Friday, October 30, 2015

"Bad Kids"

About two months ago I attended my first ever Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Without ever attending any type of twelve step meeting, I had no idea what to expect. This particular night we attended an open speaker meeting. It was an opportunity for an individual with a substantial amount of recovery time to share their story with the group. Sounded painless enough.

My heart sank when I immediately recognized the speaker from my past. I had gone to grade school with this person and knew he began using at a young age. To be terribly honest, he was one of the kids my goodie-two-shoes gang and I made fun of and looked down upon. I did not grow up with access to drugs or alcohol, and therefore, did not understand why anyone would go down that path. He hung out with the kids my parents told me to stay away from; the "bad kids."

So there I sat fifteen years later listening to the so-called "bad kid" teach me about how to recover from addiction. To say I was humbled is an understatement. Pinpointing a single emotion to that night is impossible. I was dumbfounded, ashamed, nauseous, mortified, confused, and most importantly incredibly proud of this young man's journey. I had been shaken to my very core. Suddenly not only did I have to interact with these "bad kids," but I had to look to them for guidance and support.

As I am writing this, I realize how judgmental it sounds and I apologize for that. At the same time, however, I think it is important to note the way I once thought is not uncommon in today's society. Simply put addicts are wrongfully seen in a negative light.

For those of you who have followed my blog in the past, you know I primarily wrote about my eating disorder recovery journey. Over a short period of time I gained a substantial following and felt a sense of belonging. Although it might have been a bit shocking at times, talking about my eating disorder publicly did not feel socially unacceptable. 

Here I am, however, a few years down the road tackling an equally devastating and challenging form of addiction but feel suffocated by the social stigmas involved. I have been hesitant to post this for awhile now, but this is a disease people die from every single day; not something to be quiet about or shy away from.

As a child I was taught to believe addicts are somehow “bad kids.”
However, now that I am white-knuckling through my own sobriety and recovery,
I am finding these so-called “bad kids” are my soulmates.

Addicts are remarkable people.
Addicts fight a war within themselves every single day.
Addicts are stereotyped and discriminated against.
Addicts are beaten down and made to believe they are weak.
With all odds against them,
addicts do live healthy lives in recovery,
and for that,
I am grateful.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Honesty. Openmindedness. Willingness.


Three of favorite words.

With the exception of about three people, not including my parents, most of you think I have spent the past month at my old eating disorder treatment center for a "booster." Meaning my weight was down a few pounds and old self-destructive thoughts were creeping their way back into my life. Which is only partially true.

Here it goes... I was in a three week program for substance abuse here in my hometown. Some of you might be thinking, "omg, finally," and some of you might be a little surprised.

Both are okay. 

With this decision brought the loss of my senior year internship, giving up my apartment, the end of a relationship that brought several joys to my recovery, and several other raised eyebrows.  To say I was lost and in complete shock is an understatement. Here's the thing about entering substance abuse treatment as someone who has only indulged in wine - I've never done drugs, I don't smoke cigarettes, and I've never even seen weed in real life (giggles allowed). Most of my fellow patients had done time in jail or lost their kids as a result to hard drugs. I was out of place and struggling.

I never took the program seriously.

Here I am a week out of treatment wishing I could go back.
Wishing I could have a re-do.
Wishing I could take advantage rather than spite the people around me.
Wishing I wasn't so damn judgmental.

Forgive me, but I've always had a stereotype of what it means to be a drug addict, regardless of my social work background. Regardless of the fact that I have struggled with a behavioral addiction (anorexia) for most of my life. Who am I to judge these people?

On one of my first days we learned the acronym HOW.


There were several nights when staff members asked if I had opened up and begun accepting the program. In all honestly, I usually rolled my eyes and questioned how I could even fit in with these people, let alone get "on board with the program." I had been through treatment before, done this work, and was a little insulted they didn't understand I wasn't a hardcore drug addict. Deep down I probably knew I needed to be there, but my acceptance level was zero.

Here I am one week out of treatment and wishing I could move back in. I might have said and done the right things to get out, but it did me zero good in the long run. Even though I grew up in an upper-middle class family and had all of my needs met, I still belonged there. I was no different than anyone there.

