From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Hope
For a majority of people with eating disorders, weight gain is the greatest fear, challenge, and roadblock to recovery. I get it. It’s been my hardest battle, too. I hope some of these tips help you cope with weight restoration regardless of what stage of change you may find yourself, whether just considering recovery or actually maintaining progress after treatment.
To lift some pressure to help you get started, you could try approaching your recovery as an experiment. A gain doesn’t have to be forever, but at least give yourself some time to work with the differentness of being in a weight-restored body with a nourished brain before you write it off. Hopefully, you will stick recovery through long enough to find relief. But, in a worst case scenario, you can always go back to your eating disorder. First, though, give yourself a chance.
If your body image is still making you miserable, remember that an overwhelming majority of those who recover agree that healing body image is the longest step of recovery. Be gentle with yourself as it may very well take more time for the mind to catch up than for the body to heal.
Here are 8 suggestions to help you along your way.
1. Remind yourself of why you began recovery in the first place. As time passes, it can be easy to begin glamorizing the aspects of the eating disorder that you liked. Do you want to find yourself in the same pain that motivated you to start recovery in the first place? I don’t think so! If you ever reminisce about the good old days of your eating disorder, you have to complete the picture by reconsidering the awful ones too. Dig deep and get to the ugly. What has your eating disorder taken away from you (hobbies, career, relationships, money, energy, hope, etc.)? What complications have you endured? How does having an eating disorder impact your daily life? Also, ask yourself what you are looking forward to by healing. I once made a gratitude list of 101 things I loved about life. From fresh cut fruit to freedom, what are some of your own gratitudes? Together, these are all motivators for your healing.
2. Come up with a food is fuel mantra that works for YOU, such as, “Food is my medicine right now.” Nourishment is a form of medicine, self-respect, and love. Appreciate the foods you DO enjoy. As I learned more about the medicinal values of various whole foods, I began conversing with food on a whole new level. For example, changing my use of food language allowed me to transform my relationship with healthy fats. When I learned walnuts are shaped like the brain and are a healthy brain food thanks to their Omega-3 essential fatty acid content, I changed my internal conversation from, “OMG, these walnuts are fattening and going straight to my bottom half,” to, “This is fueling my brain to help with clear thinking and stable mood. The fats are vital for my nervous system to function at optimum levels.” When I eat avocados, I still think, “Oh yeah. This is going straight to…the shine in my hair, skin, and nails.”
3. Be prepared to deal with body shape, weight, and appearance comments. Be prepared that many well intended people will want to compliment you on your accomplishment of “filling out a bit” and looking so much “better”, so much “healthier”! Some people will not know better and others may not be able to help themselves because they are so relieved and thankful. For someone still ambivalent about weight restoration, a seemingly innocent word like “healthy” can become a tossed grenade that explodes upon our recovery parade. If this happens, it helps to remind yourself that your eating disorder is confusing enough to you. Imagine how confusing it is to the general population. A little compassion can go a long way as a distress tolerance skill with these unwanted comments. In more valued relationships, you may decide to engage in conversation about how you actually interpret appearance-based comments. In all fairness, what we think at times hardly makes sense. PS. Healthy does not mean fat.
4. Just say no to “Thinspiration!” I know; it’s everywhere. The longer you have had an eating disorder, the more likely it is deeply embedded into your life. You don’t always even have to be looking for it. And it goes way beyond magazines and websites. I’ve been sidetracked on Facebook by someone’s alarming new profile picture, where they have clearly lost weight. Catching the interest of my eating disorder thoughts and with just a few clicks later, I could be perusing through photo albums of others with eating disorders –sucked into the abyss looking for thinspiration. Don’t let your social media support become a weapon of destruction against your hard earned progress. If you find yourself caught in a web of thinspiration, whether online or offline, remind yourself of why you began recovery in the first place. These people likely have very painful struggles they are dealing with, too. Every eating disorder has a shadow. Try not to torture yourself with thinspiration. Instead, fill up your newsfeed with pro-recovery outlets!
