day, I still do have moments where ED tries to challenge what I have learned in recovery.

The resort that my Husband and I stayed in on our honeymoon was all-inclusive resort.

As much food as we wanted, however we wanted it, whenever we wanted it.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, snacks, ice-cream, and room service were available from 6:00 AM until 2:00 AM each day.

A year ago, this situation would have been an absolute nightmare for me: too many decisions, too much food, too many calories, too many choices, too overwhelming.

As I walked into the all you can eat buffet, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this experience was just another opportunity to practice good recovery skills. 

There were some times when I didn’t eat enough & had to go back and get a snack.

There some were times when I ate a little too much.

There were many times where I honored my hunger and ate until I was full and satisfied.

There were times when I ordered dessert & other times when I didn’t.

There were times that I ate 3 meals a day, & others when I ate 5.

There were times when I ate breakfast at 6:30 AM and others when I ate it at 9:00 AM.

It was a planned, yet spontaneous food adventure, & I loved every minute of it. Every bite I took was a step away from ED and another step towards full recovery. With another successful exposure therapy session under my belt, I am only stronger than I was before the trip. At this time last year I wouldn’t have eaten most of the food served at the resort. Here are some of the foods that my husband and I enjoyed on the trip, the food that ED convinced me to deny myself of for so long:

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If you’re in recovery for an eating disorder or disordered eating patterns, embrace new food adventures, show yourself grace, practice, practice, practice, & try to have some fun while you’re doing it.

The Story I Never Thought I Would Write

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I thought that eating disorders were for movie stars.

Or actresses.

Or ice skaters.

Or superficial white girls.

I knew that I had a problem, I just wasn’t quite sure how to give what I was feeling a voice. In the winter of 2016, I became one of the girls I never thought I would be.

I enjoyed food quite a bit as a child. No food was off limits, & I grew up enjoying most foods in moderation, freely eating snacks and desserts as I desired to. I was an intuitive eater. I ate when I was hungry, stopped when I was full, and food’s purpose in my life was to give me energy and enjoyment. There were no thoughts about how the food I ate was going to affect my physical appearance, & there was no reason to change anything about my diet. I was young, happy, & healthy.

I first became interested in dieting when I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in high school. After a few years of irregular and unexplainable stomach discomfort, I was relieved to receive a diagnosis that I thought would be easy to treat. I was told to eat an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables, drink water, and manage my stress. I took this advice to heart, and tried to eat as healthy as possible at every meal in order to relieve my stomach pain. I desperately just wanted someone to tell me what to eat and to give me a perfect diet plan, as if there is such a thing. I tried every diet in the book: gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, vegan, cleansing, and everything in between. These diets only exacerbated my IBS symptoms. My doctors and I didn’t realize that my stomach pain was directly related to my anxiety, & I ended up fearing and avoiding many foods that didn’t actually cause me to become ill. I ended up losing over 20% of my original body weight due to food restriction that was rooted in anxiety, perfectionism, depression, and obsessive compulsive tendencies. This was the beginning of my disordered eating. There isn’t a clear line when a person crosses over from disordered eating to an eating disorder, however I do know that I crossed that line at some point during my junior year of college. Many professionals within the ED community refer to this transition as the “perfect storm”, the point in a person’s life where all of his or her biological, psychological, and social factors come together to trigger an eating disorder. In addition to adhering to a very restrictive diet, I was also working early morning shifts at NHC Cookeville and worked out consistently throughout the week. Anxiety, depression, and addiction run in my family, in addition to stress-related GI disorders.

I lost interest in the things that mattered most to me, & as a result I began to fixate on the only thing that I could seem to control: my physical appearance. I became obsessed with counting calories, weighing myself, and working out. Although I wasn’t intentionally trying to lose weight, I told myself that if my physical health was declining that I might as well have been “skinny” while it was happening. I didn’t think there would ever be a point to where I was too skinny.

Skinny is celebrated.

Skinny is loved.

Skinny is healthy.

Skinny is good.

My genetic gun was loaded, & the trigger was pulled when my body could no longer handle the anxiety, chronic stress, & lack of nourishment. This was my perfect storm.

Anorexia took a hold on my life like nothing ever had before. Although eating disorders are psychological disorders at the root, malnourishment & medical complications are often consequences of eating disorders because of the nutritional component (or lack there of).

I didn’t have a menstrual cycle for almost 2 years.

My resting heart rate was set in the low 40s.

I began to experience insomnia at nights & lost the ability to sleep in peace.

I was unable to concentrate, feel, love, laugh, and function in daily life.

I wanted to eat but it was so painful, both physically and emotionally.

I started having mini-panic attacks before I had to eat & often experienced stomach pain when eating because my stomach wasn’t used to having a normal amount of food in it.

I knew that I wasn’t obese or even overweight, I didn’t think that a low body weight would affect me the way it did. I believed the lie that I would be happier and more loved if I weight a certain amount and looked a certain way. The diet industry doesn’t tell you that we all have a biological set point, the natural weight that our body prefers to be at when it is healthy, without restricting food or exercising. The actual range has little to no importance. Everyone is different, & that’s okay. When you are outside of this range, your body starts to send you signs that something is wrong.  Although I did lose weight & met criteria for anorexia, I can’t stress enough  that eating disorders have absolutely nothing to do with weight or size. They are psychological disorders with a food/nutritional component. Despite losing some weight, at my worst place in recovery I was still within a healthy BMI range for my height. BMI doesn’t take into account bioindividuality. It doesn’t know the difference between muscle and fat, & it’s not always a predictor of good health, as in my case. My BMI was healthy, but my body was slowly wasting away. I was outside of my set point weight & my body was desperately trying to tell me that something needed to change.

I barely made it through school that semester.

As I previously mentioned, I knew that I had a problem but I didn’t know how to give it a voice it… I thought I had an eating disorder but I wanted others to understand; I wanted them to know that I wasn’t looking for attention and that I wasn’t acting the way that I was on purpose. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me, and because I couldn’t understand, I didn’t think that anyone else would. I wanted help but I wanted it to be simple and easy. I didn’t want others to see my weakness. I didn’t want to be the latest topic of conversation. I didn’t want people to approach me about my weight or diet or exercise; doing that would force me to face my problems head on and not hide behind my eating disorder. I didn’t realize how complex and multi-layered that my eating disorder really was. After having a few emotional breakdowns each week, it didn’t take me too long to call my mom and tell her that I thought I had an eating disorder.

