Saturday, March 30, 2013

"I'm Not Sick Enough"

Over the past year of so, while talking with people who have experienced the living hell that is an eating disorder, I can't think of one single person who ever believed they were "sick enough" to receive treatment. 

I was no exception to this mentality; even though I knew I was struggling and could not get well on my own, I never thought I was thin enough to get help. There was always going to be someone sicker, thinner, or better than me and that left me feeling unworthy. Looking back on my first day in treatment, I still didn't believe I needed to be there. I was undeserving of professional help. I could clearly see that the other patients in treatment were extremely underweight, but I never saw it in myself. Up until the very end of my downward spiral, I was still working and functioning like a normal person - well, kind of - which meant I was fine to continue living the way I was.

Now that I am in a much healthier state of mind, however, I am left wondering what exactly "sick enough" even means. What was it going to take for me to become aware of how sick I actually was?

The scary thing is, I think for some of us, death felt like the only escape at one point or another. Death was the only way to truly silence my inner critic and eating disordered mind. 

Maybe the belief of not being sick enough was actually my eating disorder's way of controlling me. If I admitted I was sick, it meant it was time to change my disordered ways and for a long, long time nothing seemed worse; not even the end of life itself. 

In my opinion, if you are sick enough to not believe you are sick enough, there is a very good chance you are sick enough to need help - if that makes any sense. It breaks my heart that so many people continue suffering because they are not the sickest eating disorder patient in the world. That "I'm not good enough" voice remains in control far longer than it should. 

For anyone reading this struggling with the dreaded "I'm not sick enough" thoughts, keep in mind just how distorted your thoughts are. If your illness is getting in the way of your life, then there is no shame in reaching out.

For me, the not "sick enough" thought was the equivalent of my not "good enough" thought. Now that I am in recovery and am learning to see the world through a healthier perspective, however, I have realized that there will always be someone smarter, prettier, and thinner than me, but doesn't mean I am inadequate, unworthy, or unlovable.

No matter how sick (or un-sick) I believed I was is irrelevant now. What matters now, is that somewhere over the course of the past year, little by little, I am learning to silence my inner critic. Recovery, for me, has been about finding the parts of myself that are good enough without my eating disorder.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Eating Disorder or Disordered Eating?

Recently the term "disordered eating" has been getting a lot of buzz; but what does it mean exactly? Are eating disorders and disordered eating habits really that different? I felt the need to do a little research and find out exactly what the difference was...

According to the National Centre for Eating Disorders, disordered eating can be described as:
"Far more common and widespread than defined eating disorders are atypical eating disorders, or disordered eating. Disordered eating refers to troublesome eating behaviors, such as restrictive dieting, bingeing, or purging, which occur less frequently or are less severe than those required to meet the full criteria for the diagnosis of an eating disorder. Disordered eating can be changes in eating patterns that occur in relation to a stressful event, an illness, personal appearance, or in preparation for athletic competition. The 1997 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Study found that over 4% of students nationwide had taken laxatives, diet pills or had vomited either to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight."
Another definition from the National Eating Disorder Collaboration states:
"Disordered eating is when a person regularly engages in destructive eating behaviours such as restrictive dieting, compulsive eating or skipping meals. Disordered eating can include behaviours which reflect many but not all of the symptoms of eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)."

And just in case you need a few more statistics, an article from titled, "Three out of Four Women have Disordered Eating, Survey Suggests," provides some shocking numbers:
  • 75 percent of women report disordered eating behaviors or symptoms consistent with eating disorders; so three out of four have an unhealthy relationship with food or their bodies
  • 67 percent of women (excluding those with actual eating disorders) are trying to lose weight
  • 53 percent of dieters are already at a healthy weight and are still trying to lose weight
  • 39 percent of women say concerns about what they eat or weigh interfere with their happiness
  • 37 percent regularly skip meals to try to lose weight
  • 27 percent would be “extremely upset” if they gained just five pounds
  • 26 percent cut out entire food groups
  • 16 percent have dieted on 1,000 calories a day or fewer
  • 13 percent smoke to lose weight
  • 12 percent often eat when they’re not hungry; 49 percent sometimes do
It is not shocking to me that this many people reportedly have unhealthy relationships with food; what is shocking to me, however, is the definition of disordered eating. This is just my personal opinion, but if a person is regularly engaging in eating disordered symptoms, such as binging and purging, then how is it possible that medical professionals can diagnose them with disordered eating instead of an eating disorder?

There are so many people in this world who are struggling every single day with their eating habits, but are afraid to receive help because they don't believe they are "sick enough," thanks to these stupid definitions. Again, just my personal opinion, but if a person's eating habits are getting in the way of their mental and emotional well being, then they should be considered "sick enough" to receive help.

One other thing that really pushes my buttons is when professionals do not believe a person has an eating disorder (or disordered eating or whatever other incorrect label is put on it) because they are not severely underweight. Let me repeat myself: If a person's eating habits are affecting their mental and emotional well being then they should be considered sick enough to receive help.

I'm not quite sure how this post helps my personal progress, but sometimes simply spreading a little awareness (or common sense) is good enough for me.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Life Goes On. People Change.

Life after treatment is such a strange place to be in life. Some days I experience all of the joy and freedom associated with no longer being a prisoner to my eating disorder and finally having the opportunity to chase my dreams. Some days, on the other hand, it feels like I am constantly being blindsided with situations and relationships that leave me feeling clueless.

One thing that I have really struggled with since the moment I stepped foot out of treatment was how to deal with the relationships I had developed while I was there. In that moment, those people were not only the best friends I had ever had, but they were also the only friends I really had at the time. 

