I grew up as a figure skater from the age of 9. Though it absolutely became fuel for my eating disorder, for a great deal of the time, skating was simply an authentic expression of movement that felt good in my body.
I loved the feeling of ice under my skates. I loved that skating combined a flexible/ artistic component with athleticism It felt like the perfect combination of both aspects of movement for me. Stretching, jumping, gliding and strengthening all felt really good.... until my eating disorder entered the picture.
Like most good things in our lives, my eating disorder hijacked my relationship with my body, movement and of course, food. Movement now became about how my body looked rather than how it felt, and calculating calories in versus calories out. This resulted in me being obsessed with going to the gym.
I was a slave to the elliptical and the bright red numbers running across the screen.
Eventually my eating disorder led to full blown addiction to drugs and alcohol so exercise took a back seat. Throughout most of college, I was too busy trying to control my body weight and shape through alcohol and adderall to bother going to the gym.
Though I dabbled with yoga the summer before my senior year in college, it was not until a year later, when I got into recovery from my eating disorder, that I experienced the true power of it. As part of my recovery, it was recommended to me to not exercise by running, going to the gym or do anything that I used to do in my active eating disorder. Instead, I was encouraged to move mindfully, and do something where I had NO idea how many calories I was burning. Although this was difficult for me to do at the time, it was so important and I learned so much about my motivation for moving my body.
I was able to see clearly how I would use exercise as a way to justify or compensate for what I had eaten, rather than moving my body in a way that felt good.
Enter yoga. Yoga first and foremost taught me how to breathe. Part of what my eating disorder robbed me of was my ability to take a full, deep, belly breath. I hated the idea of my stomach expanding and would only take shallow chest breaths. The yoga classes I took also had no music, which was so important for me in the beginning because it forced me to be present, and tune into my surroundings rather than zoning out.
Yoga also taught me how to tune in to what my body wanted and needed through stretching and movement. I was able to discover how different yoga poses felt in my body.
As one of my first yoga teachers stated, "your mat is your laboratory."
I was able to notice, if I bent this knee slightly, it would create a different sensation in my body and if I tried this alignment, the strength shifted from my core to my legs. I became interested in the way body felt rather than how it looked. My relationship with my body began to change. Through this physical movement, I began to understand viscerally that I was NOT my thoughts. This was a breakthrough moment for me that completely changed my healing .
Soon after, I went on to become a yoga teacher and practiced and taught consistently for 5 years. A year and a half ago, I got burned out from yoga and took an 8 month break from teaching and practicing. Although it was scary and rocked a huge part of my identity, it was one of the best things that I ever did for myself. I discovered other ways to move my body that feel REALLY good and have been able to exercise intuitively. I've discovered how if I bring principles of yoga, such as: mindfulness, breath, gaze and alignment many things can be "yoga". It just looks differently.
My relationship with my exercise has transformed in the past few years and looks very different. I believe our relationships with our bodies and our habits should change and evolve as we do. We need different things at different times of our lives and seasons. I love that And it has continued to evolve and change and I continue to listen throughout my recovery journey. This has led to the creation of intuitive exercise.
Lately, I've been back in a yoga kick, although these days I really love practicing on my own, sometimes with my eyes closed to really tune in. I've discovered how to notice what my body needs and craves through looking at components like : environment, intensity, type of movement and instruction.
Check back on the blog tomorrow for the nitty gritty details of exactly "How to Exercise Intuitively."
Despite it being "the most wonderful time of the year", the holidays can be tough, especially for those of us with Substance Use Disorders or Eating Disorders. After making it through quite a few sober and eating disorder symptom free holiday meals, and supporting hundreds of women through them, I've compiled a list of my best tips that I myself have used as well as my clients. Enjoy and happy holidays!
5 Tips for Sober Thanksgiving
1. 📝Create a plan! If you aren’t hosting, see if you can drive by yourself or with someone who knows your situation. That way, if you get triggered or things get tricky, you can make a getaway! ⠀
2. 📚If you find support at 12 step meetings, see if you can go to a meeting at some point during the day. Or some people find “bookending” helpful. Go to one before and after the meal to enhance your plan! Many 12 step fellowships have meetings every hour on holidays.⠀ .
3. 🙋♀️Tell someone! Even if you don’t want to tell your whole family you aren’t drinking, see if you can tell one person who is coming with you so they can support you, whether that’s leaving with you or pulling you away from a dunk uncle asking questions! ⠀
4. 🥤Bring something fun to drink! People ask less questions if you are super excited about the new flavor of La Croix you brought with you! Or if you feel inspired you could make a fun mocktail for yourself so you feel less like you are missing out. ⠀
Note- with this one, having mocktails can be tricky if you are trying to pretend you’re drinking or making it similar to a cocktails. It’s also risky to have a mocktail that looks like a drink everyone else is having bc you could pick up the wrong drink! Check yo’self and check your motives!