By the time I sought help, I was about 5 pounds & a couple emotional breakdowns away from being sent to an inpatient facility. The average individual takes 1-2 to 10 years to recover fully from their eating disorder… there really isn’t a “normal” recovery rate; everyone is different. Recovery is a very long, painful, & challenging process.

Recovery for me was often filled with emotional breakdowns, sleepless nights, stomach aches, anxiety, and loneliness. The weight restoration process was very difficult. It seemed like my stomach was always hurting, either from not eating enough that day, eating too much at one meal, binge-eating, or simply because my GI system was adjusting to all of the new changes that I was making. I often found myself caught in restriction/binge-eating cycles. I was forced to confront my anxiety and depression head on rather than by using eating disorder behaviors to numb myself to what I was feeling. A good majority of my friends had no idea what to say to me or how to help, so I ended up spending a lot of time alone or with my family. My friends would say, “you don’t look like you have an eating disorder” or they would talk about their diets or their need to lose weight even after I confided in them.

Recovery isn’t for the faint of heart.  There were many days when I thought I was fully recovered and many days when I thought I would never recover. Despite these things, recovery has also been one of the most beautiful journeys to walk through. There is freedom that comes with discovering who you are apart from your eating disorder. When you start to heal, you begin to appreciate life with humility and gratitude. I have learned healthy ways to cope with my emotions rather than acting in a way that hurts my body. It has been a hard journey, but it’s worth it…recovery always is.

Right now I am in a, much better place due to Jesus, my awesome recovery team, my husband, close family, & friends. They have been my rock this past year or so and I can’t thank them enough for what they have done for me. It’s not being too dramatic to say that they have all saved my life.

I really was going to wait to share this part of my story. I really didn’t think I would start to dive into this piece of my brokenness until I was “a little less broken”, until I was fully recovered. The Lord has laid it on my heart to share the darkest moments in my life in order that his light may shine through me. I could easily have waited until I had many years of recovery under my belt, but I don’t think God wanted me to wait. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Around half of these are due to physiological complications, & the other half are due to suicide…I can’t imagine suffering from an eating disorder and NOT knowing Jesus. The suicide rate really doesn’t surprise me because I know what it’s like to wake up and not want to live because life is too hard.

I couldn’t wait to share this part of my story because I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to speak life, hope, truth, & and healing into other people’s lives. The Lord has & will continue to deliver me from so much & I know that he can & will do that for anyone who surrenders their life to him.

 

If you are reading this today & feel like you have an unhealthy relationship with food, I encourage you to seek help. I am a strong believer in early intervention, and I truly believe if I had sought help from a treatment team during my early stages of disordered eating that I wouldn’t have made the transition into a clinically diagnosable eating disorder. Do not listen to the lie in your head that you aren’t sick enough to get help, or that you would be overreacting to seek help. Individuals of all weights, genders, ages, races, nationalities, and socioeconomic statuses suffer from eating disorders. Unfortunately, many individuals don’t seek help until they are at rock bottom, which is a much harder place to start recovery in.

If you are reading this today & you are currently going through the recovery process, my message is to not lose heart. I know what it is like to be in your position. I know how easy it is to feel trapped, enslaved, and often without hope. Although I am technically recovered from anorexia, I am still actively & intentionally working to develop a healthy relationship with food and my body. I still have to fight against my eating disorder every day. Don’t believe the lie that you won’t recover. A countless number of people have gone before you and I & recovered in a way that they are able to live their lives in peace. Recovery isn’t impossible, it’s just one of those things in life that takes a lot of patience, diligence, and perseverance to overcome. If I can do it, you can do it too.

Anorexia, Alcohol, and Addiction

I am not a big fan of alcohol- never have been, & probably never will be.   

With the way that my brain is wired, I think it would be hard for me to drink alcohol regularly and not form some sort of dependency. 

Alcoholism and addiction both run in my family, so I have been extra cautious to guard myself against anything that would put me down that path.

I’ve seen it put strain on relationships, ruin careers, and destroy bodies, minds, and souls. 

I don’t think alcohol is evil or from the devil, I just know that it has no place in my life.

I never want to be in a situation where I am not “alert & sober-minded”.¹ I never my consumption of alcohol to take away from my testimony of the grace & power of Jesus. I don’t want to others with an alcohol addiction/dependency to stumble & fall. I’ve had a few sips of wine with my family here & there, but nothing more. I don’t have a desire to “build up a tolerance”, & I never want to be in a situation where I am not in control of my mind or body & how I effect other people. 

These are my personal convictions, based-off of my temperament, family history, personal weaknesses, & God’s truth. 

This week I am on my honeymoon at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. 

Free room service.

Free aroma therapy. 

Free food. 

Free drinks. 

The drinking age in Mexico is 18, so drinking is approached pretty casually here. I have gotten some soft smiles & weird looks when I have ordered the virgin strawberry daiquiri with a banana mixed in…a.k.a. a strawberry banana slushy, but I’m okay with that. It really has become my go-to the past few days. 

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Yesterday was different.

 I decided to order a drink. 

A real drink.

I drink with (gasp) alcohol in it. 

 

I pressed my lips against a chilled glass & began to drink the alcohol that I have become so bitter towards.

The drink was fruity, chilled, & not too strong. 

I could have gone about my day with or without it & could have been completely at peace. 

The alcohol didn’t do anything to me, however, I know that for many people, alcohol is so much more than alcohol.  

For the woman struggling with depression, it is comfort. 

For the hard-working business man, it is relief & relaxation. 

For the one whose heart feels empty, it is love. 

For the discontent, it is satisfaction. 

For the weary, it is a break from reality. 

For the anxious, it is peace.

Yesterday, I came to the realization that alcohol isn’t the problem. Truly. I hate to admit that because I have spent so many years building up resentment towards what I would refer to as “liquid poison.” The first miracle Jesus performed was turning water into wine. Alcohol isn’t bad in itself. I know that. I don’t hate alcohol…

What I do hate is Satan himself & his tactics surrounding the things of this world.

His biggest desire is for us to crave anything & everything more than we do God.

What I truly hate, is how easy it is to fall into sin & exchange the truth & glory of God for a lie.²

Some substances are more addicting by nature.

Some are more socially acceptable than others.

Some had be easily hidden, while others cannot be missed.

