Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Digestive Difficulties & Menstrual Regulation

 Alright. Publicly talking about my digestive difficulties and menstrual cycle isn't my idea of a good time, but I have been wanting to write about this for awhile. Both are potentially triggering issues that many of us face in recovery so I decided to go for it and do this TMI (too much info) post. Here we go...

Digestive Difficulties

Bloating, gas, pain, abdominal distention, and of course constipation are all common digestive difficulties during the early stages of recovery. After a period of starvation, digestive enzymes and a crucial bacteria needed to digest food are reduced causing these uncomfortable symptoms. For many of us recovering from eating disorders, this phase is often so bad it turns us away from recovery all together.

In my personal experience (TMI warning), during the first 3-4 weeks of eating normally I didn't have bowel movements once. Not exaggerating. Other patients going through this process with me, said they had similar "back up" anywhere from a few days to a full month. Depending on duration of the disorder prior to re-feeding, consistency of eating, and even the types of foods consumed, the amount of time this process takes varies from person to person.

Even after my first bowel movement - the most exciting day of my life - I still struggled with irregularity for quite sometime.  I've read that spacing out food throughout the day as much as possible and yogurts with live active cultures can both help regulate the digestive system during this phase of recovery. It is also tempting to cut back on calories during this time, but that is actually one of the worst things you can do. In order for the metabolism to regulate again, it needs those calories to keep the "fire burning."

Unfortunately, it is one of those things I had to suffer through in order to move forward. I wish there had been a way around it, but at the same time it keeps me motivated to never (ever ever ever) fall back into eating disordered behaviors. Going through that process once was enough for me.

Menstrual Regulation

After about four years without having a period, due to lack of body fat, the day I finally did get my first period last year was somewhat traumatic. In my disordered mind, getting my period back meant I had reached a healthy weight and at the time, a healthy weight made me fat. Yes, if you must know I did cry the morning it returned. 

At my treatment center if someone did something out of the ordinary or made an important stride in recovery, they were given a star (it was just a sticker). This was always a big deal because they were rarely handed out. Everyone would ask what the person did to deserve the star and they would get to spend the day bragging about their progress. Exciting stuff. 

During our morning weigh-ins the day my period returned, I told the two therapists weighing me the big news and to my surprise they were both THRILLED. I remember them congratulating me and saying how proud they were of me, all while I was throwing myself a pity party for officially being "fat." One of the therapists reached in her desk drawer and gave me a big star to celebrate getting my period.

Sounds kind of silly, I know, but it really did help me realize what a huge sign of health this was. Getting your period back during recovery is one of the most triggering turning points for most patients and I can fully understand why. Honestly, I kind of enjoyed not having my period; what girl wouldn't? The real reason it is so traumatic, however, is it meant I finally had enough body fat for my hormones to regulate themselves again. But I was forgetting the many benefits that come with menstruation - as odd as that statement might sound.

One common misconception surrounding the return of menstruation is it automatically means an individual has reached their body's set point weight. This is simply not true. I know girls who got their period back 10-15lbs before their goal weight and other girls who didn't get it until 2-3 months after reaching their goal weight. Again, like so many aspects of recovery, everyone is completely different. Also, it has taken my period this entire year of recovery to regulate. The thing that helped me most was consistency with my meal plan. Just like with my digestive difficulties, the more stable my weight was, the quicker my body could begin functioning properly again.

With the discomfort involved in digestion regularity, knowing I was officially at a healthy weight thanks to the return of my period, and all of these new emotions surfacing, this was by far the most difficult phase of recovery for me. The good news is, however, I am finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As my insides continue to normalize, the better I feel about every aspect of my life. 

Spending an entire year feeling uncomfortable in my own skin has been difficult, but if it means I will finally begin to find a happy medium, it was a year well spent.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Spreading the Love

The blogging world has probably been my biggest recovery support system. Don't get me wrong, I have a wonderful therapist, great parents, and the most caring best friend a girl could ask for, but there will always be a strong connection with individuals who have survived an eating disorder. Reading the about the struggles and triumphs of others really does keep me going. I feel less crazy; like these people truly understand me.

So for today, I thought I would spread the love and share a few of my favorite blogs. Enjoy!

ED Bites  - The first eating disorder blog I ever read and by far the best one out there. The author, Carrie Arnold, is a professional science writer and takes a research based approach to writing about EDs. She is opinionated, very well educated, and easy to relate to. This is the blog that all of us wanna-be eating disorder blogs strive to be. Carrie Arnold is a celebrity in the ED blogging world and yes, laugh all you want, but I totally took a picture of the day she requested to be MY friend on facebook. :) 

Self-Made Mind: A Recovery EDitorial - I just recently started following this blog, but Chelsie and her intelligent, kindhearted approached to recovery instantly had me hooked. We seem to share similar views on the recovery process and the importance of a positive outlook. Without ever meeting her in person, I think Chelsie and I would be very good friends.

The Run Within - This blog might be a little off the wall for me because Alex is a runner and doesn't always talk about recovery. She is typically a late night blogger, so I always read her blog first thing in the morning with my cup of coffee. Her upbeat approach to life and sense of humor are contagious. I can't get enough of this blog.

 She'll Be Free -  This post would not be complete without mentioning Miss Tayla and her lovely blog. Tayla is also a writer for Libero Network and after Carrie Arnold, was my first "blog crush" if you will. I did a guest post for her back in March and remember feeling on top of the world. Thank you, Tayla for being one of my biggest blogging inspirations.