Eating disorders are extremely manipulative when it comes to friendships; relationships in general, actually. Somehow my eating disorder made me believe that going out with friends automatically meant there would be food involved; which, of course meant I didn't feel comfortable going. My eating disorder was also very good at making me isolate as a way to "protect" myself. In my disordered mind, no one could possibly understand what I was going through, so there was no point in trying to relate to others. Most days I felt so exhausted after putting on a happy face and pretending like I had myself together, that I instantly turned into a couch potato the moment I got home. 

By the time I entered treatment, I had come close to pushing every single person in my life out of it; making the relationships I did develop in treatment feel like the best thing that ever happened to me. Don't get me wrong, at the time, they were such a blessing. Like I said earlier, for the first time in my entire life, I was surrounded by people who understood me. 

After leaving treatment, however, those relationships drastically change. Some therapists even recommend immediately creating distance from those treatment relationships because people go through recovery at different rates.  Over the past few months, unfortunately, I have had my fair share of feuds and have been forced to use my voice in uncomfortable situations.

There is a constant battle between my head and my heart - do I cling to those relationships from treatment even if I feel bogged down by continuous eating disorder talk or do I move on with my life and risk being called selfish? In my heart, the people-pleaser in me wants to make everyone happy; but in my newly found logical brain, however, I know I cannot jeopardize my progress.

As a firm believer in the idea that everyone enters our lives for a reason, I tend to struggle with the part where people leave our lives; but the truth is, relationships constantly change. Although, I still find myself beating myself up, from time to time, for doing what is right for my health when it hurts others, deep down I know it is necessary.

Relationships intrigue me. Each person has their own unique story to tell. Each person has a different twist on life experiences. Whether we realize it or not, the people we surround ourselves with have the ability to greatly impact our daily decisions. My entire outlook changes when I surround myself with positive, uplifting people.

 Life goes on. People change. People are brought into our lives for a reason, only if for a short period of time. And that's okay. Not everyone I meet is meant to be in my life forever. And that's okay, too.

Recovery is all about taking care of ME. After spending years of putting others' feelings in front of my own, in order to heal, it is finally time to take care of my own feelings for a change.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Giving Up vs. Letting Go

There is a big difference between giving up and letting go. 
Giving up means selling yourself short. 
It means allowing fear and struggle to limit your opportunities and keep you stuck. 
Letting go means freeing yourself from something that is no longer serving you. 
It means removing toxic people and belief systems from your life so that you can make room for relationships and ideas that are conducive to your well being and happiness. 
Giving up reduces your life. 
Letting go expands it. 
Giving up is imprisoning. 
Letting go is liberation.
 Giving up is self-defeat. 
Letting go is self-care. 
So the next time you make the decision to release something or someone that is stifling your happiness and growth, and a person has the audacity to accuse you of giving up or being weak, remind yourself of the difference. 
Remind yourself that you don’t need anyone’s permission or approval to live your life in the way that feels right. 
 No one has the authority to tell you who to be or how to live. 
No one gets to decide what your life should look like or who should be a part of it. 
No one, but you.
 -Danielle Koepke


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fat Grams & Fear Foods

When I think of facing fear foods, I am instantly taken back to a very specific moment in treatment.

On my third or fourth day, before I was planning my own meals, I walked into the kitchen to see two Little Debbie zebra cakes on my plate. At the time, I was also doing my best to stop taking anti-anxiety medications before meals, prescribed to me at my previous treatment center, but those zebra cakes sent me sprinting to the nurse's office demanding my meds.

At the time, eating a fear food made me feel disgusting, weak, guilty, and out of control.

One part of my eating disorder I do not talk about very often is my binge/purge cycle. Countless trips were made to the grocery store, only to come home with grocery bags filled with the cheapest junk food I could get my hands on. During a state of starvation, it didn't really matter what I ate, as long as I could binge as a way to numb out for the time being.

As much as I hate to admit it, even while I was in culinary school, Little Debbies were one of the many binge foods I ate on a regular basis. So, sitting down to eat the zebra cakes in treatment, not only meant eating way more sugar and fat grams than I usually would in a week, it also brought back all of those awful binge/purge memories.

One of the most common fears in recovery is fat grams. Any food that contains even a trace of fat can send off trigger red flags for many. Fat, however, plays a very important role in proper functioning of the human body.

Fat Functions:
-Provides energy storage
-Helps vitamins A, D, E, and K be properly adsorbed in the bloodstream
-Body temperature control through insulation
-Aids in brain development
-Essential fatty acids are not naturally produced by the body, only through the diet
If you need more convincing that fat is crucial in a successful recovery, there was a study done recently to prove it:
*"Lindsay P. Bodell and Laurel E.S. Mayer MD, of New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York City, have targeted what they feel is an important relapse risk factor for AN patients, the percentage of body weight after weight restoration. In an earlier study, the authors had identified the percentage of body fat as a factor that increased the risk of relapse among 26 AN patients. In a newer study reported in the International Journal of Eating Disorders (2010), the researchers found that a lower percentage of adipose tissue after short-term weight normalization was associated with a poorer outcome during the first year after inpatient treatment.

Of the 21 participants, the outcome for 10 was categorized as "full," "good," or "fair," but for 11 others, it was "poor." As the authors had expected, there was a significant difference in body mass index, or BMI between the full, good, or fair results groups and the poor outcome group: 20.8 kg/m2 vs.16.2 kg/m2, respectively."

