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Let’s rewrite the story.

In fifth grade I stood with my hands on the counters, levitating myself above the scale.  First my big toe, then my entire foot – what would the number be? I saw the real number and shuddered.  No, that can’t be it. At ten years old I held onto the counter and lifted some of my weight off the scale to see the number plummet.  A lower number, I was satisfied.

In sixth grade I refused to wear pants because I wouldn’t let anyone see the size of my thighs.  I wore only long skirts and dresses. At home I would stand in front of the mirror and stare at my legs. Why? I thought to myself.

In seventh grade I had to go swimming.  I wore long swim shorts so no one could see the real me.  I pulled the swim shorts down so that they could practically reach my knees – only then was I comfortable, only then was I safe.

In eighth grade I stood in front of the mirror before changing and imagined cutting off the parts of my body I was not satisfied with: my hips, my stomach, my thighs.  I wanted them to disappear, I did not want to be associated with those things anymore.

Let’s end the stigma around our bodies.  Let’s not allow little girls to grow up thinking that their body parts are things to be hidden.  Let’s celebrate health at every single size, because there is no one size fits all.  Let’s stop advocating for diet fads and start celebrating everything in moderation.  Let’s rewrite the story the way we want it to be:

In fifth grade I stood with my hands on the counters, staring at myself in the mirror and smiling.  I noticed my curly brown hair and laughed – I loved how much I looked like my dad.

In sixth grade I wore skirts and long dresses because I loved the look of them.  I loved how the fringe would flutter in the wind.

In seventh grade I got to go swimming and I wore my favorite swimsuit that my mom and I had picked out together before cannonballing into the lake.

In eighth grade I stood in front of the mirror before changing and said thank you to my body.  Thank you stomach for digesting my food, thank you legs for allowing me to run, jump, and dance.  I felt fortunate for my health, and appreciate of my body.

 

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There was a time…

There was a time…

When I feared upcoming doctor appoints,

When I was scared of the fine line I walked between school and treatment.  

There was a time…

When I felt utterly numb and closed off to my emotions

When food was my absolute enemy

When even the sight of butter made me squirm.

There was a time…

When my life was reduced to what I was eating – or rather, what I wasn’t eating, and how much I was walking in a day.

There was a time…

When I thought that this way of living would be my forever

When I truly could not fathom a life without Anorexia.

There was a time…

when the number on the scale defined absolutely everything.

This was one year ago.

And now today, there are times…

When I choose to eat ice cream, to go out to dinner with my friends, or to snack while watching a TV show

Choosing recovery means that today, there are times…

When I feel truly happy with myself

When I feel like I am really enough.

There are times…

When I look around at my life and I wonder why I gave all of it up for Anorexia.

When my brain isn’t thinking only about food.

When I live utterly in the moment.

I don’t wan’t to oversimplify or minimize recovery.  There are still times when I really struggle with the person I am now.  There are times when I miss the simplicity of being “sick.” A lot of my identity was tied up in being that person, and now I feel almost bare without the cloak of malnourishment.  It can sometimes be scary to feel as though the real, true me is now exposed. But it can also be invigorating.

The happiness I have found in my recovery journey thus far so outweighs the struggles I still go through.  Actually feeling my emotions is so much better than stumbling through life, barely aware of what is going on.  I would say I still have a lot of work to do and I am definitely not “there” yet. But what I think is so exciting is that despite only being at the beginning, I am already reaping the benefits of choosing recovery.  

I have learned that I am not going to wake up one day miraculously “recovered.”  It is going to take time for my body to trust me again, for my brain to realize that food is literally just food, not some kind of frightening monster.  But I have also learned that if I simply choose recovery every single day, then that will be enough. Eventually, I will get “there,” it will just take time and a whole lot of perseverance.  

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Three Simple Crackers

How does it feel to get in a fight with your mind over crackers?

That probably isn’t a question you’ve ever asked before.  Or maybe it is, and you understand exactly what I mean. Maybe it’s not specifically crackers but something else – a piece of fruit, a granola bar, some nuts.

“Georgia.  You think you need those three crackers?  No you do not. You’ve had plenty of food today” says Ana.

“But I’m actually really hungry.  I had lunch a while ago and I don’t think that this will ruin my dinner.  It’s just a few crackers” the real Georgia says in response.

“You won’t be hungry for dinner, and then what will happen?  You won’t be able to eat for a long, long while. I don’t want that for you.  Let’s put the crackers away. That’s it, right back into the bag.”

“Okay, but what about if I walk the long way home after this?  Then surely I would deserve the crackers and some dinner.”

And maybe Ana gives in here.  If she does, she still won’t let you get off that easy.  If you eat those crackers, there is still a trade off, a due that must be payed.  It is not as simple as munching on an afternoon snack. Because that snack has repercussions, it continues to play in your mind long after you’ve eaten it.

