Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Waiting Out the Storms

When life comes at you full-swing, and you're stumbling back from the blow, encourage yourself to sit still for a moment. Allow the feeling of being overwhelmed to pass. Allow a plan to form inside your head. Allow peace to attempt to permeate your muddled mind.


One of the worst things you can do when life comes at you hard is to rush right back at it in the same fashion. You know what happens then? A collision.


Sitting back is a better bet. Maybe pick up the pieces and work on gluing them back together. If a storm is happening, you can't clean things up while it's still going on. You have to wait until its over. You can't run out into the storm to fight it and expect not to be swept away by what's going on around you. You can't repair things during the storm. You have to wait until it's over. And then, when the worst has passed, you can head outside again and try to clear things up.


Waiting is difficult. When you see the world around you being tossed about, it's not easy to just sit there and wait. It's so much easier to panic and run full force into it all.


Resist the urge.


Wait it out.


The calm will come sooner rather than later…and then you can begin to mend what's been happening.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Your Life Raft in the Waters of Criticism

It’s easy to get swept up in the swirl of the world. You go to school or work and you see and hear things that make you feel inadequate. There are a lot of things out there that influence us, whether we like it or not. And in a lot of ways, it can be a good thing. Many of us have friends we have a great time with, family we love and care about, and things we enjoy doing, watching, or reading. And that’s okay.

But when you already feel a certain way and suddenly you can feel that something around you is pulling you to feel another way, you need to stop and think for a minute. A minute is all it takes. You’ve heard the advice: “Go with your first instinct.” Well, in this case, you usually should. If something you see or hear or read makes you second guess how you FEEL about yourself, it’s best to examine it.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s great when we see or hear or read something that makes us question our thoughts or our knowledge about something. It’s good to be open to other opinions, possibilities, and viewpoints. We can learn a lot by paying attention to the world around us. Just don’t let something make you feel like less of a person if you didn’t feel that way before.

If your peers are telling you something negative (that you’re fat, ugly, etc.) or worse—if your friends (which is questionable to say the least) are saying things that make you feel bad about the way you look—don’t let them bring you down to a place where you want to change to please them. Working to please others or to make others like you is no way to live and is, frankly, a recipe for disaster. At the end of the day, all you have is YOU.

Not all criticism is constructive.

Appreciating yourself is your life raft in the waters of criticism.

For girls and women, especially, life can become a competition. You want to be pretty, you want to be smart, you want to be thin. You want to make sure you are as good as everyone around you. Sometimes it can feel hard to measure up. Sometimes the people you’re trying to measure up against TELL you that you aren’t good enough in some way. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not thin enough. Your clothes aren’t nice enough. Your haircut isn’t cute enough. The list can be never-ending.

You’ll never be able to please everyone. And you’ll never be able to hold yourself above the water if you let other people pull you under. And drowning is a horrible way to die.

Really, it’s all about survival. You can’t let people--or things you see, hear, or read--get the better of you. If you read in a magazine that being a certain size makes you somehow less appealing to the world at large, but you felt okay about your size before you read it, listen to your first instinct—that you are fine the way you are. Don’t buy into the negative pull. If your friends, school peers, co-workers, and/or family say something that makes you feel negatively about yourself, just remember that what they say doesn’t determine what you are. And for everyone who says something that makes you feel badly, there are just as many people who see you as great in a lot ways.

If you see an ad on TV and it makes you wonder if you should try to change yourself in some way, don’t let something you see for two minutes on TV influence you into thinking you’d be better off looking different. You have your own mind; use it.

Appreciating yourself is your life raft in the waters of criticism.

You write your own story. You can change anything you want. And you can add a new chapter whenever you feel like it. You don’t need something external or someone you know telling you what and how to change. All throughout your life, people are going to offer their opinions whether you like it or not. Sometimes a person’s opinion will help you…and sometimes it will hurt you. It’s up to you to learn the difference. There are a lot of things out there that can help us…and there are just as many things that can hinder us. A minute of thought can make a world of difference when it comes to deciding whether or not to think negatively about yourself.

When it comes right down to it, no one else anywhere is YOU. You are the only you. There’s no one out there like you. So you can’t go wrong looking the way you do. You can’t go wrong being what you are. You are you and that is the way you were meant to be. It’s okay and natural to feel unsure about the way you look sometimes, but if you’re feeling good about yourself, don’t ever let anyone make you think differently. When you give in to a negative thought about yourself, you’re relinquishing a little piece of yourself. If you continue to do that, pretty soon you’ll have surrendered a lot of pieces. You’ll be weaker and more unsure than ever.

Appreciating yourself is your life raft in the waters of criticism.

It can get pretty difficult dealing with things and people around you, especially if they are undermining your confidence in yourself. But you know what? It takes a very strong person to make it through and come out on top—to come out feeling okay. To come out knowing you are great just the way you are. To come out better because you know this.

Don’t give up on yourself. You have all the power.

And you are beautiful. Just as you are.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Claim to Shame

Mrs. M. at Weighing the Facts recently did a post on Shame--specifically how it related to the eating disorders of various individuals. I did a little write-up myself, which is here. Thought some might find it interesting...and maybe even helpful.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Beautiful Birthday Gift

Yesterday was my birthday and my husband, Rick, got me the most wonderful and meaningful gift.

He bought me a recovery pendant from SpoonFedArt.Com: [url]http://www.spoonfedart.com/gallery/gallery.html[/url]

I have long loved the pendants on this site, but they are so expensive (for me) and therefore have never bought myself one. But my sweet Rick gave me one for my birthday and I swear I almost cried. It's beautiful. Check out her gallery.

THE PENDANTS ARE MADE OUT OF SPOONS as a meaningful way to express recovery from an eating disorder. Not only does she (the artist) support NEDA, but she is also quite talented... Each pendant is like it's own personal little painting. I love mine. If you go to the gallery, mine is the one called "Leap" because Rick said I am always leaping with life like a gazelle and that is how he thinks of me.

Just wanted to share. Here it is on me! You can't see the pendant very well, so definitely go to the site!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

An Important Message

I'd like to share two quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson. They both really speak to me and hopefully they'll speak to you too. Plus, they're both really good ones to keep in mind when you're having a rough day.


