Thoughts on Anxiety and Eating Disorders

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Anxiety….

Let’s talk about it. 

How are you dealing? 

I’m talking about the type of anxiety that is crippling. The kind that adds a layer of depression and sorrow. The type that causes you to live in fear of the “what if”. 

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this post… but I do want to talk about anxiety as it relates to an eating disorder (at least mine).

Anxiety was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up I had a lot of irrational fears and dark thoughts. I feared I was going to get kid napped or my parents were going to die. I had anxiety about societal expectations… anxiety about weight gain. I knew that a “thigh gap” was “idea”… and I remember the exact day and moment in high school that I looked in the mirror and saw my thigh gap was gone. And I felt disappointed at myself and fearful that I was ugly.  

Unfortunately, I carried this anxiety with me into my college years.

Anxiety caused me to do a lot of irrational things and make poor decisions. If you’ve read my other posts, you know my top priority in college was certainly not “wellness”- despite being in school for nutrition. (The irony… I know.)

Anxiety controlled my life and was the driving factor behind almost everything I did: my intense study schedule, my lacking sleep schedule, my extreme workout schedule, my calorically sparse diet, my social life etc. All of these things were driven by anxiety and fear. 

What drives you? What motivates you? Is anxiety the captain of your life? If so… then I submit that you have given away your ability to make decisions based on what you truly want. Your judgment is clouded with the fog of fear. You are robbed of your ability to truly enjoy anything without reservation. There is always an underlying uneasiness. There is an intensity in your soul. An intensity that never quiets down. 

Peace? What is this peace you speak of? What is joy without reservation? 

WHAT IS HAPPINESS APART FROM THIN-NESS?

Ahhhh… there it is. I thought that if I was miserable, at least I could be thin and miserable. I thought - if I don’t have control of the other areas of my life, at least I can have control in this one. If I cannot deal with my thoughts and fears of failure, then at least I’d have one source of my anxiety under control. I can’t fully control everything else… but I can control this one.

Unfortunately, control cannot fix anxiety. On the contrary, in my experience, control only perpetuated my anxiety. Even the idea of loosing control was terrifying. To try to control your anxiety by tightening the death grip you have on your life is an oxymoron. It does not work. Trust me, I’ve tried. That day will come when you don’t have full control anymore- when someone throws a wretch in your plans. When you boyfriend calls to say y’all are going to eat with friends- during the time you are going to work out. When you go to a party and they have only have “junk” food to eat. When you go on vacation and you are out of your own routine. Control does not ease the pain of anxiety- with food, weight, or anything else in life. It might place a Band-Aid on it- but it does not give you true peace- only the illusion of it. This will quickly come to light when the inevitable happens and you are placed out of control. At this time, the anxiety will be amplified. The tighter your control, the bigger the fall. 

With food, control only leads to a “loss of control”. Has anyone else struggled with binge eating due to restriction? In this case, you have control until you don’t anymore. At the point of binge eating, not only have you lost control… but you are completely out of control. This is what control does- we forget how to cope with life when things are not exactly as we have them planned. When our calculations and lists to do not add up, we loose our minds. 

This is why in my opinion and experience, controlling methods like Weight Watchers and the MyFitnessPall app do.not.work. Yes, they may work, in that they allow you to have the tremendous illusion of control… but they only give you a dependence on something apart from yourself. They lead you to feel out of control without them. Is that really even true control? I submit it is not. Yes, you are using them to control… but you yourself are not in control. 

When is someone “in control” when it comes to food? I submit that it is when one eats intuitively. To be in control when it comes to food is to not control at all! You have to release your mind from the burden of manipulation and you must rekindle that beautiful relationship between body and soul. When you relinquish control of food, then you take away the appeal of the “forbidden foods”. When this happens, the appeal of all the “bad” foods goes away. They no longer have that forbidden allure. They no longer entice you to come hither and eat all the things. When this happens, your mind no longer has to practice self control… because your body intuitively does not always crave those things. If you take away the issue… then it is a non-issue. But get this: you first have to allow yourself to be “out of control” to be “in control” . This means you may over do it the first few or the first few hundred times… but eventually that “honeymoon” phase of food WILL go away. Without you having to practice self control. 

To put anxiety behind me… I had to learn to relinquish control. I had to learn that life was better lived without maintaining a constant death grip. Without living in fear of the future or the “what ifs”. Life is unpredictable and unexpected- that is the beauty of it! This is the nature of life. You have to choose to embrace it, or live in fear of it. 

I for one am done living in fear. I want to pursue what sets my soul on fire and what fulfills my inmost being. I may fail and run into road blocks along the way… but there is progress in the regression. 

By letting go of control, I have experienced more freedom than I ever have. To learn to be at peace with things outside of your control is one of the greatest life tools. My mom has always told me: “it is what it is”. That phrase has always sent me into a rage… I was always like “WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!” It implies that what happens happens… and we can’t do anything about it but accept it. As much as I hate it sometimes, that is true. Life is always going to throw curve balls but we cannot go on living in fear of them. They will happen… and we have to be flexible enough to dodge them or we have to be strong enough to heal from them. Either way, living in fear of them only cripples us and hinders us as we go through life. 

I know I'm not alone in this struggle. I know my story is not unique. I would love to get this conversation started, Are you struggling? Have you overcome? 

Practically speaking, things like morning routines, journaling, and meditation have all helped me in this learning process… but that is for another time.

Why I'm Not Quitting Sugar

Okay.

This is a post I’ve been wanting to sit down and write for a while now….

But I had to been in the right head space. Alas, I believe I am in the perfect space of being low key worked up but also chill. #wine

I titled this post “Why I’m not quitting sugar”. I am not writing this post because I need to defend myself, but because I want to reach a subset of women and men who have unwittingly created food fear in their own lies. People tend to see what someone else is doing in their "diet" and they automatically use that to make judgements on their own. This should not be the case. 

