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!
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.
Have you seen the Amy Schumer's "I'm so Bad" sketch on Comedy Central?
Its a genius parody striking back at food shaming in the media. Seriously, if you haven't seen it, go to youtube it... I will wait. Let me recap it for you. 4 women sitting at a restaurant sharing about how "bad" they were with their eating habits....with no mention or issue with the actual horrific things they were doing like "cyberbulling kids on Instagram." Its a perfect play on how women in the media are depicted as feeling guilty (and therefore you should too!) for...wait for it...eating. I know horrific right? How dare a woman engage in a body behavior that is integral for her survival!
Can you imagine if we replaced the behavior of eating with something as natural as going to the bathroom? I'll paint the picture for you...4 women sitting around the table. Three of the women are able to leave their water untouched while another keeps pushing it away and then sneaking a sip! Finally, flushed now, she scurries away from the table to go to the bathroom only to slunk back to the table and cry, "I can't believe I've had to get up to pee three times tonight! You guys, I"M SOO BAD!" Comical right? But the representation is right on point.
Take that a step further to include men. Can you picture a guy feeling guilty about eating? Play around with google for an afternoon and you will see what I mean. I'm not saying they may not feel guilty, but they certainly most do not feel like an immoral human being, who is guilty of punishment in some way. Yesterday I googled "women feeling guilty." The entire first page was filled with article after article about women feeling guilty about everything from success to motherhood to eating. Once I looked at the image results of this google search, it got even sadder. Most of the photos that came up showed women eating food and feeling guilty!
Next, I googled "men feeling guilty." This first article that popped up is an article from PsychCentral entitled," "How to Deal with Women's Emotions." The remaining results primary discussed how men want to leave you but feel too guilty about it, or even more fun, men making women feel guilty about their issues. I then looked at the pictures of this search. *Brace yourselves.* There were zero, I repeat, zero pictures of men with food. In fact, only the first three photos were just men. By picture #4, there were pictures of women feeling guilty while the man looks annoyed and couples in arguments. There was certainly no pictures of men feeling guilty for eating a steak.
The closest I got to an ad with men feeling guilty about food is the photo above, which is honestly almost worse because the guy feels guilty for "not reading the girls mind" when she is PMSing. This is seriously an ad for guys to buy their girls milk in order to "calm her down".
If women are portrayed as enjoying food in advertisements or media, their is typically a sexual innuendo attached to it. Think of the stereotypical Carl Junior ad's Paris Hilton did back in the day...or almost every chocolate commercial you have ever seen. Seriously, I don't know who started this, but every chocolate ad appears to be advertised towards women as a way to feel sexy and "be bad" in a sexualized way. Do you see the ad above? It literally reads "Filthy. Indulge your obsession for chocolate."
Compare this to men. All the photos you find when you google "men eating" show pictures of men "chomping" down on food, or enjoying food with their friends. There is no guilt, there is no hesitation or need to sneak or lie about what they are eating. Also, to be clear, men have their own issues associated with food, body image, and advertisements and men absolutely have eating disorders. However, if you look at the photos of men eating versus women on the whole, men are represented as having a significantly healthier relationship with food than women.
It's no wonder when examining a minute portion of advertisements and social media that women have issues with food and sexuality. Women are taught to feel guilty about their bodies, their sexuality and their appetites. And while I am very clear that there has been a lot of progress, there is a reason Amy Schumer's sketch is so relevant Its one of those sketches that as a woman, you laugh "almost" too hard, as if your giggles may reveal that you relate a little too much. Again, not with the cyber bullying, but with eating so much cake you fear your friends will actually think you're a monster!
So in closing this week, I leave you with one therapy nugget, a "therapy snack " if you will, no pun intended...to take away from this week's #fiveminutetherapy,..
Dear woman, go be YOUR BAD SELF! The world needs you. All of you. The good, the bad and the what you perceive as ugly.