5. Avoid excessive body checking. There are so many ways we do this without realizing it. The most obvious way is probably the use of a scale, but some things are more discreet such as seeking your reflection in reflective surfaces or measuring body parts by wrapping around your fingers. Some of us might have certain clothing items we use to reference our body in space, such as a certain pair of “skinny jeans” that we taunt ourselves with. Consider donating or consigning these items. While body checking is often intended to provide some level of comfort or relief, conflict ensues when we are not happy with the number, size, or measurement. There are schools of thought that we shouldn’t know our weight at all and others that suggest using blind weigh-ins at the beginning of recovery and gradual weight exposure over time. If there is no way you are giving up your scale, at least consider putting this quote up on a post-it note nearby, “This scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, possibility, strength, or love.”
6. Spend time with encouraging social supports. Reduce your exposure to people who are weight or appearance obsessed. Set the tone and ditch the “fat talk” mania. Encourage your social supports to follow suit. Surround yourself with people who are uplifting and encouraging of others. You probably have enough trouble with criticizing yourself. You do not need further exposure to negative chitter chatter! Positive people will more likely help you appreciate both your inner and outer beauty. It’s also helpful to have a body image role model, whether someone who has recovered for an eating disorder or simply owns body confidence.
7. Adopt doable distraction techniques. Distraction techniques will not cure underlying issues, but they will help you avoid behavior use, which is incredibly empowering. You also deserve a break from the eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. Urges are temporary and will pass. While they may return, it lifts one’s spirits to be able to conquer urges when they present. I have used whatever works in the moment when I need a shift in focus away from negative body image. I may choose to read, watch TV, or color a mandala. I often use essential oils as a grounding distraction. Listening to music can change my train of thought quite easily as well. You may wish to call, text, or IM a friend. Snuggle up with your furbabies. Don’t be afraid to spend some time day dreaming about a goal you’ve had. Mental rehearsing plants the seed of success. Or maybe you are a list maker. Do anything other than accept mental torment from ED. J
8. Practice joyous exercise. Exercise can be a touchy subject with regards to eating disorders. If you have a history of excessive exercise, please consider exploring this in a therapeutic relationship, especially before reintroducing exercise into your life. Always seek medical clearance before engaging in exercise. In some cases, you may need a physical therapist to begin physical activity once cleared by your team. Exercise can have incredible benefits when practiced in moderation, including antidepressant benefits. Healthy exercise can also encourage a nourishing appetite, increased energy, and sound sleep – all elements of a balanced lifestyle. When possible, choose joy filled activities such as yoga, gardening, and surfing, where the focus is more likely to be on the activity than the eating disorder. Warning signs of excessive or abusive exercise may include: skipping social opportunities to work out, distress when a workout is missed, unwilling to allow rest days, being driving by obsessive thoughts, using exercise to purge calories, and exercising despite injury.
You’ve made it way too far and worked way too hard to give up now! I cannot emphasize enough that glamorizing the eating disorder only opens the gateway to relapse. Sure, the eating disorder served a purpose for you for a long time, but don’t forget it stopped working, which is why you decided to start your healing. If you find yourself wishing you were thinner or that you had not gained weight, know you are also wishing for all of the pain, struggle, and misery the eating disorder left you. And, you certainly don’t need all of that! You are worth a life worth living.
From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Faith
Recovery from an eating disorder is complex. It’s full of rollercoasters, intense emotions, radical acceptance, willingness over willfulness, courage, and perseverance. It’s easy to go back to negative behaviors where the eating disorder can calm anxiety and make you feel like you have control. But, in actuality, you are only locking yourself back in the box while the ED destroys your life. Bottom line: Recovery can be very scary. As you continue your recovery journey, you will have to face both old and new fears. By gaining a new perspective of how to conquer those fears, you will build more strength and courage every time you step out of the box and face that fear.
