Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hi faithful readers!  A few months back I switched my blog to my new wordpress website at I'd love for you to follow me there and comment away.  I've got a wonderful intern who is helping me get posts up weekly!

Here is a screen shot of the page so you know you're in the right place:
THANK YOU!  I look forward to seeing you there and hearing your thoughts.
Becky Henry
Hope Network, LLC
Sept 26, 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

MN Eating Disorders Support

An open invite to eating disorders advocates in Minnesota/Wisconsin from Melrose Institute:
Be our guest on May 9th at the Be You fundraising event to benefit Park Nicollet Melrose Institute. 
On May 9 from 5:00 - 7:45 p.m., we will host an evening of inspiration and creativity. Learn how Melrose programs help more than 1,500 people each year who are struggling with food and body image issues build healthy lives, bodies and heal.   The evening will showcase the creative arts and the healing process. 
A special part of the evening will be a performance of “To Eat” produced by Hippocrates Café, created by Jon Hallberg, MD. Through storytelling, poetry and song, we will explore our complicated relationships with food.
This free event is made possible by the Park Nicollet Foundation. Registration is required either online or by calling 952-993-5023.

Participants will be invited to make a charitable gift (no minimum or maximum required) and contributions will benefit Melrose Institute’s art and wellness programs, education and outreach presentations to schools and community organizations, research and patient and family care programs.  
The evening program is as follows:
5:00: Check-in, reception and program displays
5:45: Program
6:30: “To Eat” a special performance by Hippocrates Café

Park Nicollet Melrose Institute is located at 3525 Monterey Drive in St. Louis Park, MN  55416.  There is free parking in our lot and ramp.

Registration is required either online or by calling 952-993-5023.

Struggling with food and body image issues can be challenging.  Park Nicollet Melrose Institute is a specialty center that helps individuals heal from all types of eating problems.  A national leader, Melrose Institute has been providing high-quality expertise and comprehensive personalized care for more than 25 years.  
At Park Nicollet Foundation, we use philanthropy to enhance the patient and family experience, promote innovation and research, and respond to the health care needs of our community. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt's blog series on Reasons For Recovery

I’m collaborating with other writers in a blog series for the month of February. The theme is: Reasons For Recovery. Anne-Sophie Reinhardt at Fighting Anorexia asked several of us advocates to blog about the topic.  I'll be sharing mine today, February 24th 2012.  

As most of you know I am the parent of someone who has fought an eating disorder for about 12 years now.  I have not ever been in recovery myself so I speak from the perspective of a parent who has fought these horrific illnesses from the sidelines, the trenches and anywhere else I can put myself.  

I'm on a mission to improve the lives of all impacted by these most deadly of all mental illnesses.  One life at a time.  I start with the family members who are walking around with their hearts ripped open from the pain they have observed in their loved ones who are being taken over by one of these monsters.

As part of that mission I am doing what I can to help raise funds for research.  The AED and Hope Network 1 Family $1 Drive for Eating Disorders Research idea came to me one morning while meditating.  There are approximately 70 million people worldwide suffering from eating disorders.  They all have at least one person who cares about them.  The idea is that if each of those carers donates $1 to this fund then there will be millions for research scholarships. Here is the website when you click on the purple words AED and Hope Network 1 Family $1 Drive for Eating Disorders Research you will be taken  to another page.  On this page put your dollar amount in the box next to the words, "Scholarship Fund"and your donation will add to the others and soon we'll have some answers.

In that role of helping the caregivers or carers I often suggest that they make a "Top 10 List" of things that they enjoy doing, that bring them peace and joy.  The purpose is to help them get their oxygen mask on so to speak.  To get their cup filled up so that they are equipped to not only function well themselves but also to be an effective support to their loved one who is so sick.

So today I am sharing my "Top 10 Reasons for Recovery! "

1. There are people who care about you and want you to live.
2. You are special because you are alive.
3. Life in recovery is amazing.
4. It gets better.
5. You have talents and gifts that are unique and the world is waiting for them.
6. Your true self is waiting to be released.
7. Your dog/bird/spider/lizard/cat/pet.
8. Having FUN!
9. Enjoying life and food and yourself.
10. It would make Becky happy to know that Ed lost and YOU won!  Truly.

Thank you all for being recovery warriors and for spreading the word about the 1 Family/$1 Research Scholarship Fund so we can have some answers and HOPE for a world without ED.
Becky Henry, CPCC
Hope Network, Inc.
Speaker, Coach and Award Winning Author of: Just Tell Her to Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders


Connect with me here: 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Anne-Sophie's Pro-Recovery Project

Today is Benjamin's day for the Pro-Recovery Project. Interesting that we have a male eating disorders blogger today since it's in the news today on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves

There are many ‘eating styles’ and many of them can actually help us to stay healthy - but some are driven by an impulsive fear of becoming fat or bigger. These can damage our health in permeable ways and are called eating disorders. The  most common disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder.

The causes for the development of an eating disorder are very complicated but research has suggested that both biological and psychological causes are prerequisites in the development of an eating disorder.

