Flip the Script: 3 Ways To Boost Your Self-Image This Summer

Photo Credit: Pexels

Photo Credit: Pexels

As summertime approaches, many people begin to get more critical of their bodies in anticipation of wearing bathing suits and being more exposed while out in the sun.

This can be a time of massive anxiety for some who may feel unhappy with their bodies or for those who may be struggling with or are in recovery from eating disorders and or body image issues. Visions of walking into a pool party or onto the beach and stripping down to a bathing suit can be a source of panic for people who are already self-conscious of their appearance on a daily basis.

It is important to approach this time of year by staying focused on having a healthy and positive mindset. With that, a key step to maintaining a good outlook is knowing how to eliminate thoughts and behaviors that could lead you down a negative path. Here are three ways to flip the script and have an emotionally healthier, self-esteem building this Summer.  

1. Overcome Negative Thoughts About Self-Image

Overcoming negative self-image thoughts about yourself or others around you during the summertime can be challenging. This is when eating disorder voices scream the loudest, and this is also when we need to extend the most compassion and gratitude to ourselves.

It is somewhat natural to experience negative thoughts about self or body image in the summer as we are often comparing ourselves to other people. It may sound silly, but honoring the thoughts as they arise and acknowledging why you may be having them is a great way to flip the script.

When you catch yourself in this mental state, express gratitude to yourself for how far you have come, the hard work you have put in to living a healthy lifestyle and give yourself some grace for the pain you may be experiencing underneath those thoughts.

For example, you may be feeling down because of something you ate that makes you feel guilty. Say to yourself, “This is a great opportunity to learn from my thoughts. Why does it make me feel bad? Is this realistic? Or is just my eating disorder that is trying to raise its voice?" Staying in awareness of your self-talk can help you overcome negative thinking.

2. Focus On Building Healthy Relationships

Getting rid of toxic relationships is a fundamental component of sustaining good mental health. Relationships take a lot of energy and if we are focused on the ones that drain us or are toxic to our health, it opens the doors to negative thinking and self-destructive behaviors. If you are inside a toxic relationship with a loved one, it may be wise to distance yourself from them for a while.  

Instead of fighting old relationships that are not working or supporting you, concentrate on building new, healthy relationships or even working on developing current relationships you have that could be a more positive influence on you. Reach out to people who leave you feeling uplifted and motivated. Fostering these types of relationships can be a powerful way to stay optimistic.

Being mindful of who you allow into your life and mental space is imperative. Romantic relationships, in particular, can be full of ups and downs, so it is important that you stay vigilant with creating healthy boundaries and honoring the most important relationship you truly have, which is the one with yourself.

3. Keep A Positive Attitude

If you are experiencing negative thoughts and emotions, the best thing to do is to let them out and give them room to breathe. The more we try to push them away or bottle them up, the more likely we are to move down a negative path. Allowing ourselves to feel can help us work to shift our thoughts to more positive ones.

Another great thing to do to keep an optimistic and positive attitude is to play and do things you love like going for a walk, doing yoga or dancing to your favorite music. When we make time to be playful, laugh and have fun, we naturally move away from any self-destructive thinking.

If you or a loved one are struggling with negative thought patterns or body image issues, contact us today to learn more about how we can help you navigate these tough waters.  

Angie Viets - Foundations Recovery Network

Foundations Recovery Network’s mission is to be the leader in evidence-based, integrated treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders through clinical services, education and research. Our vision is to be the best at delivering effective, lasting treatment and providing superb experiences across our continuum of care in all places.

Our treatment programs also have the flexibility and focus to address whatever stage of recovery our patient is in even if the stage of mental health recovery does not match with the stage of addiction recovery. The use of motivational services based on the patient’s stage of readiness will promote engagement, retention and solid long-term recovery outcomes. This sets our program apart from other treatment options.

Started by Foundations Recovery Network (FRN), Heroes in Recovery is a grassroots movement that seeks to remove the social stigma associated with getting addiction treatment and being in recovery. The Heroes movement is about building a recovery community that bands together to share powerful stories of personal transformation in order to inspire others to get help.

6 Simple Tips to Manage Eating Disorder Recovery on Vacation

Photo Credit: Slava Bowman

Photo Credit: Slava Bowman

You're away from home. You may not have a kitchen. You might be traveling to a place with foreign foods. Your schedule might be thrown off by long travel times, different activities, and time zone changes. While vacations are exciting for most people, for those of us in recovery from eating disorders, they can be more than a little stressful.

It can be tempting to say, "It's okay, I'll just figure it out as I go," but why take the risk? Having a plan may feel a little square, but it's better to have a plan so you can relax if things are going well than to struggle and have no plan for getting back on track. Whether you're heading abroad or traveling closer to home, here are some tips to manage vacation time in eating disorder recovery.

Tip #1 - Communication

Funnily enough, one of the most important factors in eating disorder recovery is also one of the most important factors in travel - communication. Talk to your travel buddy about your needs and concerns. If you need to stop and eat at regular intervals, talk about that. If you're planning on doing something outside of your comfort zone (trying a new food, wearing a bathing suit in public), talk about how they can support you.

Be very clear about what you need, and about what you DON'T need. Sometimes it can add stress to have someone asking about your food choices, and monitoring your bathroom usage. If your buddy is checking up on you more than they need to, you can communicate that, too.  "Thanks for checking in, but I've worked out a plan for this part of things. I'll let you know if I need any support outside of what we discussed."

Talking openly about this stuff will set your mind at ease and, most likely, theirs, too. Navigating eating disorders can be tricky - for you, and for those supporting you. Having a clear plan, and knowing how everyone fits into it, can really help make everyone more comfortable.

Tip #2 - Research

Something else you and your travel buddy can do together before you go is research. Figure out where you're staying, and what the food prep options are there. Will you have a kitchen? A mini-fridge? Is breakfast included? Knowing whether you can prepare some of your own meals or if you'll be dining out almost exclusively can help you plan.

You can also look into what restaurants are available near you. Check out the menus, choose a few options that look good to you at each, and write down some places you'd like to try. You don't have to schedule which ones to dine at when, but it's helpful to have choices narrowed down so you don't get overwhelmed. Think of it as "planned spontaneity".

Tip #3 - Do A Test Run

If you're traveling somewhere that has different food options than you're used to, do a test run before you leave. Let's say, for example, you're traveling to Japan. You'd like to try sushi there, but it's not something that you usually eat. Do a test run, in a safe way, before you go. Go to a local sushi restaurant and try a few different varieties. If there isn't a Japanese restaurant in your town, try making a fish and rice-based meal at home.

Get used to the flavors, and investigate how that type of meal works for you. Did you order enough, or would you need a side or another roll to make a satisfactory meal? Did you feel energized after, or were you a little sleepy? This can help you determine where sushi fits into your day when traveling.

Tip #4 - Pack Some Favorites

Even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry. Your flight might be delayed. You may sleep through your alarm and have to rush to the next activity. You may just need the comfort of a familiar food. So pack some.

While I would wholeheartedly encourage you to try new things as often as you can, I recognize that it's not always possible. Having some travel-safe snacks on hand can really help you out in those moments. Take along some protein bars, trail mix, crackers, etc. that you can eat on-the-go, or when things get stressful. Then, plan to get back on the horse. Cook something, order in, or go to a restaurant. Just try not to rely on packed snacks the whole rest of your trip.

Tip #5 - Keep Things (ahem) Moving

Travel can wreak havoc on the digestive system. It's not anything permanent, but constipation and its associated bloating can be triggering for those in recovery. Make sure you're drinking an adequate amount of water, eating some fibrous foods like veggies or beans – don't neglect your fats – and take a walk around the block when you can. You can also talk to your team before you go about the best strategy for you, if constipation hits.

At the end of the day, try not to stress about it. (Easier said than done, I know) Make sure you've packed some stretchy-waisted pants, and try to stay mindful whenever possible. You're hanging with some cool people, seeing some really awesome stuff. Try not to let the only memories you make be of digestive stress.

Tip #6 - Roll With The Punches

No matter how well you plan, there will always be something you didn't see coming. Whether it's a lost pair of sunglasses or a snack you hadn't anticipated, try your best to stay flexible. Breathe, use your buddy for support, and dive in.

Life is all about the unexpected, as is travel, as is recovery. Your challenge will be to keep moving forward, and trying to find the enjoyment wherever you can. Who knows? Maybe that wrong street you turn down will lead you to an amazing view you wouldn't have seen otherwise. Keep your eyes and heart open, and bon voyage!

Angie Viets contributors - Kelly Boaz

Kelly Boaz, CNP is a Toronto-based Holistic Nutritionist (CNP), specializing in eating disorder recovery and food freedom. After winning her 17-year battle with anorexia, Kelly Boaz turned her life’s focus to helping others do the same. She is also a writer and speaker (TEDx, TDSB), raising eating disorder awareness, and helping people heal their relationship with food and their bodies. You can find out more about Kelly, or get in touch via her website.

What to Do When Your Eating Disorder Throws a Tantrum?

Photo Credit: Julian Santa Ana

Photo Credit: Julian Santa Ana

Does the eating disorder ever kick and scream inside your head, demanding that you obey and making you feel like crap if you don’t?  