Honestly - I am an addict. Whether I use an eating disorder or wine to numb the craziness in my brain, I'm still an addict.

Openmindness - During my first week in the treatment center, all I could focus on was my judgments. I'm sure everyone in the house hated me for this, but it's true. If I am an addict, who am I to judge anyone who has dealt with relationship, professional, or even legal problems who is also an addict?
Not cool, Kels.

Willingness - Here's the big one. Am I truly and deeply willing to accept who I am as an addict and those around me for the wonderful human beings they are? Yikes. Seems like a loaded question. The willingness to accept myself as a part of this family?! One day at a time.

This is a difficult post, but much needed. 

Hi I'm Kelsi, and I'm an alcoholic.

I hate those words, but they are part of me and my future.

The most important part of any AA meeting is the newcomer. So here I am...

Willing and ready.

Serious Progress.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Good Foods vs. Bad Foods: Part 2

Just today I found this response/question from 2013 on my Freedom: Good Foods vs. Bad Foods post, which was ironically posted two years ago today. I know that thanks to TimeHop... Slightly embarrassed for not answering sooner, but here's the question...

"I was looking back on your old posts, because it usually helps when i'm having a rough day in recovery, and this post stood out. I recently met with a dietitian for the first time yesterday and ever since have felt really down. I feel like she overlooked the eating disorder part because when me and my parents left all i had was a list of things to not eat and a "clean" meal plan. Ever since I've felt pressured to live up to that meal plan but it took enough effort to get to a place where food was starting to not seem so black and white (good and bad) and now I feel like i'm back a square one. It sucks because I've been trying so hard to not restrict amounts and types of food like i did before, and i feel like the dietitian is telling me to go back to doing that. I'm so confused, and angry, and unsure of what to do because at this point i feel worse emotionally and somewhat physically, but I'm doing what she suggested. Any advice?"

And here's my rant three years out of treatment...

First of all, this is a really difficult question and I am not a doctor or dietitian, so please take everything I say in this post with a grain of salt. It's all personal experience; which can be a great thing or a horrible thing, based on the individual.

However, when I first started college and while in culinary school, I took two different nutrition classes. I took this course twice. I took this class probably five years apart and at completely different universities. HOWEVER, both classes indicated most dietitians do not have the proper eating disorder education. They are only taught a short excerpt from their text books and then move on to different macro and micro nutrients. Very few dietitians specialize in eating disorders and it's insulting.

I realize this might be controversial, as many dietitians probably feel like they can treat EDs after receiving a simple bachelors degree, but from my experience they tend to teach ED patients more harm than good.

What I'm trying to say is, if dietitians aren't given a proper education in eating disorders, they tend to teach their ED patients BAD vs. GOOD FOODS. They only reinforce the fact that, even though the patient is recovering from an eating disorder, they still need to steer clear of anything fattening, containing too many carbs, or has too much sugar. Whether dietitians want to believe it or not, this only reinforces the eating disorder by continuing those extreme habits

If an ED patient is told to eat healthy and constantly avoid "bad food," they will continue to do so; along with restrict calories and fight off cake, ice cream, and cheeseburgers, because they were told to do so. RATHER THAN EMBRACING LIFE and the different foods it might bring.

Sure, the treatment center I went to had an extreme approach. We were taught a calorie is a calories is a calorie, and it's proven true ever since. Sure, we ate nothing but frozen meals and junk food, but only did so for a short period of time while gaining weight. However, and most importantly, post-treatment I was able to attend a birthday party and eat cake without feeling guilty. I was able to attend a summer barbecue and enjoy a burger or a hot dog (even though I entered treatment as a vegetarian) without self-destruction. I can have bacon and eggs with my boyfriend for breakfast without throwing it up two minutes later. I don't need to punish myself for eating a cookie each night after dinner.


There were never any constraints on my diet during treatment, and as a result, I am happier and healthier because of it. Food doesn't scare me, as it would a person who is still taught good vs. bad foods from their dietitian.  

I'm so grateful for the Little Debbies and Poptarts I was forced to eat in early recovery.
Even three years later.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Dreaded Weight GAIN in Recovery....