My Musing Chronicles - Emily has been with me on my recovery journey for quite sometime now. I think she was one of the original readers of this blog and I will be forever grateful to her for that. Emily is an excellent writer and does a great job combining her personal life experiences with up and coming ED topics. A few months back she sent me this poster on twitter and brought me to tears.

Learning to Listen & Trust - Whenever I am feeling down in the dumps or am questioning my will to recover, this girl always has the words to bring a smile to my face. I met the author of the blog, Hedda, when I began writing for Libero Network earlier this year. Hedda lives in Norway, but the warmth and genuine kindness in her support has been irreplaceable in my recovery. I am thankful for her everyday.

Running the Race - Another recent favorite of mine; the author, Alison, uses her faith as a driving force in her life. I am not exaggerating when I say that every time I hear from Alison, I feel a renewed sense of motivation and determination to kick my eating disorder's sweet little ass.  This woman is one of the strongest I have "met" in a long, long time.

Science of Eating Disorders Blog - This blog is an extension of the Science of Eating Disorders homepage. The blog has a twitter account that posts updates and bits of science related eating disorder information that I can't get enough of. I'm kind of a nerd, so these evidence based studies excite me.

My parents get pretty annoyed with me for spending so much time glued to my computer. What they don't realize, however, is that the majority of my computer time is spent reading other blogs and building my recovery 'family.' I often wonder what my recovery would be like without social media and constant support. It's exciting to think back to all of wonderful moments and support this blog has brought me, but I wouldn't be here without my fellow bloggers.


P.S. - If you have a favorite blog you would like to share, please feel free! I know I missed a ton of really great ones and always love to hear your input.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Freedom: Good Foods vs. Bad Foods

I've recently received a few questions/comments about good foods vs. bad foods and how they are viewed during various stages of recovery. This can be a very touchy subject for some people due to the multiple meal planning strategies and individuality of the recovery process; however, I do believe there is a little common ground between all of us that can be addressed in this post. Here are two comments that I thought many of us could benefit from discussing and please feel free to add your two sense if you feel I missed something!

"I don't think my team wants me to gain anymore weight, which is another reason why its been harder for me to eat. When my weight was lower I always had the 'excuse' that I needed to gain weight so if once in a while I ate something 'bad' then it was okay. Now that I'm at a healthy weight I feel like I have no excuse to eat many of the foods I ate to gain the weight. I guess that in my mind those foods = weight gain and since I don't need to gain weight I can't justify eating them."

I can see where this would be an extremely common fear once an individual begins the maintenance phase of recovery. Personally, I didn't struggle with this thanks to the strategies and constant fear food challenges used at my treatment center, but I did have a hard time believing I would not continue gaining weight on maintenance calories.

The best thing my treatment center taught us is "a calorie is a calorie is a calorie." Whether I'm eating 200 calories from a salad or a cookie, my weight will ultimately remain the same. One of the best parts of recovery is that freedom to eat whatever the hell I want (within reason, of course). If you think about "normal eaters," they eat things like pizza, ice cream cones, and bacon regularly without gaining weight, so why we can't do the same? Believe it or not, there are still nutrients in pizza and sometimes our bodies just need a pizza night with good friends.

I did not continue to gain weight, although I did continue to eat "bad" foods every single day while on maintenance. Actually, some of those "bad" foods are less filling than eating a bunch of veggies, which often made them more appealing. It's amazing how the body and metabolism adjust as we go through life.
Trust in your body.
It will take care of you.

"I get into the idea of eating super healthy and clean, raw, vegan, low fat and everything because people were talking about the endless benefits. But now after a few days I already start to question it. It feels restricted and triggering to under eat (nobody would notice it anyway because it LOOKS like a lot of food) and it feels like giving up freedom/full recovery. Which is what I always wanted. Vegetarian/vegan makes sense to me for ethical reasons.
I'm learning so much about how "bad" and "unhealthy" some foods are I used to eat (and thought they were healthy). I'm too worried to eat them because I don't want to risk my health long term. I'm feeling so trapped now."

This is a problem for many of us in recovery. Before entering treatment, I fully believed in the clean, local foods, and vegetarian/vegan way of eating because of all the health benefits. Yes, most packaged foods do contain unnatural ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, food dyes, and other ingredients that I can't pronounce, but in moderation these foods have not affected my health in a negative way.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with being a vegetarian or eating healthy, but I do think that during the early stages of recovery those food rituals do need to be given up. By holding onto that "healthy" eating mindset, you are also holding onto the control the eating disorder has over your life. Maybe someday in the future when a better relationship with food is developed, clean eating can be reintroduced again, but why waste this opportunity to enjoy those oh-so-yummy chocolately treats while you can?

Actually, I think restricting to those extremes will cause more health problems than having a brownie every now and then. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not constantly worrying about which foods we can and cannot eat. Just like the first question, recovery is about FREEDOM. Following rigid, trendy diets only leads us further away from recovery. Anytime a meal plan or diet makes you feel trapped, it's a problem.

Ultimately, I think those of us in recovery need to remember that our diets might be different than those around us for the time being. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with us or that we are being "unhealthy;" it simply means we are doing what is needed to take care of ourselves at this time in our lives. As we learn to listen to our bodies, we will have the freedom to eat the foods we are craving - whether it is an apple or a piece of apple pie.