It’s like living with a toddler in your head.

This rings even truer for me now that I have an actual toddler who is throwing tantrums.  During a recent tantrum, I was sitting there thinking about what to do and it went something like this:

-What is he upset about?
-Can something be done to help?
-Should I give him what he wants, or should I set a boundary and say no?
-This is really hard.  
-I notice that my body is really activated right now - my heart is beating faster, my stomach hurts, and I just want to spring into action.
-I am feeling angry, frustrated, helpless and sad.  
-This is totally like when the ED throws a tantrum!

The short vs. long-term dilemma

When the eating disorder throws a tantrum, you basically have 2 options: 

a) You could give in to the eating disorder's demands and quiet the voice now.  

b) You could say no to the eating disorder and suffer the wrath of those loud thoughts, and probably feel crummy about yourself for a while.  

The problem with choice “a” is that by giving in you have reinforced the behavior. It’s like buying the tantruming kid the toy he’s pleading for. The message conveyed is that throwing a tantrum gets him what he wants. Same thing with the eating disorder. By giving in you have reinforced that neural pathway, which becomes more and more automatic over time.  

The challenge with choice “b” is that it’s going to be difficult right now. And that’s really hard.  Just like when my son tantrums, it’s painful as a mother to watch your child cry and feel upset.  But I know that in the long-run he’s better off with the boundaries. It teaches him to work through the discomfort, rather than expecting to always get his way.  

An important point

What you are doing when you choose to tell the eating disorder no – in the face of a tantrum – is very important.  

You are showing yourself that you CAN work through the discomfort.  

You are also showing yourself that you CAN stay the course in recovery, even (especially) when the eating disorder doesn’t want you to.  

Ultimately this is what it takes to recover. Those boundaries are there to keep you safe. The eating disorder behaviors are self-destructive and at times dangerous. So even though the boundary doesn’t feel good in the moment, it is ultimately protective.  

How to take care of yourself while the eating disorder tantrums

It is important to give yourself lovingkindness while the eating disorder is throwing its tantrum.  

Start by noticing that the tantrum is happening and that you are actively making the choice to disobey the eating disorder.  

Give yourself compassion for how hard it is. You might tell yourself, This is really hard right now.  It sucks that I am going through this. I trust that it will eventually pass. In the meantime, I am going to be kind to myself, and firm against the eating disorder.

Be intentional about your next move. Make an empowered decision about what you are going to do in the face of the tantrum. For example, if the eating disorder is telling you to skip lunch, you could make a plan to eat lunch with a friend for accountability.  

Ride the wave. The tantrum will be like a wave that comes and goes. It might crest multiple times before it completely passes. You can’t prevent the waves from happening, but you can learn how to ride them. It may help to distract yourself with something kind or productive.  However, don’t forget to check back in with yourself later to make sure that the eating disorder isn’t being sneaky and working in other ways.  

You will find that with practice, your tantrum-resisting muscle will grow stronger. You will become more and more aware of when the tantrum is happening, and you’ll feel confident in your ability to respond in a way that is both firm and compassionate.  

Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City.  She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.

5 Reasons Why Yoga is So Good For Your Mind and Body

Photo Credit: Body Love, Soul Purpose

1. As a discipline for the body and mind, yoga helps you cultivate vibrant health. Yoga is a superb form of balanced exercise and offers a potent source of calm in our stress-filled lives.

2. Yoga is a powerful mind/body system that has helped countless people achieve inner peace and fulfillment. Yoga helps you reconnect with yourself from the inside out by working with your body and breath, your mind and emotions. 

3. Yoga allows you to release body-stored memories, fears, and traumas that trap you in the past. Yoga helps you to achieve emotional balance, live in the present moment, and begin to feel joy (again). 

4. The wisdom of yoga helps you to navigate the ups and downs of everyday living. Yoga helps you to lovingly explore your self-doubt and struggles, welcoming time and again, the life that you have, imperfections and all. 

5. Yoga can lead you to accept your body, uncover your particular gifts, discover your own true self, and cultivate a more satisfying life in the world. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how yoga can play a part in your recovery, and/or would like to participate in a Women’s Fall Retreat that will incorporate all of the recovery-focused benefits of yoga above, click here for more information

Rachel Daggett - Angie Viets

Rachel Daggett, MS, MFTI is a Wellness and Recovery Coach and a Registered Therapist Intern. She has a private practice in Manhattan Beach, CA, and strives to be an active force of empowerment and love in the community. Through struggling with her own eating disorder and journey of healing, and now being recovered, she has become an advocate for eating disorder recovery and mental health. Rachel has a Masters degree in Psychology, and believes in the importance of caring for the mind, body, heart, and soul as a whole. Rachel is a yogi, a dog-mom, a beach-girl at heart, and has recently started studying the natural healing power of essential oils. Visit her website

Is There a Perfect Way to Eat?

Photo Credit: Rachael Gorjestani

Photo Credit: Rachael Gorjestani

In my practice as a Registered Dietitian, I talk a lot about food. Clients ask about which foods to eat, how much to eat, when to eat… Many are extremely confused with the information they have gotten from friends, family, colleagues, healthcare providers and the media. It can certainly be challenging to make food choices when we are always bombarded with conflicting information.

It can be both reassuring and unsettling to know this truth:

There is no single way of eating that will work for everyone.

Often, this is not what people want to hear. Instead, they want the magic formula that will give them health and happiness. Unfortunately, I can’t provide this (and nobody can, no matter how good their marketing is!).

Instead, I can offer support, compassion, and guidance. Although everyone’s needs are different, here are some general themes I address with many clients.

1. Eating on a regular basis

For most people, having regular meals and not going too long without food is beneficial. While needs vary greatly, more than 4-5 hours without eating is detrimental in many cases. Not everyone will require snacks, but they can certainly be helpful. Explore what works best for you based on your schedule, your preferences, and your body’s needs.

2. Being curious about your body’s signals

Our body gives us many clues regarding our needs. If you are in the early stages of healing from an eating disorder or chronic dieting, you may find that your hunger and fullness cues are unreliable or simply non-existent. This is quite normal. At first, you may need more structure around meals. However, you can still try tuning in to see what your body is telling you. Maybe you are tired and need more rest, or maybe you are thirsty and need hydration. Be curious about what your body is telling you. It’s smarter than you think!

3. Eating a variety of foods

One of our best ways to ensure we are getting enough nutrients is to diversify the foods we eat. It sounds overly simple, but getting foods from a variety of sources can be helpful and ultimately, much more satisfying. For many healing from eating disorders, food choices can become very limited. When you feel ready, and if you are able, connect with a therapist or dietitian who can guide you in experimenting with fear foods in a safe way.

The bottom line

There is no such thing as the perfect way to eat. What works for one person may be completely inappropriate for someone else. Explore your needs and wants, and try noticing what works for you. What brings you the most energy, the most happiness? This is most likely what is best for YOU.

Remember: You are doing the best you can. You’ve got this!

Josée Sovinsky is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.

Are You Managing an Eating Disorder or Healing from One?

Photo Credit: Catherine McMahon

Photo Credit: Catherine McMahon

“I’m not going to help you manage an eating disorder,” my dietician flat out said to me shortly after I discharged from intensive outpatient treatment. “I’ll continue to work with you, but I won’t help you be a functioning anorexic.”

Whoa! Harsh, right? Brutally harsh, I’d say.

Her words hit me hard in the gut. I felt nauseas and defensive. I was at once insulted and found out by her remarks. After months of inpatient, day, and IOP treatment, and a commitment to long-term outpatient work with my team, I was insulted that my integrity and dedication to recovery wasn’t obvious. Had I not just left my family for a month, taken leave from my job, eaten meals I was terrified of, gained weight, persevered through calorie increases and exercise restriction, and turned myself inside out every day to heal my mind and body? Honestly, what else did she or anyone else want from me?

Still, way, way deep down, I knew my dietician was right. Yes, I had done and accomplished quite a bit during all that treatment; no one was taking that away from me. However, I admit, at the time, living as a “functioning anorexic” was quite appealing. The perfect solution.

If I could pull off being a “little sick and a little well,” if I could do just enough to keep my team and my family off my back, then surely, I’d be “doing” recovery. I’d just be doing it on my terms—or, I should say, the eating disorder’s terms. I’d prevent weight gain, still have room for a little hunger, and feel in charge of my life.

Living this way did not get me very far, and it wasn’t long before I was weary of performing, pretending, and being untruthful to myself and those I love. Merely functioning wasn’t as “safe” as I’d thought it would be. In fact, it was the exact opposite, as the threat of returning to treatment consistently came back in play every few weeks.

I may have dabbled with how “recovered” I was willing to be, but there was positively no way I would settle for being a chronically ill mother and wife. That’s where I drew the line.

And so, I kicked myself into gear by taking a more genuine and sincere approach to healing from rather than merely managing the eating disorder. I did this by adopting the attitude that recovery is a lifestyle, not a side job or something “extra” we must do.

Between therapy appointments and going to groups and keeping food logs, recovery can feel like a time-consuming side job. Over time, this attitude toward recovery can cause us to become resentful. The more resentful we become, the less motivated we are to keep up our efforts.  