If you have read my other posts, you know that I used to be very athletic triathlete and cyclist. As I move further into my recovery and have begun to work towards reclaiming those passions, I have had to look fear straight in the face. It’s not a perfect road…Some days I can do it; other days I might hang back a little and tip toe outside the box. I have a hard time being patient with myself and remembering that my body is still healing, thus when it comes to biking and swimming, I need to learn to be more forgiving without letting fear take over and quitting completely.
I have recently joined a community center that I can both bike to and swim once I’m there. I felt like a small child holding my mom’s hand when I went to try swimming. Luckily, I chose to face this fear by choosing to go with someone from my support system. It was my first time there actually using the facilities, and I didn’t understand how the locker rooms worked. A swim team was starting, and I hate being cold, which all lap pools are kept at a cooler temperature. I had anxiety just thinking about going. Seeing the swim team was intimidating and brought up old emotions of when I swam on a team. I knew my stamina was definitely not up to par, and fear immediately took over telling me, “You can’t swim, look at those girls, they are in the best shape and can swim forever.” I hovered over the lane edge, knowing the cold rush I would feel as soon as I dove. Half of me was saying, “no, no, no!” The wise mind other half was telling me, “at least jump in, you love swimming and you have to start somewhere.”
With a deep breath I took the dive and immediately began sprinting down the lane trying to warm myself up. I could feel my body maxing out, which was a bit frustrating, but I accomplished a small step towards my larger goal. I may have only done two laps but I didn’t quit, I tried it, and I can prepare myself better the next time. I was a bit discouraged, yet at the same time, I was trying to turn my mind and use it for more motivation.
Now, I could get down on myself and compare doing two laps to two miles. However, the initial goal was breaking the box, and I at least jumped in and tried. The next time, I knew what to expect a little more, and although there is still a bit of anxiety, I try to keep pushing myself and not have any expectations other than getting in the pool and swimming. In time, I hope it becomes therapeutic as it used to be.
Another example of overcoming recovery related fears centers around social situations. After isolating for so long, it’s easy to decline the party invitations, going out for meals, returning to work, etc. This may sound silly, but I was invited to see a movie with my neighbor about a book we’ve been discussing. I tend to experience a panic state going to theatres, so I seldom ever go. I don’t think I’ve been to a movie since Harry Potter. Everything inside of me was screaming no! Then, I took into consideration that this was a social event, very few that I ever have, and I needed to push myself instead of hiding in my apartment or avoiding with other tasks. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face….we must do that which we think we cannot.” I tried using my wise mind, and made the goal that every day I will push myself to face at least one fear, big or small.
Tess Marshall, M.A., who specializes in learning how to live a bold life, has created nine tips to face fear in the face so it no longer rules our lives:
1) GET COMFORTABLE WITH FEAR.
Try and do one thing each day that might cause fear and invite it into your life. Let yourself feel it and breathe through it. Every time you conquer a fear, it builds courage and opens up new doors in your life. Such examples I’ve had this week: actually going to the pool, going to a movie, cycling more and building up a commuter bike, and facing strong anxiety that seems to build in the evening with some yoga.
2) MAKE YOUR DOMINANT THOUGHTS POSITIVE.
Give yourself positive mantras, thoughts, and positive energy that generate success, whereas more fearful thoughts will just attract more fear. I have my apartment posted with random quotes and affirmations. Sometimes they get stuck in my head which helps me turn my negative thoughts around.
3) DON’T GIVE TIME, ATTENTION, OR ENERGY TO FEAR.
Take action towards fear and don’t let opportunities continue to pass you by. This can be difficult, but if you continue to be consistent, prepared, focusing on solutions, that energy will further motivate you to conquer what’s ahead. This is a perfect example of facing my movie theater fear. I could decline and lose the opportunity to get to know my neighbor better (and possibly seeing a good movie), but I’m tired of letting fear and anxiety keep me imprisoned and losing out on opportunities to grow. If I don’t like theatres still after, then I don’t really have to ever go again. (Isn’t that what Redbox is for?)
