Don’t You Let Go

I can’t help but think of Lord of the Rings when I think of the relationship we have with an eating disorder–or for anyone with any addiction, for that matter.
I was never a huge, nerdy (the cool nerdy! No hatin’ here against the die-hard fans) Lord of the Rings fan, but I’ve definitely enjoyed the books and the movies. It’s fascinating for me to see the way the characters become entranced by the ring–some more strongly than others if they become vulnerable to its power–and how similar dabbling in eating-disordered habits allows people to become consumed with their own ring of supposed “power.” Funny, too, how the circular nature of a ring is not unlike a metaphor for the cyclical pattern of addiction–especially with eating disorders.
Most recently I watched one of the final scenes of movie three of the trilogy where Frodo and Sam reach the pinnacle of the fiery pit to destroy the ring at last. Frodo stands at the edge, holding the ring over the lava, still contemplating whether he truly wants to destroy it or not. It calls to him. It reminds him of the power he can still have in their relationship. And many of us face that nearly every day with our eating disorders.
Do we really want recovery? It’s a battle with wanting to get rid of the eating disorder but not knowing how to live life without it. We don’t want to completely throw away the ring of power, because when we put it on–when we fall hard into the eating disorder–we can become invisible, can sneak around and deny that we have a problem, that we need help.
And then Gollum creeps into this scene. In that moment, I can’t help but think that perhaps this is the picture of what can happen–and does happen–to many who fall too hard and long into addiction, and are too consumed with the power we think it gives us. Gollum is the picture of the animal we become when we become lost from our true selves, when the identity of the ring/power takes over our lives, and thus our bodies. And as Gollum eventually tumbles into the fiery pit– even as his body disintegrates in the lava–he holds his hand up to his idol, his addiction, giving it the final say in his life.
We can’t let the eating disorder do that to us, too.
But the most poignant scene in this intense struggle? Frodo, hanging off the side of the cliff, surely about to face the similar fate of Gollum. The ring still calls to him as it sits above the lava, not yet disintegrated, and Frodo has a choice to make–grab the hand of his best friend Sam and be pulled to safety, or let the ring win in its final moments.
And then something happens. Frodo hears a voice, and it is not pleading, but stern and empowering–
“Don’t you let go,” Sam tells him.
Don’t you let go.
I couldn’t help but feel moved to tears at hearing this, feeling that Sam is not only speaking to Frodo, but to all of us–that we must keep holding on, and that even in our darkest moments when it seems all is lost, when we think that we cannot fight back any longer, we must accept those who want to help us and make the decision to keep fighting for ourselves.

Don’t you let go.

Even if I am the only one to tell you this–if you do not hear this from anyone else–I plead with you, reach out to you, and want to tell you in the same, heart-felt voice that Sam uses with Frodo,
Don’t you let go, either.
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Conquering the Cravings

“What is that, forest food?”
I looked up, confused. A man walked by the front desk where I worked to peer down at my lunch.
“Oh…”
It was leftover zucchini tossed in coconut oil. The rosemary I added on top apparently must have looked like pine needles or something. I laughed, unsure of how to respond.
My lunches have always been a little strange – that is, ever since I became obsessed with “clean eating.” With passionate Facebook foodies and newly-born health advocates shoving paleo, vegan, gluten-free, and crash diets down our throats, as well as the media perpetuating the fat-shaming, GMO-blaming and purist principles from all our dieter idols, it is clear that we are obsessed. We want healthy.
But we want bad, too.
I know my “good” side wants all the healthy stuff – so much so that I make strange combinations that probably others would be repulsed by (oatmeal, tuna, and celery, anyone?). Unfortunately, my obsession leads to embarrassment, because here I am at work eating an extravagant meal and I don’t want anyone to see me eat. I don’t want anyone looking at my food. I guess it doesn’t help to have possibly the most unique lunch there instead of the typical peanut butter sandwich.