The first:


"Be not the slave of your own past ... plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience, that shall explain and overlook the old."


For one, the very words sound refreshing, invigorating, renewing. The first part is the most important—"be not the slave of your own past." How many of us are right now being the slaves of our own pasts? What will it take to break that cycle, to change that thinking, to move forward? It's simple yet difficult: dive into life. Live. Go for it. Persevere. Revel in what's around you. And then, as Emerson tells us, we'll be renewed—we will have "self-respect" and "new power." Who doesn't want that? Doesn't it sound beautiful? Miraculous even? Yet, it can be accomplished. And when we have that new outlook, we'll be able to figure out the past the best way we can, and we'll be able—and ready—to move on.


Now for the second quote:

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense."


I like this one even more. One of my own sayings I keep on a post-it at my desk is: "Today is what you make it. And tomorrow is always a new day." This quote by Emerson seems (to me) to go hand in hand with that mentality. Instead of beating yourself up for mistakes you made or setbacks that may have happened, instead of berating yourself for being the way you are, and instead of worrying over what happened in the course of the day—"finish each day and be done with it." There is no better advice than that. As Emerson says, "You have done what you could." Things may have happened that you didn't like, but forgetting them as soon as you can is a much better choice than dwelling on them and thus allowing them to hinder your progress for the days to follow. Each new morning, focus not on the day that has passed, but begin the new day "serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense." When the day begins, it is new and fresh and clean and blank. Don't mar such a glorious thing with bad feelings from the previous day; march on and make the day what you want it to be.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Artifacts by Arielle

I have a little side business--an artistic jewelry business--called Artifacts by Arielle.

I've started creating "Recovery Jewelry" for eating disorders.

There are currently only 13 items up for sale on my merchant website, but I hope to add more this week and continue to add more items as I create them.

The descriptions and extra photos on the website say more, but here's a sample:

You can find more here: Artifacts by Arielle The first category at the bottom of the main page is "Recovery Jewelry."

I have a message and I'm trying to spread it. A reminder you can wear is always a good thing.
Sending love to all.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When "Triggers" Attack

Where there is the greatest understanding, the pain can also be very great. Like if a friend's parent dies…and you can understand better than anyone else, because you have a parent that died too. You have a bond with the friend, but at the same time, you are triggered into sad memories and your thinking can bring you down.


I think living with an eating disorder can be very similar.


When you're in a vulnerable state, you might think of removing yourself from things simply so you won't be triggered, but I ask you to think again. Sometimes being vulnerable and breaking down a bit is something that has to happen in order for us to move forward. It has to happen for us to get anywhere on a long-term basis.


And let's face it, a long-term solution is the one you're after. Short-term just isn't going to cut it where an eating disorder is concerned.


Removing yourself may seem possible, beneficial, and even necessary. It's very easy to do well when there is nothing triggering you. But it's only going to be a short-term solution—because the world is triggering. And that will never change…unless we can learn to deal with the triggering problems as they happen.


I remember when I was a member of an eating disorder therapy group a few years ago. It was very hard not to compare myself to the other girls and very hard to stay positive when there was so much negativity bouncing around all the time. BUT I kept going, and as the group became more bonded, we were able to see a lot more about each other and about ourselves…and the triggering nature of everything became less and less. We were able to work with it—the triggering aspects of a group of girls thrown together, constantly comparing themselves to each other—and move forward.


The potential to be triggered by what others say, do, and look like is a big one. It's so easy to over-analyze, to feel more insecure, to compare ourselves to others. It's prevalent and it's going to happen. It's the nature of the disease and of our society. An eating disorder thrives off of triggering moments and situations. Be aware of this. Be prepared for this. You'll be less apt to destroy yourself and more apt to survive.


And so, my whole point is: Don't be afraid of being triggered. Because it's going to happen. Sooner or later, frequently or infrequently. Life is about knowing what you want and being able to turn the bad around. And that takes time. The sooner we can learn to deal with what upsets us and sets us off, the better off we will be. That's a fact.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bravery and Boldness

To look straight into the face of pain and declare that you will prevail is not merely a display of courage; sometimes it's a true necessity. Getting thrown about in the waters of life is a circumstance that presents you with two options: thrash and swim and fight and reach shore OR let yourself drown. There is, actually, a middle option, but it's only a temporary solution. It is, nevertheless, better than drowning. And it is this: thrash and swim and fight and STAY AFLOAT until you can make it to shore.


Sometimes the shore is quite far away—off in the distance, glimmering like an unreachable mirage, so you can't be expected to reach it simply because you want to. But in time, you'll make it—if you manage to stay afloat and not give up.


So these are your options. Choose wisely.


Bravery and boldness are the essence of being able to prevail. Bravery and boldness will not just follow you. You have to channel them. They won't seek you out and they won't appear out of thin air. They may, in fact, seem to escape you when you need them most. You can't keep them in your back pocket, ready to pull them out a moment's notice.


Despite how elusive they seem, bravery and boldness can be learned—or found. And they can grow to be a part of you, so that the most you will have to do is tap into them when you have to fight your way in that troubling sea.


You have to realize that they exist—and that they exist for YOU. You're not an unlucky one—you have access to bravery and boldness, even if it's been taking you a while to find them. You have to think of bravery and boldness like a limb or some part of your body; they are part of you. Our arms are always there, but sometimes we don't use them. Bravery and boldness are like that. When faced with a difficulty/problem/pain/trying situation/despair/depression/failure/fear—you have to REMEMBER that bravery and boldness are there.


Just like your arms or your legs.


You know how people get so scared that they can't run?—even though they have legs? Or how people get so scared that they can't speak?—even though they have a voice?


Bravery and boldness are like that.


Don't forget to use them.


Monday, September 1, 2008

The Bigger Picture

It's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when there's something you want to accomplish but aren't quite sure how to get there. Your mind can get overwhelmed with what you want to achieve, what you want to BE, what you want to feel. You can lose control. You can turn to tactics to make you feel better. You can try to make it through the day so as not to freak out.

You slip at times back to where you started. To the very things you want to get away from. But you're trying to make yourself feel better. It's a strange concept. But it happens.