When eating is no longer just about popping a few crackers in your mouth, when it becomes a mental obstacle course you must navigate every single day, it gets exhausting.  But we must press on regardless, because each time we successfully complete the course, it gets just a little bit easier. We engrain it into our muscle memory, we memorize every twist and every turn.  Next time, that voice that argues with you over crackers is just a little bit less defiant.

And I know that someday, I will pop those three crackers into my mouth without even a second thought.  I’ll forget five minutes later I even had them in the first place. I won’t dwell on it, it won’t matter to me in the slightest.  Because Ana will have been outnumbered, beaten down by persistence and determination. She will no longer have a say in my day to day life.  She sure as hell won’t be allowed to have a thirty minute argument with me over the merits of eating a few simple crackers.

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I Choose Recovery Today, Sorry ED

This morning I woke up to a rainy, drizzly day.  If you know me, this is my absolute favorite weather.  It means hot coffee and cozy sweaters, sitting in a cafe or maybe curling up and watching a movie.  Waking up to the pattering of rain on the roof, I was in a great mood. I felt like nothing could stop me from truly enjoying the day.

I had a doctors appointment to check up on my weekly progress, and I was excited to get through it and return home to enjoy an afternoon with my family.

At the appointment, I was told that I had made my first step towards weight gain since I was released from residential treatment last month.

“Yes!  Finally, I am moving forward.”

Okay, so maybe this wasn’t really what popped into my head…

What I was actually thinking was, “Wow Georgia, you gained weight.  You’ve been eating far too much. You need to slow down and probably start doing some cardio.”

But then I started to go on with my day and the thought of restricting brought me so much sadness.  A wave of desperation washed over me as I thought about returning to the misery of reducing my food intake, of making it through the hours without any energy.

The truth was, despite my small gain, I had still woken up as hungry as ever that morning, and my body was still fighting to return to a healthy weight again.  Why did something that should have been so natural – weight gain – need to ruin my entire day? Why was I so mad at myself for something as simple as hunger?

As I thought more about it, I realized I didn’t have to do this to myself.  I didn’t have to listen so wholeheartedly to what Ed was saying. Hadn’t I been so much happier in the past week listening to my body, rather than the demon in my head?

So I am now sitting in a cafe, the rain still coming down on the window beside me.  I am enjoying my morning snack and a coffee to go along with it. Today, regardless of weight gain, I have committed to recovery.  Today, I am choosing recovery because it makes me happy.  I don’t know where I will be tomorrow or the next day, but that doesn’t really matter to me right now.  Because today, I am going to make it a good day, and Ed isn’t going to get in the way of that.

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Let’s not take life so seriously

Sometimes, all we need is a reminder to not take life so seriously.

A lot of my time is spent contemplating my reason for existence.  What was I put on this earth to do and how can I help others?  How can I prevent other people from falling into the same eating disorder trap that I did?  How can I reach out to others who are struggling before it is too late?

And the questions that plague me don’t stop there.  How can I turn my career into something rewarding and fulfilling?  How can I feel like in my occupation, I am making a difference?  How can I put my education to good use?

Every time I hear a conversation about the newest weight less trend or diet fad I feel an urgency.  An urgency to stop these thoughts and this mindset from continuing to infiltrate our society.  A desperate desire to tell people that it is okay to eat, your hunger is okay, more than okay.

I get a flashback to the person I was a couple of years ago, so susceptible to these weight less messages, and so unfairly mad at myself for my normal hunger cues.  And then I just get sad.  Sad because I don’t want anyone else to go through that, sad because I picture another little girl or boy, believing these messages as wholeheartedly as I did.

Believing that yes, they could subsist on just an apple.  Believing that yes, working out for that long is normal and “healthy.”  Believing that yes, they need to change their body because as it is currently is not okay.  And I just cannot stand to sit around idly as this happens.

Thus, these contemplations spring me into action.  And although they are positive and help me to stay motivated, at times they can inhibit me from living in the moment.  Sometimes, I find myself worked up into a frenzied panic because I am not accomplishing all that I want to be at this very moment.

With all this thought about the future and what could and should be, I need a reminder to just live.  A reminder that the present is here and important and I cannot spend my entire existence future tripping and contemplating.  I strongly believe that what is meant to happen will happen. Thus, if I keep my will to not only recovery but also to help others recover, then I will eventually make a difference.

I always thought the saying “If I help one person then it will all be worth it” was rather cliché.  Wouldn’t you want to help as many people as possible?  But then I thought about it.  If I helped one person to stay out of the depths of an eating disorder, to keep a healthy relationship with food and exercise, to always love themselves, I would feel so incredibly fulfilled.  Just to think that one person escaped those hardships would truly be enough for me.  And that is the sole reason of why I keep writing.