So I got on the scale the other day for the first time in over a year and almost had a heart attack.

I've gained a few pounds this summer. Ironically, the only reason I stepped on the scale was because I could feel the weight gain in my gut (haha bad joke, but serious).

I could feel it in the way my clothes fit, in my energy level, and in my hunger levels.
1. Skirts and dresses still fit, but my skinny jeans are super uncomfortable.
2. I'm always tired, hate waking up in the morning, and sometimes feel worse after coffee.
3. My hunger has been non-existent, which should be a huge red flag. Don't eat if your body doesn't need it. Simple. 

I sometimes wonder after two weeks of this how it is possible to become overweight, which sounds like an awful thing to say, but it's true. 
Simply put, I feel terrible.

Maybe that's because I have struggled with an eating disorder and the slightest weight gain makes me feel like a balloon. 
Maybe it's because I hate feeling full.
Maybe it's because it's summer and I have been eating hot dogs, potato salad, and french fries.
Maybe it's because my activity level has severely decreased.
Maybe it's because I have reached my late twenties (only 2.5 years until I'm  30. AHHHH) and my metabolism is finally slowing down.

In all honestly, it's probably a combination of all of the things listed above. Actually, in all honestly, I think it might be normal to go through five pound weight fluctuations. But it honestly feels like the end of the world while being someone who recently dealt with an eating disorder. 

Just last week, I spoke with my (new) therapist about this. I was sure it was all in my head and feeling "fat" was nonsense... Until I got on the scale. Damnit, scale.

Sure, I'm still at a healthy weight for my height and most of my clothes still fit (although some of them are a bit tight). 
Sure, it's only five pounds, but it feels like the end of the world. 
In all honesty, it makes me want to start a diet tomorrow, which is Monday, and power through until I lose a good 10lbs..
 It makes my brain act in crazy ways. 

In all honesty, this weight is still a few pounds below the weight my treatment team set for me. Sometimes I wonder if they purposely set our goal weight a few pounds higher than need be because they know we will lose a few post treatment... Or maybe my low mood has been due to lack of lbs? It's so hard to say and it's so frustrating to be in this position.

So here I am admitting to weight gain, which might be one of the most difficult things I have done in years. How could I be so weak to eat this much? How can I be so stubborn to not accept this might be where my body needs to be? How could I? 

The good news is, I'll be okay.
I might hate it and I might try to cut calories.
But I'll be okay.

The good news is, I know better than to lose too much weight. My metabolism will settle where it needs to. My body might gain weight as that is normal as we age and the metabolism changes. I might need to eat a bit healthier and fit in a bit more activity, which sounds like the rest of America.  

But I'll be okay.
There's no need to lose 30lbs in order to be happy or accepted.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Lovin... And Wardrobe?

I recently had a fan of the blog email me and ask to write about a specific topic
(which I love! So please, ask away!!)...

"This is my first summer post-treatment and now that I am at a healthy
weight, it's scary to wear my summer clothes. I used to feel so nice about
wearing short shorts and tank tops, but now I'm noticing that I barely
recognize my body. It's scary, but I know that I look healthy; it's just a
sight I'm not used to. It makes me feel nervous, self-conscious, etc. Have
you ever experienced this? Do you have any tips? You are so gorgeous,
whether you're wearing a sweater or a sundress. I want to love my body in
all seasons. Thanks!"

This is difficult for me to answer because I am three years out of treatment and still struggling with body image myself. The short answer is YES, it is scary. It is difficult. But hang in there...

I wish the answer was simple. I wish I could say I am perfectly content with my post-treatment body three years later, but I can't. How are we supposed to feel confident in our skin after the adjustment in body weight post-treatment?!

Just a week and a half ago, I took a trip to Northern Michigan and spent an entire day on the water with girls who had 'perfect' bodies. 
It sucked.

I had my bikini on, but sweat through the little cover-up dress I had on. I honestly felt like the biggest girl there, even though I can look back on it now and see the amount of body fat I have was completely irrelevant.

I had a great time. 

I enjoyed the company around me and genuinely laughed.