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Backfire
Most people who go to extremes find themselves lashing back on the opposite end. I never thought that person would be me.
“What about healthy Rachael?”
Nope. When I fall into the binge, all I can say in a deep, devilish snarl is, “She’s gone!”
Granola bars are my guilty pleasure. Few people would find themselves guilty over a few Clif bars, but with as “pure” as I’ve tried to be with food, a single bite of one of those babies can send me in an all-out binge.
Smile, hand him the cash … yup, just paying for these Clif bars. “I’m buying ten of these to save them up for the rest of the semester to eat them before workouts and such,” I explain.
Liar.
Minutes later I’m hiding and eating them in a voracious frenzy. I scarf down what other people might deem “healthy energy bars” when all I see is them as sugary downfalls compared to my “pure” eating of vegetables and low-fat chicken breasts.
This isn’t me, this isn’t Rachael, this isn’t right…
I know there are those of you out there who do the same thing, but perhaps with other chosen “devil” foods. Welcome back into the light, secret eaters! You are not alone. Who are we hiding from? It’s not like simply hiding in the shadows with our stash of Clif-to-be-eaten-later-bars mean we aren’t actually consuming them.
Conquering the Cravings
I’ve come a long way from that eating mess, but it took time and patience with my mind and body. What’s helped is learning to understand the cravings and where the desires come from. With a more healthy, balanced approach to eating, even if I’m not eating healthier, I think my body is healthier overall with a more calm, balanced mindset – and that sometimes meant letting go and allowing myself those precious indulgences without going overboard. Of course, if you could find a cause for the cravings, wouldn’t you like to try to prevent them or at least find some alternatives?
Supplementation
Try supplementing with zinc, magnesium, or chromium. A deficiency in these vitamins could be the cause of your sugar cravings. B Complex vitamins are great too because they provide a boost to the adrenal system; and when the adrenal system is low, sugar cravings increase.
Add Cinnamon
Cinnamon is known to reduce the glycemic index of foods, so it normalizes blood sugar levels.
More Protein
Make sure to include a little protein in every meal. Protein takes longer than carbs to digest, so it sticks to you longer.
Fermented Favorites
Perhaps the last thing you want to put into your mouth when you’re craving sugar is fermented food like sauerkraut or kimchee, but supposedly this can help curb cravings.
Take a Nap
Do you notice if you crave sugar during that afternoon slump? Often cravings come from just being tired. Sometimes when I have a bad sugar craving and I know I may not be truly hungry, I try to just lie down for a nap and see if that makes me feel better. If I find myself still thinking about food and unable to sleep, I often realize that I am truly hungry.
Dessert Danger?
Well, desserts are not exactly dangerous, but you know they feel that way if you’re trying to lose weight. I’m not saying to give up desserts. In fact, incorporating them here and there throughout the week may do you more good than bad (something that took me a long time to learn and get used to–I had grown so used to bingeing). A rule of thumb: wait at least 45 minutes after dinner before you reach for the dessert. That can give you time to see if the yearning for dessert diminishes. If it doesn’t, try just three bites and walk away. Often that is all we really need. Of course, walking away is the most difficult part, but after waiting for a little while it can do the job. For some healthier indulgences, read on.
Chocoholics
Craving chocolate? Are you tired, too? The craving could be a desire for caffeine. Or, more chemically, you may simply be low in magnesium, which is common since our crops have decreased in magnesium over the years due to nutrient-deficient soil.
If you are going to indulge in chocolate, most people know that the higher percentage of dark, the better. But who knew that the ingredient of cocoa butter is healthier, too? Cocoa butter is a natural fat in the cocoa bean that is often removed and replaced with unhealthy partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Also, choose chocolate with sugar or cane juice instead of corn syrup. A great chocolate that meets all these “health” requirements (it’s still dessert here) is Endangered Species.
Hit Up the Natural Sweeteners
The first time I tried a date (the fruit, not a person) was pure heaven. I had no idea these giant raisin-like fruits even existed! I actually bought a box of dates from California two winters ago, which was fantastic. I’d already tried the medjool dates (those are the most common ones you can get from the store) but now I could try out the honey dates, which were even sweeter! Soaking dates can leave you with sweetened water to use for recipes, too.
Dates are a great way to sweeten up recipes and make for a great whole-food dessert. My favorite is to use dates to make a chocolate pudding (dates, avocado, banana, and cacao powder in a food processor).
Choosing raw honey is a great sugary alternative, too. While it seems like there isn’t much of a difference between raw and regular honey, raw honey is actually sweeter so you need less of it (and thus, less calories) for recipes for the same sweetness. It has a glycemic index of about 30 compared to the regular honey with a glycemic index of 75.
And a great way to switch your craving for ice cream? Peel and pack away bananas in a ziploc back in the freezer. Once frozen, you can slice them up, put them in a food processor, and voila! Monkeys-Gone-Bananas ice cream.
Okay, I know, sometimes you just need the bad boys: A cake at a birthday party, or a chocolate bar from the vending machine. As long as it’s savored, loved, and cherished on occasion, you’ll probably be a lot better off than that “clean eater” who binges in the closet.
And eats forest food.
Sources:
http://www.marisapeer.com/lose-weight-cat/how-to-stop-craving-sugar/
http://www.streetdirectory.com/food_editorials/cooking/herbs_and_spices/curb_cravings_with_cinnamon_the_spice_of_life.html
http://thecoconutmama.com/2013/05/magnesium-why-you-need-it-and-5-ways-to-get-more-of-it/
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We Must Speak

I want to tell you that it is okay to ask for help. That even now I still struggle to do it myself. That just the other day, when I finally admitted to myself that the eating disorder was worsening again, that it was okay to say something.

That I must.