Freedom seems to be the key word in this post. My plan for this week is to live and eat freely - because I can.


Friday, July 26, 2013

A Friendly Reminder

"People are somehow hypnotized by this belief 
that if they reject and shame and deprive themselves enough, 
they will end up happy, loving, self-accepting people – and thin. 

So what I say over and over again 
is that the means to the end cannot be separated from the end. 
If you shame and deprive yourself into losing weight, 
you will end up a shamed and deprived person 
who might also have thin hips for ten minutes. 

The shame and the deprivation will lead to more eating, 
and you’ll gain all the weight back. 
So the process itself is the goal. 
I think kindness is the name of the game here, all the way through. 

Is it hard? Yes. 
Do we learn that easily? No. 
Do many people model that? No. 
Does self-rejection and shame and punishment and guilt and fear work on any level for any kind of long-lasting change? No. 
And everybody who’s ever been on a diet knows that."
- Geneen Roth

 The only weight you need to shed is the one parked heavily on your shoulders, screaming ‘You should not exist’ because of your size.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The ED Grieving Process

This week the discussion topic in one of my classes was death, dying, and the grieving process. Kind of depressing, right? Death isn't something that I spend much time thinking about for that reason.

Most people don't realize eating disorders are the number one cause of death among all mental health disorders. Although there are huge consequences for remaining sick, many of us struggle to ever to get better. As I have gone through recovery, there has been somewhat of a grieving process that has taken place as I have let go of my old, familiar, and comfortable best friend - the eating disorder. 

Over the years, if I was having a bad day and needed to numb out, the eating disorder was there. If I was feeling in inadequate, I would just remind myself that I was the best at restricting my food intake. In a very sick way, the ED made me special. That constant false sense of accomplishment kept me going when everything else seemed to be crumbling before me. 

According to many psychology books, the grieving process has five steps:

 Denial - "My eating disorder isn't THAT bad. I don't need help."
Anger - "How could my parents have left me at this place (treatment). They must not love me. How can these people make me eat this food?!"
Bargaining - "If I'm going to eat this much, I should be able to walk every day."
Depression - "I hate this. Let me stay in bed all day. I don't know how to deal with all of these surfacing emotions."
Acceptance - "There's no turning back. Recovery is the most difficult thing I will ever do, but it sure beats living with an eating disorder."

For this post, I am going to focus on the depression stage of the grieving process because it seems to be the most challenging part for many of us in recovery. In the book, "The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth," written by M. Scott Peck, there is a chapter describing the healthiness of depression. According to Peck, during the process of giving up something it is normal to feel depression because,

"The feeling associated with giving up something loved - or at least something that is part of ourselves and familiar - is depression. Since mentally healthy human beings must grow, and since giving up or loss of the old self is an integral part of process of mental and spiritual growth, depression is a normal and basically healthy phenomenon (pg. 75)."

This might explain why it often feels impossible to give up old, destructive habits. Many of us are unwilling or unable to suffer through the pain associated with giving up our eating disorders. Consequently we cling, sometimes forever, to old thinking patterns which of course keeps us sick.

A few months back I did a post on the Washout Phase, where patients often feel like they have hit a brick wall in recovery and they begin to question whether or not changing is worth it. I think this depression phase of the grieving process is a huge part of the Washout Phase. The good news is, however, once I pushed through that depression phase, I had my "ah-ha" moment and realized there was no turning back.

In a way, living with an eating disorder is like living with death. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I was slowly killing myself. Everyday that I spent caught up in my ED, a small part of my soul was taken away. I became emotionless, vacant, and somewhat unaware of the world around me. Nothing mattered except my rigid routine.

Losing something we have grown to love is not easy and unfortunately many of us have to go through a phase of depression in order to get to the other side; however, keep in mind this part of recovery is completely normal. If you find yourself in that depression phase at this moment, remind yourself that not only is it necessary to heal, but it will also pass.

Making the choice to stop living with death (my eating disorder) was one of the most difficult things I have ever done; but one year later, regardless of the pain, it is clearly the best decision I will ever make.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

25 Questions

Lately I have been a little sick of talking, thinking, and writing about eating disorders. My recovery motivation and positive outlook have returned, but sometimes a girl just needs a break from all this food and feelings talk. 

I can't take total credit for the idea of this post because this lady (click here) did it first a few weeks ago, but I don't think she'll mind me borrowing the idea. Some of you have told me you read my blog faithfully (which is still hard for me to believe), but what do you actually know about me besides I'm recovering from an eating disorder? Let's switch up the content of this blog for a day.

What was your favorite food as a child?
Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate ice cream
What color are your eyes?
 Whats your first thought upon waking up?
I need to brush my teeth.
Whats the best way to your heart?
Someone who genuinely cares, makes me laugh, doesn't ever date another girl at the same time, and brings me lots of chocolate.
 Do you think Barbie is a negative role model for young girls?
Well considering Barbie doesn't have a brain, yes, she's a bad role model. But I also think we are completely over thinking this whole barbie issue. Eating disorders develop for reasons much deeper than a stupid doll.
Who is your best friend?
Miss Kaila :) She has stood by me through thick and thin... literally.