When respected as a lifestyle, recovery serves as the foundation from which we must attend to everything in our lives to keep us well and moving forward. To make recovery a lifestyle, I strive to let every choice I make be informed by this question: Is “x” going to support me in my healing or is it going to work against me?

Reflecting on this question guides me to honesty with myself about the people, places, and things in my life that merely help me manage an eating disorder versus those that support me in healthful ways. I choose to avoid the landmines and replace them with things that empower me and build me up. It’s not always easy, but this system of self-accountability has made a profound difference in my approach to recovery and deepened my commitment to myself.

Take a pause and ask yourself: Am I managing or healing the eating disorder? Are there thoughts, rituals, and behaviors in place that covertly are in cahoots with the eating disorder?

There’s no shame in your answer. What’s most important is taking this time to get brutally honest with yourself. I encourage you to tap into your resilience and slowly but steadily begin to loosen the grip on things that do not serve you in healthful ways and replace them with thoughts, rituals, and behaviors that do.

As you shift away from the “functioning” and “managing” mentality and embrace an intention of healing, life will ultimately become more filled with you and the goodness you have to offer this world—your gifts, talents, and passions. And I promise you, it is so worth it!  

Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, RYT 500 is the founder of Chime Yoga Therapy and specializes in eating disorders and body image. In addition to her private yoga therapy practice, Jennifer leads yoga therapy groups at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia, is cofounder of the Body Kindness Project, and a partner with both the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and the Transformation Yoga Project. She is the creator of the home video series Yoga to Strengthen Body Image and Support Eating Disorder Recovery. Her writing on the topics of yoga, body image, motherhood, and eating disorder recovery can be found on her blog as well as several influential online publications.  Connect with Jennifer.

More Than Weight Has Been Gained

Image Source: Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

The Road to Residential

Two years ago today, at 5 a.m. on a frozen Tuesday morning, my fiancé and I rented a car and drove 100 miles from New York City to Philadelphia, where I would be entering residential treatment for anorexia. I’d been in a day treatment program for a little more than seven weeks by that point, but it had become clear that I needed more help. My weight, already dangerously low, hadn’t budged, so my treatment team determined that my best chance at recovery would be in a 24/7 care facility.

I had no idea how long I would be gone. I didn’t tell anyone what was happening. With the exception of my fiancé, my mother, and my therapist, everyone assumed I was safe and sound in New York City going to work and planning my wedding. Not even my bridal party — who by January were finalizing dresses and accessories — knew that their texts to me were, in fact, being answered by my fiancé, because I was not allowed to keep my cell phone at the treatment center.

I worried that I wouldn’t be discharged in time for my bridal shower and I’d have to find a way to explain my absence. I worried what would happen when I arrived at my first dress fitting with vastly different measurements than the ones that had been ordered for me months earlier, while my weight was plummeting.

Nothing was certain other than the fact that we were on the road and there was no turning back. From the passenger seat, I watched the city skyline recede in the side mirror and tried not to think too much about the radical action I was undertaking.

More Than Weight Has Been Gained

When I wrote about this day last year, I was only just starting to realize how much I had lost to my eating disorder in the eleven years before I walked into treatment. I felt sad thinking about the frightened, confused, empty young woman I was.

Now, in this second year, I’m conscious of how much I’ve gained throughout this recovery process. I’ve gained physical health, emotional wellbeing, and mental strength. I’ve gained friends and community, as well as meaning and purpose. Perhaps most important of all, I’ve gained a more intimate and honest relationship with my husband, which I wouldn’t have been capable of having if I were still preoccupied with my disordered inner life.

For all of this, I feel immensely grateful to the team of people that has helped me along the way. These treatment providers — therapists, nutritionists, psychiatrists, counselors, mentors, and more — are truly heroic. I am alive because of the care I’ve received from them.

In this spirit, I want to share an interview with you, because I think it demonstrates what I’m saying here. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. David Susman, a clinical psychologist who runs a website dedicated to mental health, wellness, and recovery from mental illness and addiction. Dr. Susman regularly posts “Stories of Hope” on his site, and he was kind enough to include me in his latest installment.

Click here to read the Q&A, “Living in the ‘Middle Ground’ of Recovery.”

(Thank you again, David!!)

The Only Way to Heal

Along with the gratitude, I can’t help but re-experience some of what I was thinking and feeling about on this day last year. The thing is, I don’t feel these emotions as sharply as I did then. I’ve spent a solid amount of time in therapy feeling and processing and then feeling again, because that is the only way to heal.

Leaning into these feelings seems to be working. Each day, I feel a little less angry that anorexia is part of my life story. A little less afraid of a future without weight loss as my go-to coping mechanism. A little more convinced that this eating disorder will be a chapter of my life and not my entire story. I’ve begun to make peace with this whole ordeal.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Joanna Kay is a New York City writer and social media professional in recovery from a 14-year battle with anorexia. She is the author of The Middle Ground, a blog that chronicles the period between completing treatment and reaching full recovery. Having encountered many hurdles accessing treatment, she also writes frequently about insurance coverage and other urgent issues facing eating disorder patients. Joanna is a mental health advocate with the National Eating Disorders Association and writes and speaks widely about the recovery process. Visit her blog.

What Guilt Has to Do With Embracing Your Authentic Self

Source: Pexels/Thnh Phng

Source: Pexels/Thnh Phng

Has your self-help turned into self-criticism? Read this article featuring the first part of my interview with Danielle LaPorte, author of White Hot Truth.

Are You Free?

“How has your day planner changed and morphed with this revelation?” I ask, hoping she’ll send me a screenshot of her week ahead to verify the transformation.

Instead, she delivers something much sweeter, “There’s an inner-peace now, a calmness, and a feeling of spaciousness. There’s room to be myself. Room for the answers to show up. Room to change my mind. I’m no longer attached to others beliefs. Time has expanded.”

With all that talk of inner-peace—still an ever-elusive concept to me—I wanted to ensure I was getting the real deal. Knowing Danielle was raised Catholic, much like myself, and a working mother, I needed to test out her humanness; make sure she wasn’t this fully enlightened spiritual anomaly, but a legit woman like me who swirls around a shit storm of emotions on the regular. Clearly, it’s not cool to ask someone, “Are you for real? Can I trust that what you’re dishing out is reliable and authentic?” Instead, you gracefully enter a side door and ask about guilt. Why guilt? Because as women, the willingness to openly talk about what doubles us over with guilt is a litmus test for authenticity I’ve found reliable time and again.

“I noticed you mentioned the “G” word earlier, what’s your relationship like with guilt?”

There’s a pause. I notice this pattern in our brief time together. It’s not my sense she desires to give a perfect answer to prop herself up, but more a need to be precise and honest. It takes courage to pause long enough to check in with yourself to offer clarity. 

“It’s always there, but I’ve got it in check. Guilt is part of having a conscience. Guilt is part of being a loving, caring person. When you expand you’re going to bump up against other people. Someone’s feelings are going to get hurt. You’re going to erect some boundaries. It won't be easy. As you choose what’s most loving for yourself you create disharmony which may create some guilt. I feel less and less guilty about the hurt feelings that occur from making healthy choices for myself.”

I snuggled in a little more to her realness. Her truth is also mine. Guilt lives right here inside of us all AND, it doesn’t have to be a current that takes us under.

“Saying no for me is pretty clear. I don’t want to go backward. Saying yes when I mean no leads to exhaustion. There is a very basic equation when determining where to spend my time: Social media or my kid? An extra hour of sleep or a book review? Getting sick or pleasing someone else? Saying no becomes much easier when health is your priority.”

Loving her more with each #truthbomb I secretly wished we were sitting on her deck, instead of me sitting on the floor of my office, criss-cross applesauce. “Danielle, when do you feel most disconnected?”

“When I’m not being feminine. When I shift from being this juicy fluid girl, to being too harsh, abrupt, or abrasive I feel instant regret. I replay the incident over and over in my head sometimes for the next couple of days. Eventually, I let it go and endeavor not to do it again; until the next time.”

We both crack up laughing because this is white hot truth. Screwing up and then making peace with yourself is exactly what it means to be on a spiritual journey. We mess up, get out of alignment, and then, with courage we forgive ourselves, let it go, move on, and then circle around it again, because guess what, we are human and this is our work. The goal, the evolution, perhaps the revolution, is not to spin out for two days forever, maybe you cut it down to two hours, but we get back into alignment with more ease.

“I was recently talking to my shrink about this very situation and how gross it felt. She shared with me that you are becoming more yourself and you step out of that space it’s even more noticeable. You can hardly bear the lie.”

I feel her truth in my bones. My heart whispers, “Mmm. Hmm. Just like me…”

“May I Shine So that Other’s May Shine As Well.”

I asked Danielle to open our conversation with an intention. “May this conversation bear the truth of light that helps other people see their capacity to grow. May everything that comes of this be all about love and clarity. And so it is.”

You can soak up more of Danielle on her website where you’ll also find her book.

Hungry for more?

*Part 1 in this blog series can be found here.