I want to tell you that no problem is too small to keep to yourself. That you deserve to speak for your body, and that perhaps those of us who suffer from eating disorders or other modes of self-harm have some of the toughest times asking for help because we have learned to speak with our body instead of our tongues. That we do speak, but in a language of silence when we leave the dinner table too soon, when we skip lunch, when we creep to the kitchen at midnight to fill our bodies too quickly and too guiltily, when we stow away to the bathroom after every meal–because doesn’t it feel like your eating disorder will always be there for you? That it will keep you company when you feel your worst, and no one else will get hurt but you? That you don’t have to “wear anyone down” but yourself when you feel stressed and hurt and angry and frustrated?
I am angry. I am hurt. I am frustrated. I also know I have a fantastic life, that I live day-to-day with a smile on my face, that I have so many good things going for me. But there is still that girl who needs to be listened to–the girl deep inside of me screaming and shaking the bars of a prison she feels she can never escape because I keep ignoring her, because I keep telling her to shut the hell up.
I want to tell you that you deserve to speak–because when I tell you this, I have to say it to myself, too. Because not but a day ago did I think, I shouldn’t bother people with this, I shouldn’t let them worry, I shouldn’t seem like I am trying to seek attention.
But when I awake each morning to peaceful silence while everything inside of my head screams, I drown the Rachael inside of me as I go about the day, as I hear her pounding to get out, as I carry on with my chores and work and crawl back into bed, where my chest tightens and aches and it is not until then–when I close my eyes and face myself again–that the tears emerge. Sometimes I tell myself I shouldn’t worry, that I shouldn’t feel concerned when I take it out on my own body, because I know I am not alone in my feelings. Someone, somewhere in the world may “have it worse” than me, people say. But how many times have I stressed to others–and to myself–that it doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to speak!

WE DESERVE TO SPEAK.

rachaelcover?

I will speak because I encourage you all to speak. And as I returned home from a day of errands the other day thinking I didn’t need to tell anyone I was hurting, I realized I would never want you to do the same.
We must speak.
We must speak.
WE. MUST. SPEAK.
It is the best tool we have.
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Guest Post: Carrots and (Candy) Sticks

WARNING: The following content may be triggering if you feel you are not at a good place to read about another person’s experience with their eating disorder.
A wonderful reader and supporter of this blog agreed to share her eating disorder story. She has her own great blog (Carrots and [Candy] Sticks), which I am constantly reading for her quirky insight and strong, brave thoughts through her struggles with food and life. Thank you, Florence for sharing more of your story here.
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It’s been about three years since my eating disorder began. I’ve always had a sweet tooth and tended to overeat especially at parties, but I was an athlete in high school and never worried too much about it. It wasn’t until I started drinking that my eating disorder began, because I would drunk-binge and feel terrible about myself. It lead me to gain a lot of weight right before college, which only got worse my freshmen year.
My first year of college I was stressed out, overwhelmed, and my eating was super unhealthy. I’d have dessert for dinner, drink too much on the weekends then eat lots of pizza, snack all day, eat lots of fried foods and no vegetables, plus eat way past the point of fullness. I thought the only way to improve my terrible eating habits was to go on a diet. I was sick of feeling lousy and being unhappy with my body and figured dieting was a step in the right direction.
Wrong.
I lasted three weeks on the Dukan Diet, which was majorly restrictive: no carbs or sugar, not even fruit or nuts. I lived off of soy milk, hard boiled eggs, and dry tuna. It felt good to be in control and I lost a lot of weight…until I snapped. I got so hungry in the dining hall one day and bored of the monotonous food that I binged on ice cream and cookies and bread with butter. Horrified at what I’d done and worried I’d gain all the weight back I thought I should throw up everything I ate. So I found a secluded bathroom and had my first bulimic episode. I joked about it with my parents and friends because I thought it was a one time thing and that there was no way I could actually develop an eating disorder. But over the next six months I was embedded in a terrible cycle of dieting, bingeing, purging, and starting all over again. I was vomiting two or three times a week and alcohol definitely exacerbated things. I was reluctant to admit anything was wrong because I still thought the episodes were sporadic. Plus I convinced myself that every time would be the last time and so I never got help.
Finally one day in October, after this had been going on for about six months, I realized I had a problem. When I tried to tell my parents they didn’t really understand (I had sheltered them from a lot of the disorder) and said that there must be something underlying my food issues, that eating wasn’t the real problem; stress was. And while that was true I really needed to talk to someone about my obsessive behavior around food (and find a way to stop vomiting). It ended up being my boyfriend who helped me with the vomiting. I would always confess after I vomited because I’d feel so guilty and so he asked me to start telling him before I wanted to. At first I couldn’t do it but after admitting to him once or twice that I wanted to he would sit with me until the feeling passed. He was like my buddy/built-in-babysitter.
Eventually I started realizing I didn’t have to give in to the urges to vomit. At that point I also went home for winter break. Since my house is small and my parents were home the whole time I physically couldn’t vomit anywhere. This two month span of vomit-free living was enough to break the habit for me and over the next few months I would vomit sporadically, maybe once a month, but in June I had my last spell and have not vomited in a year. Unfortunately that was not the end of my food issues. Over the next eight months I had an incredibly obsessive relationship with eating. I researched everything I could about nutrition, tried to stick to the paleo diet, but only ended up bingeing frequently (hence starting a cycle of dieting and bingeing with no purging). I tried gluten free and vegetarianism but ultimately I felt entirely lost. Every source had different information about what was “healthy” and I felt like nothing I ate was okay. That lead me to binge more, because I felt so overwhelmed and figured if nothing is healthy I might as well eat ice cream and cookies. This period of my life was terrible because I felt so confused and lonely and lost about how to nourish my body and the bingeing was uncomfortable and scary. I felt entirely out of control and really hated myself and my life. I convinced myself that the way I was eating was causing me stress and anxiety and literally making me sick, and if only I could find the “right” way to eat I’d be healthy and happy. It was so much easier to blame myself for my anxiety than admit I might have an anxiety disorder.
The turning point came when I read a book about eating disorders in the Barnes and Noble store and it said that any benefits of the special diet I thought I had to be on for health reasons were outweighed by the stress it caused my body. That really clicked for me. I was definitely doing more harm to myself by thinking gluten was evil (and then gorging myself on it after a week without it) than by eating it moderately and with a healthy attitude. And so that September I stopped dieting for good and took some time off from school. In that time I went to counseling and started an anti-anxiety medication and learned how to eat normally again without restrictions on any type of food. To give myself a little bit of structure I counted calories using an app and that was just what I needed to re-learn how to eat. Also not drinking for those few months that I was home really helped my stress levels and stopped binges prematurely (hang over binges were sometimes worse than drunk binges).
In the last six months I’ve been working to maintain a healthy relationship with food. I’ve stopped counting calories and am really trying to take it one meal at a time. I still binge sometimes, maybe three times a month, but I’m learning to eat intuitively. I wouldn’t say I have it all figured out but food no longer runs my life anymore and I’m so grateful for that. I also go to therapy twice a week which is the anchor I need, and am still on anti-anxiety medication. I also meditate and believe this combination is bringing me to my healthiest place yet. I don’t recommend the way I went about recovery. It was lonely and prolonged and I know I should’ve sought professional help awhile back. I urge you if you’re struggling to ask for help and keep asking until you find someone or something—an inpatient/outpatient support group, a mentor, anything, that helps you achieve a relationship with food that you’re proud of.
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Guest Post: Laura Burkett & Intuitive Eating