 

Rule rules rules. People love the damn food rules for the sake of "wellness”. People love to create a problem when there isn’t necessarily a problem. People love to demonize things and beat themselves up thinking they can do better and by golly they better “detox after the weekend”. They better “pay” for that. They better get their body “back on track”.

Now I will have to say, there is a time and a place for detoxes and sugar cleanses and the like; however, the majority of the girls I know and my own clients do not fall into this category of needing to “detox” from or quit anything. This is who I am writing this post for.

Another side note: Quitting certain foods does not automatically make you “cleansed”. Detoxes should involve encouraging your body’s natural detoxifying pathways. Detoxing can be done effectively if you support the liver in phase 1 and 2 of the detoxification process. This can be beneficial at times and for therapeutic reasons. But alas, this is not what I am addressing in this post.

Apart from a legitimate food sensitivity, allergy, or legitimate therapeutic reason, creating more rules and guilt and thus, morality around food is not necessary. I would even go so far as to say that it can be detrimental to your mental wellbeing. I see it over an over again- girls who are already struggling with developing a good relationship with food and their bodies thinking that they are doing something wrong and thus, feeling guilty for not “quitting sugar”.

Again. I get it. I know. Wellness is my jam. Sugar is not great for hormonal regulation, inflammation, and all that jazz. But oh my gosh… lets keep it all in perspective! Let’s remember that our emotional and mental wellbeing is arguably the first priority. If you’re worried about eating fruit, honey and even sugar … then I encourage you to take a long, hard look at your relationship with food. Ladies (and men): There is nothing wrong with enjoying sugar- of any form, without feelings of guilt. There is nothing wrong with “indulging” over the weekend without feeing the need to “detox” and extend certain diet parameters when the new week starts. Again, there is a time and a place for “detoxing” and sugar quitting, but when it comes as a detriment to your relationship with food- now is not the time. In my previous job, I worked with people who were downing 2 liters of soda every day… those are the kind of people who would benefit from an immediate sugar detox. I wouldn’t blink an eye to that! But to my ladies who are trying to heal their relationship with food and their bodies: please know physical healing and well-being does not have to come at the cost of mental sanity.

Why do I feel so passionate? Because I’ve been there. I’ve been scared of food to an extreme degree. I feared a lot of food— but probably sugar most of all. But I don’t any more. I use to think: I can’t eat sugar or it will negate my workout. Or, I can’t eat sugar or I will gain weight. Or, I can’t eat sugar because of inflammation and insulin. But guess what? I don’t think like that anymore because it was detrimental to me and unnecessary for me to put parameters on my diet. When I gave myself permission to eat, then I found I did not intuitively crave allllll of the sugar. So for me, creating a food rule around sugar actually made my crave it more. I don’t fear of weight gain with my sugar intake. Again, I’m not going crazy, but I eat “sugar” probably every single day in the form of something: be it a cookie, chocolate, wine, cocktail, honey, fruit… you name it. And guess what? I am physically well. Even more than that, I am emotionally well. I feel better than I ever have and THAT is what is important to me. Food is not driving me mad. Food is not my obsession. Food is just food. It is a joy… it is not an obsession. This happened when I learned to leave the food rules and the black and white/polarized thinking behind. This is the great thing about intuitive eating: You may indulge over the weekend, but then Monday comes around and chances are you will automatically tend towards the greens and such without setting up parameters for yourself. No need to punish yourself… just listen to what your body craves.

I think valuable intuition for anyone to have is knowing what is appropriate for them and what is not. For me, with a history of an eating disorder and extreme obsession with food and detoxes, unnecessary (non-therapeutic) food rules simply DO.NOT.WORK.FOR.ME. Well, I take that back… they work for me in the way that I do them and I do them well. When I make my mind up to do something, I will do that thing at any cost. But guess what? I’m a miserable person when I do that. I know myself well enough to know that if I ever restrict or create food rules for myself, then I crave those things all the more. It drives me mad and I feel suppressed. I feel a slave to food again. Any kind of rule, as well intentioned as it may be, is off limits for me. I don’t allow myself to go there anymore. I lived as a slave to food for so long that I’m just f******** over it. OVER IT.

Now hear this: I know quitting sugar and all works for some people. I know that it is necessary for some people. I understand breaking the cycle of sugar addiction and regulating hormones. TRUST. I get it.

@@But hear this: just because someone else is doing something for their own “wellness”, it does not mean you should.@@

What someone else is doing does not apply to you. If you fear that you are not doing something right because you are not creating food rules for yourself- whether that’s concerning gluten, sugar, alcohol, carbs etc, then I challenge you to step away from outside influences for now. Be kind to yourself and remember: you know you best. Do don’t think you are doing some sort of disservice or detriment to yourself by not eliminating this or that.

Just to reiterate: when I stopped creating food rules, the appeal of the foods I was scared of decreased tremendously. When your mind is not fixated on this thing that you cannot have, then you are free to actually decide what foods you truly enjoy and what you do not enjoy. You’ll find that while you may crave all of the donuts or all of the bread at first… those cravings eventually subside. The “honeymoon phase” goes away. You realize you don’t crave those things as often as you thought you did. It is a beautiful thing. (Read more about the journey to intuitive eating here.)

Furthermore, when there are no unnecessary food rules, you eliminate the possibility for guilt to sneak in. You eliminate the possibility for food to have morality around it. Food should not have guilt or shame attached to it. I lived in that space for too long and I am so so passionate about getting others to this same place of food freedom. When you have created unnecessary food rules for yourself, if you fail… guess what… there is guilt. That is what rules do. They create guilt and shame when you do not adhere to them.