Angie Viets, LCP is an author and clinical psychotherapist in private practice. She specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, and overeating. Angie is dedicated to empowering others to nurture their body, mend their relationship with food, and to embody their most authentic self. Her passion for the field was born out of her own hard-won battle with an eating disorder. She believes that full recovery is possible! Read more.

Danielle LaPorte’s White Hot Truth Soothes Self-Help Fatigue

Source: Unsplash/Annie Spratt

Source: Unsplash/Annie Spratt

Has your self-help turned into self-criticism?

The self-help struggle is real. Collectively we search for the truth, our path, and purpose from the outside in. We seek answers from psychologists, psychics, and priests without slowing and softening to the wisest guru of all: Ourselves. During my sultry conversation with Danielle LaPorte about her newly released book, White Hot Truth, she shed some light, because, as she says “it’s all about the light,” on how she became her own guru.

Danielle vividly explained the moment when she realized she was at a “jarring juncture: the conflict between sincere spiritual aspiration and the compulsion to improve.” As she opened her day planner and saw upcoming appointments with a shaman, psychotherapist, and astrologist, along with scheduled massages and yoga classes, she had a revelatory moment where she realized “all of this self-helping was becoming a bit of a burden and impinging on my ability to create with a capital C. Spirituality was becoming just another thing on my f*ing to-do list.”

Through breathy prose she broke down how she questioned her spiritual quest and transformed her to-do list, thus creating freedom and fluidity. With her lyrical lathering in full force (by the way, I highly recommend the audio version of the book; you can thank me later) I noticed my shoulders settling into their natural position, less like accessories for my ears, more gliding down my back like wings. My breath eased its way into a gentle rhythm as I physically released the anxiety of my own daunting self-help regimen.

What is this feeling overcoming me as this diva I’ve admired for years (and secretly channeled in moments of insecurity) – thanks to her rockstar books like The Desire Map and The Firestarter Sessions – reveals her process and progress (because, as she says in her Canadian accent, “everything is progress”) to me? Ah, yes, it’s relief! Relief that there’s another way. Relief that we can still be self-evolving, spiritual seekers, without stressing ourselves out on the regular. Without drowning ourselves in green juice cleanses and repeatedly clearing our chakras. We can liberate ourselves from the perpetual spiritual striving through discernment and self-love. Finally!

“It’s Not How We Seek Spiritual Growth; It’s Why We Seek It.”

Many of us, myself included, are drawn to the vast sea of self-help. Investing copious amounts of cash to feel free. We sign up for the lightworker retreat, past life regression, and some oh-so-necessary karmic healing. Yet, ultimately—I’m speaking from my own decades worth of psychotherapy, angel card readings, and psychic sessions—it wasn’t ever quite what my soul needed to truly heal. Why? Because everything I thought I could find ‘out there’ was already inside me. I’d become dependent, tethered actually, to the feedback from others that only I could best offer myself. What once was a young woman chained to an eating disorder like a dog on a leash, was now someone addicted to guidance from experts. Looking to strangers to tell me about…me. Someone who could only get quiet and still in a yoga studio. I was missing the point.

It’s painful to be lost, for sure. However, suffering is waiting for someone else to bring you home when you knew the way all along. You don’t need to wait until next Wednesday at 2 p.m., or head to an ashram to get clarity about your path, because, as Danielle says, “the best self-help is self-compassion.” Guess what, it’s free!

Self-Help or Self-Hate?

When Danielle described, in her alluringly poetic way, that underneath all of our self-helping is a whole hell of a lot of self-hatred I heard myself silently screaming, “Hell ya, sister! Preach!” I mentally scanned the thousands of self-help books I’ve purchased in an attempt to transcend whatever self-imposed trap I was caught in. Books with promising titles like, 10 Steps to Radical Self-Acceptance, left me feeling frantic as they gathered dust on my nightstand. Why do I continue to buy into the notion that a book, sermon, or healer holds the key to unlock the door to my evolution? Probably because it seemed easier.

Without question, I’m devoted to spiritual growth, healing suffering (my own and others), and tending to my psyche and soul. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these soul goals, unless, they disempower you, or require you to disown your deeply held inner wisdom. Seek the counsel of others as a conduit to connecting with your truth, not as a means to adopt others' truth about you.

Compulsive Self-Improvement     

Danielle believes, “We are driven by the compulsion to improve. We all look so healthy on the outside, but we’re really actually pretty neurotic on the inside.”

Danielle is clear that she didn’t ditch her spiritual to-do list entirely, she’s found a more useful sequencing of priorities. “Self-referencing is a lifelong journey. I meditate daily, pray, or engage in some sort of contemplation. It’s like brushing my teeth, it has to happen.” Therapy continues to be on her agenda, but it’s evident she’s no longer reliant on it to make a decision.

White Hot Truth is the permission we all need to check in with ourselves deeply, with reverence, and to listen to the wisdom of our bodies and souls. We don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Keep the yoga class if it serves you. Call the astrologist if you’re in the mood. But let’s stop the perpetual insanity of striving to perfect what was never intended to be perfect. Let’s greet ourselves—our messy, sometimes arrogant, or inconsiderate selves—with compassion, gratitude, and unabashed acceptance. We have everything we need. Already. We are wholly (or holy) enough even when we feel dreadfully inadequate. Beautiful even when we feel broken. The solution is not out there, my love, it’s right here inside. Go talk to the part of yourself that knows. Find her on the trail alongside the river. Find him in the pauses, those quiet moments in between. Sit in your own company and dwell there long enough to remember yourself. That’s the way home. Those are the moments where we hear the truth. Lean on others for support, yes, but don’t let their interpretation or analysis be your sole compass.

Get White Hot Truth!

Hungry for more?

*Part 2 in this blog series will be published on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

*I'd love to inspire you to take the next step on your path to recovered and send you my free weekly Recovery Tip videos. Please visit my website to sign up.

Angie Viets, LCP is an author and clinical psychotherapist in private practice. She specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, and overeating. Angie is dedicated to empowering others to nurture their body, mend their relationship with food, and to embody their most authentic self. Her passion for the field was born out of her own hard-won battle with an eating disorder. She believes that full recovery is possible! Read more.

Learning to Trust Your Body Again

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Think about the eating-related thoughts that go through your mind on any given day:
“You shouldn’t eat that, it’s too high in sugar.”  
“You can’t be hungry already, it’s not time to eat for another 2 hours.”  
“That has waaaaay too many calories in it.  You don’t deserve to eat it.”  

Notice a common theme among them?  

It’s the overall distrust of your body and your appetite. The eating disorder makes you believe that your own body is working against you and that if you listened to its signals you’d be fat, unhealthy, and completely unworthy of love. Ouch, pretty harsh, huh?

As Geneen Roth, author of multiple books on compulsive overeating, dieting and body image, has said: 

"Your body is the vehicle for your spirit and your soul. It is the piece of the universe you've been given to tend, to care, to cherish. Without it, you couldn't sense or taste or touch or feel."

Why do so many of us distrust our appetites? We’ve been taught to believe that if we ate what we wanted we’d eat ourselves into oblivion. We’ve been taught to fear food and to fear our appetite. The “war on obesity” has become a war on our bodies. Fear of becoming fat has made us afraid of food and afraid of our desire for food.

Sarah’s story (name and details changed for privacy)

Sarah is a client who I first encountered well into her recovery. She was no longer starving herself or abusing her body with purging or excessive exercise. Yet she was still plagued by food and her body. “I never feel full when I try to eat normally. It’s as if I could just keep eating and eating,” she told me. “The only time I feel full is when I’ve binged and am stuffed, and then I feel so ashamed and guilty and disgusting that I want to purge. Those urges still come up sometimes.”  

Sarah was still disconnected from her body. Sure, she was eating at regular intervals throughout the day, but it still had very little to do with her actual appetite cues. It was more of a prescribed regimen for eating. Thus, she ate pretty much the same thing every day because she knew how it would make her feel, and she trusted that it was the “right” amount for her body to maintain its current weight. Any deviation from this made her anxious and uncomfortable, which made holidays and social gatherings hard. It was also hard when she had a food craving for something out of the norm.  

The rupture of trust

How does this distrust of the body happen? Usually, it starts in childhood or adolescence. We are born with a natural trust of our appetite - babies cry when they are hungry, and stop when they’ve had enough milk. Toddlers and small children tend to do the same with food.  

We can learn a lot from children when it comes to eating. They will eat when they are hungry, and will stop when they aren’t. The amount they eat will vary from day to day - some days they eat a ton, and other days hardly at all. That’s because they are tuned into their bodies and trust their body’s signals.  

At some point, however, well-meaning adults interfere. They start trying to control and dictate the child’s eating by saying things like, “Eat your vegetables and then you can have dessert,” or, “You don’t need all that sugar, it’s bad for you.”  

Yes, the adult is trying to help the child eat a balanced diet and to be healthy, but it’s backfiring. Because the underlying, unspoken message is that the child shouldn’t trust what their body has said. The appetite cues should be ignored and suppressed. Wanting something sweet is seen as bad, and the dessert must be “earned” through the holy grail of vegetables.  

Then look at the broader culture we live in, with terms like portion control, detox, gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free, sugar-free…we’re afraid of food and afraid of our appetites for it.  