This month’s guest post is by Laura Burkett, a holistic nutrition counselor and eating psychology coach in West Michigan who works with local and national clients. I actually met Laura the summer I was learning and first experimenting with raw food. She came to speak at a nutrition workshop/seminar at Gazelle Sports in Grand Rapids, and I met her in her office a few months later to discuss holistic nutrition. Even with the very few times we talked, I was very interested in what Laura did for a living so I hope you all can learn a bit about what she has to offer about intuitive eating.

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Hello friends.  I am happy to be here with you. Thirteen years ago, I sat on the bathroom floor of my college dorm bathroom alone, bawling, stomach distended, after having binged, and knew deep within myself that part of my soul’s journey would be learn how to heal eating struggles with the deepest of integrity and would teach others to do the same.  I was certain we were still in the Dark Ages when it came to how to thoughtfully and elegantly work with the areas of eating, weight, and health.
Let me begin by saying I am not posing as a physician or psychotherapist, but as a big sister on this path and woman who struggled intensely with binge eating and compulsive exercising who happens to work in the healing profession now.  Rachael has asked me to speak to this thing that’s called “intuitive eating.”  Let’s begin.
content-page-devready-02The Paradox of Intuitive Eating
For many, intuitive eating can sound like a distant land. – a place we’ve heard of, imagined, but have little personal experience with. Watch a 3-year-old approach food, and you get a glimpse of this place.  The little one gets distracted and fussy when she is hungry, eats, and minutes later is ready to move on to the next thing (both mentally and physically) when she is satisfied.  There is no overthinking.  Intuitive eating, of course, happens in the body, not the head.
The problem is, over time, we learn that the body is not a safe place to live in.  The body, after all, is the place where intense feeling takes place.  A person who feels deeply without the inner or outer resources to navigate this will surely learn SOME WAY to create order for this inner chaos in the body. The psyche finds ways to take care of itself.
Thus begins the journey of meticulously trying to manage the body, eating, appetite, or weight.  And it works.  Kind of.  Something feels “better.”  And then it doesn’t.  We get attached to our “highs” and try to re-create them again and again.  But at least pain and struggle are now on our terms.
All this pulls us further and further away from the body.  We become spilt in two.  The mind calls the shots, runs the show, and makes all the decisions.  The body simply acts as a vehicle to transport the head from place to place.  We dis-connect.  We stop listening. We live in management of the body instead of engagement, collecting all sorts of nutritional information, creating rules, without ever getting the body’s opinion.
It’s helpful to examine the collective strategies we champion when it comes to eating.  Most people exclusively rely on left brain strategies.  These include: willpower, discipline, lists, rules, variables, numbers, weight, comparisons, logic, exclusion, control, things that are measurable.  “If I can measure it, I have a way of gauging that I’m still okay.”  Energetically this is more of a Masculine energy, which has very little to do with gender and more to do with the deep roots of inner and outer patriarchy that span across generations, for both men and women.
Then there is the medicine – the Feminine.  The Feminine is an energy that can be described as matter itself, the physical form, the human body, Life.  The Feminine includes: appetite, pleasure, nature, cycles, matter, feelings, inclusion, change, SURRENDER, receiving, Life.
Intuition is an inner knowing, commonly described as a gut feeling.  Intuition happens IN THE BODY.  Intuitive eating essentially teaches us to eat in response to the changing needs of the body, and to let go of nutritional “rightness” or food moralism that happens in the head.  It takes quite a bit of courage to do this work!  But like most things that help us heal and grow, a good amount of courage is involved.
This is the paradox of intuitive eating for anyone who typically employs masculine strategies. One cannot will oneself into intuitive eating.  The past strategy of forcing, muscling, or controlling does not work.  Intuitive eating requires a heavy dose of The Feminine – of surrender, of self-trust. With surrender we are able to receive the messages of the body.  We begin to learn the lost language of the body.  This surrender can be painful and, yes, can literally bring us to our knees.  We mourn the loss of a past way of being and have to call upon new ways of relating to ourselves and the world around us.  But with any surrender, there is softness – and the deep reservoir of emotion begins to bubble up from below the surface – a process where deep healing can take place.
This is the sacred journey of intuitive eating.  If it feels hard or overwhelming, it’s because it’s new.  Then it becomes easier and eventually becomes a way of life.
Where to begin?
Bear in mind, going from a rigid diet to one that is entirely “intuitive’ is too far of a leap for most initially.
First, the mental patterns and beliefs around nutrition and eating must be unraveled.  This is when we call on teachers, mentors, coaches, and therapists to safely deconstruct counter-productive food beliefs and offer support to what arises in the process.
In the beginning, the eating needs to have a familiar rhythm and routine.  In fact, eating disorder or not, all of my clients feel much, much better with rhythmic, balanced eating throughout the day.  The body is inherently rhythmic and naturally craves balance.  Like responds to like.
After a supportive foundation is in place, we begin to take baby steps feeling into the body.  Reminder: Being in the body is messy.  People often desperately try and control this naturalness.  But it’s part of the contract we signed when we came to this planet. So be gentle with yourself.
I will ask you, dear reader, if the time is right, to begin with a baby step:  softening and noticing.  Simply notice how your body feels in a beautiful place, like a favorite place in Nature, or in bed as you wake up in the morning.  Then move on to food.  How does your body feel when you have eggs for breakfast?  What about a smoothie?  All you have to do is notice.  Noticing a large part of royal road to intuitive eating.  Keep track.  Stay curious.  And rally a network of allies in this process.
I can assure you that the journey in intuitive eating is the journey back to yourself.  It is a rich and soulful journey.
To learn more about Laura and her work, visit www.realfoodwellness.com and www.facebook.com/realfoodwellness/
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A Father of Food