There are a broad array of eating disorder treatment options but regrettably most of that is contingent on where one lives and how much money someone has as many of the treatments can be quite costly.

I am the mind frame that the success of a treatment is very dependent firstly on one's mind frame. Some have suggested it is the path up to the road that is the journey to recovery and self discovery.

I will say that an eating disorder is never based on the symptoms. It is not really about calories, food, weight and body image...but it's really about self-worth, self-esteem, insecurity, control and the diffidence associated around one's identity.

Eating Disorders are worrying and tumultuous illnesses that sufferers and loved ones need to 'nip in the bud' at the first stage of discovery.

There are many reasons to recover from an eating disorder, but in this post I will focus on the aspect of psychological freedom.

Nothing beautiful has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was paramount to individual circumstance. This illness can plague, tarnish and jade the emotional faculty and instils within sufferers a ubiquitous obsession, infatuation and anxiety that can tarnish almost every element of one's being. I have spent numerous, mundane hours pensively exploring my mind, recognising my tendencies, frailties and strengths and recognising that despite all the perceived "benefits".... I wanted freedom. I wanted to be able to have the freedom to make an impartial action, to take an impartial, rational stance. I wanted to be able to sit down without that lingering impulse that is symptomatic of an eating disorder. Tranquillity, peace and serenity cannot be induced with a oscillating and unyielding eating disorder. There's no control in an eating disorder, but merely the illusion of such. The eating disorder controls us and it becomes so intertwined with our psyche that we start to identify with it and we start to believe that it is us. Although it is of course us, it should be differentiated from our normal, rational and healthy psychological state.

The road of recovery is a journey of self-discovery. We recognise our values, qualities, desires, strengths and weaknesses. We advance within ourselves, we question the pressures that the inane mass media invoke on us, we question those comments from others about our appearance and we ask ourselves why we deserve freedom. The most striking question that we ask is what it means to be happy and what founds the most impassioned, long lasting and healthy form of happiness?

Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you need belief, confidence and desire. Life is temporal, beautiful and amassed with opportunity, love and friendship. We only have one flight from the nest into the sunset, let us make our passage, our expedition and our reality as peaceful, free and content as possible. Be the person you want to be remembered as, defy pressures external and internal, love you, allow yourself to be loved and find oneself.

Are Eating Disorders Addictions?

Recently there was an insightful and respectful discussion about whether or not some eating disorders can be considered addictions on a closed group on Facebook for Therapists, MD's, Nutritionists and Coaches Specializing in Eating Disorders.

Dr. Cynthia Bulik posted the question in response to a query.  She shared her wisdom and suggested "we find a new word that captures the essence and uniqueness of the power that food can have over us."

In response to the many folks who contributed to the discussion about behavioral addictions among other things, Jessica Setnick had a response that I feel is worth sharing here.  It really says what I have thought all along but I didn't have the words for it. I copied this from her post on Facebook so I apologize for the tiny font and the paragraphs are mine to make it easier to read.

Knowing that none of us have all the answers, I have the utmost respect for other points of view, but I think exactly the opposite. 

I think that there are subgroups of what are now communally referred to as "eating disorders" and that is why studying treatment approaches and even drug trials provide such equivocal results. I think that eating disorders are in most cases NOT their own kind of disorder, but the eating-related SYMPTOM of some underlying issue. I think that is exactly why the DSM does a terrible job of attempting to define eaitng disorders, because it only uses the symptoms as definitions, rather than the root cause, which could be genetic, hormonal (whether innate or environmentally affected after birth), neurochemical (again either innate or modified by experience), learned behavior, or something else. In other words, 

I believe that there ARE anxiety-related eating problems, depression-related eating problems, post-traumatic eating problems, purely biochemical eating problems (PANDAS being the most obvious), obsessive-compulsive eating problems, and addictive eating problems. And though they all "look" the same, as defined by starving, binge eating, purging, or other behaviors and thought patterns, they in fact stem from different biological/biochemical processes, and therefore respond to treatment quite differently. 

In this framework, I believe there are addiction-related eating problems. This sub-type may be more frequent in those who also have other addictions. Isn't it interesting that some individuals with eating disorders are addicted to other chemicals and behaviors and some are not at all? 

We know that different foods are digested and absorbed differently by different people, why do we continue to deny that they can be metabolized differently and reacted to in the brain differently? 

I too learned in dietitian school that you can't be addicted to something that you need every day, like oxygen, but I differ now in my thinking - I think that I AM addicted to oxygen! I think that I do need it every day, every minute in fact, and that when I don't have it, I feel terrible and would do absolutely anything to get it. Including things I would never do in other circumstances, just like someone who steals money to get drugs, or food to binge on. 

I think that grouping a number of people together who are all coughing, and studying their response to cough drops is going to lead to confusing results. Because some of those people might have TB, and the cough drop will have no effect. And some of those people might be choking on a chicken bone, and adding a cough drop will make them much worse. So when you group a bunch of patients together who are all vomiting after eating, and the intervention only works on some of them, isn't it possible that there are several sub-groups and the intervention is 100% successful on one of the sub-groups and 0% successful on others? And yet we continue to insist on these definitions based on outcome behaviors rather than on etiology.