In addition to all of this information supporting fat in the diet, I have forgotten to mention the return of the menstrual cycle in girls recovering from eating disorders; a certain amount of body fat is needed for this to regulate. This is important if having children is a future goal.

Facing fear foods and fat grams was really scary for me in the beginning, but every time I did it, it became a tiny bit easier. Without any fat in my diet, I would not be able to enjoy some of my favorite foods; such as, chocolate, peanut butter, bacon, cheese, ice cream, dark chocolate roasted almonds, and avocados. At one time, these were all considered high risk fear foods for me and would instantly send me into the binge/purge cycle, but now I can enjoy them on a daily basis.

Some days I feel as though recovery has put too much fat on my body. However, if it means my body will function better and there is a smaller chance of relapsing, I will gladly accept the fat.

I think I will go enjoy a little moose tracks ice cream now.


*Judith D. Banker, PhD and Kelly L. Klump, PhD
Eating Disorders Review
July/August 2010 Volume 21, Number 4

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Moments of Weakness

 Yesterday, after putting it off for two weeks, I finally did a little birthday shopping. Many of my eating disordered behaviors began in high school and after losing a few pounds, I would treat myself to a mini shopping spree; making sure to buy the next size down. Clothes became my favorite reward for "good" behavior and a high level of control over my eating habits. 

Now that I have returned to a healthy weight for my body, however, clothes and shopping have become downright depressing. Instantly, I am taken back to the days of easily slipping into the latest trends and feeling a distorted sense of confidence. Yesterday, as I was trying on much bigger sizes, only to find they were still too small, I continuously left the dressing room feeling defeated. 

Immediately after returning home, I laid down and took a two hour nap; which is my go-to coping mechanism when I'm feeling down in the dumps. Instead of enjoying the first sunny day we've had all week, I allowed myself to fall victim to a bad body image day. Somewhere in the midst of trying on clothes, I allowed a meaningless number to dictate my mood.

Logically, I know better than this. The size of my clothes has absolutely nothing to do with my health, happiness, and well being; so why did I allow it to ruin my day? Before I knew it, I was beating myself up for knowing better, but not finding the strength to do anything about it. As I continued to isolate and avoid, I realized I was beating myself up for beating myself up. My head hurts just thinking about it.

This morning, thankfully, after a good nights rest, I can think a little bit more clearly about the situation. Yes, I had a moment (or entire day) of weakness, but the good news is, today is a brand new day. Yesterday my disordered mind won. Today, however, I refuse to let that happen.

To help make today a better body image day, I gathered 20 of my favorite positive body image affirmations:
My self-worth is not determined by the number on the scale.
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
I embrace my flaws, knowing nobody is perfect.
I love _______ about the way I look.
I am grateful for all of the things my body allows me to do.
My health has allowed me to begin rebuilding my life.
The size of my jeans does not dictate happiness.
Friends and family will love me no matter what my weight is.
Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of body.
Every body is unique, special, and different.
I trust my body to use food as fuel to help keep me strong.
My flaws add character.
I have more important things to worry about than my weight.
My body deserves love.
A goal weight is an arbitrary number. How I feel is important.
I choose health and healing over diets and self punishment.
Restricting my food does not make me a better person. Being kind to myself and others makes me a better person.
If I am healthy, I am so very blessed.
There is more to life than losing weight. I am ready to experience it.
   And my very favorite:

Progress is not linear. It's normal for me to go forward, and then backwards, and then forward again.


Yesterday I experienced a moment of weakness, but today is a new day and I am making a conscious choice to give my body a little more love.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Last night I was going through old pictures, which typically is not a good idea for those of us recovering from an eating disorder. Old pictures can bring back triggering memories and be
unwelcome reminders of how much weight has been gained. 

For those of you who don't know, I did my internship in Aspen, Colorado a few summers ago. For a small town girl, this was a massive opportunity. Not only was I working in one of the most beautiful cities in the entire country, but I was also working under a James Beard Award nominated chef. Bill Clinton and Bill Gates were guests at one of the many dinner events I helped prepare for. American Idol auditions, Food & Wine and X-Games events have all been held at the Aspen Meadows Resort, where I worked.

All of that aside, the views were simply breathtaking. 

Aspen Meadows Resort
The Dining Room

This internship was a once in a lifetime opportunity; however, there's a part of this experience that nobody knows about. After having somewhat of a nervous breakdown, I texted, because I didn't have the guts to call, my boss and told him I was leaving two weeks early without any notice. The same day, I packed up my things, got in the car and began the 26 hour drive home.

I remember crying on the phone to my mom that I could not do it anymore. They had me working long hours, I was homesick, and I remember specifically saying, "my hair is falling out." This summer and trip to Aspen is when my eating disorder really began to spiral out of control. Prior to this, I was underweight, but it was not nearly as noticeable as when I came home. 

Ever since then, I have felt a huge amount of guilt for not being strong enough to handle such an awesome opportunity. My "I'm not good enough" thoughts really get to me when I think back to this time. This isn't something that I have ever really talked about with anyone, thanks to the amount of shame involved.

Last night, however, after going through those pictures, I realized something for the first time...

Me at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic and me now

I was sick. Although I was still in a state of denial, deep down I knew I could not continue on working. There were nights at work where I literally would have to go sit in the bathroom and just cry because I felt so alone. Most nights, I couldn't focus on doing a good job at work because I was too busy keeping myself from passing out.

Today as I look at that first picture of myself with a much healthier outlook, I can finally see that it was actually a good thing I came home early. The guilt I have carried for years has lifted. I might not ever know why I was given such an amazing opportunity, but that is okay.