Lose weight
Eat less
Throw up dinner
Use the diet pills
Use the laxatives
Harm, hurt
Gain back the control

I'm all about living in the now--but what will those things do for you in the long run?

Make you sick?
Slowly kill you?
Wreck your life?
Destroy your pride?

Don't forget to look at the big picture in terms of recovery. Take one day at a time...but be sure to have a happy, healthy life as your long term goal. Let it be your candle in the darkness, your flag waving in the distance, your lighthouse beacon showing you the way to shore.

If you focus too much on all the little steps of recovery and forget what it is you're shooting for (i.e. a new life) you're doing yourself a harsh injustice and making your already difficult journey that much harder.

Monday, August 25, 2008

We Are All Special

I know that sounds like something out of a children's book, but it's true. So hear me out.

So often, there is a feeling of "specialness" associated with having an eating disorder. It's a big part of the reason people are afraid to really recover. They fear losing that specialness, that part of them that makes them someone, that feeling of power, that deep seated persona.

The thing is, we are all special. Specialness does not die with your eating disorder--it just gets re-applied, reassigned to something WORTH that feeling.

Why are bones special? Or feelings of hunger? Or conquering those feelings of hunger? Or being in control of depriving ourselves day after day? Why is self-sabotage special? Will holding onto unhealthy ways really keep us special? It's a fallacy. Believe me. It is.

Depression. Dying. Misery. Pain. Confusion. Since when are those things special? I mean, really special?

Your mission, if you choose to accept it: FIND OUT what REALLY makes you special.

Because I promise you--it's NOT your eating disorder.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Out of the Woods

Sometimes, remembering the hell of anorexia is frightening in the same way a nightmare is still frightening after you wake up. You know it's not real anymore, but you can't help feeling uneasy about it.

When I think of the girl I used to be, the pain I used to feel, the hole in which I used to live, I seem to stop breathing for a mere millisecond. Because I am consumed with the old feeling of desperation and fear and loathing. Then the instant passes--and quickly--because I am enveloped with the wonderful relief that I'm all right now. I've gotten out. I've made it through. And life is good. Actually good. I love life.

And I breathe that heavy sigh, letting air back into me, letting the memories flood back in a fashion I can handle now that my brain is completely aware that it's all in the past.

I can use my old pain to create new things--important things--and help other people. It wasn't all for nothing. It wasn't a struggle that I erased from my mind like it never happened. I can do something beneficial with the whole experience. Now.

I like to use this analogy when talking about my eating disorder, my recovery from it, and my recovered state: I'm out of the woods now. But I live in a house a mile down the road.

I think it symbolizes what being recovered is like. You're successfully out of danger. You're away from it. And you're happily living somewhere else. But you'll never forget it. And it's always there, at a distance, because it used to be a part of you even though it isn't any longer.

And something can come knocking on your door because you're not too far away. But you don't have to let it in.

People often ask me if writing about eating disorders and moderating a recovery site are difficult tasks for a recovered individual. I don't think so. They help me keep things in perspective. And since I'm not "in recovery" any longer, but consider myself "recovered" I'm in a good place where things can't touch me the way they could have in the past. I'm not triggered. I'm not apt to sink into a setback. I'm just living and wanting to help because I know what it feels like and because I was there once too. Helping other people always has the potential to be a bit draining, but it doesn't haunt me or make me think things I'd rather not think. I like have the purpose in my life--to share and help and advise and comfort and understand.

I'll never go back. I'm only going forward. And I want to take a lot of people with me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


What I'm about to say is pretty much the whole point of my blog...but at the same time, I don't flat-out say it enough:

Recovery is possible.

On a daily basis, I think my heart breaks a little for all the girls and women out there (and boys and men too) who are struggling with eating disorders. I think I'd be in pieces if I wasn't able to turn my breaking heart into a force of positivity and support. I know so many wonderful people suffering from a disease they wish to control. I know so many beautiful people who don't see their own beauty. I know so many people who have so much to offer the world, but are at a loss when it comes to helping themselves.

I've been there. I stared anorexia in the face and it took me over for a while...until I decided to bite back and take my life into my own hands instead of passing it off to an illness that would have been only too happy to kill me. I know that's putting it simply. It's not an easy process and sometimes it gets more difficult instead of the other way around.

I get countless emails from people who have been touched (and by touched, I mean slammed) by an eating disorder. I ache to heal them, but know that it's not up to me. All I can offer is my support and my encouragement that it can be done. Recovery is possible.

At times, I feel like a little fairy who just spouts happy words of positivity and shows people the good in life like nothing bad ever happens--at least that's what I feel people must think of me at times.

In reality, I'm not a fairy and I'm not preachy. What I say and do is all about one word: HOPE.

I want to give hope.

That sentence above could have been something entirely different a few years ago. Change the last word and it would have been my state of mind: I want to give up.

That's no longer the case, obviously, but that journey from wanting to give up to wanting to give hope had a lot of stops in between. I wanted to get better. I wanted to get real. I wanted to get heard. I wanted to get a life. I wanted to get OUT. And when I did...when I did all of those things...I wanted to give hope.

Because it's not a fun journey, even though from time to time it has its little benefits and its little joys. A good trick is to make a celebration out of everything that could be uncomfortable or unsettling. You don't fit into your clothes anymore? Donate 'em! Call your nearest and dearest and have fun cutting a few choice pieces up and throwing the shreds like confetti! Take your mother or your sister or your best friend and head to your favorite and buy some new things that make you feel good! A little moral support can go a long way.

When things are too much, there is always hope. Hope is there and it will wait if you want to put it away until tomorrow when you have more energy. Hope is everlasting. Hope is the balm that can get you from one day to the next. And because hope is possible, recovery also is possible.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Locks and Keys

When did it all begin?


I struggle to find the answer. And does it really matter in the scheme of things? I'm not sure. I am bombarded with memories that swim in front of me and present themselves with pressing urgency. I recall brief moments in time where the word "anorexia" was not a thought in my mind, but the basis of that terrible disease had already begun to take hold in the subtlest of ways.