I really enjoyed the food... Bagels (with full fat cream cheese) and an amazing tortellini pesto salad were two of my faves.

A few more favorite things...
Laughter as my silly friends jumped out of their kayaks and peed in the lake like kids.
An adorable three pound dog who ruled the house and became my best friend.
A new found culinary treat (The Little Fleet) that satisfied the food snob in me with the pulled pork nachos! Nom!
Visiting with one of my favorite culinary friends.
And of course, cheering on some of our best friends as they completed the Cherry Fest 5k, 10k, 15k, and (crazy people) half marathon.

Sure, I was worried about my weight.
Sure, my weight was 2-4lbs higher than it's been in 10 years.
Sure, I felt like the biggest lady there.

However, I found a way to enjoy myself regardless.
While in recovery from an eating disorder, it is extremely difficult to engage in summer activities. Whether that means wearing shorts, tank tops, or a bikini.. It's all intimidating, no matter how far along in recovery you might be. 

So, back to the original question, what tips do I have to survive summer after recovery?

Sundresses. Seriously. Wear them all the time. Find dresses that are flattering high on the waist. That's my biggest secret. High waist and belts at high waste are my best friend.

Color. If I'm trying on dresses, I try to find a color that compliments my skin tone. I'm super pale. So anything to contrast is wonderful. Think blues, greens (especially with the red tones in my hair), purples, and bright pinks.

COMFORT. This is the most important while in recovery, which is why sundresses are my go-to and I still default to them daily. Also, try not to look at the size. If it fits, it's perfect. If not, try a different size. Regardless of what the tag says. I have found I can go from a size 12 to a size 2 depending on the store so forget labels.

Again, COMFORT. Shorts can be difficult in the summer. Just this year I found myself too old or too big or too whatever to fit into shorts I wore last year. I was humiliated. How is it possible that I now need to buy shorts in the lady's department rather than in the juniors? It didn't seem fair. Luckily, once I found a pair that fit, I felt better about myself and my age... It was a double whammy.

Okay, let's get back to the original question....

How is it possible to feel comfortable in your own skin the summer after gaining weight?

To be perfectly honest, the summer after recovery was also the most difficult time for me, as well.
I hated my new body.
I wanted out.

It was difficult for me to see that fitting into sundresses and shorts was actually a good thing. It was difficult (and still is) for me to see my body filling out the clothes I am expected to wear.

The good news is, we are trying new things and asking important questions. Let's keep up the good work in recovery and begin to see body acceptance as a positive.

One day and one size at a time...


Friday, July 10, 2015

Why Diets Don't Work

Why haven't I seen this TED Talk until today? Nueroscientist Sandra Aamodt discusses why diets don't work, set point range, and how yo yo dieting can lead to binge eating, weight gain, and even eating disorders. The brain responds to weight loss by going into starvation mode, much like what happens with an eating disorder.

Just this morning while I was getting dressed, I was having one of those destructive and just plain awful body image days.

Why are some days more difficult than others when it comes to my weight?
 How can I be three years out of treatment and still have bad body image days?
 Is this normal or am I abnormal?
 Why do I suddenly feel worthy, confident, and ready to face the day when I feel "thin?"

In all honesty, these bad body image days still make me want to diet even though I know nothing good will come if I begin to restrict calories. Like in the TED Talk, science has proven messing with our metabolism and going against hunger cues can actually lead to binge eating and ultimately a higher set point weight. While I was in treatment, I remember being terrified of my set point weight. To make things worse, if I ever decided to lose weight again and go below my current set point, the body will adjust by raising that set point, making me heavier in the long run. This has been a good incentive to maintain the set point weight my treatment team has given me (even though I hate it sometimes).

So how do we achieve this magical state of "mindful eating" described in the video? It's discouraging Dr. Aamodt spent an entire year working at this before she finally felt as though she reached a steady mindful eating pattern and she's never even had an eating disorder.

It sounds simple enough - eat when you're hungry, eat the foods your body craves, and stop when full.
 So why do so many of us struggle with this?
When did it become so difficult to listen to our bodies? 