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The Urge to Move – Update

I would love to know if any of you guys have been struggling with or can relate to the feeling that all day, you must be either doing something productive or moving your body.  Recently, I have been doing so much better with not restricting and listening to my body and its hunger cues. With that, I feel like there has been an increase in my desire to move my body.  Of course, there is the natural movement that I think is healthy and in balance but I find that around three pm I hit a low point and I feel the need to excessively move.

I cannot be doing nothing during the day, I cannot relax or take a breath.  The only times when I feel I can rest are in the mornings when I first wake up and in the evenings after my day is done.  This leaves for a physically and mentally exhausting day in which I am constantly pushing myself to tick something off the to do list, to move my body as much as I can, or to being doing something that my eating disorder deems appropriate, an activity that is not “lazy.”

What becomes so tricky, is the fact that its becoming harder to just enjoy my days.  Relaxing no longer gives me the pleasure that it used to because my brain is screaming at me to get up and do something.  I have to write blog posts either in the morning or at night because during the day, I cannot tolerate sitting down for a lengthy amount of time.

I think the first step to overcoming this is just noticing it, and I have definitely taken toll of the urge and its power over me.  I know when I am tired and when I should sit down so I am working on blocking out times in the day when I need to rest. I have found that planning this out has made it easier, almost as though relaxing is my “homework” so to speak.

I am still working on it everyday, and it is still incredibly hard.  As I am writing this post in particular, it is no longer the morning and I am feeling quite compelled to get up and do something active.  I am sitting in my desk chair in my room and have just taken my dog for a walk, so I decided it was time to sit down and write about the urge to move.  It is hard to feel as though you are doing “nothing,” to feel like you could be doing something more productive or more beneficial for yourself. What I often have to do is reframe the feeling and realize that sitting down is actually very good for me, even essential.

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Mornings

Mornings are by far my favorite time of the day.  I love waking up before everyone else and enjoying a cup of coffee in the silence of a new day.  The morning is when I leave time for myself to actually sit down and rest. It is the time when my head is the clearest and I am able to plan for the coming day.  The morning is always an opportune time for me to get my schoolwork done and finish all my studying. Those who know me know that by the time seven PM rolls around I am getting ready for bed and am already winding down.

Because I know that mornings are the best time for me, I have been trying to use this time to my advantage.  Recently I have been adjusting my morning routine to better align with my recovery goals. I have found that starting the day off on the right foot has made all the difference in keeping my day recovery focused.

Regardless of what has happened the day prior, I try to start fresh the next day and that begins with something I used to fear: breakfast.  Now, it is no longer a cup of black coffee that I enjoy in the morning but also a breakfast to go along with it. I have integrated this meal into my morning routine, so the idea is no longer so intimidating and daunting.  Granted, it remains a meal that holds power over me, as the idea of skipping it and going along with my day is quite tempting. However, with the help of my parents I have found I can manage it.

And the craziest thing has happened, breakfast is starting to become my new normal.  Starting my day off each morning with the meal has normalized it slightly, so that by the time I start college I hope that it will become something near second nature.  The more I repeat this ritualistic routine the more it becomes ingrained in my life and with each passing morning the task grows just a little bit easier. I think that breakfast might become the first meal that I can sit back and truly enjoy.  I am waiting for the day when I will wake up and make my meal without the voices popping up in my head. I will choose my authentic preference which could very well range from day to day and morning to morning. But for now, I will relish in the huge progress that I have made thus far.

 

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A Piece of Chocolate

Yesterday, my family and I headed out in the early morning for a road trip to explore Minnesota, a state we visit annually in the summer.  We travelled down roads lined with looming pine trees and passed glimmering lakes that sparkled under the morning sun. We stopped at some landmark destinations, including two lighthouses and a waterfall, and eventually ended up back in the car, tired but content.

On the way home, my brother enthusiastically convinced my parents into stopping at a quaint candy shop he had seen on the drive up.  It was a little red and white house complete with two large windows and an inviting porch. It looked exactly like something I would have delighted over in my younger years, but this time I kept quiet in the backseat as my anxiety built.

My mom peered over at me with a hopeful look in her eyes, “Will you try a piece of candy?” She asked.  But all I could muster in response was a harsh, “No!” I flinched at the words as they escaped my mouth, Ed was clearly not going to let this happen.  He was going to ruin a perfectly normal time, and suck the fun out of stopping at a cute candy shop on the way home from a long road trip.

I slouched defeated against the seat of the car and popped my headphones in, returning as I often did to the music that soothed me.  As I sat with my head against the window I began to really think and I could feel the voice of old Georgia battling with the powerful and strong voice of Ed.  At first, he did not waver or falter but rather persisted on, “What have you done to deserve a piece of chocolate candy?” and I didn’t know how to argue with that.