 I wish that the eating disorder community could look at things more like Irene Chatoor (sp?) with the feeding disorders. I think that is a much better model for us with much better potential to identify treatment or even a cure. 

The anxiety-related eating disorders perhaps will be treated effectively with anti-anxiety medications and CBT, while the depression-related eating disorders perhaps will be treated with anti-depressants and exercise, eg yoga. PANDAS will be treated with antibiotics and nutrition plus other possible therapies, and addictive eating will be treated with a 12-step model. 

Learned behavior eating disorders will be improved as our society becomes less obsesses and teaches better media literacy skills. I am speculating here. But it makes so much sense to me when I have seen patients who fit the exact same profile under our current nomenclature, and yet one is vomiting her food because after finding out she is pregnant after a gang rape she feels dirty ever time she eats, and the other is vomiting because she wants to make the cheerleading team. 

Two patients who are starving themselves, one because she feels guilty for being on drugs when her mother was dying of cancer and believes that if she eats then someone else in her family will die, and another who is petrified to be obese ever again after a painful childhood of abuse and bullying. We know these individuals don't need the same treatment, 

why do we insist that they have the same disease? If none of the current paradigms we have fit correctly, why not try a whole new one?

Jessica Setnick, MS, RD, CSSD, CEDRD
Author of The American Dietetic Association Pocket Guide to Eating Disorders
National Director of Training and Education for Ranch 2300 Collegiate Eating Disorders Treatment Program

6510 Abrams Road, Suite 302
Dallas, Texas 75231

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Arielle's turn in Anne-Sophie's Pro-Recovery Project

Pro-Recovery Project: Arielle's Words

Anyone who knows me, who has read my blog for the last 4+ years, and has watched my motivational speaking videos knows that I am PRO-RECOVERY. Being pro-recovery is part of my very essence. I'm happy and excited to be part of Anne-Sophie's Pro-Recovery Project, which is showcasing one recovery blogger for each day in the month of February.

Well, readers, today is my day. And it's your day too. The day is waiting for you. Don't make it wait too long.

Anyone can tell you to recover. You have to choose recovery for yourself. But what's more - you GET to chose it for yourself. It's YOUR gift. It's YOUR reward. I always like to share a little something I call Arielle's Mantra:

Recovery is possible.
It's not a guarantee. It's a possibility.
It's not simple. It is difficult and sometimes seems impossible.
It's not a one-step process. It's a multi-step process complete with twists and turns and bending roads...and roads you didn't even know were there.
It's not the same for everyone.
It's not always a happy process. It's not always a sad process.
It IS empowering.
It's not about pleasing other people. It is not about them.
It's about YOU.
It's not about perfection. It IS about emotion. It IS about honesty. It IS about self-discovery and self-affirmation.
It's not about what you don't have. It's about using what you've got.
It's not about hiding. It's about finding and displaying.
It's not a quick-fix. It's a lifelong plan set into motion by truth and nurturing and self-love.
It's not about external factors or environment. It IS about what's within.
It is not crazy. It IS real.
Recovery is possible.
This mantra has its own tab on the top of my site. It deserves its own tab, because this right here is a mantra to repeat - over and over again. It's not only my mantra for you, it's my message to you.
When it comes to eating disorder recovery, there are many different kinds of people. There are those who believe in full recovery, those who believe in full recovery – but not for themselves, and those who do not believe in it at all. I think full recovery is possible for everyone. Will it happen for everyone? No. But is it possible? Yes. You get to choose to take the steps to do it. To put your plans and goals and hopes and dreams into action. The dream of New Life FREE of an eating disorder is an excellent, worthy dream that can become a reality.

There are a lot of factors that influence a person’s ability to recover, but real recovery from an eating disorder happens, and it happens every day. It’s not a matter of beating the odds, but of beating the eating disorder.

When influential folks say that full recovery from an eating disorder is unlikely, I get angry. When they imply that full recovery will happen to one in a million (or some equally incomprehensible number), I get upset. When they focus on all the people who have NOT recovered instead of those who have, I get emotional.

It’s difficult to promote recovery to those struggling with eating disorders when they are constantly being told that the odds are against them. Why bother trying at all? If you are already deemed to be (and doomed to be) a statistic from the start, what’s the point in paying money for treatment/care/counseling or getting support from friends/family/services? Isn’t it all a waste?

The short answer is: NO. Not only is recovery completely possible, it’s also worth every effort. Whether you’re involved with a whole treatment team, simply seeing one therapist, using an alternative support system, or going it alone – recovery is possible, real, and wonderful.

I know this, because I’m a recovered individual myself. It wasn’t always an easy path. I worked hard, used support, created support I didn’t already have, and kept climbing.