Dr. Aamodt suggests we take the time to sit down to regular meals and slowly begin to figure out what makes the body feel good. Avoid distractions and try to think of eating as a time of nourishment rather than making it a numbers game. One of my favorite statements from this clip is, "If diets worked, we'd all be thin already." Why do we keep doing the same thing, while expecting different results? 

A shocking eighty percent of ten year old girls say they have been on a diet. As a society, we are taught to measure worth on the wrong scale.

I really like Dr. Aamodt's idea of refocusing the willpower we use to diet and restrict calories, and using that energy to better ourselves intellectually. Rather than focusing all of my energy on body image, I could be using that energy to ace my next big paper or rebuilding lost relationships. Sounds like a much better use of time and energy, doesn't it?

Suddenly, my bad body image day doesn't seem quite so bad.
Maybe I can face the day without silly diet thoughts, after all.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Welcome Back, Kelsi

I recently had three of my favorite people tell me they missed my writing. They weren't concerned with sharing it on social media or how I went about writing, they just wanted to know whether or not I kept up with it. To be honest, no I have not kept up with my writing. Whether it be through this blog or a personal journal (which I failed to keep), I have not been writing.

There are few things in my recovery that have helped me more than writing. I'm not sure if its a sense of mental discharge/clearance or if its the support I receive through followers (probably a combo of both), but it definitely provides a sense of relief while dealing with life.

Sure, I still struggle with my body image, even though I am nowhere near overweight. Sure, I still struggle with my social acceptance among those around me, even though I'm perfectly capable of having a strong conversation. Sure, I still struggle with being an adult, because most of my other 27 year old friends are married and have kids. 

Bottom line - I still struggle. I might be able to keep my eating disordered symptoms under control, but I still struggle.

I think one of the most difficult parts of recovery is admitting when things are hard. Just this past weekend, I had a conversation with my parents stating the need of further help and it was one of the most difficult conversations I've had in years.

I am Kelsi and I am supposed to be "recovered." 
But I'm not. 
Life is hard.
 It's difficult to realize there is no set time line set in place. 
I'll get there when I need to. 

So here's to the welcoming back of Progression Obsession.
Here's to progress in more ways than in the eating disorder world.
Here's to the difficulties of becoming a young adult and proving yourself.
 Here's to the student loans and realizing you don't have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life at 18 years old.
Here's to meal planning, my culinary arts degree, and making our grocery budget stretch.
Here's to youtube yoga and daily walks.

Here's to happiness and a wellness comeback.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

"It Could Be Worse"

I think I said the wrong thing at work tonight.
It might have been my first official screw up.

I was chatting with one of the residents about something I can't remember and said  
"things could always be worse."

Eeeeeekkkk. That's like nails on a chalkboard for the women at this shelter.

Things really could not be worse for these ladies. They are abused by their husbands, they have kids (this 25 year old had 5), and are unable to support themselves and their families financially. The only way things could be worse is if they were on the streets with their children.

The worst part is it is far from the mother's fault, yet they still end up in shelter.

As I am learning in my sexual violence class and from work, is these women are not at fault. More often than not, they are simply trying to please their pathetic assailants. As an effort to please their significant other, substance abuse or unresolved anger issues (or both) get in the way and keep these women from leaving the dangerous situation. Other factors like finances, fear, sense of belonging, and children might keep an abused women in her difficult situation.

To say "things could be worse" is simply unacceptable. Sure, things could be worse, but to remind these vulnerable women of their current situation in that way isn't a good idea. At all.

So I will continue to be humbled at work.

I had a four-year-old teach me the "nae nae" dance today.
She learned my name and came to office to say goodnight to Kelsi.
I can't wait to see her again in a few days when I work.
These are the moments I work for.

Even though I said the wrong thing today, I am learning. I will learn from this screw-up and never, ever say that again to these women. However, I am finding strengths and learning that I can do this.

This job is scary at times. But perhaps, if I simply show my genuine, empathetic self then I will be just fine. I cried to my boyfriend the other night that I don't fit in with these women, but maybe that's okay.

Maybe simply being Kelsi is enough.
Maybe it has taken me years to realize this.
But maybe that's okay, too.

Life can always be worse.