This morning I feel grateful for my health and ability to finally reflect on this part of my past with a little self compassion.


Photo Credit: Aspen Meadows Resort Website

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


"Sometimes it feels like you aren't moving forward. As if the past has caught up with you yet again. That is a lie. Look at who you are now compared to a year ago. Every day has been a step forward. Every day you get out of bed and face the world with courage and sincerity matters.

You've got to take a moment to take it all in and understand that time will not speed up even for you. Be patient with yourself. Be gentle with the wounds you carry. True, lasting healing cannot be tricked or rushed. But you must remember that you are healing. Hold on to that truth. Whether you see it or feel it, healing is taking place in your mind, body, spirit, and life."

 I read this quote and instantly knew it needed to be shared.

One of the most common misconceptions about recovering from an eating disorder is that once a person has reached a healthy weight, they are healed. Magically cured. Ready to go. 

While I was still in treatment, my insurance cut out as soon as I hit a certain weight. They believed that I had spent enough time there and was ready to face the world; as if weight was the only factor involved in the healing process. Luckily, for me, my parents were willing to help fight the insurance company and cover the costs, if necessary, until I felt ready to leave.

This isn't always the case, however. Some patients are forced to leave treatment, without a heads up, the same day the insurance company decides they are done; there are very few things that make me more upset.

Also, after leaving treatment, I felt as though I was expected to be fully recovered. Looking back, I think that was more of a pressure that I put on myself, but that is not always the case. Many patients are expected to go directly back to work or school during the most difficult phase of healing: the transitional period.

Upon leaving treatment, I felt just as scared to go home as I did on my first day in treatment. I always joke that my parents dropped me off kicking and screaming (and I may or may not have chased them as they left the parking lot), but I was ready to move in and stay forever when it came time to leave.

Treatment had become my comfort zone. I knew I was safe there. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who understood me; how could I possibly give that up?

The real work in recovery begins after leaving treatment. Without anyone watching my back 24/7 to make sure I was eating, recovery became my responsibility. On top of that, I was forced to deal with all of the negative, self criticizing emotions that I had been numbing out for years. Instead of being in group therapy 40 hours a week, I was suddenly only allowed one measly hour of therapy per week. To make matters worse, throw in the expectation that I am cured and ready to go back to work or school. Are you kidding me?

Healing takes time. Lots of time.

Just like the quote says:
Be patient with yourself.
Be gentle with the wounds you carry.
True, lasting healing cannot be tricked or rushed.
But you must remember you are healing.
Hold onto that truth.

Although it would be nice to fast forward to a time in my life where this eating disorder no longer haunts me, I know I am not there yet. Trusting in the process is not always easy, but by doing so, I am allowing myself to heal.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Negativity Spiral of Doom

Does any of this sound familiar? Yup, it does for me too. 

Negativity is contagious. Whether I start my day off on the wrong foot, or I am simply in the presence of someone who is throwing a pity party, negativity always has a way of creeping up on me.

Negative people surround themselves with negative people, so they don't have to feel so badly about being negative. Trust me, I have been there. Unfortunately, thanks to personal experience, I have found that being positive about a situation requires more effort than sulking in negativity; which seems backwards to me.

Once I am in that negative spiral of doom, it often feels impossible to get out of. The good news is, however, I have found quite a few ways to pull myself out and begin spiraling upward toward positivity.

 Recovery from an eating disorder, for example, is notorious for sucking the happiness out of people. I am often asked how I have remained upbeat during this difficult time, and I think it is a combination of things. Don't get me wrong, I have my downer days, too, but I always know that tomorrow is a fresh start.

Ways to avoid the Negative Spiral of Doom:

1. Surround yourself with positive people. Just like negative people attract negative people, the same seems to be true for positive people attracting positive people.
2. Don't take others negativity personally (I'm horrible at this one). Whether a person is a good mood or a bad mood, it has nothing to do with me; it is a choice they have made. Let me repeat that so it sinks in- it has nothing to do with me!
3. Practice acts of kindness. By spreading good deeds and smiles, you are helping others climb out of the negative spiral. What could be better?
4. Realize that life has its ups and downs. Life is never going to be perfect, so finding ways to go with the flow is a great place to start. It also helps to remember that tomorrow will bring a fresh start.
5. Concentrate on the present moment. Getting caught up in the what-ifs and over thinking destroys any ounce of positivity I might have had. Period.
6. Let go and move on. Sometimes, even though its really difficult, it is necessary to let go of certain things and people that bring you down. It might hurt for the time being, but in the long run it will only make me stronger.
7. Lead by example. Fill your life with things that light your fire and make you feel good about yourself. Others will follow.
8. Find a solution. Sure, a pity party might seem like the easiest thing to do when feeling down, but it only starts that negativity cycle. Do something proactive. Use your voice. Deal with the situation if possible.
9. Lend a helping hand. Helping others get through a difficult time always makes me feel a little better. Even if all I can do to help is listen, knowing I helped is all I need.
10. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. By focusing on the things that I do have, rather than the things I don't, I automatically feel more at peace with myself. 

Above everything, I know I have spent too much of my life suffering and in pain. I have made a decision to be done with that. Some days I feel like that obnoxiously happy person that we all love to hate, but it sure beats being sucked into the Negativity Spiral of Doom.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Midnight Snack

Last night, around 2am, I woke up starving

A "normal eater," as I like to call them, would have simply gotten out of bed, made their way to the kitchen, fixed a midnight snack, and gone back to bed without thinking twice about it. "Normal eaters," listen to their bodies and take care of themselves. Eating does not cause them to go into a downward spiral of guilt, embarrassment, and disgust. 