Today, I’m happy and healthy in body and mind. I've been fully recovered for some years now. I live my every day, a woman who is transformed from the girl she used to be. I think things start to disappear one by one as we recover. I think the more obvious pieces go first. We get to a healthy weight (whatever that is for us and our respective disorders). We let go of behaviors. We stop berating ourselves. We stop looking for perfection. We stop seeing perfection where it doesn't exist. We let go of pain. We let go of the past. We slowly let go of the thoughts, a day at a time, until we realize one day (like I did) that they're not there. They don't accompany me. They don't hide out in my mind waiting to come out if the opportunity presents itself. Call me “fat,” call me “ugly,” call me “stupid,” tell me I "shouldn't be eating all the food" that's on my plate... and I'll still be serene and confident in myself, in my recovery, in my body and my way of life. The change has taken place. I'm okay now. It's a beautiful reality.

I can't promise you that during some terrible, sad, or scary time in my life I won’t for a split second remember how I used to cope. But I can promise you this: I'm done with my eating disorder and I'm done with the thoughts, and if one ever does re-appear in my head, it'll be gone and I'll be on my feet no matter what life throws at me, because I've found the secret. I've learned to stand.
There have been a few times I've been asked, what are your top reasons in favor of recovery? Or is it worth it? Or more often, how do you know you're recovered? 

And this is the answer I always give:

- Because my life doesn't revolve around food, exercise, feelings of hunger, my own image in the mirror, the way my clothes fit, what people say to me regarding appearance or success/failure.

-Because I actually have a life.

-Because when I wake up in the morning I am content, not filled with despair.

-Because I don't have to work at it. It is now natural.

-Because I can help others without being triggered by them.

-Because I live by what I’m writing here.

-Because I like my body.

-Because I even, most of the time, LOVE my body.

-Because I am at peace with issues of my adolescence.

-Because I can eat without over-thinking.

-Because I don't binge or purge or starve myself.

-Because I don't even WANT to binge, purge, or starve myself.

-Because I don't care what the number on a scale says and it used to incredibly define me.

-Because I am a healthy weight.

-Because I appreciate myself instead of hate myself.

-Because I feel free.

I am here in the moment and not afraid to eat, look, live, love. And you can do it too.

The length of time isn't what's important. It can take 3 years or 30 years. The goal is to get to the point where you can say, “I'm free” and mean it. Don't give yourself a deadline. Don't beat yourself up for slip-ups. Just. keep. trying.

Understand my main point: being "recovered" isn't about always being happy 100% of the time—it's about knowing what to do when you're not.

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

Put more faith in yourself than in your eating disorder. Don’t underestimate your power to move forward and stay there. It all starts with you.
(For more inspiring words and encouragement in the recovery department, visit Fighting Anorexia - and remember, once February comes to a close, Fighting Anorexia will be publishing links to every blogger who participated in the Pro-Recovery Project!)

Oh, and one more thing - just a friendly reminder:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Reasons For Recovery - Anne-Sophie Reinhardt's blog

Part of the blog series by different contributors - today is from Anne-Sophie Reinhardt who started this blog series.

Why should you even care to recover?

When the first thoughts of recovery started to occupy my mind back in late fall 2010, this questions was constantly going through my head. I still saw the life I led as too good to give up.
Why should I throw everything away, leave my husband for months and fight against this mysterious beast inside? Why should I give up a body that was so unnoticeable and therefor tolerable in order to gain weight and loathe myself even more?
Why should I change anything if life would always be sad and bleak? I could just go on like this and pretend that I am fine. I was still functioning and I would certainly know when to stop.

Eating disorders might kill others, but my anorexia would never kill me.

Knowing what I know now, I am terrified by these deceptive thoughts that are so horribly dangerous. Had I continued a few months longer on this path of self-destruction, I would have lost my life. I was in a state of confusion, sadness, emptiness and carelessness. My perception of reality was completely distorted.
I am glad I woke up just enough to start the process of healing before a disaster might have occurred.
When you recover, you give up a lot of things. You feel like you lose your life, everything you knew or thought you knew about yourself. But the truth is, you don’t.
You leave behind all the negativity that has surrounded you for so many years, in my case more than a decade. You give up destructive patterns and life-threatening behaviors and you transform yourself in ways you could have never imagined before.
I know that when you are in the midst of your eating disorder, you feel like nothing makes sense, life is just a series of horrible days, everything seems grey, bleak and hollow. You are, to put it mildly, in hell.
It is hard to imagine anything other than this. It is almost impossible to believe that life can be colorful, that feelings don’t have to hurt, that being healthy is not an unachievable goal, reserved for other, luckier people.
When friends, therapists or nutritionists tell you that your life can turn around, they lie, right? When they want to help you, they actually just want to hurt you. When they share their concern, they just want to make you feel inferior. When they tell you you need to gain weight in order to survive, they only want to fatten you like an animal.
Oh, how I know these thoughts, and how wrong they are. So utterly, utterly wrong. 
I wish I had learned sooner that the people around me truly loved me and that they were incredibly scared of this disease that had captured me. I wish I could have cared. I wish I could have seen how rich life could be and how precious every moment is. I wish I could have opened my eyes and my heart to all the beauty surrounding me.