5. 🙋♀️Safety first! For some of us, if our family drinks an unhealthy amount, or there is significant family strain, thanksgiving with may be straight up unsafe in early sobriety. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries, say no, and create/ attend your own thanksgiving with your own people! There’s no shame in protecting yourself and your sobriety, even if it some people don’t understand it.
5 Tips to stay Eating Disorder Free on Thanksgiving
1. Reduce overwhelm! ⠀
For my ED friends, the sheer volume of food can be overwhelming. See if you can have a friend make a plate for you rather than serving yourself to avoid obsessing or analyzing 🤯about food and what to eat. ⠀
2. Try a buffet!⠀
Okay normally, buffets are overwhelming for those of us with EDs, but at family dinners, encouraging your family to setup a buffet rather than eating family style can actually be helpful! This way, you won’t have to stare at the food the whole meal.⠀
3. Say grace!⠀
No need for it to be religious, no need to even have your family to do it with you, but taking a moment to pause before the meal 🥘 reduces #anxiety and encourage you to eat more mindfully!⠀
4. Eat normal meals on Thursday ⠀
This is a big one! I’m sure you’ve heard it before, starving yourself the day of a big meal or the day before only sets yourself up for disaster! Also if possible, see if your family can have a the meal at lunch or dinner time versus 2-4pm which can put you in a gray area for meals! ⠀
5. Plan something to do after the meal⠀
When I was in early #edrecovery my family had a ritual of going to the movies after dinner! It was a great thing to do to distract me after a hard meal and also get out of the house and remind us that thanksgiving is just a meal rather than an entire overwhelming event. Go for a walk, head to a friends house, play a board game! Take the focus off the food and get connected with loved ones! ⠀
Hope you enjoy this list and feel free to comment below with your best tips!
Hey guys! Although Maddie joined our team in August, I wanted to officially introduce her to all of you and share about her background and experience.
Maddie and I went to graduate school together at La Salle University. We met in 2012 in the same ethics class. Since we are both a little awkward and are introverted, it wasn't until we. actually ran into each other at the same yoga class that we hit it off! Since then we have attended and co-lead multiple yoga and therapy trainings together. We both went on to work in the addiction field at separate treatment facilities and reunited after Maddie completed her requirements for licensure.
Besides having a lot in common in terms of our background, experience and philosophies, one thing that I love about Maddie as a therapist is she has a different perspective on addiction. While I was the "identified patient" in my household, the one with the addiction and eating disorder in my family, Maddie grew up as the sibling of a child with addiction. She knows first hand the tole addiction and mental health issues can take on the entire family, even those not afflicted.
She is such an asset and I'm so excited for you guys to get to know her and work with her. She specializes in working with women with anxiety, depression and substance use disorders as well as their families. She also is our official online video counseling therapist! So if you don't live in the Philadelphia area, cannot make it into the office, or generally just have anxiety about in-person therapy, she is your girl! Don't know about you, but doesn't having a therapy session in the comfort in your home, wearing pjs sounds awesome?!
Maddie is a master at making you feel comfortable in video sessions. We promise you, your online sessions with be just as effective and not awkward at all! We have a HIPPA compliant video counseling platform, and all you need to get started is your email. You can even conduct them from your phone or iPad. Email Maddie for more questions and information.
A few words from Maddie
"As a therapist my philosophy is to 'meet you where you are' and I practice implementing change and providing insight at a pace that you are comfortable with. My goal is to assist you in identifying and letting go of limiting beliefs you have about yourself and the world that no longer serve you. I utilize a variety of therapeutic approaches including motivational interviewing, solution focused therapy, gestalt therapy, and body-based approaches such as yoga and mindfulness. I believe that therapy is a collaborative process and a journey we are in together.
As Ram Dass says, 'we are all just walking each other home'
In addition to therapy I am also a certified yoga instructor and reiki practitioner. I strongly believe in the mind-body connection and I feel that true change comes from holistic healing and addressing all parts of the self- mind, body, and spirit. I am passionate about empowering other women as I believe that stronger, healthier women create a better world for everyone. In my free time I enjoy yoga, weightlifting, cooking, reading, traveling and watching movies with my cat and husband!"
Amanda & Maddie
I've been typing and deleting and trying to muster up the courage to write this post for the last 24 hours. Its so clear to me how important it is to write this post, and yet, like everyone, I hate vulnerability and recoil from it like a hot flame. Must look good, must not embarrass oneself or others, must not cause a commotion, what if people identify who it is? are just a few sentences that run through my head in attempts to not post.