Fear-based eating is taking the joy out of food. We need to stop being so afraid of things like sugar, fat and salt. Reality is, they make food taste good. AND foods with sugar, fat and salt do still make a nutritional contribution to our diet. By definition, nutrients are something that the body must have, and sugar is just a carbohydrate, which is a macronutrient along with fat, and salt is an essential micronutrient. That’s how your body sees it when the food is digested and absorbed into your blood stream.  

Rebuilding trust with our body

It’s time to love food again, and to enjoy foods that taste good. Eating is a sensory experience, from the sight to the smell to the texture to the taste of the food. We experience eating with our whole body. And the food is literally the fuel that keeps us alive. Not something to be afraid of - something to be cherished!

The wise Ellyn Satter, a fellow dietitian and eating expert, has said: 

"Go to the table hungry, pay attention while eating, and stop when you are satisfied, knowing that you can come back and eat again when you are hungry later. Eating is meant to be enjoyable."

It takes time to repair and rebuild trust with ourselves. The eating disorder is invested in you distrusting your body and will continue to try and convince you of the ways in which you can’t trust yourself.  

As your True Self gets stronger and you gather more and more attuned eating experiences, you’ll start to see “proof” that your appetite can be trusted. As for Sarah, the client I mentioned earlier, she was able to do this. It took time, patience and persistence. Every eating experience was an opportunity to take a leap of faith that her body knew what it was doing and would guide her appropriately. Sure, sometimes she made mistakes, and sometimes she questioned if she really could trust her body, but over time she was able to see that her appetite was truly calibrated to her body’s needs.  

Some tips for rebuilding trust:

  • Have regular, consistent eating times throughout the day. Your body needs to know and trust that it will get fed again in a few hours. 
  • Keep snacks on hand in case you get hungry sooner than anticipated. Your body also needs to trust that you will feed it during those unexpected times that it gets hungry.
  • Include a wide variety of foods. Keeping food interesting and varied will help your body get all of its nutritional needs met, and it will help you feel satisfied by the variety of flavors and textures of the food.
  • Eat without distractions. Pay attention to your food, like a toddler intently eating and savoring the food off her plate. Paying attention to your food will also foster paying attention to your appetite, and you’ll more readily notice when you are feeling satisfied. 
  • Treat your body with compassion. You will make mistakes with eating. It’s a fact of life. Even normal eaters do it. You’ll sometimes under eat, and sometimes overeat. Notice this sensation without judgment, and give yourself compassion for the discomfort you are experiencing. Let your body guide you on what and when to eat again. 

Process, not perfection

There’s no such thing as perfect eating, so don’t even bother trying. Disappointing for you perfectionists out there, I know! But also potentially freeing? It allows you to experiment with your eating without judgment or fear of failure. Most importantly, it allows you to experience the joy of eating again while trusting that your body will guide you.

Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City.  She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.

Leaning Into Yourself: Abandoning Fear & Embracing Yourself

Source: Arno Smit/Unsplash

Source: Arno Smit/Unsplash

We’re all just walking each other home. - Ram Dass

We went around the room, one by one answering the question proposed by our graduate school professor in the Counseling Psychology program I’d recently been accepted into: “Once you complete your master’s and doctoral degrees, what do you intend to do?” Perpetually anxious, I hyperventilated as each member of my cohort detailed their future research plans, careers in academia, and other equally intimidating (and boring, in my opinion) pursuits.

“Angie, what about you?” Dr. Wesley asked sincerely, his head slightly tilted while he awaited the response of yet another ambitious scholar.

“Um, the truth is this is my backup plan.” Oh, God! Holy shit. Did I really just say that? “I mean, I’d like to become a therapist one day, but my real calling is to be a mother.”

Two seconds and twelve hundred heart palpitations later, he moved on awkwardly to the more sophisticated classmate to the right of me who whispered in my ear, “That was awesome!”

Graduate school was a series of humiliating moments, much like this one. Thankfully, despite my profound lack of interest in things like Multivariate Statistics, Research Methods, and Cognitive Neuroscience, I fell in love with courses like Approaches to Psychotherapy and Psychopathology, Group Dynamics, and how we develop and form attachments. In the midst of classes, papers, and presentations, I also made deeply personal and meaningful relationships with my peers, which come to find out is an essential component for healing others.

During graduate school, I got engaged, married, and had my first baby, in quick succession. While my peers wrote their dissertations, I wrote thank-you cards for wedding and baby showers. As they accepted internships, I accepted—for the first time since childhood—my body and its majestic ability to heal itself and expand to meet the needs of a growing baby. I rooted myself in therapeutic techniques and theories, yet more importantly, I found I was most grounded by my inherent gift to nurture and nourish my baby.

I skipped graduation to attend a trip for my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Knowing I accomplished the goal meant more than celebrating it publicly, for this accomplishment was much bigger than most people realized. Applying and getting accepted into graduate school was my first giant leap toward recovery.

Despite my insecurity about not being smart enough to get into graduate school, my fear of starting something new and then quitting it when it got overwhelming, all the while hiding out in my illness feeling like a complete fraud as I once had, proved to be an outdated narrative. I flipped the script. I rewrote the story. I discovered I was far more capable than I ever gave myself credit for.

I recovered myself in graduate school. I recovered from an eating disorder, and I recovered to my future passion for helping others heal. There was no hospital or outpatient treatment team (although that would have been ideal). There was the enormity, and often illusory outline, of a dream of living a life beyond the fragmented abyss of an eating disorder. Even when I felt unworthy, I walked towards it. Even when I felt discouraged and defeated, I took another step. I showed up, over and over, for myself. But let me be the first to say, I was a hot mess. I was all over the place and nowhere. I was oozing out and hollow. Uncomfortable and convinced I had to keep going. It wasn’t graceful or glamorous, it was mostly gut-wrenching until it wasn’t anymore. It certainly was not perfect, but somewhere inside I knew I was reclaiming my one true self.

Something shifted later that year, however. The wedding gifts and the framed degree went unnoticed as the incessant demands of mothering ensued. My gratitude for my body’s ability to heal from an eating disorder, to grow a precious little soul, and capacity to deliver that soul into the world became overshadowed with loneliness.

Day after day my husband would leave and go out into the world where there were people, actual people that he talked to, and much to my irritation, would sometimes even have the audacity to go out to eat with them. What?

I was increasingly aware, as I meandered through Target, that this whole motherhood thing was terribly misleading. As I sat in circles with other mom’s during “Books and Babies” at the library, I heard a voice, a loud, demanding voice that said, “Get the hell out of here!”  But where would I go? “Books and Babies” felt like my one shot at connecting with other moms. Other women that maybe, just like me, were feeling like something critical was missing.

I couldn’t figure out why my whole life I had prepared for this thing that I knew without question I was called to do was equal parts misery and magical. My deepest felt sense at the time was that something was wrong with me. Why can’t I just be content with staying at home with my baby? I felt guilty, like some invisible force field of mother’s were frowning down on me, looking at each other with disgust, “Of course, it’s still not enough for her.”

As my son, Beckett, approached eighteen months I sought out and accepted my first position as a therapist at the local mental health center. I shopped daycares like my life depended on it, and in some ways it did. I needed the comfort of knowing my sweet baby would be well cared for while I went to work.

The first several weeks of dropping him off were horrific. His little body clung to me like a rabid animal desperate and afraid. I walked out into the parking lot sobbing, as other mothers hoisted themselves into their SUV’s and reapplied lipstick. I had morbid images of extracting this agony (wherever it lived in my body) and tucking it under their back tires to end the suffering.

When I was at work, I longed to be with Beckett, but when I was at home I couldn’t wait to go back to work where I could put my clinical skills to use. But no matter if I was at work or home, I believed I was failing somehow. I needed help.

My sturdy, reliable eating disorder, my method for managing such complicated feelings, was well into remission. As though handcuffed to the steering wheel I was committed not to turn back to the now rusty behaviors, eager and anxious for me to employ them. I just couldn’t. I knew in my heart, finally, that I simply was unwilling to return to a life dictated and tethered to an eating disorder. There’s got to be another way out.

Pregnancy was the ultimate invitation to heal my body. Motherhood, however, unfolded a rich tapestry woven with opportunities to heal my past and reconnect with my soul.

Fourteen years recovered, three children in my nest, and a million hours clocked in as a therapist later, I’ve reconsidered and reshaped my beliefs about what it means to be called to a profession or a role. Each whisper from our soul is beckoning us to expand, to doubt and underestimate ourselves mercilessly so that we can then more fiercely stand by our own side empowered and emboldened with the knowing that we once again exceeded our limiting beliefs and stepped into the fullest version of ourselves.

So with graduation and Mother’s Day upon us, I’m giving you one hell of an oversimplified recipe for recovery:

  • Walk daily towards one of your soul’s callings.
  • Watch as each step you take towards your passion you shed another thin layer of your old unhealthy ways.
  • Marvel at how messy and majestic you are as you make your way.
  • Lovingly acknowledge each detour and setback as the next lesson to remind you of how strong and steadfast you are despite the distractions and discouragement.
  • Advocate for yourself like you would for a child.
  • Allow your symptoms to guide you home.