But now, one year into recovery, I have lifted my point of view and what I see is bombastic.

Today I see what everybody around me had been talking about for so long. I feel the vibrant lust for life that others experience and I am, for the first time ever, thrilled and grateful to be alive. 
Working on myself and letting go off my eating disorder has completely changed every single aspect of my existence.
I feel the hope and the opportunity that each day embodies. I wake up full of energy, excited about the possibilities of the day. I am no longer the bundle of weakness I was a year ago, but full of energy and drive.
I can be spontaneous and make plans without them interfering with my ridiculous workout routine. I am able to drink a cup of my beloved Mocha at Starbucks without my eating disorder reprimanding me or calculating how long I’d have to slave away at the gym in order to burn the calories I consumed.
I am able to enjoy simply sitting on the couch with my husband, cuddling up to him while watching a movie. I love talking to a friend without having a guilty conscience that I am not exercising.
I appreciate my husband giving me a delicious chocolate mini cake for Valentine’s Day without freaking out about the calories and I enjoy every single bite while eating it. 
I learned that I am not just a hollow shell, but I have potential and I have so much love to give. 
I can be creative again using the space in my mind that used to be taken up by my eating disorder. I started to crawl out of my shell and actually learn to have self-confidence. I started to believe in myself and in the work I do and therefor have been more efficient and productive than ever before. I can even say that I am proud of myself without feeling ashamed.
I feel deeply, intimately and madly in love with myself and my body; a body with curves, imperfections and flaws, but so unique and forever mine. By learning to love the person that I am, I was also able to begin to love my husband on an infinitely deeper level. I am now a much better wife and lover.
I now notice the beauty in so many things that used to mean nothing to me. My taste buds have been in a state of ecstasy in the last year because of all the different, new kinds of food they were allowed to experience.
I learned to express anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness, agony or even joy without binging and purging. I don’t feel bad about feeling good about myself. I am no longer paralyzed by fear. I learned to confront it and practiced kicking it in the butt by doing it over and over again.
Problems don’t seem to be unresolvable anymore, they simply are challenges that can be mastered and that provide me with a chance to grow as a person.
Recovery teaches you many things, not only the art of eating regularly. When you recover, you learn life-changing skills that help you in all aspects of your life.

But the most important thing you learn when you heal is to take care of yourself and to rescue yourself from a fate threatening to take your life. 

Today, my life is anything but hellish and this can be true for you too. And that is exactly why you should care to recover.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reasons For Recovery

 I’m collaborating with other writers in a blog series for the month of February. The theme is: Reasons For Recovery. Anne-Sophie Reinhardt at Fighting Anorexia asked several of us advocates to blog about the topic.  I'll be sharing mine on Feb 24th.  In the meantime I'm trying to post all of the other blog posts on Reasons For Recovery.

Matt Wetsel blogs on ...Until Eating Disorders Are No More
Matt's Reasons For Recovery:
Today it’s my turn to talk about reasons for recovery! In case you didn’t know, I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.
Beyond the guilt, shame, and self-hatred of any eating disorder is a person who is entirely capable and worthy of giving and receiving love, and fully capable of recovery. The eating disorder tries to convince you otherwise, and will do anything it can to stick around. It poses as your best friend, but in truth, it wants to kill you. In fact, eating disorders result in more deaths than any other mental health condition due to the physical effects they have on the body. Usually when someone enters recovery, there are a myriad of excuses, barriers, and reasons (some real, some exaggerated, some fabricated) which stand in their way. Let’s say someone had to go into a sixty day inpatient treatment program, how do you think that someone would react to such news? Most people do not respond with enthusiasm.
Whatever things came to mind about taking sixty days off of life to go inpatient, they’re probably many of the same things that others would think and say. Maybe it’s just working a support group into the schedule or going to therapy. What I have heard the most from others who are struggling in recovery is “I can’t” followed by a long list of obligations other than recovery. Things like work, school, or relationships are often at the top of the list. None of these reasons, though, address the most important factor:
An eating disorder left untreated has the potential to kill you.
You cannot work a job, go to school, pursue a career, or have friendships or relationships if you are dead. No amount of excuses or barriers changes this fact. When treatment is being considered and I hear someone say, “I can’t!” I want to shout back “Not only can you but you have to!” Setting aside barriers and excuses, recovery comes down to a simple choice: life or death. I don’t know anyone who can honestly say that their eating disorder has ever brought them happiness. If you are reading this and currently suffering from an eating disorder, ask yourself – how does your eating disorder make you feel? Does it bring you legitimate happiness? On the contrary, the responses I’ve gotten from others are that it has brought them nothing but misery and often has ruined their life. My experience was no different. So, when considering the pros and cons of recovery, it’s a matter of choosing between continuing to be miserable and possibly die, or to have a chance at being happy and living.
That was the turning point for me, anyway. The push to do all the work necessary to recover was that anorexia was turning me into the kind of person I didn’t want to be. I was hurting friendships and relationships with excuses and lies. My grades were falling. So much of my time and energy was devoted to losing weight that I didn’t have much time for anything else, and all I had to show for it was a sunken face and an aching pain in the muscles around my heart. The choice to recover was the choice to start living my life again, for me.
While the choice may be easy, however, carrying it out can be much harder. Once again, we encounter, “I can’t!” Early in recovery, it feels impossible to eat normally without giving into whatever disordered eating behavior one has been engaging in. No matter how difficult something may seem, though, it’s neverimpossible. That word is reserved for truly unachievable things. For example, I feel comfortable saying that it’s impossible for me to fly under my own power – I’m not a superhero. By comparison, eating three meals a day without purging them doesn’t seem quite so difficult.
A lot of people with eating disorders struggle with negative self-talk. I think this is one of the most important things one can do: to counter it with a correction and remind oneself of what’s true. The eating disorder makes you say, “I can’t do this! It’s impossible!” but we count that with, “I’m having trouble doing this. It’s very hard for me, but it is not impossible.”
It’s almost like learning to speak a new language – the language of recovery. The eating disorder inserts its own voice into your mind and thoughts, masquerading them as one’s own. It has a very limited vocabulary, consisting of words and phrases to make one feel bad about themselves. You could almost say we get tricked into speaking this language, engaging in negative self-talk and focusing on arbitrary numbers like weight or caloric information instead of how we feel. The language of recovery, though, has no room for self-deprecation, negative self-talk, or the futile effort of measuring self-worth with a scale.
And it’s a language completely worth learning! I consistently find myself applying the things I learned in recovery to other parts of my life. The way I relate to people, the way I respond when others act unskillfully and feelings get hurt, and in my ability to challenge myself to do things while recognizing my own limitations.
It’s never too early to start recovery. Life is too short to spend another day, hour, or minute at war with your body, risking your health and possibly your life.