Again, I feel like keep having to come back to this place: truly, some people need to abstain from food for medical and therapeutic reasons. I work with women who have to do this and we are careful to honor their physical needs but also ensure we do not damage their relationship with food. It is truly a delicate balance that requires you to place yourself in the right headspace.

My purpose in writing this post is to reach a certain target audience who are unnecessarily limiting their food choices for the sake of “wellness” at the cost of their relationship with food.  I believe our bodies and minds would be better served by making intuitive eating and a traditional food diet our priority. This way, our bodies are in a place to tell us what the truly need. In this way, there is no need for food parameters. You do not have to be out of control when it comes to food. That is the beauty of intuitive eating- it gets you to that place of food peace and wellness without having to compromise in other areas of your life. Because guess what? Sometimes I crave all the fruit… all the chocolate… and all the wine… and that is okay. I honor that shiz. #teamnofoodrules 

An Open Letter to All Males Struggling with an Eating Disorder or Disordered Eating

 John.

John.

Dear male, 

I want to say I’m sorry. I never ever want to discredit or not recognize the struggles you feel in this area. Of course, I have never done this intentionally- but I do fear I may have done so unintentionally. I understand that you- like women, are not immune to societal pressures. Because I am a woman- I gravitated and resonate with women and their specific struggle and so I tend to to address them with the majority in my words. But please never ever think that I do not believe my words or the struggle apply to you as well.

I would be doing a huge disservice to the EDO (eating disorder) and EDO recovery community if I did not recognize our male counterparts. I love the strong community that women have built around themselves but let us not hype ourselves up so much that we exclude and further damage and isolate others. Males in this struggle need just as much love and support and encouragement as women do and unfortunately, their support community is much less. Let us all welcome each other with open arms. 

Unfortunately, EDOs are often wrongly stereotyped to a certain subset of women… I’m sure we are all well aware of what that is. But the wrongful pressures of society do not discriminate between race, age, or gender. We are ALL susceptible to the pressure of societal “expectations” and “ideals” to look a certain way. 

There is a huge cultural movement- body positive. This is an incredible thing. However, it is geared largely toward the female population and I feel this is unfortunate. Because the cultural female “ideal” is so extreme, it often overshadows the fact that there are unrealistic physical expectation for men to reach as well. To not think so would be ignorant. Do you think our boys and men are immune to this message? No. I say it again: Men are not immune to societal pressures or the development of disorder eating or eating disorders. Our men and boys are in dire need of the body positive, intuitive eating, and self love messages just as much as our girls. But because there is a smaller subset of them or because there are existing stereotypes about EDOS, their cry for change and for help is not as loud. I believe men are often stereotyped to be rough, tough, no body image issues, no feelings, no emotions… etc. All of these things may be true for a subset of men (hah), but the rest of them have actual emotions and actual feelings. They want freedom from food and body shape ideals just as much as women do. Unfortunately, men, do not get the support and comradely that women often have and they are left out of the grassroots societal movements in this area.

This topic is extremely close to my heart as I have had and have men in my life who struggle with body image issues, disordered eating and even eating disorders. It breaks my heart. The person who changed everything for me was a male. (Read his story here.) Unfortunately, he passed away. But I want to honor him in every way I can and in everything do. It would disrespectful for me to not recognize his struggle as just as valid as my own. 

Women, don’t we all just want grace? Don’t we all want to celebrate the fact that there is beauty in every one of us and that we don’t need to reach this arbitrary pinnacle of “perfection”? Don’t we all want to tear down these body “ideals” and replace them with individuality? Then we need to extend the same grace and message that we want for ourselves and our daughters to our boys and men. This body positive moment is a two way street. If we are to change the societal ideals it is gong to involve both males and females working together. We can’t just demand change in this area like its strictly female struggle. It’s not. 

This body positive movement is great. This ED recovery community is wonderful. But again: let us not leave behind our male counterparts. Let us bring them into our community and love on them. Let us be open minded when we talk and in the conversations we have. Let us not add to the stereotype that eating disorders are a female disease. 

I for one, will be more careful with the words I write and the pronouns I choose. I never want to be insensitive, exclude, or undermine the male struggle. I encourage everyone to do this same.

Let’s get this conversation going. 

Thoughts? Feelings? Let me know in the comments!

As usual, let me know if you have any further questions about my journey and experience with recovery, If you feel like you need additional support in this, I work with clients one on one in my practice- Nourishing Minds Nutrition

Eating Disorder Recovery: The First Step to Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating is all the rage right now. It is a huge wellness trend that is sweeping the nation.

THIS IS INCREDIBLE.

I think women (and men) are finally fed up with being told we that need to follow diets and food rules to maintain our weight. I think we are realizing the truth: we are in fact, not out of control when it comes to food! Or at least, we don’t have to be. And the method we use to contain ourselves does not have to be restrictive. On the contrary, it can be the most liberating thing ever. Giving your body complete control by eating intuitively- that’s magic. Intuitive eating is founded by honoring our cravings with a whole, real foods diet. It is founded in eating to nourish our bodies- not in restricting calories. It is founded in honoring our hunger and satiety cues. Nothing is off limits. Nothing is restricted. You merely let your body guide you to the foods that it needs to be fully nourished and fully satisfied.

Unfortunately, many of us have become incredibly disconnected with our own bodies. In this case, our minds take over and tell our bodies what to eat and when to eat it. Diets and the food manipulation mindset have stripped away the innate wisdom we have to determine the right food choices. This makes intuitive eating difficult and downright impossible. 

The point of this post is to give hope to those who are discouraged or frustrated by this concept intuitive eating – particularly, those who are in the clutches of or recovering from an eating disorder. I feel like I am doing this population a huge disservice if I merely say, “Yea! Just eat intuitively! It’s great!” without giving merit to their frustration and guiding them in what to do about it. Because trust- I’ve been there. So with the rest of this post- I discuss the very first thing I did to start my journey to intuitive eating.