What is your favorite quote?
"Discontent is the first step towards PROGRESS."
What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
Folding laundry. Not so much doing laundry, but folding is the worst. In fact, I have a basket of unfolded, wrinkly laundry in my room right now.
What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
I'm a morning person. My brain gets really mushy and blurry by the end of the day.
Friday and September.
What sound do you love?
The gargling sound my coffee maker makes when a fresh pot is almost finished. Ahhhh.
If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?
Probably 5th grade. I was the tallest kid in school, won a writing contest, and I didn't have a care in the world.
When was your last great meal?
With a culinary arts degree, my idea of a great meal is probably different than most. It's been at least a year and a half, but I was also very sick at the time, so I doubt I was actually enjoying the meal. Sounds to me like I need a fine dining experience in the near future.
Most played song on your iPod?
Yes, Kaila, this song is still on repeat most days. And I like the version you sent me even better.

When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?
Let's be honest - Nap.
What was the last experience that made you a stronger person?
This question makes me laugh a little. It's safe to bet you can all guess the answer... Progress.
At what age did you become an adult?
Will I ever become an adult? Sometimes I wonder if my 50 year old dad is an adult yet.  
 Which is the one television character that you simply adore?
The oh-so-fabulous Carrie Bradshaw.
What makes you angry?
I don't get angry very easily but I have a hard time with dishonesty and feeling like I have been used/taken advantage of.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Turn off my brain at the end of the day and turn it back on after 8 hours of sleep.
Who do you resemble most in your family?
I don't think any of us look that much alike, but people tell me I'm the spitting image of my mom.

If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
Buy a smart phone because I'm the only person left in the world without one.
Democrat or republican?
Yikes. Touchy subject in my house. Let's just say my mom would disown me if she knew.
Who did you see at your first concert?
Oh how embarrassing... 98 Degrees haha.
What is your favorite book ever?
Tough question. I've read both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in Our Stars several times so we'll go with those two.
If given a complete freedom to start afresh, what profession would you choose and why?
Exactly what I'm doing with my life right now. I have been given a fresh start - how lucky am I?! I am going into social work specializing in eating disorders with the hopes of helping others fight their own inner demons someday. 

I might have slipped a few eating disorder related things in there but 1.) recovery is a part of my life right now and 2.) I'm okay with that. My eating disorder doesn't define me anymore. I am finally starting to see the Real Kelsi beat up on the Eating Disorder Kelsi a little more each day. Eating Disorder Kelsi has been reduced to a weak whisper. I can still hear her sometimes, but the Real Kelsi has done a pretty good job at getting angry and fighting back. 


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I received some incredibly helpful feedback on my previous post and as a result, that week long bad mood has finally lifted. If any of you are struggling with you current place in recovery (or life in general, I suppose) today's post is for you. 

The concept of "blooming where you are planted" was introduced to me two days ago and it has really changed my perspective on a few things. I may have heard it in the past, but it really resonates with me at this time in my life. This phrase actually originated in the bible (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). Essentially what it means to bloom where you are planted is to make the most of your current place in life regardless of any unpleasant circumstances. Don't wait until something better comes around - start now!

Lately I have been so caught up in comparing myself and my current place in recovery to the lives of others. We are constantly bombarded with pictures of smiling faces and seemingly perfect lives on facebook and other social media sites, which makes it easy to feel badly about ourselves. I am 25 years old, back in school, recovering from an eating disorder, and living with my parents. Those aren't exactly ideal circumstances compared to most people my age, but ya know what? I can let that bring me down or I can continue to bloom. The choice is always mine.

It's easy for me to forget that I have not even been out of treatment for a year when I begin comparing myself to others. That first year for many is by far the most difficult; there are many up and downs, slips and falls, and more mistakes made than I am willing to admit. For me recovery has been a process of completely rebuilding my life from rock bottom up.

As pointed out by one of the comments on my previous post, I have been given a different and very difficult path in my late teens and early 20s. One of the beautiful things about life is we don't have to take the exact same path as everyone else. Life would be incredibly boring if we did. So why am I continuously getting caught up in the idea that I should be further along in life? 

After quite a bit of self reflection these past few days, I have realized that this recovery process is putting me further ahead than most people in some parts of life. My level of self-awareness continues to increase dramatically and I have been given the opportunity to go back and follow a career path that fulfills me, while some people are stuck in a job they hate forever. I'm learning to take care of myself, be assertive, put my needs first, building a healthy relationship with food, improving self confidence, rebuilding relationships with those closest to me, and the list goes on and on. 

I'd say I have been blooming where I have been planted more than I give myself credit for. Recovery has given me the opportunity to face some pretty scary things at a very young age that some people can't even imagine. In the long run "blooming where I am planted" will make me a much stronger, well rounded person. 

One final piece of advice I received was to make two lists: one with the 10 things I hate most about my eating disorder and the other with the 10 things I hate most about recovery. After completing these lists, I was shocked to find how much better my worst days in recovery are than any day in my eating disorder. This little exercise was a great way to shift my perspective when I needed it most. 

Unfortunately, bad days are a part of life. The good thing is, however, I have learned that my bad days are always the greatest opportunity to learn and grow - or "bloom" - if we take the time to acknowledge whatever is causing the pain. Today I am grateful for all of the support I received during a time of need. I have been "blooming where I was planted" for the past year or so, I just forgot for a few days. 

I'm not 100% happy with my current place in life, but that's okay. I still have the opportunity to make the most of what I have been given and continue to bloom.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Let Whatever You Do Today Be Enough

I'm going to be brutally honest today. Recovery is getting old. For the past couple of weeks I have felt stuck in the same exact spot. With all of this negativity consuming my brain, I wasn't sure if I should even post this morning - until I found this quote.