Reasons For Recovery

 I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the month of February. The theme is: Reasons For Recovery. Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia asked several of us advocates to blog about the topic.  I'll be sharing mine on Feb 24th.  In the meantime I'm trying to post all of the other blog posts on Reasons For Recovery.

The first is from Abby Cooper who blogs at "A Piece of Me" 

February 1, 2012

Something You Get When You Recover From Your Eating Disorder That You Didn’t Even Know You Wanted

When I was early in my recovery, feeling my own feelings wasn’t easy-or even desirable. I had internalized a false message that my natural sensitivities made me weak, and therefore they were less worthy. I felt like who I was was not acceptable. Because of beliefs like these, my eating disorder had developed to an intensity that I was no longer receptive to the world like I had been before.
I had gotten to the point in my disorder that before I even could recognize a specific emotion, I had an urge to use my eating disorder behaviors. I didn’t think I was emotional anymore. Those ED urges replaced “excited,” “sad,” “longing,” “desire,” “comfort” and left me with only my eating disorder. The eating disorder felt preferable-it felt less painful. I was less of a mess, less sappy, less all over the place. Of course my life was a big mess in a whole different way, but: I was more numb. It felt easier.
I never intended to numb myself out to my entire life, however. Recognizing, feeling, and valuing your feelings is both a necessary step in recovery and a wonderful part of living. One thing I’ve learned to appreciate in recovery, that I would have never appreciated if I had never had an eating disorder is this:
You can’t feel the best feelings without allowing yourself to feel and tolerate the most painful and uncomfortable ones.
Yes, it’s true that the eating disorder behaviors cushion the intensity of the feelings you don’t want. But they also mute the ones you do. It strips you of your vitality and humanity. You can’t pick which ones you can experience fully. So you have to let go and let them all in. This seems scary to someone with an eating disorder. But the way to do it is to ease in: notice, allow, don’t judge. You’ll notice the more obvious feelings first, and the more practice you get, the finer ones will slip through. It becomes a game of sorts-“I don’t know what I’m feeling” turns into “I’m sleepy!” or “I’m hungry!” or “I’m hyper!” or “I’m lonely” or “I need to create something.” You get better at feeling.
And it’s awesome.
Yesterday, I woke up lonely. I felt a bit mopey and not interested in any of my usual solitary activities, like reading or drawing or goofing around on my piano. I felt sad. And I didn’t do anything to STOP that feeling. I allowed myself to feel sad. I called my brother, we talked about it, and then we joked around a bit. The feeling didn’t stop me from having a nice moment with him. Then, around mid afternoon, a friend called and invited me over. ELATED! was the next feeling I felt. I felt it just as much as I had felt lonely. I decided to get outside before I went over to her house to boost my mood, and move around a bit. I really FELT the sunshine and the brisk air, and I really FELT my body move as I got some movement in. When I drove to my friend’s house, I played music, and really FELT that music, and let it put me in a better mood. And when I arrived at my friend’s house, we had an awesome time just hanging out. I drove home that night feeling connected, loved, grateful, and warm.
I got all of those things in one day. And it was perfect.
I could have never had that day if I still used my eating disorder.
So, am I sensitive?
Do I feel a lot of things?
More so than other people?
Is that weakness?
It’s strength, because I know what I had to work through to be able to get here and accept and embrace this part of myself. Those feelings allow me to be in relationship and connect to life.
Not only is connectivity to your feelings possibly the biggest reason to recover, it’s one of the biggest and best reasons to be alive.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Love the Life You Lead

Coach Melinda Abrams asked me to be a part of the Love the Life You Lead 2012 blog series.
You can find the Facebook page at Love The Life You Lead Facebook Page

14 Days. 11 Expert Coaches. Loving the life you lead.

Becky Henry/ Theme: Forgiveness
Question: How do I forgive myself for not being able to help my daughter recover from an eating disorder?  What is the VALUE in forgiving myself?