For me, however, I sleeplessly laid in bed going over my options:

1. Go back to sleep (which wasn't working)
2. Drink a big glass of water and try sleeping
3. Get up and have a snack

The problem was, I had already eaten my allotted calories for the day, yet my stomach was still screaming at me to eat. Feeling hungry in recovery can actually be highly triggering for some people, myself included. During weight restoration, I constantly felt miserably full to the point of bursting. As my calories were lowered and I was put on maintenance, I still continued to constantly feel full; which is why consistent meal planning and eating at similar times each day is so important.

The eating disordered part of my brain was jumping up and down with excitement; it had missed that "empty" feeling hunger causes, which made it seem impossible to listen to my healthy brain. This midnight hunger thing has happened to me before since I have started recovery, but I chose to listen to my eating disorder and stick it out until breakfast.

Feeling hungry, in my healthy mind, almost makes me feel like I have done something wrong.

Eventually, however, the metabolism does begin to work again and hunger cues do come back. My therapist told me last week that I have officially reached a steady set point weight (YAY!); meaning I can begin to be less rigid with my calorie counting IF I feel comfortable doing so. "Normal eaters" do not eat the same exact number of calories every day, yet their weight remains the same because their metabolism adjusts and they are able to eat when hungry. 

As I was laying in bed, out of frustration and lack of sleep, I made a choice. I got out of bed, made myself a piece of toast with butter and jam, and then went back to sleep. Although I went over my calories yesterday, I feel okay about it because I listened to my hunger cues. Maybe I was more active yesterday than normal and needed those few extra calories; or maybe I miscounted somehow. Or maybe the foods I ate yesterday we digested quickly, leaving me with hunger pangs. Either way, I faced a huge fear last night. 

Going a little over my calories one day, does not mean I will gain ten pounds overnight; and yes, I still have irrational fears about that. Over the past decade or so, I have perfected the art of ignoring my body's needs, which leaves me feeling guilty when I do listen to them.

This may not be the biggest step I have ever taken, but having a midnight snack is certainly one step closer to becoming a "normal eater." 


Also, yesterday I had my story published on NEDA's Proud2BMe website and I'm really happy with how this piece turned out. Read Here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Things NOT to say...

Blogging while angry or irritated might not be the best idea I've ever had, so bare with me...

Six months ago, yesterday, I was officially discharged from treatment; it really feels like six years ago, though. It is highly doubtful there are many other people who take the time to recognize treatment anniversaries, but I do. So much has changed in this short half of a year; making it feel like years worth of progress have been made.

On my drive to school today, the sun was shining and I was feeling great about life; six months out of treatment and six months symptom free. There aren't too many things that are highly triggering to me anymore, which is a huge step in the right direction. There is an exception to everything, however, and today I experienced that exception, proving the irony of being triggered the day after my six month anniversary. Sometimes I think the universe has a sick sense of humor.

Today in one of my classes, I had a one-on-one meeting with one of my professors about the research paper, about eating disorders, I have been referring to recently in my blog posts. Before I knew it, our conversation about APA formatting, turned into a conversation about his beliefs and past experiences with eating disorders. He went into great detail about an anorexic woman he saw on the Dr. Phil show who weighed... I won't say it, because I know better than to say numbers, but he was not afraid to shout it out. His exact words were, "She looked like death."

Sorry, I had to use this picture.

As I sat there, trying to keep myself from giving him the finger, he continued to talk about his younger sister who went through a "phase" of anorexia; like it's just a phase that all teenage girls go through. A specific weight was also given in this story, pushing me over the edge. Next, a story of his best friend who was, "One of the worst bulimics he's ever seen. She would eat more food than I ever dreamed of, but would always mysteriously disappear after meals."

Oh, I forgot to mention, this professor knows specific details about my past and current place in recovery.

Needless to say, I was pretty useless during the rest of that class and the one that followed. Is this really how people view eating disorders? Do they really think it is just a phase that some girls go through? Do they really think Dr. Phil is a good resource to learn about eating disorders for goodness sakes?! 

I thought for this post, it would be a good idea to go over a few general things, that may not seem harmful, but actually are, while talking to someone in recovery from an eating disorder. It is also important to keep in mind, that everyone is different; what is triggering for me, may not be for everyone else. 

-Do not give specific numbers or weights. If someone weighed a lower number than I did during the depths of their eating disorder, it can automatically send me into an "I'm not good enough" thinking cycle. 
-Exercise. Sometimes it's easy to forget that exercise addiction is a very common eating disorder symptom and during recovery, there are often restrictions on the amount of exercise a person can do; if any at all. 
-Diets. Period. 
-"You look so healthy!" or "You look so good/great!" For a normal person, this would be a wonderful compliment to receive, but after gaining weight in recovery, "healthy" and "great" mean FAT in our minds. 
-This is not a phase. I honestly didn't even know that some people believed it was, so I don't have much else to say about that. 
-Do not comment on what or how much a person in recovery is eating. Trust me, they are already well aware of the abnormal amounts of food being consumed.
-Healthy vs. Unhealthy foods. There is no such thing in recovery, so don't even go there.
-"I wish I had the willpower to be anorexic." Yes, I have really heard someone say that before.
-Weight comments in general are a horrible idea.

What did I miss? I know there are plenty of other things that are potentially triggering, but this list should help spread a little general knowledge. 