Whether it be alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, sex, gambling, screen-time, porn, or anything else, addiction does two things:

  1. Addiction impairs our relationships with God & other people.   
  2. Addiction holds us bondage to the thing that we cannot seem to live without.  

There is no freedom in addiction.  

My experience with anorexia has given me a small glimpse into the life of an addict. 

My eating disorder was my “drug of choice”, if you will. 

My eating disorder was my comfort, relaxation, peace, love, & satisfaction, however it was also a major source of anxiety, depression, low-self esteem, & overall discontentment. 

The eating disorder promised me that it would do for me what I couldn’t do for myself, & as I mentioned above, it did work for a temporary amount of time. 

Excessive exercise gave me a way to clear my mind and relieve stress. 

Skipping meals was a good way to ease my anxiety. 

Eating only clean, organic food gave me a false sense of control. 

Binging was an easy way to numb myself to a wide variety of emotions: sadness, stress, boredom, anxiety, & everything in between. 

My eating disorder crippled me because I depended on it each day to survive. 

It isolated me from my friends & family.

It distanced me from God.

It held me captive in a cycle that I couldn’t seem to break.

I became very irritable & emotionally distraught if I couldn’t workout one day for some reason. 

I became anxious & concerned if I didn’t know that would be offered on the menu at a local restaurant. 

I became overly emotional & sensitive if I was’t able to use my disordered eating patterns or exercise to cope. 

My body literally started going through withdrawal symptoms if I couldn’t exercise or establish my usual daily routine.

My concentration flew out the window.

My body began to reject normal amounts of food & sent early signals to my brain when I had eaten the amount it was used to. 

My digestive system was completely out of wack & it was very painful to work back up to eating a normal amount of food. 

 

This was my addiction.

Although I do not fully support the belief of a food addiction (because we all need food to survive), I do believe that people can become addicted to behaviors surrounding dieting, food, & mealtime. I have experienced the consequences and neurological changes associated with chronic dieting, and I can see how some people make the connection between eating disorders & addiction. 

Furthermore, nearly 50% of individuals who are diagnosed with eating disorders also struggle with drug or alcohol abuse. 

I can’t say I know what it feels like to be addicted to alcohol, cigarettes, or heroine. I haven’t had to walk that journey. What I can say, is that I am thankful that God used my recovery to grow my heart in compassion and understanding for those who also need help. 

Addictions don’t make sense, & neither do eating disorders.

The person with the addiction (or an eating disorder, as in my case), is doing the best that he or she knows to do in the situation that they are in. They don’t know how to cope with their emotions in a healthy way, & the only thing that seems to get them through the day is their addiction, which perpetuates the illness. The illness then begins to act in place of the person’s true identity, & begins to take over every aspect of life. 

 

Addicts know what they need to do to get better, but the idea of taking the first few steps is absolutely terrifying.  

For example, I knew that logically skipping breakfast, going on a long run, & snacking on a chewy granola bar wasn’t going to cut it when it came to my health. I knew that it was bad for me, but I didn’t know what else to do.

I believed the lie that God wasn’t good enough to help me sort everything out, so instead of waiting on him, I put matters into my own hands. 

The alcoholic knows that heading out to the bar after a recent relapse isn’t the right thing to do, yet is it the only way that they are able to process the emotions of guilt and shame.

One thing to note is that addiction takes over the soul of a person.

People choose to engage in the addicting behavior, but most don’t go into it thinking that they will actually become addicted. By the time they realize it, it is often too late.

In recovery I have learned that there is healing power in choosing to hate the addiction rather than the addict. 

I am confident that my friends and family are able to look back and identify situations in which my eating disorder had taken over my heart, mind, & soul. 

Refusing to add butter to my baked potato? Working out twice a day? Waiting too long to eat between meals? Demanding what I wanted for dinner, how it needed to be cooked, & at what time we ate? Refusing to attend social events?

My eating disorder, my addiction.

Adding butter to my waffles to add flavor? Workout out when I feel like it, not when I feel like I have to? Eating 3 meals a day + snacks? Asking others what they want for dinner & when they would like to eat? 

My “healthy-self”, as some in the eating disorder community would say. 

In a spiritual sense, I would compare my eating disorder to a life dictated by the flesh, & a life dictated by the spirit of truth.

 

Treatment, rehab, & recovery are so often plagued with relapse & slip-ups before full sobriety because it takes a while for a healthy coping mechanism to feel better than an addictive behavior.

I wouldn’t recommend doing it alone, but I would recommend seeking help. 

Choosing to separate from an addiction is one of the most painful things in this world, but it is one of the strongest, bravest & most selfless things that a person can to. 

Whether you or a loved one struggles with an eating disorder, alcoholism, drug abuse, or any other sort of addiction, there is hope. 

Why?

God doesn’t like it when his children get ripped off or settle for anything less than the joy that salvation produces. He is a wise, discerning, powerful God who works perfect in our weaknesses. He refused to let me stay in a place of bondage & slavery…he wouldn’t allow. He warned me & tried to deter me from choices he knew would lead to my destruction, but it wasn’t until I hit rock bottom that my heart was softened to his Holy Spirit.

I couldn’t change without him.

I couldn’t make it through recovery without him. 

I couldn’t set myself free from prison.

I couldn’t do any of it.

But God could, & he can do it for you too. 

His power is perfect despite our sin. 

His power is perfect despite our addictions.

His power is perfect to set us free. 

God is too good of a father to allow us to follow a path of destruction…

So he convicts.

He corrects.

He warns. 

He challenges our thoughts. 

He speaks through his word. 

He questions our movies. 

He pursues out hearts. 

He chases after us. 

He buys us back. 

There is no power greater than the power purchased on the cross during the crucifixion of Jesus. 

No lifestyle.

No mistake. 

No addiction. 

Nothing. 

This is the hope that I cling to when I choose Jesus each day, because I know that he is the only one who will keep fighting for me when I don’t have the strength to. 

Anorexia has no power compared to the cross.

Alcoholism has no power compared to the cross.  

Addiction has no power compared to the cross. 

Fight from victory not for victory. 

References:

  1. 1 Peter 5:8-9
  2. Romans 1:25

Resources:

  1. National Eating Disorder Association
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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Feeling the Pain in the Healing Process

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Lately, there have been a lot of different emotions running through my heart + mind.
Excitement.

Anxiety.

Joy.

Loss.

Weariness.

Exhaustion.

Peace.