If I allow myself to go back in time, I recall always being a skinny child. This was brought to my attention, not so much by mirrors, but by the people that were part of my early life. "Skinny" was always a good thing—something to be proud of. "Skinny" was an accomplishment. "Skinny" was something that others wished they could be. "Skinny" was what made me similar to my mother. "Skinny" was what made me special.


I went to a pool party when I was about 7. Standing on the deck of the pool in my bathing suit, six or seven of my little girl friends around me, I became a participant in a contest. We made a line in a specific order: from fattest to thinnest. I was not the leader of this little event, but I remember feeling relieved that I'd be spared any unnecessary embarrassment—because I was skinny. That word again. Skinny.


One by one, we had to jump in the pool in order, the thinnest of us left standing on the deck. Everyone had to keep agreeing on who would jump next, examining each body in a way no 7 year old should be prone to do.



Two of us left standing on the deck.

We were looked at, discussed, and decided upon.

Arielle is the skinniest.

She's the last one in.


I was special.


How do things like this happen?


How do a group of 7 year olds even begin to have these thoughts? To think it's completely acceptable and "fun" to create a contest where the thinnest participant is best? To have no qualms about such a designation? To have no arguments regarding who is fatter or thinner than someone else, but to simply understand that "fat" might be an unfortunate "fact"? To find comparison necessary?


It boggles the mind.


Why do memories like this embed themselves in our brains to be picked apart later in life?


Is the brain molded from an early age in a way that could possibly fuel anorexia? Or is the brain already predestined by its very makeup to struggle with anorexia?


Questions, questions, questions. I don't think the answer is the important thing.


I think learning yourself, figuring out what to do with what your mind IS—no matter how it got that way—is the key.


The key.


The real question is: If you have the key, where is that lock? Or more specifically, where are all the locks?


We have so many locks within us. Some pertain to past behaviors. Some pertain to guarded memories. To abuse. To family. To bullying. To trauma. To friends. To pain. To sadness. To depression. There are many locks.


What takes so long is finding them all—each and every one—and inserting that key. And turning it. And watching that flicker of light that happens when you have an epiphany…or a revelation…or a moment of peace.




Some of the locks are hidden. But once you find them all, the light will be warm and all-encompassing. It won't be a glimmer at the end of the tunnel any longer. It will the peace that fills your mind.


It's tough to get there. It's tough to find all those locks and make the (courageous) decision to turn that key. But it's something to look forward to. And something to work toward.


And it WILL happen.

And one day you'll be free.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Directing Your Anger


Anger isn't necessarily a bad thing. When you're feeling bad, when your day has gotten the best of you, when you're drained and sad and frustrated, when you're feeling alone or you're up against a wall, or you're just annoyed that you've had another setback—get angry. Just get furious.


But don't get angry at your yourself.


Get angry at your eating disorder.


Don't make yourself the target of such negativity and frustration. Get angry at IT.


Why berate yourself for messing up, for screwing up, for not being able to do something as you wished to?


Your eating disorder is the problem. Not you.


So fight back. At IT. Not at yourself.


You are the pillar. You are the good. Don't pick at yourself and slowly destroy.


You don't even have to change your attitude, your outlook, or your emotions. You just have to channel them in a different direction. Face them at your eating disorder and fire away.


Anger isn't necessarily a bad thing. Use it to your advantage.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mind Versus Body

How can you know what to do? Life can be so crazy and frustrating. It's so difficult to try to get a handle on something as complex as disordered eating. Especially if you've been disordered a long time. It's like a label, a mechanism for survival, and your mind is trapped inside of it.

As usual, I wish had magic comforting words. I wish I could say the things that would make you feel better and be able to do something with the situation.

If you’re really struggling, you don't have to know all the ins and outs of how to eat. You don't have to have this big plan that looms and feels so difficult to achieve. You just have to eat to sustain. It's not a long-term solution, but it's the beginning of one. Sustain yourself. You can worry about re-learning how to eat once you've gotten a handle on eating sufficiently enough to survive. Understand what I'm saying? At the very least, you need to give your body what it needs to function. To "fulfill" might seem tough for you; to "deprive" is much worse. So, "sustain." And when your body begins to thank you for nourishing it, you can let your mind pick up the slack and work on the other issues at hand.

Setting a big mountain of a goal for yourself isn't easy and can be daunting. Set some hills instead.

When you don't eat properly, your mind works against you. That's the best way I can think of to describe it. I always felt that way. It was amazing how much my mind seemed to "clear up" as I got better and better.

Sometimes, when you're at the end of your rope, the best thing you can do is NOT think. Don't think. Just do. Just try to eat. Just try. And deal with the aftermath when your mind is better able to deal with it (i.e. after it's been fed). It's a struggle and you may have negative emotions afterwards, but it's better than slowly dying or making yourself more and more ill...because taking a step backward every day is no way to climb a hill.

It's a lot easier to make yourself feel better mentally once you are doing better physically. You have to make your strongest voice become your true and only voice. It takes a lot of work and perseverance, but you can do it if you really want it. It's okay to have feelings of despair as long as those feelings don't cause defeat. And if you don't give in to defeat, those negative feelings will eventually dissipate.

You're already fighting a battle with your eating disorder. You don't need another battle going on inside yourself. It's already You Versus Eating Disorder. Don't let it be Mind Versus Body too.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Going Through the Motions

The longer you "go through the motions," the easier recovery becomes. Soon you do it more naturally and you discover things that are unknown to you right now. You learn about yourself. You will get where you want to be, but it takes time and effort.

You are probably giving a tremendous amount of effort right now. And you're probably thinking, "When will something give a little?" or "When will I actually be free of this?" Keep reminding yourself that the best is yet to come. You can do this. It will get easier.

Setbacks are going to occur. Don't let them stop you in your tracks.

No one can tell you what you are feeling and experiencing. Don't let anyone define it for you. And it really makes no difference what you call it--a relapse, a slip-up, depression...whatever it is, it is real and you can change it if you want to or live it if you don't. (And who wants to live it?) The only word that matters is Recovery. If you feel you are going through recovery, good. If you don't think you are but want to, then do something to change it. If you think you have a recovery mindset but lack the drive or the will to care 100% of the time, you can change that too.

Change one thing and you end up changing a lot.