If it’s not already clear- learning to eat intuitively has changed my life. I now consider myself an intuitive eating dietitian, but it hasn’t been an easy or quick journey to get here. (You can read about my journey here.) I learned to ditch the disordered, manipulative eating behaviors and eat what and when I effing want. Everything I say here is based off of my own personal experience. I juggled extreme restriction and binge eating during my EDO, so the journey to intuitive eating may be different for you. However, I believe there are many out there who are in my old shoes. I hope this resonates with you.

So here it is: Begin the journey to intuitive eating by eating what you do not want to eat. Say whaaaaa? I know I know. This goes against the premise of intuitive eating and I believe this is why many are left feeling frustrated and defeated when they try to jump straight from eating disorder to “intuitive eating”. If you have not already begun the process of recovery, what you want to eat at this time can be translated as: what your eating disorder wants you to eat- not what your body truly needs. Your eating disorder will tell you to eat more broccoli, or celery, or egg whites. It will tell you to eat less or to eating everything in the house in one sitting. None of this is intuitive eating. It is simply impossible for one to go straight from disordered eating to eating intuitively overnight- so do not expect this out of yourself! You will only feel frustrated and disappointed. However, this is what you can do to empower yourself and start your journey to recovery and to intuitive eating: 

Don’t eat what you want to eat- eat the foods that you have placed “off limits”. In this way, eating can be scary, confusing and frustrating because there is an internal conflict between what your mind wants and what your body needs. But friends, do not think that there are certain expectations that you have to reach during this first step. Just take it day by day. Every day, challenge yourself to eat a new food that was previously off limits. Or maybe just eat more of a particular food. For example, if you usually to have one slice of toast for breakfast- have two instead. If you were use to eating PB2, challenge yourself to eat real peanut butter. For me, this was the very first step to intuitive eating: eating what I did not want to eat- but what my body and soul needed to be healed. I began by eating foods that I considered to be “fattening” or “off limits” or “trigger foods”. This included things like peanut butter, oatmeal, bread, egg yolks, chips, and actual milk instead of almond milk. I began by creating small challenges every day to eat a little more or to face a food fear. The only way you will be able to get to that place of intuitive eating is by eating foods that nourish and satisfy your body and by eliminating the fear around food. So, I challenge you to challenge yourself. Food fear and intuitive eating are mutually exclusive: the two cannot exist together.

Tackling food fear can be a daunting process. This stage can be extremely frustrating, confusing, and evening saddening. It can lead people to believe that intuitive eating is hard. It can cause people to give up and revert back. But remember: this is not intuitive eating- this is the journey to intuitive eating. And yes, it sucks. But take heart, friends: it gets better! The more you face your fears, the easier it gets. The more you shut down your eating disorder thoughts and desires, the more your true needs can shine through. Daily successes will amount up to huge forward motion and progress over time. As food fears subside, your mind will get out of the way and it will become easier for your body to communicate with you. Your body will learn to communicate and your mind will become more receptive to listening.

Eventually, as you eat more calories and more nutrient dense foods, your metabolism will speed up and your body will become receptive to this new normal. Your hunger cues will become more pronounced- learn to honor these. Eat when you are hungry and do not relish it or ignore it. Hunger is a physical manifestation of your body’s need for energy. It is talking to you- listen to it. Eat slowly and mindfully. Taking note of how the food tastes and feels in your mouth. Relish every bite. Eventually, you will begin to sense and honor your satiety cues as well- even to previously “triggering” foods. Yes- you may go over board a few times- or even many times, but have grace with yourself. This is a part of the process- it does not mean you should restrict that food. On the contrary, if you have a tendency to binge on a particular food, you should eat that food more often. Once your body realizes that it can have said food whenever it wants, the urge to binge eat will wane and eventually, it will be gone all together. (I wish someone had told me this years ago. This truth would have prevented a lot of heartache and late nights of self-loathing.)

Hunger and satiety cues are the most basic, fundamental commutation between your body and your mind. As you grow in your confidence with these, you will become more sensitive to other signals as well- such as cravings for specific nutrients or micronutrients. But again, this is certainly a process that takes time.

So alas friends—take heart! I and countless others have found such freedom in intuitive eating. The first steps to getting there are not easy- but don’t give up or mistake the journey for the destination. Have grace with yourself and take it day by day.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section! How did you begin your journey to intuitive eating?

Have questions about intuitive eating? Ask below!

If you want one-on-one intuitive eating coaching, I am now accepting clients at my practice, Nourishing Minds Nutrition. Email me with any questions: hello@rootforfood.net

 

 

How to Love Yourself in a World that Makes Self Love Hard

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How do we grow to not care about the opinions of others when it comes to our own bodies?

I am not about to say anything profound or unheard of… I am not about to blow your mind.

I am just giving my own two cents on this question that haunts so many. This insight has come from my own experiences and my own journey to body acceptance. It is my hope that it inspires and guides you in your journey as well.  

For many years, I found my identity- my happiness and my joy (or lack of), in my physical appearance. If someone said I looked thin: *happiness*.  If I thought I looked fat or ugly (which was 99% of the time… ): *depression*. (Did I ever experience true happiness or joy in these things? NO. Appearance based joy is not true joy.)

Of course, I do not have it all figured out yet. I am still not numb to the world’s opinions or “ideals”. In a world where skinny, fit, “perfect” women are everywhere you turn…. I feel you, ladies.

I still feel the feels too.

What is different now is that I do not let someone else’s opinion of me define my worth or create my joy. Let me reword that: I do not let society’s “ideals” determine my own. I do not let society’s “ideals” define my own worth.

To get to this place, I have applied the following principles/practices to transform my mind and my opinion of self in relation to the world.