In the past my “go-to” for processing these emotions was to jump to my ED behaviors. I had been told that I am too emotional, so I have tried to do what I could to detach myself from situations that made me feel too “out-of-control” of my emotions. Instead of acknowledging my emotions without judgement, I would try to shut them down, numbing out the bad and the good in my life.

My ED gave me peace.

My ED satisfied me.

My ED helped me through stressful situations.

My ED seemed like the best solution to my unprocessed feelings.

The relief that my ED brought me was only temporary.

It left me feeling empty, disgusted, frustrated, confused, and worse off than I was before with my unprocessed emotions.

It numbed out the good in my life.

It was only through working with a therapist that I was able to realize that my emotions aren’t bad; it’s the way I judge them, perceive, and place expectations on them that gets me in trouble.
When I think of graduation, marriage, and a new career, I think joy, excitement, happiness, contentment, gratitude, and satisfaction. These are all great things, wonderful blessings from God.

When I think of graduation, marriage, and “adult life”, I do feel excited. Those things do bring me great joy, happiness, and contentment.

They also cause me to become a little anxious and fearful. They bring forth emotions of grieving & loss for the life I have known for so long. Sometimes I do feel discontent, unsatisfied, & just plain pissed-off, and that’s okay.

It’s okay to feel happy, sad, angry, frustrated, joyful, scared, and excited all at the same time. It’s understandable. It’s expected. It’s normal. We don’t have to feel guilty about what we feel and how we process.

As hard as it is, I know that the best way for me to process these feelings is to let myself feel them rather than running away from them. I journal, I pray, I talk to a friend, & I ask God to help me feel the feelings I need to feel without having them overtake me. I love this quote from my new favorite book, Uninvited, by Lysa TerKeurst:

“If we place our hope in the hands of our unchanging, unflinching God who never leaves us or forsakes us, we’ll find healing and freedom. We’ll be able to see something on the other side of all of the pain. Something good. Something we know will be so worth whatever it takes to get well. So instead of running from the pain, we embrace it as necessary. We must feel the pain to heal the pain. If we never allow ourselves to feel it, we won’t acknowledge it’s there.”

Acknowledging our pain is the only way to find true healing.

Maybe like me, you are going through a season of transition, change, & mixed-emotions. You have experienced loss, joy, anxiety, stress, and excitement all at once for the past few months.

Maybe, like me, you are trying to navigate your ED recovery journey.

What a journey filled with so many tears, feelings of frustration, and pain.

What a journey filled with so much growth, strength, rebuilding, and redemption.

In the recovery process, we have to allow ourselves to fear all of these emotions if we truly want to discover who we are, how our journey has brought us to this point, and how we are going to position ourselves in a place where we can feel our emotions, & coop in a healthy way that doesn’t harm us.

It isn’t easy. In fact, most of the time, sitting with our unwanted emotions without resorting to distractions or unhealthy behaviors will make us feel a lot worse in the beginning. When all of those pent-up emotions finally come up, it can be messy. It’s hard to process years of neglected emotions at what seems like all at once. It is only by processing this pain that beauty can be born. It is only when we allow ourselves to feel what our hears are crying out for that we are able to step back, process, and heal.

Feel your feelings, acknowledge the good & the bad, and take a step towards healing today.

10 Biblical Body Affirmations

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  1. My body is a temple; I want to treat it with love and respect. (2 Corinthians 6:19)
  2. I am made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27)
  3. I am God’s masterpiece; every part of my body was hand-crafted by the creator of the universe. (Ephesians 2:10)
  4. My body is a gift from God; something I cannot earn. Jesus bought me at a high price when he went to the cross. (2 Corinthians 6:20)
  5. I don’t have to conform to dieting, eating clean, and excessive exercising to have worth and meaning. (Romans 12:1-2)
  6. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly have SOME value, but godliness has value for all things, because it holds true in both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:1)
  7. I have everything inside of me that I need to take care of myself without using food or exercise as a means to cope with unwanted emotions. (Ephesians 1:3)
  8. Losing weight is not my life’s work, and counting calories is not the calling of my soul. I am surely destined for something much greater. (Matthew 5:13-16)
  9. Shame says that because I am flawed, I am unacceptable. Grace says that though I am flawed, I am cherished. (John 3:16-17, Romans 8:1).
  10. My value doesn’t decrease based on another person’s inability to see my worth. My value is determined by what God says about me: beloved, holy, blameless, accepted, chosen, loved, valued, cherished, protected, redeemed, healed, & whole. (1 Peter 2:9, Romans 1:7, Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 53:5).

Destruction from Within: 4 Reasons why you should Stop Dieting TODAY

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I’ve said it once, & I will say it 1,000 times again until my friends, family, & future clients understand: Dieting doesn’t work.

This isn’t a popular opinion. The diet industry is a billion dollar industry, & it has an extremely powerful influence on the way that you and I make decisions about what we eat each day.

The diet industry builds it’s revenue on the premise that we cannot trust our bodies to tell us what our body needs. It determines when we eat, what we should eat, why we should eat it, and how we can lose weight in the quickest & easiest way. It promises us that if we just follow the right rules, that we will become more fit, loved, and acceptable in the eyes of the world around us.

If diets actually worked, then we wouldn’t be in a constant cycle of dieting & restricting food, “over-doing it”, falling off the band wagon for a few days, & eventually make plans to try a different fad diet.

Unfortunately, many medical professionals, including primary care physicians & even registered dietitians often promote dieting out of personal gain (to keep clients) or pure ignorance. It’s time to shed some much needed light on the subject.

Here is what EVIDENCE-BASED research tells us about dieting:

  1. Dieting is linked with weight gain, and obesity.¹
  2. Dieting can lead to binge-eating.²
  3. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source. To restrict carbohydrates is to deprive our brains of the fuel that it needs to think, learn, and grow.³
  4. Food restriction can cause a number of cognitive impairments, such as the inability to concentrate and a preoccupation with food.4

A couple of years ago I became very good at dieting and losing weight. So good, in fact, that I developed anorexia. The diet industry tells you that if you want to lose weight, that you should cut out certain food groups, (bread, sugar, sweets, fats, processed foods, etc.) so I did just that. I cut out gluten, dairy, most processed food, and desserts. I compromised by body and health in exchange for the safety, security, and peace that my eating disorder gave me. I despised food yet obsessed over it for what seemed like every minute of the day. It got to the point where I felt guilty for simply eating anything, despite having the knowledge that if I only laid in bed for a day, that my body would still need 1,300+ just to ensure that my body and brain would function properly.