Why It's Okay to Dislike Your Dietitian in Recovery

I distinctly remember the day as a hospital dietitian that totally changed my perspective on my profession. I had received a consult for a gentleman who had suffered a heart attack and underwent open heart surgery. With my educational materials in hand, I went to his room and knocked on the door. “Come in,” he said.  

I explained, “My name is Katy and I’m one of the dietitians. I’m here to talk to you about your eating. Your doctor wanted me to go over some information with you before you go home.”  The next thing he said shocked me. “You can tell it to my wife. She does all the cooking.”  

With my poker face I said, “Ok, sure,” and went on to provide the cardiac nutrition education to his wife, hoping that the patient would overhear it and learn something himself. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t care.

In hindsight, I can now empathize with what he was going through. It must have been shocking and terrifying to suffer a heart attack, and very painful to have open heart surgery. The food on the cardiac diet at the hospital probably didn’t taste that great. He needed some time to wrap his mind around what happened, and to take a personal inventory of the changes he needed to make in his life. Then, when he was ready, he would be more appropriate for nutrition education. Hearing me preach to him in the hospital wasn’t going to be helpful.

The thing that was so shocking to me about this encounter was that I had been operating under the assumption that my patients always wanted my help. Especially after something as life-altering as a heart attack. I couldn’t understand why he had no apparent interest in hearing the information, or why he was dumping all of the responsibility for his eating on his wife.  

It was my first real insight into the psychology of working with people as a dietitian. How could it be that they didn’t want to hear what I had to say and do what I told them to do? [gasp]  

Then I started working with clients who have eating disorders and it was like a slap in the face. Talk about people who don’t want to do the things you suggest. If you’ve never stood toe-to-toe with an eating disorder, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like. The best analogy I have is to compare it to a parent telling their child no they cannot stay up late, or no you cannot touch the hot stove, or yes you need to brush your teeth - and the kid spins into a wild rage, lashing out, saying “NO!” or “I hate you!” The parent is doing these things for their child’s own good, but the child doesn’t like it. Eating disorders are much the same way. The person’s true self secretly feels safe and secure (hopefully) that their dietitian is telling them what’s best for their body, but the eating disorder doesn’t like it and will lash out.  

Things I’ve been told by clients with EDs:

  • I don’t like you.
  • F&*$ you!
  • I don’t see the point in coming to these sessions.
  • I’ve always hated dietitians.
  • I honestly don’t want to be here.
  • My parents/therapist/doctor made me come but I don’t really think I need it.
  • I already know everything about nutrition. 
  • There’s nothing you can do that will help me.
  • I don’t trust you.

On the surface, these statements may sound really offensive, and I have to admit that the conflict-avoidant and sensitive part of me always cringes a little bit, but these statements aren’t about me as a person. They are about the threat that I represent to the eating disorder. (And if it is about me not being a good personality fit for the client, that’s fine, I’m happy to get them hooked up with another RD, but this isn’t usually the case with this type of defensiveness and rage.)

The dietitian is the person on the treatment team who is asking you to disobey your eating disorder. The person who is challenging the eating disorder's lies. The person who is helping you see the ways in which the eating disorder is destroying your body. The dietitian is asking you to do the thing you are most afraid of - to eat according to what your body needs, and to cope with your emotions in alternate ways. This may mean gaining weight. It may mean letting go of the fantasy that if you just ate xyz foods and weighed X pounds then your life will somehow be better.  

I get it. It’s uncomfortable, challenging, scary, and often outright infuriating to see a dietitian.  So, it’s ok to kinda hate your dietitian. We understand and we try not to take it personally. At the end of the day, I’m not here to be your BFF. I am here to help you recover. And if I’m never making the eating disorder mad, then I’m probably not doing my job.  

What I can promise you is that I am not fragile, and I will not crumble under the wrath of your eating disorder. My office is a safe place to let out your emotions. And no matter how angry and intimidating your eating disorder gets, I will still be here to fight the fight along side you. You can hate me AND I will still be your cheerleader and advocate for recovery. Maybe someday that hate will turn into gratitude and mutual respect. Many people who recover will say in hindsight that their dietitian was the most challenging member of their treatment team to work with, but was absolutely essential to their recovery.  

So, even if you hate seeing your dietitian, keep an open mind.  She (or he) is there to guide and support you through the difficult process of recovery.  

Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City.  She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.

Interview on the ED Matters Podcast

I got the amazing opportunity to be interviewed on the ED Matters Podcast, hosted by Kathy Cortese! We discussed the unique challenges for recovered therapists treating eating disorder patients. 

Getting excited? You can listen to the interview on Gürze-Salucore's website

For more inspiring interviews subscribe to ED Matters on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher.

Connect with me on:

 

The One Question to Ask Yourself Every Morning

Photo Credit: Evan Kirby

Photo Credit: Evan Kirby

In the early morning hours, before darkness lifts and the pace picks up, I tip toe downstairs, shower, and quietly prepare for the day. I love this time before my husband and children wake and my various responsibilities kick in. I can hear my thoughts, my breath, and the stillness.

I dress and approach the mirror. I stand before it, meet my eyes, and instead of asking who is the fairest of them all, I ask: Who do you want to show up as today?

For years and years, I stood before the mirror frantically checking my body. Do I look anorexic enough? Do I look sick enough from the side, front, and back? Of course, the answer was always no, and in an instant, the calm morning hours turned day into a raging hell. Can you relate?

That single moment in front of the mirror determined my attitude for the entire day. And because of that, recovery felt like a big fat inconvenience. An uphill battle. A never ending source of agony. I was always on the defensive, running against the natural flow of life for the sake of a measly moment in the mirror.

I’m 22 years into my healing path now, and I’ve given myself permission to play offense instead of defense. It’s taken time and many leaps of faith to test what would happen if I asked myself a different question in front of the mirror, one that celebrates instead of berates, empowers instead of belittles, raises up versus ridicules.

The idea of asking myself questions that weren’t traps for misery came from learning about the philosophical concept in yoga called the koshas. The idea is that we are all made of five layers: body, breath, mind (emotions), intellect, and spirit. In my experience, recovery is so heavily focused on food and feeding our bodies (because it has to be!) that we often don’t pause and notice how we are feeding our minds. You and I both know how difficult it is to get a grip on spinning eating disorder beliefs, thoughts, and rules! Gruelingly hard work, yes?

The reality I had to face was that unless I started feeding my mind different questions about myself, I would never have an opportunity to respond differently or feel happier or believe I was more than an eating disorder. My experience of life would forever be dictated by a mirror.

Little by little, I started asking different questions, the most pivotal one being: Who do you want to show up as today? I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes my answer to that question is related to body size. The difference now, though, is that I don’t allow that thought to stick. I consciously choose to ask myself the question again until the answer that comes is one that feeds my mind with positivity so that I start my day with an attitude of “Look out world, I am ready for you!”

So, I ask you: Who do you want to show up as today? How can you begin to feed your mind differently so that you have the opportunity to create new thoughts about yourself, your body, and your place in your world, in this world?

If you are unsure, just start with one simple question similar to what I ask myself, and don’t let yourself off the hook until your answer is about who you are at your core. We all deserve to draw out these beautiful parts of ourselves, and it begins with feeding our minds new words and thoughts about our whole sense of self.

Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, RYT 500 is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. In recovery herself, Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping others reconnect with their bodies and be empowered in their lives. She also teaches yoga at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia and is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. She leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes and teaches weekly flow yoga classes. Jennifer contributes regularly to several eating disorder and body image blogs and the YogaLiving Magazine. Connect with Jennifer.

Mama #2: A Tribute to My Mother(In-Law)

© Angie Viets

© Angie Viets

On the day I married her son, she hugged me warmly and with tear-filled eyes said, “You are now my daughter, and although you have a mother, I am now your Mama #2.” The promise was sealed and honored from that day forward. I’ve never received a daughter-in-law card, been introduced, or treated as anything other than her daughter.

I met her son in the first grade. He was my first love and boyfriend throughout high school. Honestly, part of the reason I fell in love with him is because of her. The three-story colonial home at the end of a long drive, beautifully decorated with her impeccable taste, the endless cooking and laundry to keep up with her husband and five football-playing boys, and her never-ending devotion to her family. She embodied everything I hoped I would be as a mother.

Years later, when I broke her son’s heart and moved on, she remained kind to me despite his pain and consequently her own. Several years later she was the first to welcome me back into her family, and to tell me, “He never stopped loving you, and neither did I.”

Shedding tears with my mom, she watched me try on wedding dresses and helped us plan our special day. A year later, she soothed my fears in the delivery room as I gave birth to her grandson. She taught me the art and beauty of nursing a baby as she stocked our freezer full of meals with little notes attached, ‘Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 1 hour.’ She quilted each grandbaby a blanket that became soft and worn over the years and was quick to reassure me of what a good mother I was to her grandchildren and her gratitude for loving her son.

Even though there were four other daughters for her to love and endless flooding of her heart and home, she had the unique ability to make you feel adored and cherished. Each of us girls felt as though we were her favorite, because we were, just in different ways.