Recovery doesn't mean you are doing well 100% of the time. It just means that you WANT to be.

No matter how many cons there are to your dilemma, one big pro outweighs them all: you getting better, you feeling better, you learning to live life again.

You don't have to define what you are going through with a word (relapse, recovery, slip-up, setback, etc.). You just have to know where you want to go.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Condition Your Intuition

Many of us have heard of intuitive eating. It sounds good. It sounds difficult. It sounds…interesting. So how is it accomplished?

Well, to be able to practice intuitive eating properly, you have to have good intuition. Working intuition.

I was not always good at this. But I am now. It is how I eat.

In order to do this, you first have to really want what is best for your body and do what it tells you at all costs.

As I'm sure you may well know, this can be extremely difficult. If you can't do this or your body doesn't accurately tell you what it wants when it wants it, you are not ready to do intuitive eating that way it needs to be done to keep you healthy.

I've found that a strict meal plan can keep a person in a restrictive mindset--it was always the case for me. You can, however, follow a meal plan that incorporates intuitive eating. That is, one that leaves room for your own desires and inclinations. It's designed to give you what you need, has lots of guidelines, but is loose enough to make you feel comfortable. For example, if a strict meal plan keeps you in a restrictive mindset, a looser meal plan that provides basics to go by (types of things you should always eat) plus some room for playing around with intuitive eating might be the way to go.

The bonus to this approach is that you slowly learn your body, its responses, and are able to listen to yourself without worrying you will go crazy and have major setbacks.

I'm no nutritionist, but I would suggest integrating intuitive eating into a regular food plan so you can get the hang of it and be ready to try it in the future if you're ready and able. There are some who rave about intuitive eating and say it's always the way to go, and there's nothing wrong with it, but it's not for everyone right away. It takes practice. Relying solely on intuitive eating right from the start might not be a good thing. If you eat based on intuition for two days and then review what you ate and your intake wasn't enough to be considered healthy and nutritional, then you need to work on some more things first before using intuitive eating on a daily basis.

But it can be a goal.

As I said earlier, intuitive eating requires working intuition. :)

Advice? Talk to your therapist/nutritionist/parents/spouse and tell them that you are having trouble recognizing the signs of being full/hungry and the other things that go along with that, like poor perception of proper intake, etc. See if a looser meal plan might work for you—a plan where there is space for you to play around with what you eat as you become more in tune with yourself and your body, and as you make your way farther along on the path of recovery. It takes time to learn yourself again. Be patient. Be kind.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Discovering "Recovery Thinking"

You can be honest about struggling. Because struggling means you are fighting something...that you're not just sitting there and taking it...or giving in. And THAT is really saying something.

I think a lot about how so many women fear the number on the scale that sometimes seems to be creeping up on them.

I really understand what that is like; I used to feel that same fear of the weight and the number on the scale. It made me crazy.

Recovery can often seem like a battle of your two selves. A seemingly endless ping-pong game.

It comes down to this. You see the number. You wince. You try to tell yourself it's okay because you're trying to be healthy. But it doesn't feel okay. And you don't feel good about it.

You think about restricting.

You know you shouldn't. (Am I right so far?)

And you try to get support from others to keep your saner thoughts in the forefront of your mind.

The thing is, if you give in to restricting to lose OR maintain (your body may, as it changes, find its normal weight is a couple pounds higher than what you've been maintaining, hence the slow creep of the number on that scale) you are going to be back on a downward spiral. So keep that in mind.

It's so easy to say you will only restrict enough to get back to what you feel is a comfortable weight, but that's the eating disorder wheedling its way back into your head and slowly clutching you again until you continue and continue and continue, a lower weight always being desirable.

You know this. It's so simple to say right now that you'd only restrict a little bit, but it's a dangerous move. A recipe for disaster.

I know from experience.

Once, when I tried to recover and got to a "decent" (though still too low) weight, I began to freak out even though I was still determined on recovery, and I told myself I'd only restrict to get a tiny bit lower, just so I'd feel better in my own skin. So I did.

Bad move. I was down to below xx lbs. in no time at all. And I REALLY wanted to get better. But there I was. Back at Unhealthy and trying to climb my way up to Healthy again.

I don't want this to happen to you or anyone. I know the mindset an eating disorder can instill, and I want you to know that you are stronger than your inclination to restrict when you see your weight on a scale.

As I've said before, a scale is an inanimate object that should never define you. I know it takes a while to realize this completely but nevertheless, it is something you can tell yourself over and over again when you feel miserable because the number you've seen isn't the one you'd like to be seeing.

And eventually, the more resistant you become against restriction and other eating disordered behavior, the less that number you see begins to bother you. It goes like this. You see it. You don't like it. But you don't feel the desire to restrict.

Days go by.

You see it. You don't like it. But you pass it off in a couple seconds and forget about it for the rest of the day.

Days go by. You see it. You are indifferent. You neither like it nor dislike it.

Days go by.

You see it. You are indifferent. You may not even feel like stepping on a scale is important in your life.

Days go by.

You see it. You are indifferent. You feel good. GOOD. Because a number doesn't dictate your mood.

Days go by.

You see it. You like it. Why? Because it means you are free at last from the power of the scale and the number.

It could take months, years, maybe a decade, but it can happen. Remember that when you step on the scale and try not to let it ruin your smile or your day…because the day you stop letting a number ruin your day, you are one big step closer to peace.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Relapsing into Relapse

Relapse happens often. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is often PART of recovery. Really.

Step one: Learn to not be so frustrated with yourself as though you have fallen from grace because you are human and relapsed. It is okay. It is really okay. I promise you.

Step two: You must learn that you're not necessary back at the beginning just because you relapsed and are ill again. Any progress you made or good experiences you had are NOT negated by your current relapse. You will use them as you try to recover again and you will know better what to do and what not to do. You will be more aware. Use it.You will get to the place you want to be eventually. It may take a while. It may be a rough road. But you will get there.

The things we struggle for the most are the most rewarding in the end. Your LIFE is important and you are struggling for a healthy, happy one right now...and when you get there...it will be fantastic.