 

1. Challenge the expectations. Think long and hard about the expectations you have for yourself. WHY? Why do you have these certain expectations? Why do you feel looking a certain way is more desirable and thus, something to be sought after? What expectations do you have of others? Do you hold them up to the same set of standards?

You know what I’ve realized over these past few years?

The more we have grace with others; the more we will have grace with ourselves. Take a long hard look at yourself. Do you judge others for their appearance? This can be tough think about. No one wants to think of themselves this way. No one wants to be shallow. But when you confront your expectations and get real with yourself, you can point out their flaws and begin the process of tearing them down. To initiate change, we women must grow to support and build each other up. Not compete against or put each other down.

Of course, we all have different Gods. I am of Christian faith, and one of my most favorite verses is 1 Samuel 16:7b: “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

I think the principle of this scripture applies - regardless of your religion. It is that beauty comes from the heart, ladies. What a wonderful principle for womanhood. Think about it. Let it sink in. Damn- what a relief! Our appearance does not define us. Not in the least. To grow a beautiful soul: what a more worthwhile endeavor.

What if we all had grace with one another instead of measuring each other up by the net worth of our own skin? Honestly, I feel like the economy would collapse because women would be too busy being badass unicorns instead of buying all of the beauty products, weight loss supplements, and the newest fashion.

So my first recommendation is to have grace the others. I believe that the first step in loving yourself is practicing by extending that same grace those apart from you. Do this long enough and it translate to your relationship with yourself. Don’t hold others or yourself up to a certain worldly standard of physical “perfection”. Because who are they to determine "perfection"? 

2. Change your vernacular. Replace negative self-talk with positive words of affirmation. Here this: the more you say something- the more you believe it. So talk sweet to yourself. Tell yourself how good you look! This is not cockiness. It’s confidence… and confidence is sexy. When you manifest something- you become it. When you talk down to yourself all the time, you will become low in self-esteem and uncomfortable in your own skin. When you complement yourself, you will radiate confidence. Confidence is beautiful.

3. Get naked! Okay- this one sounds odd, but hear me out. I use to be so ashamed of my own skin. Seeing myself naked in front of the mirror was painful. I was ashamed of me so I made it a point to be fully clothed all of the time- even when I was alone by myself. I spent very little time undressed. What I’ve learned: if we are going too be confident and comfortable in our own bodies, we have to do things that make us hella uncomfortable at first. So get naked. I challenge you to sleep naked, get up in the morning and do yoga or stretch naked, walked around the house naked, drink your coffee naked. (Just remember to shut the blinds!)  Replace your quick shower with a long, luxurious bath once a week. All of this will seem uncomfortable and foreign at first, but embrace your body in this way and it will become easier and easier. Your body will grow less foreign to you. It will be harder for you to resent it when you become comfortable and familiar with it. You will grow to be more and more comfortable and confident in your own skin- clothed or not.

4. Appreciate curves for what they are. All women are lovely! Just because one woman does not have any body fat does not make her any more or any less of a women. In the same way, just because one woman has body fat does not make her less of a woman. If you are the proud owner of some body fat- embrace it, lady! For you, this is a mark of womanhood. It is in no way a reflection of your worth or self discipline. We women are all created so uniquely different and for there to be one “ideal” for all women is asinine. Why are we all striving to be something we are not? Why are all women trying to achieve one “ideal”? I guess it is inherent human nature. Our mentality is that the grass is always greener. Well guess what?! Your grass is green- you just don’t realize it. Find value in your own lawn. 

5. Find your identity in something apart from yourself. Here this: if you find your identity in your physical self - life will suck. Just saying. Gravity and the aging process is a very real thing. So think long and hard: what is it that you live for? What is your purpose in life? What are your passions? Pursue these things with all you have. Can you imagine- chasing after life without being trivial about food and your body? All that time you spend obsessing could be channeled into a much more worth while endeavor: to pursue our passions and our callings in life. Being successful means different things to different people. Find what makes you tick. Find what sets your soul on fire and chase after it.

Unfortunately, women often confuse their identity with something that it is not. You are your soul. You are your heart. You are your sprit. You are not your body. Our bodies are mere skin and bones that host our being. That is a weird and abstract concept- but it is true and thinking of it this way reminds me that who we are on the outside is not the whole story.

6. Find soul activities. What do you do in your spare time? What do you do for fun? I feel obligated to mention here: many women abuse working out. I know- I’ve been there. When working out isn’t fun for you- time to lay off and incorporate some other activities. Find a hobby that is fulfilling and gratifying. Guess what? Burning calories is not the only worth-while investment of time. Paint, blog, write, rock climb, Frisbee golf. Find something you can do that is fun and fulfilling for you. These will bring you more joy that you realize.

7. Journal journal journal. Feel all the feels. The current ones, ones that come up, and feelings from the past that are un-dealt with. The more you are open and honest with yourself- the better. The point of journaling is to express yourself. To talk through the emotions: the good, bad, and the ugly. Journaling allows us to be real with ourselves. Are there inner struggles or past experiences that you have not dealt with? Time to deal with them. Doing this will free you up to live fully in the present. It will allow you to channel your emotions appropriately and allow you to express them in healthier ways than taking them out on your physical body. Journal daily and finish each entry with three things you are grateful for. Gratefulness goes a long way when It comes to your relationship with yourself. It changes your heart. It puts everything into perspective. It reminds us how good life is- even when we feel sad and defeated.

 

Like I said- this is nothing insanely profound. But self-love was not intended to be profound or unusual. Self-love should be inherent in all of us. In a world that has made self-love hard, let us defile the odds. Let us all have grace with each other. Let us all have grace with ourselves. Begin to apply these principles, and I promise- your priorities and view of self will begin to change. And that, friends, changes EVERYTHING. 

If you have a principe or practice that helped you get to the place of body acceptable and self love, I'd love to hear about it! Please comment below.