As upset as I was this morning, however, I am proud of myself for surviving the rest my classes today; well, at least physically. Mentally I was in my own world. The past six months of my life, outside of treatment, have gone really well; but that does not mean my life is 100% trigger free.

In six short months, my life has completely changed; I can't wait to see what the next six months will bring!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Starvatoin Study

While I was in treatment, I was given a handout called, The Effects of Starvation on Behavior: Implications for Dieting and Eating Disorders, - also known as "The Keys Study" - written by David Garner. During that time, I was in such a state of shock that I found it difficult to actually let the information in this article sink in. After rereading and picking it apart for my research paper this semester, I am blown away by the amount of useful information I picked up over these few short pages. 

In 1950 Ancel Keys and his colleagues did an experiment known as the “starvation study.” Out of 100 volunteers, 36 men with the best physical and psychological health were chosen for the this study. It consisted of three main phases: 

Phase one - The men ate normally while their behaviors and eating habits were recorded.
Phase two - The semi-starvation phase consisted of a strict diet; cutting daily caloric intake in half, for the next six months. Exercise and other mental tests were also done during this time. On average, the men lost about 25% of their starting body weight.
Phase three - After the semi-starvation phase, the men where carefully studied during a three month re-feeding process. 

Gardner goes on to discuss the many different ways the men responded to the weight loss, and to his astonishment, many of these symptoms or changes persisted through the rehabilitation phase. 

Behaviors Related to Food & Eating

An extremely common symptom of an eating disorder is an obsession with food. Gardner discusses how the men were affected:
"One of the most striking changes that occurred in the volunteers was a dramatic increase in food preoccupation. The men found concentration on their usual activities increasingly difficult, because they became plagued by incessant thoughts of food and eating. During the semi-starvation phase, food became a principal topic of conversation, reading, and daydreams.
Cookbooks, menus, and information bulletins on food production became intensely interesting to many of the men who previously had little interest in dietetics or agriculture. In addition, some men even began collecting coffeepots, hot plates, and other kitchen utensils.
For some, the fascination was so great that they actually changed occupations after the experiment; three became chefs!"
The first couple sentences of this quote are true for many people with eating disorders. It becomes extremely difficult to concentrate on anything except food. I remember feeling like my brain was constantly in a fog, making it very difficult to absorb information. 

For all of the jokes that have ever been made about me going to culinary school during the height of my eating disorder, there is now an explanation. Countless people have pointed out the irony in my previous situation, myself included.  The only way I could make sense of it was by thinking, "I already thought about food 24/7, so what not study it?!" Well, I am thrilled that there is actually proof that I am not crazy! 

Binge Eating

A major consequence of starvation is binge eating. Anyone who has been on a highly restrictive diet, not just those with eating disorders, can relate to this. Gardner explains,
"During the eighth week of starvation, one volunteer flagrantly broke dietary rules, eating several sundaes and malted milks; he even stole some penny candies. He promptly confessed the whole episode, [and] became self-deprecatory. Serious binge eating developed in a subgroup of men, and this tendency persisted in some cases for months after free access of food was reintroduced; however, the majority of men reported gradually returning to eating normal amounts of food after about 5 months of re-feeding."
After restricting caloric intake for any period of time, the normal reaction is to binge; whether we realize that is what is taking place or not. The body craves food and will do whatever it takes to consume those missing calories. These men were no different. Often, during the re-feeding stage of recovery, patients complain of extreme hunger and feel like binging, and this is why. 

For me personally, this is how my binge/purge cycle began. As early as my freshman year in high school, I remember starting a diet every Monday, only to end up binging all weekend long. Monday morning the diet would start again and the cycle would continue. The amount of guilt I felt lead me to diet. Learning to purge only made the cycle a million times worse.

Emotional & Personal Changes

My personality and emotional well being at this very moment are completely different than they were a year, even six months ago; thank goodness. Again, Gardner explains,
"During the re-feeding period, emotional disturbance did not vanish immediately but persisted for several weeks, with some men actually becoming more depressed, irritable, argumentative, and negativistic than they had been during semi-starvation."
In my opinion, this is a really important concept for outsiders and people with loved ones in recovery from an eating disorder to understand. Although a patient is weight restored and they physically look 'cured,' it does not mean they are. Like the quote states, often times, the mental state of a person in recovery is actually worse after weight restoration. 

In my situation, during this phase of recovery, it felt impossible to deal with two things: (1) The recent weight gain and hideous body image and (2) all of the unpleasant emotions I had been numbing with my eating disorder were now hitting me with full force. Without my go-to coping mechanism (ED behaviors), I was forced to deal with all of my underlying issues at once; I cannot think of a more overwhelming feeling. 

This article also goes into detail about the social/sexual changes and the cognitive/physical changes that take place as a result of starvation. The three listed above, however, stood out to me as the most prominent in eating disorder recovery (and I didn't want to bore you with more scientific research). If you are interested in the full text of the "starvation study," I found a link here.

All of this information is beyond fascinating; but for me, to be able to reread this article six months after leaving treatment and noticing all of the positive changes in my brain function is unreal. I can't wait to see how much more improvement takes place over the next six months.


Monday, March 11, 2013


Today is a very exciting day. 

As some of you might remember, a few weeks ago I did a post called "freespo." Today I am thrilled to announce that, Libero Network has taken the idea under their wing and we are going to begin the #EmbraceFreespo Project! 

Here's a quote from the annoucement website- check out the rest from the Libero Network announcement page here.