Step three: Hang in there and keep trying to get help for the things you need. Sometimes in order to GET a real life, you have to put your current life on hold. You have to stop and take the time to get real help. It will be worth it in the end. Because the end will be your new beginning.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The 3 Hs

The problem: How to deal with people who talk constantly about weight, weight loss, and/or dieting.

What this problem can be:






-Any or all of the above

A lot of the time this person in question is someone you love, respect, or call a friend. So it gets tricky. And sticky. And well, downright icky.

I tend to suggest the 3 Hs.

The 3 Hs:



-Heart to Heart

Let me explain. Let’s say the person in question says, “I can’t believe I gained 5 pounds.”

You could laugh and say, “You probably just need to go to the bathroom,” and soften the situation with a little humor, making light of it, and therefore letting the person know it’s OKAY, but at the same time not getting into it with them if it would make you uncomfortable or be triggering.

Let’s say the person in question says, “I am so fat.”

You could respond with, “Of course you’re not fat. You are beautiful just the way you are. That’s one of the reasons I love you.” It’s honesty. And people sometimes shrink away from it because it feels so serious and so open. And because people without eating disorders don’t always put it out there like that. But if you DO care about the person saying this, then combat her negative comment with something REAL.

Another example is this: Let’s say the person in question says, “I need to go on a diet.”

Your response could be, “No you don’t. A diet isn’t necessary to make you feel better. It isn’t the answer.” There’s some more honesty for you. People don’t usually talk frankly and poignantly like this with one another. But sometimes, it’s the best thing. Sometimes the person with whom you’re having a conversation needs to hear it. You might feel strange giving so bold a reply to their comment, but it takes the conversation in a different direction—a non-triggering direction, an empowering direction, a GOOD direction.

On to the last H. Let’s say the person in question says, “I’m trying to lose weight. I only ate a salad and a diet Coke last night,” and goes on to detail their food intake or their pride in dieting—even if it’s NOT unhealthy.

You’ll be doing yourself a favor if you have a little heart to heart and say, “I don’t want to blow off what you’re saying because I am listening. And I want you to feel like you can talk to me about things, but it’s really hard for me to hear details about food and dieting. I want to be honest with you about this for my own good. I don’t have a problem with you, I just have a problem that I’m working on. I hope you can understand.”

You’re not apologizing. You’re being truthful. You’re worrying about yourself first, as you should. And you’re still being a good friend. And you can be as vague or as open as you feel you need to be when having the little heart to heart. If the person knows about your eating disorder history, it might be easier, but even if the person doesn’t, there are still plenty of ways you can say what’s written above without revealing more information than you’re comfortable with. If the person asks something you’re not happy answering, you have simply to say, “I hope you won’t mind, but I don’t really want to talk about that right now. But let’s keep talking.” These kinds of things are difficult, but once you learn to do them, you’ll be much better off and much better equipped to handle what gets thrown at you in this life.

After all, using the 3 Hs is better than just sitting or standing there quietly, listening to comments like these, feeling triggered and trapped. Am I right? You might be surprised how much your own voice thrown into the mix makes a difference. You also might be surprised about how easy it really is when you start saying something back. These weight/weight loss/dieting conversations happen far more often than you might like, so learning how to handle them is a definite must.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Post-It Gallery

I created a new page you can reach via this site. It's called Arielle's Post-It Gallery. It can be found on the left-hand side of the page.

Spread the love and positivity! Make someone's day!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

I'm Group Leader for an ANAD Support Group that's starting this month. I thought I'd post the info (i.e. the flier I made) here for those who are in my area! Even if you're not in my area, I suppose it's still nice to share the news! I'm VERY excited about this. If you are interested or know anyone who might be, send me an email. Help me spread the word! I am blotting out my phone number (and part of the meeting address) which appears on the real local flier because you never know what internet folks are out there that will harass.

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders
It's difficult to recover when you feel alone...
Come join us for help, understanding, and support.

WHERE: Northampton Area Public Library
(will give address if contacted) Northampton, PA 18067-close to Allentown, Bethlehem, and surrounding areas

WHEN: the FIRST and THIRD Monday of each month at 6:00 PM

Unfortunately, there will be NO meeting on July 21st due to outside circumstances, but meetings officially begin on July 7th.

Questions? Call Group Leader Arielle Bair at: 610-xxx-xxxx
or email her at: arielle.becker@gmail.com

ALL are welcome...
Regardless of your age, diagnosis, or role.
Whether you are recovering from anorexia, bulimia, ed-nos, compulsive over eating, body dismorphic disorder, orthorexia, or are simply a concerned parent, friend, or family member of someone with an eating disorder...you are warmly welcomed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Word To Worried Parents

I was once the anorexic daughter that parents worry about. Now that I'm recovered from anorexia and can look at the situation clearly, it's easy for me to articulate what might be needed and wanted—from the point of view of the sufferer.  

Okay, let's be honest; both parties are suffering. 

I feel the best thing you can do for your daughter is to love her and support her, which you obviously do if you are reading this. Try to understand her. She is probably feeling as though not many people do, but all you have to do is let her know that you WANT to understand. That you care enough about her to want to help her in any way you can. And that you will always be there for her when and if she needs you.  
Don't be obtrusive. Don't be harsh. Sometimes it takes a big wake up call to make someone snap to the realization that they are really damaging themselves, but try to be the rock she can turn to when she is faltering. There are plenty of ways to show her the error of her ways without punishing her, condemning her, or making her feel worse. 
My parents did good things and bad things. But it's hard for parents—and for anyone—to know how to deal with an eating disordered child, especially when that child is actually a young woman and not a child any longer.  
Ask her if she wants you to do anything. Ask her if she wants freedom, support, more recovery resources, info about a support group, a shoulder to cry on, etc. Perhaps she wants nothing. Perhaps she doesn't know what she wants. But if it was me (and it was me once), I would greatly appreciate having my mother or father pose those questions to me.  
If she's been in treatment: Just because a treatment place did not work for her in the past doesn't mean she can't get help or will be resistant to other forms of support. One thing that really helped me while I was a college student was going to a support group with other young women who were facing the same problems. We learned to want to help each other, which in turn helped us to help ourselves. If she cares about the well-being of other girls like her, she may invest time in a path towards recovery and soon start to hear what they are saying—and use what she is telling them on herself and her own situation.  
Sometimes eating disorder support groups are not publicized and are hard to discover. Ask your local hospitals, do a search online, or contact an eating disorder specialist for info. Don't push…but it's always worth keeping in the back of your mind.  
I really feel for your situation. I have a very good relationship with my mother and I know how helpless she felt when I was very ill. 
Be there to listen to your daughter, but if she doesn't want to talk, don't press. All you can do is try your best to help her and the rest is up to her. No one can make her do anything—and if they do, it will only be temporary. She needs to make a choice for herself and set goals.