"Let whatever you do today be enough. 
Let go of the judgement you have about what 
you should be or could be doing, 
and today, allow yourself to simply be. 
Comparing yourself and your journey may be habitual, 
but it gets you nowhere. 
It makes you feel worse and it keeps you stuck. 
So stop fixating on where everyone else is, 
and start giving yourself permission to be exactly where you are. 
Quiet the voice telling you to do more and be more, 
and trust that in this moment, who you are, 
where you are at, and what you are doing is enough. 
You will get to where you need to be in your own time.
 Until then, breathe. 
Breathe and be patient with yourself and your process. 
You are doing the best you can to cope and survive amid your struggles, 
and that’s all you can ask of yourself. 
It’s enough.  
You are enough."
-Daniell Koepke

It's difficult to pin point exactly what is causing this week long irritated Kelsi to surface. I think most of us in recovery go through a stage where we just want to be normal and think "screw this stupid process." With my closest family members having babies and getting engaged while I'm still living at home, it has been easy to negatively compare myself. Rather than looking at all of the positives in my life, I get so caught up in the few things I don't have and forget that my current place in life is enough. Period.

Even if I have hit a bit of a plateau and I'm frustrated with the recovery process, that doesn't mean I should stop trying. I will admit, I have skimped on a few calories here and there as a way to provide a false sense of achievement and control, but it has only made me feel worse about myself. Deep down I know the only way for me to chase my dreams is to continue making progress, even if I don't really want to right now.

So for today (and however long this mood lasts), I am choosing to be gentle with myself.
Today I will allow myself to simply be.
And that is good enough.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ways to Brighten a Bad Mood

Even though my last post was incredibly upbeat, I have spent the past 36 in a funk. All I really want to do is sleep, isolate, and be grumpy. We all know being around people who are in a bad mood is an immediate downer, so why is it so difficult to pull ourselves out of these bad moods sometimes?

Putting on a happy face (even if it's a fake happy face) isn't something I have ever had trouble doing, until now. A huge part of recovery for me has been learning to be real rather than pretending like everything in my life is fabulous. So I guess in a way these past 36 hours are a sign of progress because I definitely have not put on a happy face mask, but I'm sick of feeling like a monster.

As a way to pull myself out of this nasty funk, I came up a list of ways to help brighten my mood:

Call my best friend
Watch a good movie
Remind myself of how much has changed in 1 year
Have lunch with a friend
Go for a walk
Bake some cookies
Buy myself some flowers
Clean or do some much needed laundry
Lay out and get some sun
Listen to a favorite playlist
Use creative outlets
Jimmy Fallon
Curl up with a favorite book
Watch this video

And if none of those work, here are a few benefits of smiling:

Makes you seem trustworthy: We generally interpret a genuine smile to mean that this is someone who is honest and trustworthy. Those who smile are rated higher in generosity and friendliness.
It eases embarrassment: People will laugh with (not at) you if you laugh or smile.
If you smile with others when they share good news, you’re less likely to feel jealous or annoyed at them: Interestingly, even if we smile politely but we feel slightly annoyed, our emotion quickly changes and we feel happy ourselves. Somehow we feel much better for having chosen to be “nice”.
It can ease any feelings of distress or pain: Smiling stops us from spiraling into negativity and eases our feelings of shock and distress.
It can help with problem-solving: When we’re stressed or nervous our focus seems to narrow and it makes it harder to find answers or solutions. But when we smile, the tension eases and we think of more ideas.
Smiles are contagious: My favorite reason of all. 

If I'm being honest, a younger version of myself would have put very little effort into pulling myself out of a funk. Finding reasons to smile when I would much rather curl up in bed is not easy, but I'm quickly learning life is way too short not to.


Monday, July 15, 2013

"I Wouldn't Want To Be Any Thinner"

Last night something really, really strange happened. After finishing my night snack, brushing my teeth, and putting my pj's on, I looked in the mirror and thought... brace yourself... 
"I wouldn't want to be any thinner." 


I immediately picked up my phone and bragged to my best friend. That was a huge moment for me. Even if I don't feel that way today or again anytime soon, I think it's a good idea for me recognize the importance of that moment. If I can think it once, then there is a good chance I can feel that way again in the future. 

Being content with my current weight is not something I have ever been able to do. Like ever. I remember thinking last night about how sick I must have looked xx pounds ago. It's hard for me to even picture myself that way anymore. In my opinion, having a positive body image (even if only for one night) means some of those self-destructive thoughts have been changed into happy, healthy self thoughts. I honestly didn't know if this would ever happen.

This post is short and sweet, but just as important as any other post. I am marking this "I wouldn't want to be any thinner" day down on my calender!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Men, Eating Disorders, & Ben's Story

One topic our society (myself and this blog included) often forget to talk about are males who develop eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 10-15% of American's with anorexia or bulimia are male. In fact, while I was in treatment one of my best friends was a guy who was the same age as me and there were two young boys on the adolescent unit. 

Stereotypically, we do not believe men have the same pressures to be thin and fit a certain body type, but that is far from the truth. While women are expected to be model thin, men are taught they need to have six-pack abs and zero percent body fat in order to be accepted. Beyond the pressures from the media, men are brought up differently than women; they are expected to be tough, emotionless, and mentally stable. Some men, however, are wired similarly to women with eating disorders. Those feelings of inadequacy, perfectionism, and anxiety are deeply rooted within males, too. 