Then I thought of all the times my family and I had made this trek up to Minnesota before.  Every summer since I was born we have packed our bags and relished in the sacred family time this state has given us.  It is our two weeks of respite, our time to get away from the real world and just be with each other. I thought of the trips I had made up here without my eating disorder, how happy I was, how I would not have even hesitated at the thought of a piece of chocolate.  And then I reflected on my trip up here last year, how it was ruined and tainted by the darkness of Ed that all but consumed me. How I spent my time plotting and planning reducing my food intake and obsessing over exercise. And in that moment, I made a choice. The old Georgia grew stronger with each passing mile and by the time we had reached the candy shop, I had all but won the battle in my head.

We walked in and I selected a chocolate coconut piece of candy.  I will not lie, I felt guilty and undeserving and I walked out into the cool, crisp air as soon as I had made my order.  The rest of my family delighted in the treats offered at the store, and picked out two to three pieces of candy. We all piled back into the car and I took a bite of my sweet treat.  For all of the anxiety it stirred up, there was an equal amount of pride, because I had just wholeheartedly defied my eating disorder. It may seem like such a small step, a piece of candy may seem like no big deal, but to me, it meant a whole lot.  If I keep continuing to win these battles and continue finding these recovery moments soon I hope they will become natural to me. Eventually, I hope the anxiety will fade, and one day, I could be a girl who jumps at the chance of a piece of chocolate.

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A Subtle Shift – Update

For me, sticking to my meal plan after my first discharge from residential did not go according to plan.  I couldn’t understand why, I had it all mapped out – I had timers set on my phone and specific times when I would eat meals.  I even went grocery shopping and methodically planned dinners with my family. What was I missing? I could not have been more prepared.  So why did the voice of Ed creep up slowly but surely, trying desperately to yet again take control of my life.

So I went back to residential, I worked hard to weight restore and I fought against the voice clanging in my head.  And when I was discharged the second time, something had happened. I still don’t really know what clicked, and I still fall back and make mistakes daily, but something small yet important had shifted in my mind.

There was something in the way I could now go for an hour without worrying about food or exercise that allowed me to catch a glimpse of living in the moment.  Or enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning without trying to find a way to get out of breakfast. Or laughing with my family and actually having the energy to do so.  And the thought slowly occurred to me, “I am so much happier now than the false pretense of happiness I had in the depths of anorexia.”

It was as if I had been offered a window into the life I used to have, and the life I could have again.  And suddenly, food and exercise lost just a little bit of the power over me.  Granted, it wasn’t some momentous shift, I wasn’t suddenly “recovered,” but it was something and I grabbed onto this feeling like a life preserver.

Now, whenever I don’t want to eat my snack or finish my meals, I think about that concept, the idea of truly living in the moment, and I find that my motivation flares up.  Rather than regard that snack as evil or the enemy I try and regard it as energy. Energy so that I can do the things I love, be with the people I love, and achieve the things I want in life.  When food is reframed in this way, it loses some of its control.

So I have learned, it is not all about timers or preparation or even accountability.  Though important, that is only part of the puzzle piece.  I had to find a way to regard food as nourishment, something that is essential to living a rewarding life.  And it doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes, in the early morning or peaceful evening, I actually live in the present.  For a brief moment in time, I stop worrying about the past or fretting about the future and I live in that moment, and that moment only.

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What would happen?

I was walking around my town last night when I overheard another conversation held by three adult women.  I was actually on my way to meet a friend for ice cream – a very big step for me. Anyway, their topic was one not unlike others I had heard so many times before, however that night it struck me.   They were discussing another woman’s weight, glamorizing her skinny figure and seemingly revering her for the fact that she “just didn’t eat.”

Maybe it was because that was my first day out of residential treatment or because I was feeling particularly sentimental on that night but their conversation got me to thinking.  What would our world be like if we stopped discussing bodies and started admiring intelligence, personality and achievement? What would happen if we started trading tips on how to be kinder rather than how to lose weight?

Maybe their conversation would have gone something like: “Have you noticed her compassion and willingness to help others?” rather than “Have you noticed how skinny she is, I wonder how much she eats?”  When did a person’s worth start becoming dependent on their food intake and their body’s physique? When did we start placing so much importance on a thigh gap or a flat stomach?

Because this unknown woman is so much more than her body.  And in fact, she could very well be struggling but instead of noticing we praise.  Not eating and excessive exercise now yields admiration rather than concern. When did this attitude become so entrenched in the fabric of our lives?

While before, the conversation might have compelled me to turn around and walk away from the ice cream store, this time it only propelled me forward.  It also gave me a sense of urgency, I need to write about this, I thought to myself. How can we change the mindset of our society today? If we don’t stop emphasizing bodies and comparing sizes our world will forever be plagued with disordered eating and excessive exercisers.  It made me realize, I don’t want to live a life anymore where I “just don’t eat.” I want to live a life of balance, of enjoying myself when I want to and doing the things I love.