Sure, if we want to lose weight, restricting food will eventually help us do just that, at least for a brief period of time. However, the consequences of doing so can be detrimental to our health. For most people, dieting leads to either leads to weight gain or disordered eating patterns, actually harming our bodies .

When I started restricting food, my body responded in a way that it tried to protect me. My metabolism slowed down, & I was able to survive on a smaller amount of food each day. As my dietitian told me, this was my body’s way of “taking some of the pain out of starvation.” I didn’t have a period because my body sensed that it wasn’t safe for me to have a child; I wasn’t properly nourished. I couldn’t sleep at night because my stomach was telling me that I needed a snack, or another meal for that matter. My anxiety and depression peaked at an all time high as a result of food restriction and over exercise. My heart rate dropped into the low 40s. My family has spent thousands of dollars in efforts to reverse what could have been prevented in the first place. The recovery process was very painful physically because my body wasn’t used to a normal amount of food.

I’ve talked about this in previous posts, but I think it’s worth talking about again.

The diet industry doesn’t tell us that we all have a biological set point, the natural weight that our body prefers to be at when it is healthy, without restricting food or exercising. The actual range has little to no importance. Everyone is different, & that’s okay. When we are outside of this range, our bodies start sending signals that something is wrong, such as the things that I listed above (lack of period, lower heart rate, lower basil metabolic rate, mental health issues).  Although I did lose weight & met criteria for anorexia, I can’t stress enough to you that eating disorders have absolutely nothing to do with weight or size. They are psychological disorders with a food/nutritional component. Despite losing some weight, at my worst place in recovery I was still within a healthy BMI range for my height. BMI doesn’t take into account bioindividuality. It doesn’t know the difference between muscle and fat, & it’s not always a predictor of good health, as in my case. My BMI was healthy, but my body was slowly wasting away.

Most people have had an unhealthy relationship with life at some point in his or her life, whether it be chronic dieting, binge-eating, over-eating, under-eating, or anything in between. I would place an obsession with “clean eating”, also known as orthorexia, in this category.However, food isn’t the problem; the problem occurs when we elevate food to a level in which it was never meant to function. God gave us food to nourish our bodies and enjoy meals with other people. Food becomes a god, a way to strive for “cleanliness” and “perfection”; morality through the diet. Food isn’t meant to fix our feelings of anxiety, loneliness, or depression. We all know that the box of cookies only provides temporary relief to pain or simple satisfaction; at the end of it, we feel worse off than before we started. What we need more than anything is some way to enter into a balanced, healthy relationship with food.

To go on a diet is to put ourselves in danger. Dieting is damaging when it deprives us physically, mentally, psychologically, and emotionally, and only leaves us craving more.  It’s time to ditch the dieting & focus on eating food that not only nourishes our bodies, but also enables us to live our lives without limitations holding us back.

The chronic restriction of food & an obsession with “eating-clean” is more damaging to our health than having a chick-fil-a sandwich with fries a few times a month. It’s all about balance, moderation, variety, and adequacy. Normal eating is messy; it’s imperfect. The hardest part for me in the recovery process was accepting that I would never be able to realistically maintain a “perfect” diet, with no processing, no packaging, & no calories. To choose chronic dieting and food restriction would have meant choosing to die a slow, painful death. I decided I wasn’t about that life & day by day began to say no to dieting and yes to nourishing my body.

When you ask people on the street what they think it means to eat healthy, the most often say, “Don’t eat fast food or sweets, eat fruits and vegetables.” This idea is oversimplified and dangerous. You can still be healthy and eat fast food and dessert from time-to-time.

If you need to change for medical reasons, you may need to change the types of foods you eat. For example, if an individual has celiac disease, it would be wise for them to follow a gluten-free diet, but not while simultaneously restricting calories and going to bed hungry each night. Likewise, if a person has is overweight and has high triglyceride levels, they may benefit from switching to chicken a few nights a week rather than ribeye steak, or substituting chips for carrots and ranch. These are healthy changes & sustainable changes. No restricting, no dieting, just mindfulness.

I’m not saying to disregard nutrition. That’s my major, my love language, if you will. Evidence-based nutrition research was actually a very helpful tool in my recovery process. I began to distinguish the truth from the lies, and applied it to my life in a way that kept me healthy, despite the fact that I was no longer dieting. I believe that a healthy diet is rooted in balance & variety, with an adequate amount of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Carbs, fats, and protein all have different functions within the body, all of which we need to live & survive. It’s also fun and enjoyable to mix up our meals. The variety keeps our taste buds satisfied, while also providing our bodies with different vitamins and minerals at each meal. It’s best to not wait more than 4 hours between meals, because this restriction can cause our blood sugar to drop, & as a result our bodies crave sugar, which often can lead to binge-eating. Those are some of the basics. I love this quote on normal eating: “Some days I eat salad and go to the gym, and some days you eat cupcakes and refuse to put on pants. It’s called balance.

Instead of going on a diet tomorrow, try doing what your body wants & needs. Maybe that means having going on a jog and eating baked chicken and vegetables for dinner, or maybe that means taking a nap and going out for dessert with your friends. Your body knows best, & it’s time that we start trusting that.

  1. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer.
    Mann, Traci; Tomiyama, A. Janet; Westling, Erika; Lew, Ann-Marie; Samuels, Barbra; Chatman, Jason. American Psychologist, Vol 62(3), Apr 2007, 220-233.
  2. Howard CE, Porzelius LK. The role of dieting in binge eating disorder. Clinical Psychology Review. 1999;19(1):25-44.
  3. Macdonald IA. Dietary strategies for the management of cardiovascular risk: role of dietary carbohydrates. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2014;73(02):167-171.
  4. Tucker T. The great starvation experiment: Ancel Keys and the men who starved for science. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; 2007.
  5. Donini LM, Marsili D, Graziani MP, Imbriale M, et al. Orthorexia nervosa: A preliminary study with a proposal for diagnosis and an attempt to measure the dimension of the phenomenon. Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity. 2013;9(2):151-157.

Can I Be Too Recovered?

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Is there such thing as being too recovered?

Too healthy?

Too comfortable in our bodies?

Too relaxed about our exercise routines?

Too laid-back about our diet?

ED sure thinks there is.