For this post, I thought I would try something new and share the story of a male friend of mine. As much as I hate to admit it, even I was a little shocked as I read his story. Even after being in treatment with guys and understanding the root of eating disorders, I was surprised at the similarities in our stories. Ben's story touched my heart and helped me realize we are all human.


"Well Kelsi, where do I start? I've had anorexia twice, once when I was 17/18 and then again when I was 34/35. Both started with similar patterns of negative thinking coupled with a lack of love when I was young which later on in life spiraled into self-criticism, withdrawal into myself, depressive moods and an inability to form friendships with family and friends. I felt cut-off, alone and totally isolated. All of these factors would form a confluence into anorexia.

I will focus on the second time I had it because it was fairly recent and I can remember it more clearly. I had left my job in March 2009 which was a difficult decision, but mainly because I was tired and needed a break. As summer turned to autumn I knew something was wrong inside me. I felt hollow and empty. Then in September 2009 I chose to stop taking Fluoxetine (Prozac) and rapidly had a nervous breakdown, exacerbated by overexercise on my bike and tried committing suicide twice before I was taken into hospital in Nov 2009. My weight had dropped significantly after restricting my diet and water overloading. 

By Christmas 2009, my weight dropped to its all time low and I was so weak I spent an hour getting out of the bath and kept fainting and collapsing on the floor. By this time I was such a low body weight I was admitted to a men's ward. I had to be sectioned and put on naso-gastric feeding because I refused to eat properly. The section would last 7 months before it was lifted.

To paraphrase I was moved to Cheadle Royal Eating Disorders Unit where they specialize in re-feeding and re-educating teenagers and adults with eating disorders. It was mostly female oriented and there were only 2 other male patients - me and a young male student.

I found it to be a very hard emotional time, punctuated by a lot of crying, feeling institutionalized and just wanting to live a normal ED-free life. I managed to talk to some other female patients but the conversations were always overheard by my caregiver so there was never any privacy. I just wanted to break the fear in me that was continually persistent and despite the counseling and my normal weight recovery, inside I still felt like the frightened little child that had always been buried deep down inside me. Would I ever discover the "real me" and the self-love that ED had always denied me?"


For me treatment was difficult enough, but I cannot imagine being the minority in that situation. Some people might view a male entering treatment for an eating disorder as a sign of weakness, but I think Ben's story shows it takes even more strength and courage than we can even fathom. Not only did Ben recover once in his teen years, but also again in his 30s - such an inspiration. I am pleased to share that Ben has now returned to a happy, healthy life and is continually fighting to find himself without his eating disorder.

The important message to take from this post is that eating disorders do not discriminate and also, more importantly, recovery is possible. Sometimes rock bottom really is the foundation in which we begin to rebuild our lives.


Friday, July 12, 2013


I'm trying to figure out how I have made it this far along in recovery and not written about perfectionism. Just in the past week alone, I have caught myself multiple times thinking, "When I was in my eating disorder, I had to be perfect at that. Now that I'm in recovery, however, I constantly feel like I need to be perfect at recovering. It's like a no-win situation." Seeing that written out makes me realize how ridiculous that sounds, but those thoughts still weigh heavily in my mind.

Perfectionism is something that has haunted my every move for as long as I can remember. Those "not good enough" thoughts are in direct relation to this need to constantly excel. From what I have seen and learned, perfectionism is an extremely common trait among those of us with eating disorders. Instead of writing a novel about this subject (because I easily could), I found this quote that says everything I need to say about perfectionism.

"Assuming failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy. 
When we’re already convinced that we’re going to fail, 
we don’t try very hard. 
And naturally, by putting in minimal effort, 
whatever we’re trying to do or create isn’t going to turn out 
as well as it could have had we believed in ourselves. 
But instead of recognizing that, 
we use it as proof that we’re inadequate and decide to give up —
making our fear of failure a reality. 

In order to break that cycle, 
we have to be okay with making mistakes and being imperfect. 
Because the reality is that no one is perfect —
even the most talented people mess up.  
And that’s okay. 

Failing at something doesn’t mean making mistakes. 
It doesn’t mean faltering or falling down. 
It means staying down.
As long as you keep getting back up. 
As long as you keep learning from your mistakes and making an effort, 
you are never failing

And if you’re having fun and enjoying yourself, 
it doesn’t matter how good you are. 
What matters it that you’re trying, 
putting yourself out there, 
and honoring what you’re passionate about. 
All you can do is your best, and at the end of the day,  
it’s enough."
Daniell Koepke

My hope is that this quote resonates with all of my fellow perfectionists as much as it does with me. Although I try, I am nowhere near perfect in my recovery; however, I'm starting to realize that my mistakes don't make me failure.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why Media & Body Image Aren't to Blame

 Last week in one of my classes we had a discussion on how the media affects body image and the rise of eating disorders in adolescents. It's not shocking that immediately after learning that was the week's discussion topic I went on a bit of a rant.

Sure, I can understand that the media has had a negative impact on the self esteem of young people in today's society and kids are often bullied based on their physical appearance alone; however, for many of us with eating disorders the media is not to blame. An incredibly bright email recovery buddy of mine, whom I have quoted several times before, said this to me last night and it fits perfectly with this post: 
"...It's funny, when people think of triggers for people with eating disorders they often think of glossy magazines or models on catwalks. But, like you, loneliness is one of my biggest triggers. 