My dad loves food. Like, loves it. He has encouraged this same love for food in our family by cooking us meals and taking us out to fancy, unique, and cultural restaurants. Thus, going on my raw diet and eventually telling him about my eating disorder probably wasn’t his idea of a fun relationship with food with his daughter.
But, my dad has prevailed. Our relationship is still strong, if not stronger–and it is thanks to him and his support. I have every reason to celebrate this wonder Father’s Day with him, but since he is out of town today, the blog will have to do–as well as a nice phone call this afternoon.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Our relationship is a great one. No wait, it’s fantastic. But the eating disorder stuff? He doesn’t get it. He tries, I’ll give you that—he certainly tries. But it is no easy task. I had a long conversation with him about it last summer, in fact, which didn’t particularly get us much anywhere, but it was a good effort on his part and a good way for me to practice being more open with him about it.
Eating disorders are just simply tricky if you haven’t experienced it yourself. Before I even had an eating disorder I viewed it as a selfish, self-absorbed act. I even thought people with eating disorders were just lazy and were going the “easy” way out by purging or just being “stupid” for not eating enough. Why couldn’t they just eat healthy food and exercise?
My dad has a good sense of humor.

Eating the bed? My dad has a good sense of humor.

My dad has always encouraged our family to eat heartily growing up. He encouraged us to eat slowly and enjoy our food, had us sit together as a family for dinner each night, and never said no to going out to eat. He made it something of a contest between my sister and I to see who would choose to try the “new” food at the table—and whoever did, received praise. He also encouraged us to help him cook dinner, cooking up dishes like pasta with tomato and cheese sauce, angel-hair pasta with chicken, broccoli, and carrots, or chicken with vegetables and biscuits.
“Is this a good food or bad food?” my sister and I would ask our parents.
“Anything is bad if you eat too much of it,” they’d say. “Everything in moderation.”
Ah, everything in moderation—my dad’s life quote. Even as I dove into my fruit diet later on, my dad continued to preach moderation. “Cafeteria style,” he calls it—a little bit of this and a little bit of that to enjoy life. This, I feel, has made him a healthy man. While he may not eat all of the healthiest foods, his healthy mindset, healthy portions, and love for food keeps him healthier than anyone with the “purest” diet. This, I believe, shows the importance of having a healthy mentality with food that I never understood or believed in until now.
My dad means the world to me—and I hope he knows and understands that even through the struggle these past few years. It has been difficult to connect with him and help him to understand the eating disorder, but at the same time he makes an effort to understand and that’s all that matters to me. He has always been there to support and love me, and sometimes that’s just all I need.
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Are You Ready to Go Boldly?