The more progress I make in recovery, the more and more I hear ED whispering in the back of my mind that I need to snap out of it because I am losing control all too quickly. He tells me that I am getting too comfortable with the whole recovery process, & that I should be a lot more conscious of the mistakes that I am making. To be “too recovered”, in ED’s mind, is to be a failure.

ED still makes me feel uneasy about the meals that I eat each day. If I have a snack, he questions it. If I am not starving before a meal, he tells me I did something wrong. He wants me to go back on a diet. He wants me to count calories. He wants me to eat less carbs. He looks as me in disgust when I eat dessert. He wants to dictate my diet, & for too long I let him do just that.

ED doesn’t just follow me around during meal times. He also checks up on me each morning and urges me to check my weight. He criticizes my body. He decides what outfits I wear. He fixates on the part of my body that he thinks need to change. He makes me feel guilty for giving away clothes that don’t fit anymore. He sees me in pictures and tells me that I will never look as good as I did when I was locked into a relationship with him. Sometimes he comes with me to hangout with my friends. He makes it known that I the girls I am with are much prettier and smaller than I am. He distorts my vision. He deceives my soul. He tries to manipulate my mind & convince me that I am doing something wrong. He always has something negative to say about me, my weight, my diet, or my recovery. ED wants me to believe the lie that there is such a thing as being “too recovered”. He wants me to quit before finishing the race, and he will do anything in his power to keep me from fully recovering.

It is only when I take a step back that I am reminded that being “too recovered” for ED means that I am one step closer to being FULLY recovered. Enjoying food without guilt, learning to love your body, accepting the things you cannot change, throwing out your scale, and nourishing your body are all good, normal, healthy, & beautiful things.

How beautiful would it be to spend less time comparing ourselves to others on social media and more time pursuing things that actually have value and purpose?

How glorious would it be to disconnect, be still, and not be bogged down by anxious thoughts?

How relieving would it be to not have to perform for anyone or anything, even ourselves?

How wonderful would it be to be able to go out to dinner with friends or family, and not fear the foods on the menu?

How empowering would it be to personally decide when to say “yes” and when to say “no”?

How fun would it be to have dessert before dinner?

How crazy would it seem to spend an entire day doing absolutely nothing?

How rare would it be to never go on a diet again?

How weird would it be to exercise because we love our bodies, not because we are trying to change them?

How lovely would it be to fully embrace recovery, the good, bad, & beautiful?

How fortunate would it be for a little girl to grow up with a mother who doesn’t criticize herself in the mirror each morning?

How freeing would it be to truly believe that our weight is no indication of who we are, why we are loved, and why we are of value?

This, my friends, is life without ED.

Many of you may life a life completely apart from ED. He has no power over you. He doesn’t control your decisions, & his voice is weak in your eyes. You, by definition, are “too recovered” for ED.

Many of you, like me, have had glimpses of life without ED. We have experienced some of the things that I mentioned above, but it’s not every day. We still have to fight off lies. ED still has some influence in our lives, whether or not we would like to admit it. He criticizes us every step we take towards recovery. He makes us feel uncomfortable when we are following our meal plan and practicing self-care. He tries to knock us down (and keep us down) every chance that he gets.

If being “too recovered” means temporarily feeling uncomfortable & uneasy so that I can get rid of ED for good, I am all in. Full recovery is complete freedom. It’s redemption. It’s a chance to rebuild our lives. It’s an escape from an abusive relationship that has lasted all too long. Recovery is life, & that’s something worth fighting for.

 

Why Partial Recovery Isn’t an Option

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As I sip my morning coffee & snuggle up under my comforter I can’t help but thank God for all that he has done in my life this past year.

A year ago today, I was significantly malnourished.

I was fragile.

I was weak.

I was trapped, enslaved by the eating disorder voice in my head.

I didn’t know how to take care of myself.

My anxiety kept me on edge 24/7.

I was drowning in depression.

My body was shutting down.

I felt helpless and hopeless.

I was locked into an abusive relationship with my eating disorder.

My eating disorder, or “ED”, as some may call it, dictated what I could and couldn’t do each day.

If I weighed more than I thought I should, ED told me that I couldn’t eat dessert that day. He encouraged me to go to the gym. He yelled at me to run faster even when I was too tired to keep going. He told me to restrict food. He told me to deprive my body. He told me that I would be in control if I followed his commands.

If I weighed less than I thought I should, ED gave me a little grace. He allowed me to eat a sandwich rather than a salad. He told me that I could have extra fruit. He even let up on the intensity of the exercises I did that day. However, just when I thought I was doing good, he would snap right back at me and condemn me for something that I did or ate that day. There was no way to please him.

ED didn’t just use the scale to manipulate me. He also used comparison and the comments of other people to convince me to neglect my body.

“So-and-so didn’t eat breakfast and they are skinnier than you……you need to start skipping breakfast.”

“If you were actually disciplined you would be able to run a lot longer. You’re lazy because you don’t get up early every morning to train.”

“You’re jeans are getting too tight…..don’t give them away. You need to do whatever you can to fit into them again. Use them as your motivation. You should never wear more than a size ________.”

These are just some of the many, many things that come into my head on a daily basis. A year ago, I would have listened to the “ED” voice in my head. I would have quietly agreed, & obeyed what he said in order to ease my anxiety and get through the day. The difference between a year ago & today is that today, the power and influence that these  words have over me is growing weaker and weaker.

I no longer obey ED when he tells me to restrict food. I eat 3 meals a day with snacks, + dessert if I want it. I exercise when it enhances my day, not when it makes it worse. I say no when I need to say no. I do what I need to do to stay healthy.  I listen to my body. I have given away clothes that don’t fit. The scale isn’t in my life. More often than not, I choose the sandwich over the salad.

When ED tries to lure me back in, I simply tell him that I am too busy to be tied down by his destructive ways. I can’t afford to skip lunch if I am going to enjoy an afternoon with my friends or family. I refuse to exercise when I know it is just going to hurt me. I understand that ED’s promises are empty. He wants to destroy me. He doesn’t have my best interests in mind. He isn’t my friend. I love my life too much to go back to him.

In April of last year, I met diagnostic criteria for anorexia. Many people have asked me about what stage I am in recovery, or at what point I am at on the road to healing. This question is nearly impossible to answer, because healing is not linear. One day you can feel on top of the world, & forget that you have an eating disorder all together, with the next morning slipping back into the same old habits.  At this point in recovery, I tell others that I am recovered from anorexia, however, that I am not fully recovered from my eating disorder. I am in a very good place, progressing every day, & resting the urge to run to ED when life gets more difficult or stressful.