Sitting on the deck beside the pool one evening, with several daughters(in-law), each with a glass of wine in hand surrounding her, she shared that she never felt as good in her own skin as she did that year. She had just turned sixty, and she looked as beautiful outside, with her glowy Italian skin reflecting the light from the moon on that late fall night, as she explained she felt on the inside. She offered the wisdom to her young daughters that only a well-seasoned mother can about motherhood, marriage, and most importantly, the beauty of being a woman. Three months later she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer that took her life within twelve short and excruciatingly long months. Our foundation cracked the day of her diagnosis, and at times seems to be incapable of mending.

As I lay in her bed holding her over those months, she asked that I now make a promise to her, “Never forget how much I love you. Never forget how much I love you.” She repeated it as though trying to solidify it in my mind, body, and soul. During her illness, she continued to show me by example what a mother’s love truly means. She wanted us to know that she wasn’t angry that she was the one that got sick. “I’m grateful that it was none of you,” she said, as she looked at each one of us and shared the news that her doctors advised that treatment would no longer be beneficial.

During her last visit to my home, we sat outside, listening to the birds, as the kids played and I painted her nails. She looked at the youngest of my three children, as he toddled around the yard, unphased by the loss of her hair and rounded ‘moon face’ from being pumped full of steroids, and cried, “I’m so sad I won’t get to be a part of this...” She gestured to her grandchildren.

Her final promise as “her girls” sat on the edges of her bed: “Something beautiful will come from this.” She repeated it again, “Something beautiful will come from this.” I wish I knew what that meant, or if that’s even true, but maybe two years after her passing it’s too soon to understand. What I know for sure, is something beautiful came from the love she gave all of her children and grandchildren.

The night of her passing from this life to the next, she was held in the arms of her high school sweetheart. As we circled her bed, he opened the sliding glass door from their bedroom and released her spirit to the moon shining brightly above.

While filling out Mother’s Day cards, my baby, who becomes less baby and more of a child every day, asked to make his Grammy a Mother’s Day card and wondered, in the way only small innocent children do, if our postal carrier knew how to deliver it to heaven. I let him make her a card, and I sat in our pantry and quietly cried. Even though he may not remember his Grammy and my Mama #2, he knows her. He knows her because she is alive in our home, in the stories and memories we share, in the faces of his dad and his four uncles, the meals we make from her recipe cards, and the quilts we wrap ourselves in as a reminder of her enduring love. Happy Mother’s Day My Mama #2 and may something beautiful come from this...

Beyond Body Image: What Happens After Recovery

Photo Credit: Morgan Sessions

Photo Credit: Morgan Sessions

Body Image is certainly not a topic or issue unique to eating disorders. It touches all women regardless of a diagnosis or illness. And it certainly doesn’t go away after the illness and unhealthy relationship with food become a thing of the past.

I have had the honor of speaking with many women lately who fall somewhere in a category of “disordered eating” or “negative self-image”, or perhaps just “a normal woman” in today's western culture. Women who are not necessarily in the middle of full-blown treatment or recovery from an eating disorder (as defined by a medical or mental health professional) but who still struggle with being at war with themselves and their bodies. These are generally high-functioning adults living their normal day to day as mothers, sisters, wives, teachers, business-women, fitness instructors, actresses, artists, etc...

Most recently, I have been honored to collaborate with some dear friends and fellow professionals on a Self-Love Mastermind with the help of the leaders and founders of Manifesting Mamas. My dear friend and colleague Josie Kramer is helping me guide women across the country on a 4-week course about body love and self image.

During this course, we show the trailer for the powerful documentary “Embrace”, created by Taryn Brumfitt, founder of The Body Image Movement. {If you have not seen this film yet, I highly recommend you do!}

This past week, our participants were courageous enough to discuss their reflections after watching the video. I feel it important to share this conversation in order to shed light on how body image can be a painful struggle for all women, and most importantly, how we can support each other in cultivating a healthy, empowering relationship with our bodies, our souls, ourselves.

*participant names are changed to protect confidentiality.

Sarah: Here's what I am struggling with after watching this. I don't want to embrace my body as it is. I want a healthier, thinner body. Not because society tells me that's what I should look like, or because I think that's what will make me more beautiful. But because I want to be healthier. Does that make sense? So I guess my question is, is the key to changing your body, first accepting it as it is now? Because until I reach my healthiest me, I want to feel happy with how I am.

Cindy: A wise woman once said, "Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” I like to think that I like my body as it is now but I also love the idea that I alone have the capacity to change it... and am making progress, albeit, baby steps, towards those changes every single day.

Rachel (myself): Sarah brings up such a good point and such a common struggle with the "body acceptance/self-love" paradigm. Because truly, there is nothing innately WRONG with wanting to improve ourselves, to change ourselves, to be "fit" "healthy" "lean" "curvy" "toned" or whatever your personal goals may be.

It really all goes back to balance. There is a difference between self-improvement, health and fitness - and obsessively going to unhealthy extremes (whether emotionally or behaviorally) - which is what the media, health and beauty industries thrive on.

Even when our desires to change our bodies in order to be healthy are truly SOUL-DRIVEN, and not overtly due to society telling us how we should look, there are layers and layers of shame and worth tangled in there that are influenced by outside factors, that we are often not aware of. So the real work in recovery is being aware and accepting of those factors at play while on your journey of health...so that you are completely aware of your intentionality and emotional state throughout that process.

I also love Cindy’s feedback on this!! What an empowering perspective. There is a lot to be said about liking/loving yourself and your body for all that it does - regardless of weight or size! And the truth that you alone have the capacity to make changes towards a healthier you, based on your authentic values and your innate health needs is an incredible gift!

Josie (my partner/fellow recovery warrior): Sarah brings up such a great question! I absolutely agree with the emphasis on balance! What I can add to this conversation is a little of my own story and how it relates... When I was a teenager and into my early 20's I suffered HARD with going on and off restrictive diets & my weight would drastically fluctuate up and down. Whether I was thinner or heavier I felt miserable, I didn't enjoy food & I definitely didn't accept myself. I was in so much turmoil over food that I made a resolve to quit focusing on my weight, to quit weighing myself and to quit dieting all together!!

I decided to start over from a place of self-acceptance & focus solely on health while trusting that my weight would balance out in its own time. The acceptance part was key because I had to accept that I was heavier than I wanted to be. I also had to accept that the “yo-yo” dieting was making my life a living hell.

So I made balanced eating, balanced exercise, and self-care my new approach. No more starvation. No more out of control bingeing. No more over-exercising. And much less obsessing! It was definitely a process but little by little I started feeling so much better!! I enjoyed food again, I fell in love with yoga and I even got to a weight that was much healthier for me!

Better than all that, I started to truly love myself! The decision to stop battling with myself, while still focusing on health made ALL the difference. It doesn't have to be one or the other approach. I think a balance of the two is the answer! 

My favorite part about the transcript above, and the overall experience of working with women on these topics, is the love, kindness and support I get to witness and be a part of every day.

Remember, as Brené Brown said: 

we don’t have to do of all of it alone. We were never meant to
Rachel Daggett - Angie Viets

Rachel Daggett, MS, MFTI is a Wellness and Recovery Coach and a Registered Therapist Intern. She has a private practice in Manhattan Beach, CA, and strives to be an active force of empowerment and love in the community. Through struggling with her own eating disorder and journey of healing, and now being recovered, she has become an advocate for eating disorder recovery and mental health. Rachel has a Masters degree in Psychology, and believes in the importance of caring for the mind, body, heart, and soul as a whole. Rachel is a yogi, a dog-mom, a beach-girl at heart, and has recently started studying the natural healing power of essential oils. Visit her website

Finding Inspiration for Your Recovery From An Eating Disorder

Photo Credit: Cynthia Magana

Photo Credit: Cynthia Magana

Eating disorder recovery is hard work. It is normal to feel ambivalent at times or even to want to give up on recovery. Recovery is not a linear process and there are likely to be setbacks and struggles along the way.

A Brief Exercise

One exercise that I’ll often have clients do who are struggling with motivation for recovery is to write down what their lives could look like 5 years from now if they recover vs. 5 years from now if they stay trapped in their eating disorder. This can really help to put things into perspective.

Finding Inspiration for Recovery

When you look back on your life at age 80, do you think that you will be fondly reminiscing about being a slave to the treadmill or obsessively fixating on food? Living trapped in an eating disorder is not an enjoyable way to be.

If you are struggling with finding inspiration to keep working on your recovery, I would advise that you reach out for help and support from a therapist and other treatment professionals.

Additionally, I often will talk with clients about the benefits of surrounding themselves with body-positive and pro-recovery media. I ask them to go into their social media feeds and unfollow anyone who makes them feel badly about themselves and then to add in body-positive and pro-recovery people.

We are inundated with unhelpful messages and part of counter-acting this is to choose to surround yourself with more positive and pro-recovery messaging.

Another Exercise

Another exercise that can be helpful in terms of building motivation for recovery is to write a goodbye letter to your eating disorder. You could even discuss how it may have been helpful for you in regards to coping at the time, however how it is no longer serving you.

The Bottom Line

No one chooses to have an eating disorder; however, you can make the choice to keep working on your recovery. There are so many beautiful reasons to recover, from being a role model to others, to traveling and exploring the world, strengthening your relationships, and finding happiness and joy again.