If you feel like you need more guidance in the area of food and body image, please message me. I work with disordered eating and eating disorder clients via my practice- Nourishing Minds Nutrition

 

On Eating Disorder Recovery and Weight Gain

As I mentioned last week, I’m writing these words in response to emails and questions I have received following the post: An illustration: Eating Disorder to Intuitive Eating.  Last week I addressed mindset in recovery (The Mindset for Recovery: How I Started The Process), and today I want to address weight gain in recovery.

Disclaimer: Of course, what I’m about to say is all inspired from my own experience and what worked for me. Everyone’s situation is completely different and unique to them based on their specific disorder, weight, BMR, where they are mentally etc. What worked for me might not work for you. It may take time, but if you’re sick of living a slave to food- it is possible. 

Let’s get to it!

So…. there is honestly no way of sugar coating this: if you were like me and your metabolism is absolute garbage, you will most likely gain weight during recovery. (Which may actually be a good thing if you are like me and underweight for your body… but more on this later.) This is obviously the hardest part of the process because it’s not something you just learn to be okay with overnight. This is the beginning of teaching yourself to rewire your brain COMPLETELY. Forcing yourself to overcome your desire to restrict and to actually EAT MORE FOOD while simultaneously knowingly gaining weight goes against EVERYTHING we have told ourselves regarding food and our bodies. It goes against every part of our nature. If you are in the same place that I was— it SUCKS.

Will there be mental breakdowns? Yes.

Will there be times you feel like you can’t do it? Yes.

Will there be times you want to quit and revert back and restrict again? YES.

Will you gain weight? You may. I did.

But here are a few things to keep in mind if you are fighting with this or about to start this process:

#1 There is no better time to start than NOW. It’s not going to get any easier, friends. If you ever want to eat “normally”, if you ever want to eat “intuitively” and have complete freedom in food without worrying about what it was going to do to your body- then it’s time to make the jump. This is the part where we have to learn to give a big f*** you to society’s standards and heck—even our own! We need to have grace with ourselves and our bodies and stop holding ourselves to any sort of internal or external expectation. When your body starts to gain weight—reminder yourself over and over—it is because it is finally being NOURSIHED. At last, it is receiving the food it requires. Say words of affirmation to yourself whenever negative thoughts come to your mind such as, “My physical appearance does not define my worth”, “I love my body and the things it does for me”, “I am strong and capable”, “I will not let the world define my worth”, “I love myself today. I don't want to be anyone else.”, “I am creative and calm”, “I am beautiful.”

At the end of the day, your desire to eat “normally” again and to actually nourish and respect your body has to overcome and overpower your tendency to use and abuse it.

I know it’s hard-- believe me-- I know. But it is possible. You are stronger than you think. 

#2 You must let go of the need to control your body with your mind. If you are anything like I use to be, you have completely detached the two. Like I mentioned earlier, there is no longer a fluid, mutually respectful communication here. There is only the brain telling the body what to do. When you let go the need to control everything, you open up the opportunity for communication and instinctual eating. Your body is incredibly intuitive- if only you will listen. When you are done, you will not have to rely on calories and formulas for wellness- or even to loose, gain, or maintain weight. You will eat according to your cravings. You will honor them and respect that your body knows best. IN this way, your body guides the way to wellness. Whatever the reasons for this control, let them go.  

#3 You have to acknowledge that restriction DOES NOT work. At this point in my recovery, it kind of baffles me that dieting is an encouraged and accepted way to achieve weight loss. Our culture teaches us that restriction and food manipulation are the way to achieve a desired body aesthetic/composition. On the contrary… do you want to feel strong? Empowered? Do you want to maximize your body’s potential and accentuate your natural and beautiful features? WEIGHTS AND FOODS. That’s it ladies. We need to rewire our brains, get out of the cardio room, and pick up some weights and some tacos. THAT is where the money is. Learning to weight lift was what I saw as a crucial step in my recovery. It taught me to appreciate my body for how strong it was and see my body and food in a completely different light. I was not longer working out to burn calories- I was working out because it made me feel good and strong and I ate to fuel my muscles. My body composition didn’t start to truly change and morph to be what it was designed to be until I got into the weight room. I began to rebuild the muscle I literally starved off myself in my previous years. Remember this:

Restriction DOES NOT WORK-- neither physically or mentally.

Physically: Your body does not know the difference between starvation and self restriction. It’s biological reaction is the same: Store fat… slow down the metabolism… break down muscle mass to use as fuel. All of these are natural protective mechanisms the body has. It does not know when its next meal will be!!

Emotionally: With continued restriction, the body’s cravings only increase. (And thus, you may struggle with binge eating during times of deprivation.) Your body KNOWS it needs nutrition! And thus, it creates intense food cravings. Or perhaps you are at the point where you don’t even have food cravings anymore. In this case, you hunger and satiety cues have completely atrophied.

#4: What goals are you trying to achieve? If you are like me, you think: “Once I reach a certain weight, then I will be radiant and confident and I will go to the pool and wear tight dresses without worry.” FALSE. If you are already insecure, no arbitrary number on a scale will fix this. This is when you need to look for confidence in things outside of yourself and realize your worth outside of your body. YOU ARE MORE THAN YOUR BODY! Why are you letting it rule you? Rock whatever the good Lord gave you. You are unique and perfect exactly the way you are. There is no “perfect” body, because who is to say what that is? Find confidence in that.