" “Freespo” - a term developed by Kelsi Cronkright – is a counter to the many messages out there that go against body acceptance. Unlike Thinspo, Bonespo, and even Fitspo, Freespo is about loving the body you have and embracing it rather than abusing it (physically or verbally).

The Freespo statement:

“I am free from unattainable, disordered sources of inspiration. My body is right where it’s supposed to be and I am not striving to be anything different.”
-Kelsi Cronkright "

Everyone has a different body type that is specific to their body and it's time to stop trying to change that. #EmbraceFreespo is about accepting and loving our bodies at their healthiest.

If you would like to join our project, feel free to use #EmbraceFreespo while tagging pictures or articles on social media sites. We would love to see how you are taking action!

This is a short post, but I just wanted to share my excitement with all of you and make sure you check out the new #EmbraceFreespo Project! :)

#EmbraceFreespo is here to stay!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Over Thinking

I am the worlds biggest over thinker.

Last night, for example, while letting my dog out before bed, she ran away. This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon thing. We live in the middle of the woods and typically, within fifteen minutes she's scratching at the front door, begging to get back inside.

When this happens, my mom gets really upset, puts her boots on, grabs a flashlight, and goes out looking for that silly dog.

This doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but in my head, my thoughts quickly began spiraling out of control.

"Great, now my mom is mad at me."
"I can never do anything right. How hard is it to let the dog out without losing her?"
"I better go downstairs and close my door so I don't get yelled at."
"This only happens when you let her out, Kels."
"What is wrong with you?"
"Now my mom doesn't trust me and she thinks I'm lazy."
"Lazy people are weak."
"If I'm weak, I am flawed."
"My mom must be so ashamed of me."
"I'm just not good enough for anything or anyone."

Sounds harsh, right? Sadly, that's how my brain works. It doesn't work like this all the time, thank goodness, and it has gotten better since I began recovery, but these thought patterns still linger. Something as simple as letting the dog out quickly turns into a full blown, over-thought-out mess. No matter what happens during my day, there is a pretty good chance I can over think any situation into an "I'm not good enough" thought.

Over the past few months, thankfully, I have learned that there are a few different things I can do to break this self destructive thinking cycle and help regain my sanity.

1. Take Action- Instead of running down to my room and sulking in my thoughts, I could have taken action by asking my mom if there was anything I could have done to help. Or maybe even asking her flat out if she was upset with me; instantly proving me right or wrong, putting an end to my assumptions.

2. Challenge my irrational beliefs- I am not weak because my dog ran away. That just sounds silly. If I can challenge that thought, then maybe I can stop the rest of the downward spiral.

3. Redirect my attention- Again, instead of hiding out in my room, I could have done something to distract my mind. Simply turning on the TV would be a mindless way to distract my brain for the time being.

4. Mindfulness- One technique a past therapist of mine always recommended was, imagining those negative thoughts as leaves floating down a stream. Allow myself to feel that emotion, but then let it pass me by. My thoughts can't hurt me and they will pass.

5. Patience- Like everything in recovery, changing these thought processes does take time. Trying to be gentle with myself when these thoughts do come up is a huge step in the right direction.

Most importantly, I need to find a way to stop beating myself up for beating myself up. Right now in recovery, I am pretty good at knowing, logically, the difference between healthy and unhealthy thoughts. It just becomes more difficult to act on the healthy thoughts when I begin snowballing unhealthy thoughts like this.

The human brain is one of the most fascinating and complex things in existence. Learning to change thought patterns that have been ingrained over the course of a lifetime, is downright frustrating and it would be so much easier to give up. I have made way to much progress, however, to throw in the towel now. 

I am an over thinker and probably always will be, but thankfully, there are ways to help myself overcome these battles in my head. 


Friday, March 8, 2013



 Before graduating high school, I honestly thought by the time I reached this day, my 25th birthday, I would be starting my career, happily married, and have a little one on the way. At that time twenty-five seemed so old. By twenty-five I was supposed to have my life figured out. Period.

Well, here I am on my big day and none of the above is even close to being a little bit true.

Surprisingly, however, I feel okay about where I am at in life. A year ago, while celebrating my 24th birthday, I doubted I would survive to see my 25th year. But here I am, stronger than ever. Rather than worrying about where I think I should be in life, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to start over. I have the rest of my life ahead of me; this is just the beginning.

Needless to say, I have learned a few things along the way.
Here are my top 25 lessons learned over the past quarter of a century:

1. Always surround myself with supportive, uplifting people
  2. Self acceptance is the first step towards finding happiness
3. Maybe my parents aren't so bad, after all
4. Low fat/fat free cheese is disgusting. It doesn't even melt, it just gets more rubbery
5. No matter what the number on the scale is, it will NEVER make me happy
6. Don’t drive over 40mph if the roads are just a little icy. I wish I would have learned that before totaling my first 3 cars...
7. No amount of time spent with grandparents is enough
8. Aluminum foil cannot be microwaved
 9. Feelings are just feelings- they will not hurt me, they will pass, and sometimes we need to feel pain in order to appreciate joy
10. Don’t wash black and white clothes together 
11. Be grateful for this moment, it’s all we have 
12. Soak up some sunshine whenever possible 
13. My journey is just that- my own. Comparing where I am at in life to my peers is pointless
14. Rock bottom is a foundation for building a new life 
15. Bad things do happen to good people 
16. Giving is a million times better than receiving… unless it’s shoes 
17. Taste buds change. I never, ever thought I would eat frozen meals, let alone enjoy them 
18. A change in perspective can change everything 
19. Fear will try to stop me, but I’m learning to be stronger than my fears 
20. Laughter really is the best medicine 
21. Baseball isn’t the only sport people care about 
22. Take time to notice something beautiful everyday 
23. If something is bothering me, speak up! Don’t stuff your feelings, express them 
24. Over thinking will destroy me
25. Making mistakes is the only way to grow


Twenty-five years old and, thanks to recovery, my life is just beginning.