Forgiveness is an act of love—towards ourselves. While it may seem a selfish endeavor it is actually a generous gift, to our own life, peace, joy, happiness and those around us. There is great value in spending the time asking powerful questions, asking for help, admitting we felt powerless, and taking the steps to learn how to forgive.
Loving someone who is seriously ill and not being able to "save" or "fix" them can lead to a host of negative emotions. It can lead us to become a lifetime "victim" who no longer loves life and embraces fun.
Seeing that we don't have that kind of power can actually be freeing and can give us the wings we need to fly away from the burden of being a victim.  Then and only then, we can live a joyful live despite our history. 

Becky Henry
Founder and President, Hope Network, LLC

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jessica Setnick Blog Interview

This is the second in my blog interview series. This time it is Jessica Setnick, MS, RD/LD, CSSD who was a guest professional on one of our tele-classes in November.

Jessica Setnick Blog Interview
  1. Your website, shows your passion for helping folks with eating disorders.  Where does this passion come from?

It is a combination of wanting to help others and wanting to understand the human condition in some way that would help me understand myself. I learn so much from my patients, and the continuing education that I have pursued has been as applicable to myself as it is to my work. The other aspect is that I feel that I have been given a gift, a gift that I may not have identified on my own, but that the incidents of my life brought to my attention. I am grateful to have found the intersection of what I like to do, that I am good at, that helps people, that I can do for a living. It is my mission and I wouldn’t feel complete if I didn’t act on it. Over time my mission has evolved into helping other professionals to help solve eating disorders, and most recently into helping build a treatment center, Ranch 2300, to do the same.

  1. What is your philosophy on effective eating disorders treatment?

Ah, my philosophy. My philosophy on effective treatment starts with my philosophy on eating disorders themselves. I believe that the nomenclature we use for eating disorders stinks. I think it was developed to facilitate research and description but it does not describe the human experience. So we are not treating individuals with eating disorders as well as we could be because the research is based on artificial distinctions. Anyone who is familiar with the field realizes that two people with “anorexia” might have very different situations – different causes, different skill deficits, different needs – but yet we continue to look for the one “best” treatment. There might be two people whose eating disorders look very different, but they have a lot in common. The treatment must be individualized to what each person needs. But I think that if we did a better job of describing eating disorders, such as “Depression-related eating disorders” and “Anxiety Spectrum Eating Disorders” and “Post-traumatic eating disorders” instead of the way we do now, we could also do a better job of recommending treatments rather than the trial-and-error approach.

The most important factor in treatment that lasts is recovery protection, ie the systems and skills that someone needs in order to thrive outside of a treatment setting. That has been the most fun part of designing Ranch 2300 – thinking of all the skills that someone needs to “make it” in recovery, and figuring out ways to teach those skills in the safe environment of treatment.

  1. What is your opinion on full recovery?

I prefer to use the word “remission,” since it seems to fit the paradigm of eating disorders better than recovery. I feel recovery can begin the very day someone realizes their eating disorder is killing them and they want to change, but that is no guarantee of a change in the parameters we tend to measure. On the other hand, an individual may be weight-restored and seem to be “in recovery” while internally they are not recovered at all.

Remission indicates that while bodies heal faster than minds, both the body and mind have recovered to the point that eating disorders stay in the thought stage only and do not transmit into behaviors that are problematic. In other words, I believe that I am in remission because when I have eating disorder thoughts, I am able to manage them before they lead to behaviors, and on occasion under extreme duress when I have an eating disorder behavior, it is no more severe nor lasting than the average American. It does not lead to guilt or shame, or a repetitive cycle, and I use it as a clue that life is not in balance and a cue to re-evaluate my situation.

My opinion on Remission is that it takes up to 7 years of compliance with treatment from the day an individual with an eating disorder enters treatment to advance to the stage of Remission, where the eating disorder is genuinely and for all practical purposes “in the past.”
  1. How have people used your boot camp to treat their eating disorder?

Well I did not intend it for that purpose, it is a training program for professionals treating eating disorders. But after some of the workshops, professionals who attended would come forward and tell me that after attending the weekend they recognized their own eating disorder, or recognized that it was no longer congruent with their lives, and they asked me to help them find treatment in their area.
  1. What do you tell people who care about someone with an eating disorder to say to encourage their loved one to seek treatment?