But you can support her in these goals. 

Show her how great life can be without her eating disorder instead of showing her how bad her life is with it.  

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Letter to All

There are times when I feel there is so much I have to say and there’s just not enough time in the day to say it all. There are times when I feel no words can adequately express what is my heart. There are times when I remember the life I used to lead and am overcome with the deepest of desires to help. To reach out. To give back. To support. To explain. To send love.

You are out there. And we’ve never met, but I truly think about you often in my daily life. When I am at the grocery store, I wonder about you. When I am in my kitchen, preparing dinner, I wonder about you. When I am going to sleep at night, I wonder about you. When I am looking in the mirror, I wonder about you. You are very important to me.

I am not here to rescue or to save, but I do hope that I can help even in the smallest of ways. I have to admit that I feel a strong sense of duty (no, that’s not exactly the right word…maybe a calling is better) to share and help and support. I don’t mean this in an arrogant, self-righteous kind of way. I just mean that I can say with complete honesty that I have come a long way and I know I can give a sense of understanding and a positive outlook. Clearly, I am not perfect and I will never pretend to be. I do hope, however, that by telling you I was once in a terrible, low, unhealthy place and am now free and happy, I can give something. Something. Whatever that “something” may be.

In a strange way, I feel as though I went through my eating disorder partly for a reason: so that I could help others. So I could mold that experience into something new and positive. So I could bend it into something else that I could be proud of. I can’t seem to shake this concept. It always feels true. I came out of my whole horrid nightmare with a pure clarity—a really good understanding of what I had experienced and had struggled with and had overcome.

It is very fulfilling for me to give even the tiniest glimmer of hope to others that there is life after an eating disorder. It is very meaningful for me to be able to read all your wonderful, strong, and spirited responses and emails.

I think you are all incredible and fantastically beautiful. I just wanted you to know.

All my love,

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Unlimited Chances

There's no such thing as giving yourself too many chances. You yourself are the only one who can give YOU as many chances as you want or need. There is no limit to chances. There is no maximum.

I know how hard it is to even try. I used to have days where I just didn't care about a damn thing. I just wanted everything to stop and leave me to sit with myself and fade away into nothingness. I used to cry until the tears wouldn't come anymore because I had used them all up.

I got sick and tired of it. I know you're probably sick and tired of it now...maybe you've BEEN sick and tired of it for a long time...maybe you're even sick and tired of being sick and tired...

But maybe there’s something missing... Perhaps you’re sick and tired, but unfortunately, too tired to do anything about it. That's defeat. Don't allow yourself to be defeated. It's too easy. You're worth so much more than that.

In any case, I know it can feel too hard to even begin to try some days...because it's the same old story. The same old song and dance. To just keep on keeping on...to just keep on trying again and again. If you've been through this so many times and have been fighting for so long, it gets old and it gets worse.

That's the bad news.

The good news is fighting back is the only way you're going to eventually get out of the hell. The good news is: there IS a way out. It's just really hard to find. But if you want out, you've got to look. And if you're still coming up short, you've got to KEEP looking.

Because the thing is, you're either going to burn out and fade away or you're going to start climbing that rope to safety and freedom and health and happiness. Those are the only two alternatives...because this awful state of struggling—even if it’s been going on for a long, long time—only lasts so long, my friend.

You need a change--and I don't mean a change in your attempts to recover. I mean a vacation from your normal way of living. Nothing eating disorder related. Just a plain and simple change. And a big one. Something to rip away the focus on your eating disorder, to force you to spend time reflecting on yourself, to simply BE and exist and breathe in the change that will surround you. And when you come back from this "vacation"--when you've implemented this change--you just might not be so tired and listless. You'll be fresher, clearer, and better able to put a new foot forward. Again.

A big change is the only way to get out of that sick-and-tired-don't-care attitude.

I'm not saying there's one answer for everyone. But time away, that mental "vacation" (in whatever respect is available and possible) from the same old daily life you have is beneficial. You can recharge, restart, and refresh. But it can't be something subtle. It has to be something big. Significant.

You have a lot of chances waiting. Take them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gaining Weight *and* Perspective

When attempting to recover physically, it's important to try to forget about numbers and just eat when hungry, consume a healthy amount, exercise if you want to but don't overdo it, and never compare yourself to someone else or your recovery process to someone else’s.

I didn't have a "goal weight" I wanted to reach to be healthy again. Why focus on a number again when that’s all I’d been doing in the past? I chose instead to focus on feeling—feeling good and strong, that is. I just got to the point where I gained and gained and then as my healthy lifestyle became normal for me, I maintained and continue to maintain.

You reach a point where your body is comfortable. And everyone's bodies are different. Don't try to compare...just try to be healthy...and let your body fill out as it wants and needs to.

There are all different body frames, lifestyles (athletic, active, sedentary, etc.), and different genetic factors as well. One person’s recovery weight will not be the same as another’s. Even someone who is the same height as you are. Focus on you, not someone else or what someone else says.

I was always very thin...so I can't say I got BACK to a normal weight. I just finally got to a weight that was right for me and it happens to be the most I've ever weighed. But I was growing before...I was a child and an adolescent...and when I was no longer a child, I was seriously ill and MUCH too thin...so you can't use previous weights as a gauge. You have to live in the moment. Live in the now.

I’ve found a maintainable weight for me. I eat 3 meals, plus snacks, and never restrict. I run, but only 1 mile and only a couple times a week—if I even have the time. That said, I'm only in my twenties and if as years go by I gain a few more pounds, I won't be upset. I can gain some and still feel okay and be healthy.