#5 And finally, lets talk about the weight- will it stay? Will it go? This all depends. It depends on where you are at in your disorder- what your body composition currently is and what it is suppose to be. But what is true—YOUR BODY WILL BEGIN TO CHANGE FOR THE BETTER. From the outside maybe- but from the inside—CERTAINLY. When you begin to nourish yourself, you are giving your body the building blocks it needs in order to function correctly. In my experience, I gained weight. (I am not going to say how much.) But I did eventually loose some of it and settle at my body’s “happy weight”. So while I currently weigh (way) more than I use to, my body composition is completely different. So in my experience, I gained weight, but then some of it came off when my metabolism increased. I have grown to embrace my body exactly how it is. Will I ever be as “thin” as I was? Hell no. But I no longer want that. I have new goals- goals to be strong and fit and nourished and HAPPY.

But regardless, the whole point of this is that IT IS NOT ABOUT THE WEIGHT. My hope is to get you to that point of peace with yourself so that you can let your body do its thing without any judgment from your mind or societal expectation. Have grace with yourself and give yourself time. Learn to love your body unconditionally. Just have peace in this, friends—the weight gain truly is temporary in that you won’t keep gaining weight forever. As your body starts to adjust to being nourished, your metabolism will increase and your body will adjust. 

#6 And finally—if you are anything like me, you need accountability.  You need that person who you can text when you are having a mental break down and want to quit and revert back to your old ways. You need someone who can encourage you in all these things and speak truth into your life- that things will get better. Things will get easier. That it will be worth it. Preferably someone who has been through the process before, but any good friend will do.

In closing, it is my privilege to work with women and get them out of the clutches of an eating disorder and to that place of freedom in food. If you want to work with someone to learn how to eat intuitively - please email me @ hello@rootforfood.net. I work with clients in person and virtually via Nourishing Minds Nutrition.

Email me with any questions!

XO,

meg

 

 

 

The Mindset for Recovery: How I Started the Process

I’m writing this post as a follow up to my previous post. I have received some emails asking how I actually started the process of recovery from an eating disorder. Of course, what I’m about to say is all inspired from my own experience and what worked for me. Everyone’s situation is completely different and unique to them based on their specific disorder, weight, BMR, where they are mentally etc. What worked for me might not work for you. However, if you’re sick of living a slave to food- it is possible. I finally got it in my mind that I didn’t want to eat that way forever- I was tired of being a slave to food and I was ready to stop abusing myself. I saw a friend who had recovered and it inspired me to do the same. He encouraged me to start my recovery process by gradually increasing my calories. However, I didn’t do this systematically with formulas and calorie counting. While yes, calorie counting and tracking was still subconsciously taking place at that time, I tried to separate myself from those thoughts and not put any weight into them. I started by making myself eat more and fighting my ingrained tendency to eat less. I gave myself permission to eat the things that I always said were off limits like oatmeal and peanut butter. I tried to honor my hunger instead of relishing it. In the beginning I was still eating way under what I should have been eating at that time, but I was eating a lot more for me.. and it was a gentle and gradual way of re-introducing myself with food and the feeling of being full and rewiring my relationship with these things.

Just eating more calories isn’t going to fix an eating disorder.

I had to fix the root cause of the problem- which was my relationship with food and my body. This is why I didn’t force myself to reach a certain calorie number or what not— in fact, I had to force myself to do the opposite and not count calories. In hindsight, this was one of the best decisions I made. I allowed myself to give into my food cravings and tried not judge myself for them. This is the foundation for eating intuitively so I believe this is a good place to start if you can. For me, trying to “recover” using exact calories and formulas would have been a loosing battle. Letting go of the need to track was liberating and so incredibly necessary. Scary? Heck yes. But I had a trusted person helping me through this process that would always remind me how little calories actually mater and now much NUTRITION actually does matter.

Calories are vital to life. Why are we running from them?

I had lived my life trying to get below a certain calorie number each day, I didn’t want to change just to live my life trying to get above one now. Honestly, letting go of calorie counting is NOT going to happen over night. It is definitely a process when it is so ingrained in your mind. Just keep reminding yourself-- calories are mere numbers. They mean NOTHING from a moralistic standpoint. However, calories are very essential to life. If something has calories it means it gives you ENERGY. This is not a bad thing! You need energy for life- for you cells to function! For you to run and play and for your brain to think! Putting so much emphasis on calories is a sad lie we've bought into. To think calories alone can make us thin and happy is wrong on so many levels. Why do we think reaching an arbitrary number on a scale is going to make us happy!? Also, there is SO much more at play when it comes to weight maintenance than just calories. Calories do not equal fat! Calories equal energy and life. Putting so much emphasis on them is wrong on an emotional level and a biological level.

I kept reminding myself what my friend (counselor of sorts) was saying to me—eventually my metabolism will speed up again! When my body realizes it is no longer in a constant state of starvation, my body will begin to metabolize food correctly and efficiently again as fuel. In this way, calories are friends. Food is friend. Honestly, this was a huge motivator for me. I was tired of my TANKED metabolism.

Recovery is hard because eating intuitively is not possible in the beginning—we have TRAINED our bodies to survive on less. There is literally no mind/body communication- only the mind telling the body what to consume. If the communication between the two is not present, fluid and mutually respectful, then intuitive eating is not possible because your body cannot communicate effectively to the mind and the mind is not receptive to listening yet. Over the weeks and months and years I gradually increasing the amount of food I consumed and with every day it became easier and easier. The word “calorie” grew to have less stigma around it and foods become less morally charged as “good” and “bad”. Calories grew to have little meaning to me. Eventually your body will remember what it feels like to be nourished and your mind will begin to soften to the body’s innate wisdom. You become a nutrient seeker instead of calorie counter. Then you can begin to eat intuitively.

Next week I am going to address weight gain in recovery. Of course, weight gain is one of the hardest things to mentally cope with and I don’t have all the answers to any of this. But maybe in can help and speak to you where you are at.

It is my biggest passion in life to guide women along this journey to intuitive eating. If you have tried to recover over by yourself but you feel you still need to work with someone- check out my practice- Nourishing Minds Nutrition.