My newest friend and great writing/creativity partner is Bri Goodyear Luginbill, starter of the Go Boldly campaign in Grand Rapids, Michigan! She agreed to guest post below about her newest campaign to encourage people to embrace their bodies.
Rachael and I recently met through her sister, Angela. Angela introduced us because she thought we would get along well. And, we did! Rachael is passionate about body image, writing, and running. Well, you all probably know this since this is HER blog and you are HER readers. ;)
I asked Rachael is she would pose for me for my project Go Boldly, Love Your Body. She agreed wholeheartedly.
RACHAEL
Go Boldly is a positive body image campaign. It first came about as my response to some billboard advertisements I saw along the highways of Grand Rapids. The ads seemed to play off of women’s (and men’s) insecurities as to advertise for plastic surgery. However, Go Boldly has developed into more than a response. My intention is to have it be a positive body image movement that extends past Grand Rapids. So far I have had people contact me from West Virginia to Israel.
A few emails I received:
“Dear Ms. Luginbill,
I just read your article in the Rapidian about this campaign and I want to congratulate you. Much like the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” you highlight a big issue and use your skills and job to do something about you. Thanks so  much for doing that- I know it speaks to me about civic initiative, going against the flow and standing up.
Keep up the good work.
Regards,
Martin S.”
“Hi, 
I came across your work and I was wondering if you know how I can find a similar type of photographer in Israel. 
Thanks
Ora P. Kalfa, BSW, MSW 
Academic Guide, Editor, and Translator 
www.criticalwriting.weebly.com
“What you are doing with the go boldly photos is pure awesome.
Keep it up- I hadn’t heard of your company and am now a big fan!  :)
 Allie”
My next goal is to develop a book that contains photos and stories of each person who was photographed for the campaign. Everyone has their own body image journey. Sharing that journey helps all of us to relate to one another and share positive messages!
This is the design for each page will look something like this:
RACHAEL2
I’d like the page next to each full-page image to contain a collage of at least 4 photos from that person’s photo session to show more of their personality and what makes them who they are.
Rachael will be one of the many among the people featured in the book. I am ecstatic for this project and cannot wait to meet more people willing to share their story along the way. I am honored that Rachael is a part of this. Her mission with her own book parallels many of my same goals for mine.
Rachael and I will be meeting more often to become writing accountability buddies. That’s one of my biggest struggles with anything creative. Sometimes I hit a wall and it’s hard to keep writing, photographing, etc. An accountability buddy helps inspire and motivate me when I feel drained and burned out.
Go Boldly continues to grow. Our Facebook group page has 121 members. I’ve photographed over 50 people so far and shoots continue to be scheduled. I love that things continue to progress because time I photograph someone, the movement reaches more and more people. We need positivity and love for our bodies.
One a side note: a few new happenings include an event to honor all those involved and to invite all those who wish to come to celebrate positive body image. The event will take place on Monday, June 2nd from 6-9pm in Grand Rapids, MI. The venue for the event is still being determined.
Ways you can get involved in Go Boldly
1)   Visit our website: www.goboldlygr.com.
2)   Join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/475444875917252/
3)   Subscribe to our e-newsletter: http://eepurl.com/S_S6P I will be sending out weekly emails of positivity to your inbox titled “A dose of positivity.” You’ll also be kept in the loop of new developments and Go Boldly events.
4)   Tell your friends and family!
Thank you, Bri! And readers, please feel free to comment with questions if you have any. We are also hoping, if you are in or near Grand Rapids, to start a group body image gathering to discuss disordered eating and/or body image issues. Please let me know if you are interested in doing this!
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For the Skeptics and Naysayers of the Body Image Movement