Recovery can only be about you. If you don’t like yourself, you’ll never like the way you look—no matter what your weight. As you gain weight in an effort to recover, try also to gain perspective. Without it, weight—low or high—won’t matter.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Way to "Alive"

I dive head first, with deepest thirst, into a past I've left behind…to seek and find the reasons why so I can try—to help. To reach. To teach. To grab a hold of each and every one who's struggling so, who's feeling woe, who's in the grip of THIS—this deathly kiss—this comfort that is sick and wrong, this depressed song…my friends, this has gone on too long. Bite back. Fight back. Don't be afraid it might come right back. Go ahead. Leave it dead. Move, I said! Become anew. It's hard to do, but worth the pain, and in the end you will be sane. You will be YOU. You will be true. And this is all you have to do: make an effort, stake a goal, and soon enough you will be whole. And most of all, yes…in control. Take back your power, take back your life, and every hour will be rife with every sweet thing you can dream, and possibilities will seem…real. At last. So use the past. And push on through, with all your struggles strapped to you. And when you've gone to hell and back—learned the knack, survived attackyou'll know there's nothing that you lack. And you can take and deftly make your struggles into something new. And share the secret known to you. And one day soon, a different tune will play and stay…and you, with zeal —I swear it's real—will finally feel alive.


© Arielle Lee Becker 2008


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Remembering the Realization

This blog has a point and a purpose. Not only that, it has a message. I have a goal. It's here to give people hope. My goal is to be an example—to cause people to say, "If that's what recovery looks like, sign me up!"

That's it, plain and simple. From the beginning—from the start of my descent into an eating disordered life—I've always known I wanted to stop. I didn't want to have an eating disorder any more than one wants to have any other disease. I knew it was unhealthy and I knew I needed help. Before I told anyone about my struggles, before I was confronted, and before I had even come to terms with my issues, I went to see a counselor. I remember making the appointment; it all seemed so surreal.

I was your average girl who watched TV and saw anorexic girls on talk shows, skin and bones, crying their eyes out in front of the camera. I never thought I would relate to the girls on those couches, talking about their fears of food and their distressing disease. But suddenly, almost before I knew what was happening, I was on my way to anorexia myself…and it wasn't long before I was diagnosed with the very same disorder I had often heard about on television.

At my consultation appointment at my college campus's counseling center, I recall explaining my daily habits, my calorie counting obsession, and my way of fasting for days. I could hear myself saying the words, knowing full well I had a serious problem or at least the beginnings of one. From that point, even though I sought help, was confronted by my best friend, and told my parents, I ended up getting worse before I got better. Sometimes I even got better only to get worse again.

Things weren't clicking in my head. The constant struggle became so normal to me and so strangely comforting. I used anorexia to cope with stress, to deal with change, to help me feel special. All the while, I still hated it. I'd get angry every time I went to see a doctor who told me I should be weighing about xxx pounds. Not only did the very thought seem ridiculous to me, it also agitated me—because I always wondered how I'd look at a higher weight, always somehow knew deep down that a grown woman should be weighing much more than I did…and well, should look more like a woman.

Even when I got better and better and I managed to eat enough to be considered "okay," I was still constantly struggling with mental aspects of anorexia. Sometimes I was even annoyed because I thought everyone around me assumed I was fine again simply because I weighed xxx pounds. It was so untrue and so hard to explain. At times, I was the furthest thing from fine.

I have always been one of those people who can put on a happy face—who can smile even when they are hurting and joke around, consistently concealing the emotions at battle inside. In a way, it sometimes helped not to talk about it. I liked trying to forget, be able to have a good time with friends, if only for a few fleeting hours.

It was sad, because something always seemed to fall. I always seemed to fall. I wanted to enjoy myself, to be happy with my friends, to let my mind free itself of numbers and perfection, but I could never enjoy myself completely.

It was like I was at a party, having a blast with a big smile on my face, but there was someone in the corner, wearing dark clothes and looking at me with a scary expression. My eating disorder, my inside pain and dissatisfaction, was that dark, scary someone in the corner. I could still have a great time, could still make great memories, but I was always being watched by something that wanted to take it all away.

When I think of times like this, I am reminded particularly of a few nights out with my college friends when we'd drink and have a good time dancing and laughing…and on the way home, when the alcohol had loosened the strings around my turbulent emotions, I'd start to cry relentlessly. It's kind of embarrassing even now, but I was much more of a mess than I let myself or anyone else believe. Tears typically accompany a mess.

Whether I cried walking home from a bar—feeling as though I was completely ruining the carefree mood—or later in the night back at my old apartment to my best friend, everything seemed to come crashing down after having fun. It took me a while to learn that I'd never really be able to be happy again unless I fixed myself first. Until I took care of what was making me hurt, any fun or happiness was temporary.

I knew I didn't want to live like that. After all, who does?

Looking back, nights like that feel like a turning point, or several of them. I knew my entire life was going to be like that if I didn't change something. If I hadn't had the friends I do, I would have fallen into a sad little hole and lied there 'til something drastic finally pulled me out…if anything pulled me out at all.

This realization came after years of unhappiness and what can only be described as shit. This realization came after a freshman year of college that makes me cringe to this day. After days and nights of worrying my friends, of sleeping in the daytime for hours at a time, of letting my past of a being a straight A student fall into the trash as I used all my effort to even make it to—and through—classes. After tedious meals in the dining hall, whole Biology classes spent incessantly tallying my food intake, and one distinctly frightening night when I attempted to measure my dwindling waist by fastening a belt around it—then trying to measure the belt with a ruler—only to be stopped by my freshman room mate and my best friend, who both had to hold me down on my bed while I thrashed around and essentially freaked out. After counseling and eating again only to make my sophomore year a near repeat of my freshman year. After group therapy and fainting spells. After screaming matches with my parents. After actually seeing the number 89 on the scale at one point and hating the sick euphoria that attended it. After obsessive term papers on eating disorders in an attempt to teach myself to stop what I was doing.

After all this came those fun college nights that ended in tears.

And after that came the realization.

That. I. Didn't. And. Couldn't. Do. It. Anymore.

So I set out to learn myself and discovered a lot. It has to start with you.

It has to start with YOU.

But most of all, it has to start.