Because ultimately, eating disorders are a coping mechanism for dealing with life. 

People with eating disorders aren't "crazy" or shallow. 

They are just people who are struggling."

 One of the questions my teacher asked the class was, "How can we improve body image in adolescents in order to treat eating disorders," which is where my rant began. Let me first say that I have come a long way in understanding that the general population does not understand eating disorders and that's okay. BUT I can't help but get a little irritated when people assume improving body image will magically cure eating disorders.

Loneliness, for example, isn't something I talk about often, but is one of my biggest triggers. My loneliness isn't necessarily caused by a lack of people in my life, but is more a void deep within me that I can't seem to figure out how to fill. When I begin having thoughts of inadequacy, I am also triggered and have to fight off urges to have symptoms. Loneliness and inadequacy often feel out of my control, which makes me crave the controlling aspect of the eating disorder. I still have a difficult time coping with those uncomfortable emotions, making the numbing aspect of ED symptoms appealing.

Gaining a significant amount of weight during recovery was not easy and yes, I do have body image issues but what normal person wouldn't after gaining that much weight? For me gaining weight was frightening because I was being forced to let go of the safe and comfortable environment my eating disorder had provided. I needed help building a new comfort zone with healthier coping mechanisms, not a body image cure.

If body image improvement is the only component of treatment needed to recover, then the recovery process wouldn't be so complex. Without taking each individual's underlying issues into consideration, there is no way to effectively treat this disease. If I didn't deal with loneliness, thoughts of inadequacy, perfectionism, or anxiety on a daily basis, would I have developed an eating disorder? It is impossible to say for sure, but I'm going to say my chances would have been much lower.

Please do not assume that I am in favor of the tactics used by today's media. In fact, I think the unattainable beauty standards set by the media are quite appalling. Even my non eating disordered friends struggle with these impossible standards. This is a problem our entire society faces, not just eating disorder patients.

Seeing pictures of unhealthy looking runway models isn't helpful, but it doesn't send me into a downward spiral either. Poor body image is one component of eating disorders, but it is not the cause. In my humble opinion, if eating disorders are to be successfully treated we need to dig much deeper than the issue of media and body image. 

Rant over.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Feeling Empty vs. Feeling Full

Carrie Arnold, the author the ED Bites blog, wrote an excellent post on fullness cues over the weekend and although I say this with every new post of hers, this one really might be my favorite to date. During recovery, we constantly hear about hunger cues and how it takes time for our bodies and brains to adjust to being filled with fuel again. I have heard it can take anywhere from six months to a few years, depending on consistency of eating and the individual's metabolism, before hunger cues can be trusted again. 

On the flip side of hunger cues, as Arnold describes, are fullness cues. 

"Part of my problem was that I figured that not actively feeling I was going to immediately starve meant that I was full. At least, that’s how I interpreted it. So I would eat a little bit of a meal or snack and feel full. Of course, I wasn’t actually full, I just got confused and thought that I was full."

After a few days of processing this fullness cue idea, however, I'm still left questioning why is it so gosh darn difficult for those of us in recovery to feel full? Sure, there is physical discomfort in constantly being stuffed to the max, but there is also a psychological component that, in my opinion, has a much larger impact on the recovery process.

Feeling empty provides a temporary high; a short term fix for our daily problems. This feeling becomes comfortable, which makes straying from it seem impossible. While I was in treatment we made two lists; one contained the "benefits" of feeling empty and the other the feelings associated with being full.

Numb-Out    Strength    Controlled
Superior    Attractive    Safe
Comfortable    Disciplined

Worthless    Weak    Out of Control
Anxious    Irritable    Restless
Miserable    Gross    Lazy
Awful    Scared

Basically what this means is feeling empty provided a feeling of accomplishment in my ever disappointing world. Feeling empty meant I was in control. Rather than feeling the pain I had bottled up inside, I could numb it out for the time being if I knew I was in my safe and comfortable "empty zone."

The tricky thing is, however, while I was stuck in the eating disorder I didn't realize that not only was I physically empty, but I was also empty in every other aspect of my life. My relationships suffered, trust was broken, a loss of interest in everyday life developed, and an overall lack of purpose in life were all the result of this emptiness I craved. My face constantly held a vacant stare due to the lack of life inside me. I was empty in every sense of the word.

Sure, being full and gaining weight might make us anxious at first, but it also has the potential to fill our lives with meaning. Being at a healthy weight has allowed me to be full of life again. Those feelings of weakness and worthlessness still linger from time to time, but I think I have slowly been able to separate those feelings from my eating habits.

Through recovery, I think we slowly begin to learn that feeling empty isn't all it's cracked up to be. As Carrie Arnold pointed out, it just as difficult to rediscover our fullness cues as it is our hunger cues, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. There is a good chance I will sit down to a meal today and still be full from the meal before, but maybe if I can switch my thinking and tell myself I am filling myself with life it won't be so bad.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Getting Back on Track

While we are still in the middle of the holiday weekend, I thought it might be a good idea to write about getting back on track after a slip. Holidays can be stressful for those of us in recovery and they often bring potentially triggering situations. With 4th of July get-togethers centered around hot dogs, hamburgers, beer, and beach ready bodies it can be easy to stray from the healthy behaviors many of us have spent so long mastering. 
Here are a few of my favorite tips for dealing with a slip up: 

 Be gentle with yourself
Usually after I slip, my first reaction is to beat myself up. Thoughts like "I can't believe you just did that," "You know better," and "You are so stupid, Kels," instantly overwhelm my brain. But what if I could change those thoughts into something a little kinder? Next time I get off track, I will try "I am still doing really well regardless of this slip" or "Oh well, it happens. No use beating myself up over it." 