However, ED doesn’t give up without a fight. He tries to convince me to come back to him. He tells me that I am basically recovered, and that I no longer need the support of my treatment team, family, or friends. He tries to convince me that restricting food won’t hurt me if I only do it a few times a week. He encourages me to exercise more than I need to. He criticizes my body & diet, never holding back his opinion about what I wear or what I eat. He wants me to believe the lie that partial recovery is okay. That it’s okay to live life by simply maintaining my recovery & managing my relationship with him rather than completely cutting it off. He want’s me to stay.

The thing is, we can’t experience true freedom with partial recovery. We’re still out of control. ED still runs our lives whether we realize it or not. Imagine if we sat in at an AA group & the group therapist told us each member that as long as they could just decrease the amount of alcohol that they consumed that they would be able to manage their addiction throughout their lives. This is horrible advice. It wouldn’t work. The addiction is too strong, & it’s too simple to not use it as a cooping mechanism when life is too much to handle. I know for me personally, I wouldn’t waste my time trying to get sober if I knew that I would never truly be set free. Why would anyone settle for anything less than sobriety? Why anyone settle for anything less than full recovery?

In many ways, eating disorder recovery can be similar to this. Making the conscious effort to disobey ED do what you know is right for your mind, body, & soul is what is going to set us free. Little by little, day by day. This doesn’t mean that it has to be perfect. It will never be perfect. What is does mean, is staying committed to recovery even when it’s the last thing you want to do.

Even after we slip up.

Even after we relapse.

Even when we have a difficult day at school.

Even when we are stressed with work and school.

Even when we are uncomfortable in our bodies.

Recovery can’t be put on the back burner. Treatment appointments can’t be missed. Unhealthy behaviors can’t be justified. We have to make the conscious choice each day to choose recovery so that we can attain complete freedom.

We are going to have to fight the battle against ED more than once to attain complete victory; he won’t go down without a fight.

Every meal, every bite, every mindful decision, every step forward, every time we disobey ED he becomes weaker and weaker. The battle is ours to win, we just can’t give up the fight.

Right now, in this moment, I want to invite you to choose recovery with me today. It doesn’t matter what happened last week, last night, or 20 minutes ago. You have permission to start fresh right now, & to do the next right thing. True recovery is hope for a future, beauty produced from ashes, and life without limits. It’s trusting the process, and having faith in what we cannot yet see. It’s believing that we are worth the fight, & not stopping until we have complete victory.

It’s Time to Leave the Body Talk Behind

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If I hear one more comment about my body, my neighbor’s body, my friend’s body, my family’s body, or my classmate’s bodies, I think I might lose it.

We are all guilty of it, or we have been in the past. We all tend to think negatively about our own bodies and celebrate the beauty in other people. We make judgements about other people based off of their weight or size, rather than actually getting to know who they really are. We compare ourselves to the people around us, & no amount of exercise, dieting, or weight loss seems to be enough. Body talk is a part of every day conversation. I don’t think there is a day that has gone by that I haven’t heard someone mention their weight or the diet that they are on. It’s the normal thing to do. Listen to me friends: It needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. 

When I hear other women talk about the weight or body of a friend, family member, or even a complete stranger, I can’t help but cringe.

My heart aches. 

My soul groans. 

My spirit sinks.

My blood boils.

Whether we realize it or not, body comments (no matter how kind/complementary they are intended to be), are never, ever appropriate. Ever. 

For a period of time in my life I believed the lie that losing weight was the only way to be healthy. If I wasn’t losing weight, I was taking a step back. It I wasn’t on a diet, I wasn’t healthy. If I wasn’t working to become more fit, I was becoming lazy.

A year ago I began recovery for anorexia. Before my unhealthy dieting habits transitioned into an eating disorder, I received a lot of praise and compliments about my weight. People would tell me that my legs looked great, that I was the smallest they had ever seen me, and that I was in awesome shape. They told me that they were jealous that I knew how to put together hard workouts. They told me I was “good” because I went to the gym and ate salads.

If only they knew their comments reinforced the idea in my head that skinny & toned meant healthy. No one warned me. No one told me to stop until it was too late. They showered me with word of affirmation and songs of praise. It fed into my ego, & I was too prideful to give up some of the behaviors that I knew would hurt me in the long run.

The people who commented on my weight had no idea that the only reason I looked the way that I did was because I restricted food and over-exercised. They just assumed I was healthy. Skinny is healthy, right? Let me just tell you from personal experience, no matter how you look or what kind of workout you can do, if your physical and psychological health is declining, you are not healthy.

Maybe there are people who are completely unaffected by body talk. Maybe there are women who completely and 100% love their bodies & never second guess that love. Maybe there are women who can handle body talk.

I think that for the majority of us, body comments do nothing but harm us. They either encourage us to follow a diet or to try harder in the gym, or convince us to compare ourselves to the people around us.

When people commented on my body in a positive way, it not only reinforced eating disorder thoughts and behaviors, but it also confirmed in my mind that I was more likable at a smaller weight and size. If I look “great” now, what did I look like before then? What did other’s think about me or say about me? I was convinced that weight loss was an easy way for me to gain acceptance and worth. Even though these comments were meant to be positive, they weren’t received that way.

Additionally, when friends or family comment on another person’s recent weight loss it’s easy for me to think to myself, “Dang. Should I be losing weight? Why is she getting so much praise? Maybe if I lost a few pounds I could get that attention.”

Vice versa, if another person commented on a friend, family member, or even a stranger’s weight in a negative way, it was all too tempting to join in to mask my own securities. Focusing on other’s insecurities distracted me from my own. I felt more at ease, at least temporarily.

Negative body talk is also a big conversation topic that can be triggering for individuals who are obsessively dieting or flirting with disordered eating.

When we criticize other’s bodies, we give the people around us the impression that they too need to change.

If someone who is smaller than me wants to lose weight, it could be assumed that he or she thinks I need to lose weight as well.

When people criticize their legs, arms, weight, BMI, pant size, or all of the above, I start to do the same thing.

Maybe I am the only one who struggles with comparison. Maybe I am the only one who struggles with weight/body comments. But after hearing many, many stories from sweet sisters of all different walks of life, I don’t think I am alone in this.