But screw it. Here we go. Nine years ago I was raped. I was at a party and was very drunk and high during my active addiction. I knew the guy and he was older than me and really cool. I desperately wanted him to like me. I hazily remember him inviting me back over to his place and I accepted. I had only had sex with 2 people at that point in my life and both were serious boyfriends. This had been a value of mine, and it was a big part of who I was. Soon after going over to his place, things began to move quickly and I asked him to stop. He ripped my dress and pushed me on the bed. He refused to use protection despite my protests. I remember at some point, he left and other people came into the room. I was lying naked and helpless on the bed, I was too intoxicated to speak or move.
I woke up the next morning covered in bruises. I walked back to my dorm the next morning in my ripped dress I had to hold together, feeling so ashamed. I was so angry at myself for getting so wasted. I thought it was my fault. I rationalized and made sense of the situation by saying that I must have wanted to have sex with him.
Soon after, my drinking and drugging spiraled out of control. I stopped caring about myself or my values. I became very promiscuous.
Years later, while studying to be a therapist in school, I learned that promscuity is actually a response to sexual trauma. If a child is physically abused, a common way a child's brain will reprocess the trauma is through re-enacting the same behavior with toys (or other children). The child will do the same behaviors and often mimic the same words that were said to him or her. This is the reason that so many female strippers or prostitutes have a history of sexual trauma, they learn (unfortunately for many at a young age) how to survive, and that survival includes using their body for sex often so that somebody else doesn't use it for themselves instead. Learning this dramatically impacted my life. For the first time since iI was clear that I wasn't a bad person or a slut. I didn't "want this" just because of my sexual history that followed. And it is the reason I'm so passionate about working with young women.
If we can convince ourselves that it was our idea, it gives us a sense of control. We feel as though it won't happen again, or in the very least, it will be our choice and thus less painful.
There are many therapists who choose not to disclose to their clients. I have lots of respect for them. I know what I'm doing is risky. They believe that it is better to be a mirror and be as plain and objective as possible in order to bring healing to their clients. I have a different opinion. I find that there is so much power in sharing, in a client both seeing me and being seen. For me , this type of one-sided therapeutic relationship did not work. I needed a clinician who I trusted, who I knew had gone through a similar experience to me, who I believed would understand me. This is why I share. This is why I self disclose.
Because if its one thing I've learned from being in therapy and also facilitating tons of it over the years, its that there is so much power in speaking our truth. In sharing our stories with each other, in shining light on the darkness. And ultimately, saying, ME TOO!
P.S. Disclaimer: please note that the #metoo campaign is a spectrum. It doesn't necessarily look just like rape. Many women have been groped, assaulted, name called etc. and absolutely fit into this category. This is simply my experience. Abuse is a spectrum and is up to the individual to choose and classify for his or herself is she falls into that category. It is never our right to label someone else's experience.
I was sitting in an AA big book meeting roughly a year ago. I opened the cover and scribbled on the first page read "willingness without action is fantasy." The quote hit me in the stomach. Sometimes we need that in recovery...a wake up call. The quote found me at exactly the right time. Since grad school I had been saying that I wanted to start my own private practice but somewhere along the way I found comfort and security in my job at a drug and alcohol rehab center. I had steady pay, plenty of support and the comfort of knowing that I would always have a steady stream of clients. Being in private practice is...vulnerable. People cancel, they relapse, they no-show, they get angry, and you don't have a larger institution to support and protect you when things get messy. I've learned vulnerability is messy, as is anything worth having in life.
So there I am sitting at a meeting on a Friday night with truth staring me right in the face. It begged the question, the dream of opening a private practice would remain, just that, a fantasy, without action. The very next day I created a plan for how my private practice could become a reality in one year. I set a date and I began sharing this with other people and began to learn what it would actually take. The truth is, it doesn't matter how willing we are, if we put it on a dream board or meditate about it if we are not taking action. Don't get me wrong, I'm a proponent of all such things, its just that wanting it is not sufficient for actually making it happen. The entire point of manifestation is to put us in a space where we are willing to take action and new opportunities to act open up for us.
While I may be talking about something that is more of a luxury, I am clear that this quote applies to all parts of our life. When we are struggling, its easy to be willing. We say we will do anything to get better, to feel better, to not keep repeating our destructive patterns. Then, we take action. And guess what? Things get better. But somewhere along the way we lose our willingness. Saying that we are willing or "being" willing makes no difference. It is only through ACTION that things can move forward. So my invitation to you today is, whether you are struggling with something such as depression, anxiety, or an addiction, or you are simply looking to take the next step in your life, as yourself... what actions am I taking? If the answer is none, get real with yourself...I ask you, what is it going to take?