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Positive Affirmations

Recently, I had a request to do a post on positive affirmations. The Something Fishy eating disorder website has a seemly endless list of feel-good phrases that I often refer to in times of need. One of my favorite little tricks, is to write one or two down on a small piece of paper, carry it in my pocket and read it throughout the day to help lift my spirits. Sometimes we just need a little positive reminder to treat ourselves with love and respect.

This list could go on forever, but I narrowed it down to a few of the best:
 -Whenever my attention wanders away from that which is good and constructive, I immediately bring it back to the contemplation of that which is lovely and of good report.
-I will not label myself as my problems. I am not my disease.
 -I am not afraid of life. I believe that life is worth living, and my belief helps create the fact.
-I appreciate, love and respect my body. I will honor its needs to grow emotionally and physically.
-It doesn't matter what the disease is. There is always room for hope. I am not going to die one of the statistics.
-I forgive myself and others, release the past and move forward with love in my heart.
-I can go anywhere I want to go, one step at a time.
-I love and approve of myself, am at peace with my own feelings and stand tall and free.
-I am in charge. I am responsible for the direction of my boat.
-I am meant to be very different from everyone else. This releases the burden of feeling like I have to be someone other than me.
-Today is the beginning of the rest of my life. It is a clean slate. I will begin it totally refreshed and just live it.
-I will not allow the fear of "what if" to ruin the joy of "what is."
-I can be kind and patient with myself in my progress toward recovery.
-Whenever I face a hardship, feel anxious, nervous, and sad, I will embrace my pain and agony. I know I can learn from my misery and pain and share the knowledge with others.
-I will surround myself with people who are affirming and encouraging.
 -I will not feel guilty for caring for myself.
 -I like myself today. I am aware of possibilities for improvement, but I don't want to be anyone else. I am comfortable and accepting of who I am. I can forgive my mistakes and move on to try again.
**If I can endure for this minute whatever is happening to me No matter how heavy my heart is or how dark the moment might be...If I can but keep on believing what I know in my heart to be true, That darkness will fade with morning and that this will pass away, too...Then nothing can ever disturb me or fill me with uncertain fear, For as sure as night brings dawning, my morning is bound to appear...  (my favorite)
Feel free to use any of these positive affirmations, make your own, or visit the Something Fishy website for tons more. 
One of the most important parts of healing is changing those negative, self destructive thoughts. I have found the more I am able to remind myself of the positive aspects of my life, the less I think about the hardships.
 Affirmations are true, positive statements or judgements. Call me crazy, but I would much rather fill my brain with these than my usual cruel, self critical thoughts!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Liquid Restriction

This is a topic that is not discussed very often in eating disorder recovery, or maybe it is and I just haven't taken the time to notice because I didn't think liquid restriction was a problem for me.

In the depths of an eating disorder, it is not uncommon to begin restricting liquids out of fear of feeling bloated. Not only are liquid calories cut out of the diet, but eventually water is cut out as well. After a period of dehydration, once water does enter the body, it is retained because the body does not know when it will get water again. The body holds onto that water, which causes that bloated or fat feeling. 

Restricting liquids can have just as many, if not more, medical complications as restricting food does. As you may already know, the majority of the human body is made up of water, making it extremely difficult to function properly without it.

For the past few months, I have had a headache every single morning and I blamed it on allergies; until now. My morning routine consisted of one or two cups of coffee and no other liquids until lunch. After not having any liquids all night and drinking coffee, a diuretic, in the morning, I was left feeling faint and head-achy, thanks to dehydration.

There was a time when it would take me an entire day, or longer, to finish a bottle of water. I remember watching 'normal' people chug entire bottles of water and be perfectly fine with it, while I was left wondering why they didn't feel painfully full as a result.

Often, during the first few days of re-feeding, a patient can gain a significant amount of water weight, but that does eventually even out or regulate once the body becomes hydrated again. Getting through that initial discomfort, due to water retention, however, often feels impossible.

As hard as it is to believe, it has been about ten months since I experienced those initial days of re-feeding; so I just assumed that my body should be well hydrated by now. After the past couple weeks, however, I have been proven wrong yet again. 

For the past few weeks, I have been making a conscious choice to drink more water. As part of my meal plan, I typically have two 12oz. glasses of juice per day and up until now, I thought those were the only liquids my body needed. I honestly believed that even though water is calorie free, it would make me feel more bloated than I already did. To my surprise, the opposite happened.

The list of benefits that come along with drinking water and staying hydrated is pretty huge:

Healthier looking skin
Improved alertness and concentration
Helps digestion and constipation (a big problem while the metabolism is learning to work again)
Fights off sickness
Boosts mood
Flushes toxins from the body
Helps build and repair muscle
Relieves bloating (!!!)
Prevents headaches
Regulates body temperature

So, after years of having an irrational fear of bloat due to drinking water, I finally understand the reasons behind it. This might seem like common sense to people who have never struggled with an eating disorder, but keep in mind how distorted my thinking has become over the years. The human body is truly amazing; we just need to listen to it and give it a little TLC once in awhile.

It's exciting to think that my thought processes will continue to become even more clear, thanks to my new best friend, water.