I care about you is a good start. I care about you and I would like to help you find treatment is even better. I care about you and I have made an appointment with a counselor to talk about how hard it is to watch someone I love hurt themself is the best way of all. Because then you are not only expressing yourself, expressing how deeply this is important to you, and how you are willing to stick by this person “in sickness and in health,” but you are also role-modeling self-care and reaching out for help, two things that everyone with an eating disorder needs to see more of.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Women over 50 and body image

Given that I am a proponent of the Health At Every Size (HAES)- size acceptance model, I was intrigued when I spoke with Thea Sheldon about women over 50 and their long and too often rugged relationships with their bodies.  I had recently written an article about women over 50 with eating disorders and we got talking about her work in helping women be happy with their bodies.  Wow, someone who cares about women over 50 and how we feel about these bodies that look so different from when we were younger!  I decided to do a blog interview with her to share her wisdom with you.

Thea started noticing when walking up a few stairs to her office she would be out of breath by the top.  All of her medical tests were fine.  Instead of prescribing fun movement or activity her doctor said she needed to lose about 30 pounds.  Thea hadn’t heard of HAES but she knew she wanted to be less winded and be able to do more fun physical activities—regardless of her size.
Thea began focusing not on dieting but on her health and reclaiming what brought her joy.  In the process of adding fun movement Thea’s body did shed some weight. More importantly she gained peace with her body as well as newfound fun and freedom in her life. As a coach she developed programs helping other women to find the peace with their bodies that she had found. 
Regular readers of my blog know that I do not promote losing weight – only gaining health.  Some people when they start making different health choices will gain weight, some will lose and some will stay the same.  Even though Thea has the words, “weight loss” in her materials I am sharing what she does because I see her helping women to “create a long-term, sustainable change in your relationship with your body.”  And when we love ourselves and our bodies that is when we can regain health.  I hope my HAES colleagues and fellow eating disorders advocates understand that she is using those words in her marketing because that is what women initially think they want.  Thea helps them find something so much better.
Here is my interview with Thea:
What shifted recently in how you treat your body?
Now I am better with boundaries in relationships with people and in my relationship with food.  I am able to draw boundaries with food and ask for what I really want, both in planning a menu and making choices in a restaurant. 
What has given you the ability to set these boundaries with food?
  1. Knowing much more clearly what I want.  Health!  I want Radiant Vibrant Health.  I’m responsible for what I put into my body and there is a real correlation between that, and how I feel, and my health numbers.  It was making a commitment to my health. Realizing I have a choice.
  2. I developed habits via steps.  Gradually I started making better choices. Trying to be perfect is no longer necessary. Now I feel much better and that keeps me motivated to keep making choices that are good for my body.
  3. I was totally open to the idea of experimenting. I know there isn’t one RIGHT way for every woman.  I became intimately familiar with my own body. I observe and respect what feels good and what doesn’t for my body.

As a result of these changes, what is now present in your life that wasn’t there?  
For 18 months now I've been doing all kinds of fun activities I hadn’t been able to do so easily before. Now I can flow into yoga positions I just couldn’t do because of the bulk on my body.
Thanks to my newfound body respect and awareness I recently participated in a community modern dance performance, even though I’m not a trained dancer. I had confidence that I could learn the moves. I wasn’t concerned about how my body looked on stage. I didn’t compare myself to others. I had so much fun! I never would have done this before I started taking charge of my body.
Now when we go on extended canoe trips I am able to carry my food pack across the portages easily. I don’t have to stop every few yards and rest. Cross- country skiing is so much more fun. I can get up some speed and feel more fluid and graceful skiing. It’s easier to get in and out of the car. On a practical note, I can easily carry my groceries. I don’t feel weighted down. I am much more flexible.
What is no longer present?  
When I am walking down the street, I no longer sneak little peeks in the window reflections to see how “fat” I am.  Now if I see my reflection it is no longer negative. I smile and say, “Wow you look great!” 
How have you changed the way you respect your body?
Now, more than ninety per cent of the time I don’t criticize my body and am genuinely grateful for my body.  I notice I am gentle and soft even when washing my body – not critical but appreciating my strong arms for example.  This is a huge change.  Previously I was unkind and really abusive to my body – scrubbing it hard and not in a kind way.  Now I love this body!  Accepting the changes of aging makes life so much easier. 
My language has changed.  I no longer say, “I shouldn’t eat that.”  Now I will consciously ask myself, “Hum, do I want to eat that? Am I hungry for that?  Is this going to taste as good as it looks?”
What have you created in your business as a result?
Over the phone I offer Body Breakthrough: Wise Weight Loss, Management and Momentum. Locally in Ely, Minnesota my co-leader Kathy Cyriacks and I offer Choose to Lose, a support group for women. Both programs emphasize making lifelong changes in your relationship with food, your health and your body. I tell women, “You will come to appreciate and love your body for the amazing gift it is.”
Thank you Thea for doing this Blog Interview with me. 
Thea Sheldon can be found at True Voice Coaching of Ely, MN