Come Out of the Woods, July 26th, 2016

You know those people you meet – you didn’t know them for long, you may not have talked to them in years… but they changed your life forever.  Yea, me too.

As I’ve said before- I haven’t always had the greatest relationship with food. In fact, it was pretty horrendous. Starting when I was a freshman in high school, I remember looking at magazines and wishing I looked exactly like the women I saw there. This lead to a very unhealthy and obsessive relationship with the food I would put into my body—or lack of.  For years this went on. But when you are a young, impressionable girl, with no concept of [proper] nutrition or body metabolism, starvation coupled with strenuous workouts seems like the only solution. I remember eating nothing but dry ramen noodles during the day, and every night when my family would eat burgers or lasagna or chicken pot pie…. I would make myself a bowl of steamed vegetables—THAT’S IT. But when you are the mind of a young girl that has been warped into thinking your BODY is your biggest asset, this only makes sense.

Despite my LOVE for food, I had a lot of will power. A lot. During college I would eat one egg for breakfast, walk to class, skip lunch, eat ½ a pack of peanut butter crackers and then go work out in the afternoon for 1-2 hours. I could count the days I skipped a workout on one hand. Even if I didn’t sleep at all—I would work out. I would get home and eat vegetables for dinner.

Well, I had will-power-- until I didn’t. Late night studying was frequent and with the early hours of the morning, came less and less will power. Until I would quite literally SNAP and binge eat on anything and everything I could find in the home I shared with my roommates. Peanut butter, cookies, chips, ice cream—you name it.  The overwhelming guilt at something like this, when all your self worth is found in depriving yourself of food and being “skinny”, is crippling- and would lead to more gym time and less food.

I was a sad, sad case. I didn’t find too much joy in anything – anything except my friends. They were truly my lifelines. They were a supporting and nurturing community … without them I do not know where I would be today. But I would not be the same.  Of course, they knew my struggles and would encourage me and counsel me the very best they could. But it’s hard to listen when you are so trapped into a certain way of living and thinking. It’s hard to admit you have a serious problem when you think no one understands. It’s all you know. I contended to myself many times— “I will live like this and eat like this forever.”

You may think that during this whole time I was a pencil thin 5’5” 90# girl. On the contrary, while I was typically thin, my weight fluctuated a lot. It ranged from the pencil thin I wanted, to being “skinny fat” and rather dysmorphic. Honestly, my metabolism was so slow that I gained weight very easily and in the face of binge eating, my body stood no chance. It took extraordinary effort and lack of nourishment to remain at the weight I wanted. Nonetheless, it was a challenge I took on every single day.

In comes John. I was sitting at the coffee shop right by my house that I frequented very often to study. I was there for the first time since the summer break. I remember looking up and being overwhelmed with emotion. Quite frankly, I was draw to this guy- and I did not know why. I continued to frequent the coffee shop—J&B it was called, and John and I became close. And honestly- it’s not that I knew a lot about the guy… I actually didn’t know that much about him… but we connected on a deeper, emotional, spiritual level. He too, struggled with eating, food, body image, and exercise bulimia. For some reason, I was able to connect better with John- than I had anyone before. I listened to him.  Maybe because he shared HIS story with me, and that gave me hope. He had recovered. He told me that I did not have to live this way. He told me that I could be helped and I deserved to be helped. He encouraged me to love me for me—not for how I looked or how I amounted up to the world’s standards.  He told me I was beautiful. So beautiful. He encouraged me to be brave… to take the steps toward recover and normality; to do what I should have so many years before. He walked me through it. He was there every second of the way. He told me what would happen- that I would gain weight as my body adjusted but reminded me why it was so SO worth it. He was there when I freaked out and doubted my self will – nearly every day. I looked to him for the will-power every day- he has done it, so I could too.

See, at this point, it took more self-determination and will to begin eating again than it did not to eat. This was exponentially heightened in the face of weight gain due to a slothy metabolism.  Essentially willingly gaining weight went against EVERYTHING I had trained my body to do. It went against anything and everything I had worked for in the past 6+ years. But I trusted John. I wanted to make him proud and show him I could do it. That I was strong.

And I did it.

Not over-night- as these things never are. It took many years after that to actually feel fully “recovered” (as much as anyone with this type of things ever does), but I am certain that without John, I would not be where I am today. I may still be sad, starving, unhappy in my own skin, and constantly seeking some sort of fulfillment. Of course, I would always come up empty because I was looking for fulfillment in myself- instead of things eternal.

God put John into my life.  God gave me help and counseling when I did not want it myself. John was my angel. He changed my life forever and left a lasting impression on me.

The last time I saw John was in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was traveling through and called me up. We ate pizza and went bowling as good friends. And then we parted ways forever.

In the back of my mind I always thought I’d see John again- that our paths would cross and I’d be able to thank him again. I think about him quite frequently and wonder how and where he is. John and I always talked music. A song came on that reminded me of him yesterday—Matthew and the Atlas, In Winter. This prompted me to Google his name. There I found the obituary of John Charles Braddock.

So here it is, my first blog post dedicated to the human who changed everything. You were a beautiful soul John. I can only hope that I can be as influential to one person as you were to so many.

So take heart friends. When the world hands us brokenness and lies, God hands us freedom. Freedom from this world and the strength and courage to live for something greater. We live in a dark time. It feels like the world is falling apart around us. Let us remember that love, relationships, intentionality—these are the things we have left to hold on to. There is a time to mourn, but also a time to dance. Be thoughtful, aware, and saddened by this fallen world—NEVER become numbed or complacent, but always hold on to joy and hope.  There is good in the world still. Foster it and be a part it. I haven’t been on this earth for long, but the more I am, the more I realize it is all about relationships. Relationships have a rippling effect—you never know the lasting impact you can have- even when you are gone. 

 Baby Meg @ J&B.

Baby Meg @ J&B.