I’ve met many people who are at a completely healthy body weight, & still insist that they need to go on a diet because their mom, friend, boyfriend, or a Instagram fit account told them that they needed to.

I’ve met many girls who are a size 2 who desperately desire to be skinnier. They have a distorted view of what their body size and shape really look like. They can’t see what others see.

I’ve met many girls who are a size 2 who desperately desire to be curvier. To gain weight. To be more “feminine”.

I’ve met many girls who have been hurt by comments that their friends, family, or classmates have made about their bodies, no matter what size or shape they are.

I’ve met many GUYS who spent the majority of their day at the gym, planning out their macro distribution for the day, and chugging down pre-workout and protein shakes because we tell them that they need to be strong and buff in order to be a man.

Sweet sisters, it’s time to lay down the burden of body talk.

Period.

End of Story.

Done.  There is no good that comes from it.

Good intentions still hurt. Compliments can be twisted. Words are never forgotten.

Engaging in body talk  is honestly one of the most pointless, unproductive ways that we can spend our time. Truly. We will all be old and wrinkly one day. We will all die one day. Our bodies change constantly throughout our lives and are worn down from life, children, scars, sickness, and ultimately death.

Taking a stand against body talk isn’t easy. It goes against the norm. It can be awkward. It is uncomfortable. I sometimes get weird looks when I say that I am not trying to lose weight. Many people don’t understand why I will never go on a diet a It’s difficult, but it can be done. It needs to be done. It should be done.

Do it for yourself.

Do it for your friends & family.

Do it for your co-workers.

Do it for your daughters.

Do it for those who look up to you.

Do it to live, laugh, & love.

The Wedding Dress Diet

 

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Oh the joys of wedding season…

If you have paid any attention at all to FB, you will see numerous engagement announcements and wedding countdowns on the daily.

On the outside looking in, every couple seems so happy & care-free. Nothing to worry about. No flaws. 24/7 happiness for all of the world to see. Madly in love. Elaborate proposals. Generous acts of service. Elaborate birthday and valentine’s day gifts. Flowers “just because”.

We claim to be fully known and unconditionally loved. We celebrate the ability to truly be ourselves around the love of our life. We feel secure, protected, and safe with our husband-to-be. We take comfort in the fact that we are loved despite our flaws and weaknesses….or so we say.

My fiancé proposed to me when I was in the beginning stages of recovering from anorexia. My body, mind soul, and spirit have gone through some pretty significant changes in the recovery process, & it has greatly impacted our relationship.

The aspect of recovery that I want to focus on tonight is weight restoration. It was verified by my registered dietician and adolescent medicine doctor that I needed to restore some weight in order to regulate my heart rate, menstrual cycle, my metabolism, concentration, and ability to function in my daily life.

It wasn’t an option not to gain weight. My options were to nourish my body and restore my weight or to eventually have to check into an inpatient facility. I wanted to stay with my fiancé and family, so I followed the meal plan and did what I needed to do to nourish my body.

When my body reached the range it wanted to be in, my weight stabilized out. We all have a weight range in which our bodies function optimally. This is called your body’s set point. Our weight constantly shifts up and down due to environmental, diet, exercise, and hormonal factors. It’s expected to have weight fluctuations. I think the hardest part for me was to accept that my set point range wasn’t what I wanted to be. It was too high. I wanted to be at the lowest possible weight without having an eating disorder. It wasn’t until later in recovery that I realized that the goal I set was dictated by my eating disorder, not my true, healthy self.

With weight restoration, there comes anxiety.

“What if Josh doesn’t love me as much when I gain some weight?”

“What if he thinks I look ugly?”

“What if he changes his mind?”

“What if my wedding dress doesn’t fit?”

Ahh. The Wedding Dress. It seems to be a pretty popular trend to go on last minute crash diet in hopes of looking fabulous on the big day. After all, you only get married once. This logic doesn’t make sense to me. If we are so confident in our relationship with our soon-to-be spouses on social media, why, then, do we feel the pressure to go on a diet before the wedding?

We so frantically try to improve ourselves before the day of our wedding because we are believing the lie that we aren’t worthy of love as we currently are. We convince ourselves that we must try harder, look better, and keep up our image in order to be accepted by other people. We believe the lie that we must make much of ourselves in order be loved. We have to earn it.

“You better watch what you eat or you won’t fit into your dress.”

“Your wedding day is the BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE. You have to make sure you look the part.”

“You better push yourself to be in the best shape for your wedding!!”

“Ooh I see you working hard at the gym this week! Are you trying to lose weight for your wedding?”

NO.

I am not trying to lose weight for my wedding day, despite the numerous voices that encourage me to engage in the behaviors that I worked so hard to reverse in recovery.

I won’t got on a diet because dieting doesn’t work. It leads to disordered eating or weight gain in the long run. Dieting in itself is disordered eating. It tells you that you can’t trust your body, and that you need to deprive it of what it needs in order to have worth.

I won’t count calories.

I won’t skip dessert.

I won’t restrict food.

I won’t run back to the behaviors that held me captive for so long.

I won’t manipulate my body in order to attain love from God, my fiancé, and my friends and family.

I am confident that my worth as a person isn’t tied to my weight, & my wedding day doesn’t change that.

I am very fortunate to have a fiancé who constantly reassures me that he loves me for exactly who I am and what I look like. Despite my flaws, he doesn’t see any changes that need to be made. He loves me for me. He enjoys going out to eat with me and not having to worry about me counting the calories. He likes being able to enjoy life with me apart from my eating disorder. He likes working out with me when I have energy and strength, not when I am too hungry to make it through the warm-up. He likes my curly hair. He tells me I look beautiful. He has never once made a comment about gaining weight or dieting, and he doesn’t think I need to lose weight for our wedding.

Instead of focusing on my “pre-wedding diet” I am going to focus on what really matters:

  • Praying for my future husband-to-be
  • Practicing self-care and resting before the big day
  • Preparing myself to be the wife I would want my son to have
  • Nourishing my body with food that makes me feel good and gives me energy
  • Enjoying time with friends and family
  • Celebrating the gift of marriage and the work that God has done in our relationship

If you’re currently engaged/getting married soon, I want to encourage you to ditch the pre-wedding diet, & instead focus on taking care of yourself & enjoying this season. Unconditional love doesn’t demand that you lose weight or be a certain size; it doesn’t condemn you for eating dessert; & it certainly doesn’t depend on how much you weigh or what shape your body is on your wedding day.