4) NEVER DWELL ON SCARCITY
“Focus your attention on being ready, willing, and prepared for the beauty, wonder, connections, good fortune and favorable circumstances that are yours if you are willing to work and be open to it.”
5) REVISIT YOUR VICTORIES.
Every time you conquer a fear, don’t brush it under the rug. Celebrate it and use it to continue building courage, motivation, and strength. For example, I rode the community center once, I can ride again. I got in the pool, and even though I didn’t last long, I got in and tried to swim a few more laps as well as tried out their therapeutic pool – which is a bit warmer!
6) LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH THE VICTORIES OF OTHERS.
Read or learn about inspiring people, events, things that have occurred when people have faced fear in the face and overcome all obstacles to achieve their dream. Some examples are Walt Disney, Oprah, Robin Williams, etc. Maybe it’s not a famous person or event; maybe it’s a special person in your life. My mom may not be famous, but she is one of the most perseverant, compassionate, and courageous people I know. Do you have anyone you look up to? Why?
7) ASK YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY FOR SUPPORT.
Use your support team to help you overcome fearful moments. The first time when I just wanted to try the pool (after changing about 10 times because I was letting anxiety take over and not wanting to go), my mom came with me and just said, “Jump in and see how it goes.” It was a small step, but one more step of courage I can build upon to do it again.
8) CREATE A SUPPORT GROUP OF FRIENDS OR COLLEAGUES.
Having a strong support team helps build that foundation of trust and more willingness to overcome the fear. Supporting each other can make tough moments easier, and possibly even more fun.
9) PLAN TO BE GREAT
Create a list of your goals and conquer them. Use the SMART goal setting technique so you can celebrate even the tiniest step. The power is within you to overcome obstacles, and let your dreams and happiness re-enter your life. .
No longer do we have to let doubt, fear, and anxiety dominate our lives. Don’t let the ED or fear steal anymore joy, sleep, dreams, and goals. DO NOT let FEAR define your life. You are all strong and courageous! Sometimes we just need to dust ourselves off and remember that “I CAN” reach my goals and dreams.
A few quotes to fight fear with:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”
“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.”
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”
It was just a couple of months ago that I discovered the joys of quinoa, a superfood I had long avoided simply out of intimidation. Since writing the Conquering Quinoa post, I have experimented with all sorts of ways to prepare and consume this new pantry staple:
Mexican Chocolate Breakfast Quinoa – Much like oatmeal made with chocolate nutmilk rather than water, spiced with cinnamon and cayenne. Sweeten as desired)
Toasted Maple Quinoa – Cooked quinoa is baked and sweetened with maple syrup. It is quite similar to granola.
Quinoa Build a Bowl – Start with quinoa, add protein, add veggies, add healthy fat source (i.e. quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, and avocado).
Quinoa Salads – Quinoa tossed with add-ins and a dressing (i.e. apricots, tomatoes, green onions, and a honey-lime vinaigrette)
I’ve been struggling with choosing which recipe to post to the blog ever since. My decision has been stalled by indecisiveness because I haven’t had a bad quinoa experiment yet. In fact, I may step up the heat. Perhaps it’s time to “Conquer Baking” !?! I just found a simple recipe for sprouted quinoa blueberry muffins and I happen to have local seasonal blueberries in the fridge.
Before I get ahead of myself with next week’s quinoa experiment, I finally decided on which quinoa salad recipe to share. Jeanne, Mirasol’s CEO and founder, informed me that the new Mirasol Cookbook is being proofread and will be soon sent to the printer! Decision made. Everything I have ever made from Mirasol’s first cookbook has been worthy of writing home about. Actually, these days I just take a picture on my smartphone to text cherished recipes. Oh technology…
I pulled out the Mirasol Cookbook (2007) and flipped through to the quinoa salad recipe on pg. 46. Always trustworthy, once again I was pleased with the recipe! Not only was I delighted, but my taste tester stated (and I quote!), “Mmmmmmmm! Mmmmmmmm!” This is such a light and refreshing, protein-packed summer salad!