I’d love to hear your reasons to recover in the comments below!

Jennifer Rollin - Angie Viets

JENNIFER ROLLIN, MSW, LCSW-C is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping adolescents and adults struggling with eating disorders, body image issues, anxiety, and depression. Jennifer offers eating disorder therapy to individuals in Maryland and D.C. and eating disorder recovery coaching via phone/Skype. Visit her website.

Surviving Spring Break While in Eating Disorder Recovery

Photo Credit: Jens Johnsson

Photo Credit: Jens Johnsson

During college, March means several things: midterms, green beer, March Madness and spring break. Weeks leading up to spring break the refrain during therapy sessions with my college-aged client’s in recovery sounds like this, “Everyone, literally everyone around me is on a diet and losing weight to ‘prepare’ for spring break. And guess what I’m losing? My f’ing mind! How am I supposed to gain, or even maintain my weight in a world where it’s ok for everyone else to lose weight?” 

The frustration is palpable and it’s real. Spring break while you are recovering from an eating disorder, is the equivalent to a recovering alcoholic walking down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. “It so sucks,” I say, “I get it; it’s messed up and unfair. I wish I could make it go away for you, but I can’t. So, let’s find a way to survive it.”

A few tried and true tips:

1. Personal responsibility 
I learned in my own recovery that no one, I mean NO ONE can protect the sacred space of your recovery like you can. Of course, it’s hurtful when people you are close to continue to talk about their weight loss strategies even after they know you have an eating disorder. However, the reality is we are 100% responsible for our recovery. Period. Once that really sinks in it can be liberating (after you finish freaking out about it). Of course, you need tons of support along the way, but ultimately it’s up to you! And what I know about you, just like me, is that once our minds are made up, you better move out of the way.

2. Get in alignment
Purposefully staying in alignment with your recovery goals is huge, especially during high-stress situations! Here are a few suggestions to lighten the load. Meet with your treatment team a little more frequently until things settle down a bit. Listen to podcasts on recovery. Read daily affirmations that resonate with you. Follow blogs that are recovery oriented. Adopt a mantra to carry you through the next couple of weeks.

3. A visualization
Close your eyes and imagine being lovingly wrapped in a ball of golden light. This light gently warms your skin; it protects you. Your body, illuminated by the light, is a sacred space, a sanctuary where you are healing. The light creates a protective bubble around you that cannot be penetrated by the noise that once was so triggering. The noise never goes away; nor is it your responsibility to make it go away.

Honor the light by remembering that you have the ability to protect what you’ve worked so passionately for - Your Recovery.

4. Surround yourself with positivity
Choose the company you keep wisely. We don’t have the ability to change other people and what they focus on. We can, however, decide which relationships we invest our energy in. Consciously surround yourself with people who aren’t caught up in perfecting their body. (Believe it or not, they do exist; I promise). Love yourself enough to walk away from anything that makes you question your recovery. Your recovery tribe will believe in and encourage you. They will lift you up and nourish you. Be so grateful for them!

5. Be an observer
Notice that this flurry of activity around you is short lived. Sit back as though you’re a writer planning to tell the story of the “Spring Break Freak-out.” An observer story from a former client: “It’s starting again! All of my sorority sisters are ‘preparing’ for spring break by doing a Brazilian butt workout.” Years into her recovery she was able to see the absurdity of these trends and also recognized the sadness of feeling inadequate. She found it interesting to notice that as soon as spring break was over, so were those silly butt workouts.

When the volume is too loud around you and your brain feels cluttered with the competing agendas of recovery or commitment to your eating disorder, step outside. Notice that spring is here; which is truly a time of renewal. You are preparing for something a hell of a lot more important than spring break, you are preparing to Bloom!

Know that I’m thinking of you and am confident that you can ride the waves as they rise and fall. Be gentle with yourself. I’m so very proud of you!

Please Don’t Ask Me How Long This Will Take

Image Credit: KijaDoll

Image Credit: KijaDoll

An open letter to our Supporters,

We had the fight again — the one that happens when our heroic patience finally deflates, and our frustration comes hissing out until it permeates through the house. You want to know: How long is this going to take? How long are we going to suffer like this?

You are tired. You are trying your hardest and we are draining our resources, but nothing seems to do the trick. You don’t know if there is ever a “right thing” to say. Most of the time, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, afraid that your well-intended comment is going to trigger some irrational fear or anxiety — or worse — in me.

You’ve tried reasoning with me, but you found out quickly that an eating disorder has its own logic and thus it doesn’t respond to reason. You try to put yourself in my shoes, hoping that empathy might translate to energy and keep us both going. It’s impossible to understand, though. How could I struggle, you wonder, with something so basic as eating, something we’re literally born knowing how to do? How long will it take to just click?

You want to know when are things going to get better — when am I going to better?

You’re frustrated. I understand. Your feelings are justified. (And even if they weren’t, you would still have a right to feel however you do. Lord knows that is what I’m trying to believe for myself.)

But please don’t forget: I feel the same way that you do. By the time you finally lose it and tell me how frustrated, exhausted, exasperated, and scared you are, I’ve already said those things to myself. (Several times. Just that day.)

We have a common enemy in this. It hurts me just as badly to live with this monster as it does for you to watch it wreak havoc on me. I want it gone, too, and I’m trying my hardest to make this stop. So please, whatever you do, don’t ask me how long will this take.

Because I don’t know.

I don’t know.

I.  DON’T.  KNOW.

Surely you know that if I could simply erase this illness and leave no trace of it, I would do it. No disordered thoughts, no temptations, no lapses whatsoever. No more therapy appointments congesting my calendar. No more signing up for school and then dropping out because I’m still “not well enough.” No more quibbling with this or that doctor just to cling to a semblance of autonomy over my health.

Free from the embarrassment of inching down grocery aisles trying to choose between the “right” foods and the “safe” ones. From the dread I feel when I see a tray of cookies at the staff meeting. From the anxiety that wakes up each morning as I think about another day of fighting the voices, of struggling to find that mysterious balance between forgiving myself and pushing myself. From the unrelenting sense that I must be either insane or heartless for putting us through this.

All of it, just gone. I would do almost anything for that gift.

But I can’t. And so, when you ask me how long this recovery is going take, what I hear in that question is confirmation of my deepest fear: I am a burden. You are as fed up with me as I am.

It’s not that I want you to hide your fear or sadness, or even your anger (at my eating disorder — not at me). I need to know your feelings because I need to be reminded that my life isn’t the only one at stake here. That’s critical, because in the moments when I can’t find it in me to recover for my own sake, I can do it for you.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not trying to be stubborn. I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m just trying to get through this.

Thank you for your support, your loyalty, and your faith in me,
Your Loved One

Joanna Kay is a New York City writer and social media professional in recovery from a 14-year battle with anorexia. She is the author of The Middle Ground, a blog that chronicles the period between completing treatment and reaching full recovery. Having encountered many hurdles accessing treatment, she also writes frequently about insurance coverage and other urgent issues facing eating disorder patients. Joanna is a mental health advocate with the National Eating Disorders Association and writes and speaks widely about the recovery process. Visit her blog.

How Emotional Eating is Serving You

Emotional eating is usually seen in a bad light. We often hear how eating when stressed, bored or lonely is damaging and should be eliminated. Many articles have been written about how to stop eating emotionally. In fact, when I was doing research to write this piece, I really struggled to find any references that wrote about emotional eating in a positive tone.

However, despite emotional eating’s bad reputation, it’s important to acknowledge the ways it actually serves us. Emotional eating has a purpose, and it’s not a bad one.

1. Food is Comfort

There is a reason many turn to food when uncomfortable or distressed: food is comforting. This is one of the reasons parents often offer food to children who are sad or distraught. It temporarily numbs our discomfort and makes us feel good. While it won’t eliminate the cause of this discomfort, it distracts us from the challenging situation we are encountering. It provides relief and a sense of calm. This characteristic of food is not a bad one. In fact, it allows us to cope with life’s difficulties.

2. An Act of Self-Care

Emotional eating can become a problem when we think of it as being something bad or sinful. After engaging in emotional eating, many are ridden with feelings of guilt, shame, and regret. I often hear clients speaking about how horrible they feel after these experiences. In a culture that paints emotional eating as a bad thing, I can certainly understand these feelings. It can be helpful to work on changing our mentality and realizing that eating emotionally is a form of self-care. In fact, it’s just one of the many ways you can use to feel safe and protect yourself.

3. An Opportunity to Learn

I often talk to clients about how it can be helpful to have a toolkit of comforting activities to turn to in moments of distress. Emotional eating can most definitely be one of those tools. Next time you engage in emotional eating, take time to notice what is happening inside of you instead of being self-critical. Note what needs are not being met and what feelings are causing you discomfort. This is a wonderful opportunity to be curious about your experience.

The Bottom Line

It can be very healing to work on accepting our emotional eating behaviors. It allows room for curiosity, compassion, and self-love, while fighting off feelings of guilt and humiliation. You are doing your best to take care of yourself and that is always something to celebrate. 

Josée Sovinsky is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.