 I'm not perfect
If I can remind myself that I am not perfect, then making a few mistakes doesn't seem so horrible. I often forget to remind myself that simply putting myself in those triggering situations is progress regardless of the outcome. It's okay to make mistakes. I will never be perfect. My best friend always reminds me that life would be boring if we were all perfect.

Ask a few key questions
What could I have done differently? Could I have prepared myself better ahead of time? Maybe I should have packed my own food or planned out what I was going to eat before I got there to make the situation less overwhelming. Was there a specific event that triggered the slip? How can I avoid this in the future?

Get right back on track
This one is extremely important. If the single slip turns into multiple slips, it becomes more and more difficult to pull yourself out. I have found that if I make a conscious effort to get back on track at the very next meal then it is much easier to move forward in a healthy way.

Be honest
Most importantly, be honest with yourself about what happened. In my experience, the healing process could not begin until I stopped lying to myself and others (especially my therapist) about what I was feeling. When I do slip, it is crucial that I talk about it with at least one other person. You all know my favorite saying is, "You are as sick as your secrets." Set those secrets free and move on.

Let it out
The worst thing to do after a slip is keep it to yourself. Although it is difficult to admit our shortcomings to others, it is also necessary. By telling a nonjudgmental and trusting friend, we are able to free ourselves from those destructive thoughts. If telling someone is too difficult to start, sometimes I find writing about it helps. Writing allows me to detach myself from those thoughts and eventually think more clearly about the situation. Even if I don't share my writing with anyone, it is still a great way to vent. 

"There is no medicine like hope,
No incentive so great, 
And no tonic so powerful as
Expectation of something better tomorrow."

Whether you slipped or not this holiday weekend, these are still some great tools to use in the future. Life happens. We all make mistakes. I think I have finally learned that the way in which we deal with our slips afterwards is far more important than the slip itself.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why Can't We See What Others See?

If someone can answer the question below, I would like to say I could give you a million dollars, but I can't. So let's just say I would be forever grateful if anyone can provide me with a little insight.

"We never see ourselves the way people do.  
And it always puzzles me that ED-sufferers find 
themselves unattractive and uninteresting, 
because I have yet to see one of them who really and objectively is. 
All ED-sufferers that I have known so far are 
beautiful, brilliant, (over)sensitive and caring people, 
so I always ask myself: 
"how is it possible that they ever lack self-confidence 
and struggle with self-loathing, even for just a second?"
It really hurts me, because this illness is deeply hurting such amazing people 
and it's such a pity they can't see themselves the way the others do."

 It has been a long time since I have read a truer or more thought provoking statement. Looking back at my stay in treatment and the wonderful people I have met along my recovery journey so far, I can honestly say that my fellow recovering friends are incredible, kind-hearted, beautiful people. Every single one of them.

If that is true, then where does this lack of self-compassion come from? Perhaps these irrational beliefs are simply traits that all (or most) of us with eating disorders possess from an early age. It's as if all of our positive characteristics are completely ignored and the few negatives that we do have are magnified. Maybe those pesky eating disorder voices have told us that we are inadequate and worthless for so long that somewhere along the way our healthy brain begins to believe those thoughts too.

One thing I have learned over the past year, however, is that those irrational beliefs can absolutely be changed - it just takes a whole lot of time and patience. To say I am free of these self destructive thoughts would be a lie, but they have lessened over the past year. Maybe if someone can help me (and many others) understand the question above then we can heal a little more quickly and see ourselves in the same light that others do.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fat is Not a Feeling

I don't know how many times a therapist of mine has told me "fat is not a feeling" over the years; too many to count. It is actually quite fascinating how many of us allow the way we feel about our bodies affect our mood for the entire day. Fat is just a word to cover up whatever uncomfortable emotion we might truly be feeling. 

This quote is one I wish I would have had with me during the weight gain process when I constantly felt fat and needed a reminder that the uncomfortably full feeling DOES eventually pass (this quote can be related to any painful emotion actually).

"Breathe. You’re going to be okay. 
Breathe and remember that you’ve been in this place before. 
You’ve been this uncomfortable and anxious and scared, and you’ve survived. 
Breathe and know that you can survive this too. 
These feelings can’t break you. 
They’re painful and debilitating, 
but you can sit with them and eventually, they will pass. 
Maybe not immediately, but sometime soon, 
they are going to fade and when they do, 
you’ll look back at this moment and laugh for having doubted your resilience. 
I know it feels unbearable right now, 
but keep breathing, again and again. 
This will pass. I promise it will pass."

 Looking back at my I Feel Fat post from last December (over 6 months ago already??), I can see a huge change in myself and the way I deal with those fat days. Some mornings while I am getting dressed, I still go through my entire closet and even then can't find anything flattering - but what girl doesn't have those days? Feeling fat used to consume my entire day, but I have learned that if I carry on with my day, like the quote says, those feelings do pass.