I am excited about what social media is doing to help people speak up and love their bodies. The Body Image Movement is gaining momentum, what with blogs of the voices of bigger men and women, photoshopping revealed in videos, and Facebook groups encouraging people to eat and love their food (see “Eating the Food!”). An especially powerful video was seen here.
But something stopped me after watching this video. I had expected to see comments full of joy and empowerment for a video like this, but most of what I saw was hate:
“To go from being dedicated and having good work ethic to being gluttonous, lazy, and satisfied with below mediocrity is not something that you should encourage on others. This woman compared losing a breast, for removal of breast cancer, and cerebral palsy, to being a lazy fat piece of shit. Absolutely disgusting and insulting.”
“This is fucking terrible, teach your kid healthy eating habits and make it a lifestyle for the poor girl. Shame on you you lazy bitch.”
“Lol at how stupid this video is. Not the idea cause everyone should love his/her body but changing the ‘body image’ isn’t the way to go. Hard work / healthy food is. Only retarded womyn can be sitting on their fat asses the whole day and expect to be seen as sexy ?
Oh and you think cause you went healthy for 1.5 years you know everything about diet and workouts ? Guys have to work out 3-5 years to look good and yet I don’t hear them complain.”
“I agree that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your body, but you should always strive to change it for the better. If you’re fat start dieting, go to the gym, don’t just sit around chugging food down your throat and then say “this is who I am and I am not ashamed”, that’s just bullshit to console the weak minded with. Same thing applies to every aspect of your life.”
What anger, what rage! It is the comments like these and the people like them who perpetuate the hate we have for ourselves—no matter how big or small we are. These are the voices that scream in the reflection when we look in the mirror. We let some angry person who thinks they know our lifestyle dictate our happiness.
But let me clue you in on something: hate does not lead to change. Body shaming makes us hide our food, makes us fear to be seen eating, and makes us silent. It does not empower us to “eat less and exercise more.” You could eat the healthiest food on the planet and still be unhealthy with a controlling, hateful mindset (see more on this with food psychologist Marc David). You could be eating the purest food on the planet and still not give your body exactly what it deserves and needs so desperately—
Love.
Hatred for others shows hatred for oneself. I know that when I was at my thinnest, I judged others because I thought myself superior and stronger; but this was out of discomfort and fear of weight gain. I grew up scorning larger people in my mind not only because I observed my own family doing it through their words (“they need to stop being so lazy.” “Just eat less and exercise more.”), but because deep down I feared becoming fat and being ridiculed just as harshly. I feared even the smallest amount of “fat” I saw on my body, feared it meant I was larger than I should be, and that I would be judged for it.
As we seem to have to learn time and time again, looks do not tell the full story. Some people may be bigger because of genetics or environment, medication, hormones, and of course, past traumas such as abuse or depression. I for one know I am “bigger” because I denied myself food in the past. I know I am bigger because my body fears falling into “starvation” again. I know a craving so unbearable that it keeps me awake at night until I eat exactly what I crave. I know a body that resists the smallest bit of hunger by fighting back after so much past denial of food. And I know I am the one who chooses to eat when I do, but I also choose my freedom by doing so. And by learning to love my body, I sit down at last and enjoy my food. I sit and listen to my body instead of bingeing in front of the TV—and that is because I love and respect myself enough to do so.
The comments posted below the Body Image video suggest that once someone changes how they look, they will be happy. But clearly what the commenters fail to realize is that the woman who changed her body for the body competition still did not love her body. It was not about physically changing her body, but learning to love herself as she was—no matter where she was on the scale.
At a smaller weight, when I was eating “clean,” I would not receive ridicule because I “looked” the part, even though I hated my body, binged in secret, and felt worthless without being the fastest runner.
That, my friends, is not the definition of health.
When we face ourselves in the mirror, and hate what we see because of what has become of our bodies out of anger or abuse or hurt, we have to come to accept our past and the strong people we are today because of it. We may be bigger because yes, we may have binged or ate poorly, but if we learn why we did this, and how to love ourselves and find peace within, we will want to eat healthier as well. Acceptance is not about saying “hell with it” and stuffing ourselves with junk all day because we now have an “excuse” to be “lazy”; it is allowing ourselves to accept where we are, and be willing to feel just as happy with ourselves if we always stay this way (physically) even if we do eat healthy food. But healthy eating habits, healthy exercise routines, will not come as easily until we are more forgiving of ourselves and loving of our bodies.
THIS is why we must love our bodies first. THIS is why we need the Body Image Movement. THIS is why it is not as simple as “eat less, exercise more, eat healthier.” The binger binges because she does not love herself. The purger purges because he does not love himself. The anorexic restricts food because she does not love herself. You want to tell these people to “just eat healthy” or “just eat less and exercise more”? The answer is not so simple. Because no matter who we are or what we look like, just as “just be happy” will not cure depression, “eat less and exercise more” will not fix our body image.
True health is not perfecting our food choices or embarking on a regimented exercise program; it is learning to love our bodies enough to respect what we put into them, cherish the food, and exercise because we desire to move and feel the burn of incoming strength. Who is to say these people cannot love their bodies here and now because they don’t fit what YOU say is healthy?
The true disease that our nation faces is not obesity; it is the shame, hate, and ridicule that perpetuate it.
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Mother-Daughter Dynamic

I feel that it’s fitting to write a post about my lovely mother just in time for Mother’s day. I’m of course not going into what she did “wrong” in “contributing” to my eating disorder, as obviously that would not be quite a great mother’s day gift, and also because any of the comments she’s made over the years–especially before she even knew what I was dealing with–were mostly only harmful to me because I interpreted them that way. In other words, as my therapist would say, it was the eating disorder talking when my mother made a seemingly insignificant comment (to the non-eating-disordered listener).
Months ago I watched a video clip on YouTube of an anorexic being interviewed by a reporter. When the anorexic revealed her daily food intake, the reporter mistakingly commented by saying, “Well that’s actually more than I thought it would be!”
I stared, shocked. The reporter had no idea what she had just done, but I knew instantly how the girl must have felt hearing that. I knew the girl’s internal thoughts, but I also knew that the reporter had expected to see something like only a half an apple a day, instead of the (still) measly portions the anorexic was allowing herself.
There is a love-hate relationship between the eating disorder where you don’t want it, but all the same you hold it dear to your heart–and even though you know you must eat more or eat less. hearing a comment about food like that is gut-wrenching.
Do I really have an eating disorder? If she says that, I must eat less. If this looks so “normal,” then I’m not doing enough.
I could already hear the thoughts going through this girl’s head the moment I watched the scene unfold. And yes, just as the comment was uttered, the girl, looking stoney-faced, stood up abruptly and left the room.
“Did I say something?” the woman had asked, her eyebrows raised, worried. “I thought that was helpful to say!”
Just as I would not dub anyone who might comment on my food as “cruel,” any comments my mom made about my food would not be considered cruel either. It was how my eating disorder interpreted it and warped my beliefs–just as this scene with the anorexic girl illustrated. And since you can’t prevent everyone from making innocent comments like this and completely remove yourself from the world, I’ve learned to take the random comments I hear that might harm me and reassure myself of their true meaning. This is tough work, and sometimes these innocent comments feel like a slap in the face, but I know the logical side of Rachael must take them with a grain of salt and move on.
This is part of recovery.
MOM 2