Orange Sesame Quinoa Salad (Serves 12)
2 c. quinoa, uncooked
4 c. cooked chicken or tempeh, cubed
2 c. green or red pepper, chopped
2 c. celery, diced
1 c. carrots, shredded
2 green onions, sliced
2/3 c. orange juice concentrate
1/4 c. sesame oil
1/2 c. parsley, chopped
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp ginger
salt and pepper
Boil 4 C water for 2 C quinoa. Cook until done.
In a large bowl, combine quinoa and all remaining salad ingredients and toss gently. Combine all dressing ingredients and blend together well. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to blend flavors. Serve on lettuce-lined plates.
(Note: I made a half recipe and did not blend the parsley into the dressing, which is why the dressing is orange in the picture.)
~ Heather Purdin, M.Ed., RYT (Mirasol Guest Blogger)
Do you hear voices?
In case you think that’s an accusation, everyone I know does. I mean right now I hear a voice saying I really should not be writing this in my nightie, since it’s 11am and that is unseemly, or something like that. Lazy. Irresponsible. Hear that inner critic?
The good thing is that right now, I’m just not listening. I’m listening to another voice inside that is asking me to focus on what you as a reader might need right now, and how to approach today’s topic.
“Good for you,” you might be saying to me. “But what if I can’t stop listening to the critical voice?”
That would be one of the most important questions you could ask. Especially if you suffer from an eating disorder. Because I know that learning how to manage those inner critical voices is a key to your recovery.
You probably have developed very articulate inner critics who tell you that you don’t look right and don’t have control over yourself. Then these voices shame you for objecting to what they’re saying, and then tell you how messed up you must be because you’re listening. And on and on.
Anne Lamott, one of my favorite authors, says this is like being tuned into station KFUK.
So how do you change the station?
The Flying Lesson for Life that’s relevant here is Lesson 5, Communicating with our Inner Controllers. If you think of the aviation metaphor, you know that controllers are there to keep pilots and passengers safe. It’s their job to sit in a tower and spot you on a radar screen and keep you separate from nearby traffic.
The tricky part is that when you’re a student pilot, you’re sure the controllers are gods in the sky who are out to bust you. Because sometimes they do. If you’re at an airport and you cross a ‘hold-short’ line without permission, they are like police. If they are guiding you into a busy airport and you don’t stay at the altitude they told you to keep, they’re going to yell at you.
But here’s the deal. Since they aren’t in the pilot’s seat, they aren’t the ones who are responsible for the airplane and the safety of those inside. So if I’m taking off and a controller tells me to turn left and I see another airplane in the way, I’m going to say, “Cannot comply.” I’m not going to obey when it’s not safe.
Here are some simple but powerful tips to put you back in the pilot’s seat with your hand on that radio dial:
1. When you hear a voice criticizing you, ask it who is speaking. Ask how old it is.
2. If the voice is the voice of a younger you, treat her as you would a treasured child. Give her a hug and tell her you’re in charge now and you will keep her safe.
3. If you can’t hear anything but static, simply STOP and breathe. See if you can quiet your body and listen. The hardest thing is to just sit with the feeling and remember it is just a feeling.
4. Ask inside to hear the ‘voice’ of an energy inside you that is positive and loving. They’re there. We all have an archetypal Great Mother inside, a Queen, and a Heroine. See if you can find those.
5. “Clean up the cockpit!” Clio, my flight instructor, would advise me when there was static. Simply change the frequency. Get up and do a yoga pose or jumping jacks. Put on some music. Call a friend. Ignore the tyrant.
6. Get some help with the voices. There are so many wonderful therapies for this uniquely human problem. (When was the last time you heard a lion criticize itself?)
7. Congratulate yourself every time you practice one of these interventions.
8. Mostly, don’t feel crazy or alone. We all have critical voices and they are part of human suffering, and definitely part of eating disorders. But we can learn to manage what we listen to. We can learn to change our thoughts. We can learn to believe that we’re all right, exactly as we are.
Honestly, it’s just a matter of practice.
~Pamela Hale Trachta (Guest Blogger)
Navigating Turbulent Conditions, Flying Lesson # 3: Taking the Pilot’s Seat for your Healing Journey
By the time I began taking flying lessons, I was a mature woman and thought I was already pretty good at flying, having sat at the passenger seat controls for eight years in my husband’s plane. So when my flight instructor, Clio, put me in the left seat for the first lesson, I was shocked at how scary and different that experience was.
The seat didn’t feel right. The view out the window didn’t look right. Even the gauges didn’t seem familiar. I had to admit that the problem was, I had never really assumed the responsibility of the pilot’s seat.
In the passenger seat, we assume the pilot is the one in command; we’re really just along for the ride. And so even when we take the controls for awhile, we know the pilot will rescue us if we do anything irresponsible or dangerous. Probably, this is the reason Clio had me sit in the left seat starting with the first lesson.
In my Flying Lessons for Life system, Lesson #3 is “Take the Pilot’s Seat.” The challenge associated with this lesson is trusting ourselves. In the chakra system related to energy medicine, this is the third chakra at the solar plexus. This energy is related to our sense of Self.
When we put our “Self” in the pilot’s seat, which part of us is that? We all know that we have a crowd of inner characters, whose voices range from encouraging to downright cruel. And they all scramble and compete for the seat at the controls.
Everyone has a healthy Self who is older and wiser than the other voices within. Some of those are younger, wounded, afraid. My clients usually want me to do an exorcism of some sort on those!
When I was afraid I’d never learn to trust myself behind the controls of an airplane, those scared, young, doubting inner critics all tried to wrestle the controls away from me. (I’m sure you know what I mean.) Clio knew it was her job to train me to feel in control and confident in that left seat, so that there would be no room for my doubts, fears and old habits to lead us into disaster.
Spiritual and therapeutic practices of any kind—meditation, deep journaling, deep dialogue, body work…are all meant to strengthen that Self—the one who is already healed, already older, wiser and confident enough to take mistakes in stride.
The Self is not perfectionistic. After all, when I was learning to fly, making mistakes made up the whole agenda for each lesson! And when I despaired at my imperfections, Clio would say, “Leave your mistakes behind you like the landscape.” When you’re flying a plane, there’s no room for worrying about what happened “back there.” And in our complex lives, we have plenty to worry about just being in the present.
The core fear associated with this lesson is not being good enough. I find that fear to be epidemic, and not just among those suffering from eating disorders. We all need “training” to correct the messages we’ve received from other wounded people who didn’t feel they were good enough. It’s contagious, but fortunately, it’s curable.
“You have it in you to be a pilot! I know it beyond a doubt!” Clio would say to me. How wonderful that I had someone to give me that message in a fierce tone that told me she would never give up on me.
Who is the “flight instructor” who can help you strengthen that Self, that soul-Self who can pilot you through uncharted territory ahead? For you are on a wondrous, sacred and exciting journey. Don’t give up the controls when you have the chance to be the heroine of your own life.
~Pamela Hale Trachta (Guest Blogger)
Eating Disorder Hope Award
- Ground-Breaking New Research on the Genetic Origins of Anorexia Nervosa March 4, 2015
- Gone Wild: Backpacking with Mirasol March 2, 2015
- Curing the “Winter Blues” March 2, 2015
- TRE (Tension + Trauma Releasing Exercises) February 23, 2015
- Six Times a Day? February 16, 2015
- Turning Points February 11, 2015
- RESHARE: Insurance Companies Coming Up Short January 15, 2015
- RESHARE: Ten Things I Wish Physicians Would Know About Eating Disorders December 22, 2014
- Live Your Life: Finding Connection When Lost December 18, 2014
- Compulsive Overeating Disorder November 18, 2014