Special thanks to Peter Draugalis

The Best Mom I Could Ask For
I would like to highlight what my mom has done for me–because after I explained everything about my eating disorder, after I told my mom what bothered me most, the innocent but eating-disordered-bully comments have died down. She knows what not to say around me–again, not because the comments are inherently cruel, but because they trigger me. She has been the most patient, caring, loving mother I could ever ask for through all of this. In fact, she was one of the first people I told about my eating disorder. We were both just as inexperienced and confused about what an eating disorder meant, so it was hard to know where to go after I confessed.
My mom, besides offering to weigh me (we laugh about this now, although at the time it was one of the worst things you could do–she simply did not understand), offered all the help she could give–including seeking help, which I at first refused. One of the greatest things she could do for me was listen, and she definitely did that. But she has gone above and beyond, as well–she has listened, researched, gone to parent meetings, and agreed to read some of the eating disorder books I’ve suggested to her to help her understand (including, recently, a graphic memoir called Inside Out: Portrait of an Eating Disorder by Nadia Shivack, which I highly recommend). My mom has listened hours upon hours to my questions and insights, has allowed me to open up more than ever before. I have become more of myself through this whole journey and it’s a huge thanks to her. In a way I am thankful for my struggles because they have allowed me to be as truthful as possible about my feelings–something that I’ve done for the first time in my life. I have never felt more like Rachael, even as uncomfortable as I am in my own body.
Our parents are not perfect, but mine are pretty darn close. I do believe that family dynamics can be part of triggers of eating disorders, but that comes with a combination of many outside factors–personalities, mass media, and simply who we are as people. There are parts of the relationship between my mom and I that have been strengthened because I finally told her exactly how the comments she made made me feel–because her comments, although harmful to me, did not make her a bad mother. They just allowed me to open up to show her how I really felt, which in the end only helped me. I have become more myself than ever before not only because I allowed myself to speak, but also because my mom allowed herself to listen.
That, I believe, makes her one of my greatest heroes.
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Guest Post: Lize Brittin’s Journey Part 2

(See Part 1 of Lize Brittin’s journey here).
After 20 years of struggling, my life started to feel different. Over time, I was able to find joy again. I could run again without having to force myself to be at the top.
During this transition, I noticed a strong correlation between my thoughts and my speech and how I was feeling. The more I switched my focus away from food, calories and miles, the more I could allow myself to be in the moment, and this was a way for me to temporarily forget that I was anorexic. I aimed at avoiding triggering statements like, “I feel fat” and instead tried to uncover what this symptom meant. Was I tired, afraid or lonely? Did this translate into feeling uncomfortable? Digging for the cause of the symptom rather than focusing on the symptom itself was essential to my recovery.
Over time, the thoughts that were so oppressive started to abate and move to the background. Before long, I started to notice that those thoughts would completely disappear for short periods. Soon, the periods of time without the distorted thoughts stretched into longer and longer segments until I was more focused on living and less obsessed with what I was eating, how I was exercising or how my body looked.
There’s a saying in AA that goes something like: First it gets easier, then it gets harder. After that it gets really hard. Then it gets easier again, and then you start to live.
This is exactly what happened for me. In the beginning, the thought of change brought some hope, so it got easier to leave old patterns that no longer serve me behind. Then I realized that a lot of emotion and feelings were coming up when I was no longer disassociating through the illness. After that, I had to move through the challenging emotions and address past traumas. This was the hard part. Fortunately, I started to get the hang of it, and before long, I noticed that I had suddenly become a participant in the world. The nightmare that was my life was in the past.
When people were concerned that my illness would come back, I was reassured that I now have the tools to stay one or even two steps ahead of it.
If I could give only one piece of advice to anyone struggling with an eating disorder, it would be to hold on to the belief that a full recovery is possible. You may not know what that looks like, but the more you can imagine how you want your life to be, the more you can strive to make it happen.
I want to thank Rachael Steil for her efforts in raising awareness and supporting other runners who battle eating-related issues. Knowing we are not alone is a comforting thought, and feeling supported can push us to make the changes we need.
I am absolutely honored to have had Lize Brittin guest post on my blog. To read more, please visit her blog, Training on Empty. Make sure to view her book posted there as well, as it is an insightful, powerful read.
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