Mirror Mirror on the Wall Mirror, Am I Hypocrite After All?

Angie viets - mirror mirror on the wall - eating disorder recovery

One of the biggest reasons I love my job is the amazing people I work with and the opportunity to build relationships with them. Their trust in me as their dietitian is that I not only talk the talk, but I also walk the walk. Many times in my career, statements that I have made to my clients have come back to gnaw in my ear like a pesky gnat. Humble pie can be a hard slice to swallow, but if I am going to be authentic to these incredible yet vulnerable people I MUST do the same as I tell them.

I have always prided myself on how resilient and tough I thought I was. However, if I speak honestly, these two traits are not what they used to be. As a collegiate athlete, I had the energy of a three-year-old on a Halloween candy high and a pain threshold so high that I was up hours after having an emergency c-section because I was determined to be with my baby as much as possible even if my legs were like wet noodles. Now I find myself scheduling power naps so I can function at the end of the day and the slightest possibility of a cold has me trading in my Chardonnay for Emergen-c cocktails because, well, who has time to be sick?

The biggest test of all is now my role as a mother. As independent as we believe these little humans to be, they are also absorbing everything we do so they can model it. As a mother of a young daughter, it breaks my heart to see and hear the societal messages she will grow up with.

Things to keep in mind as you go about your day, unaware that impressionable little ears may be listening:

  • When we get ready in the morning, are we mirroring a woman that is confident in herself – not based on how her outfit looks, but rather by how she is preparing to tackle that day?
  • When you step on the scale, are you giving the impression that the little “hunk” of metal is a grade of who you are?
  • When you are on your “diet,” are you giving the impression that you are not enough and you need to change?
  • When we tell our kids to go outside and run around to get their energy out, what do you think they associate with when you say, “I have to go run to burn off this ice cream?”
  • Do we walk proudly as we are responsible for bringing these amazing people into the world, or do we crawl into a shell so we may not see the amazing blessings that have come our way?

I often wonder if God has possibly put a time line on those youthful traits that I once admired so that I may slow down and enjoy the day with more diligence. Perhaps making myself more aware of pain so that I actually pay attention to what is hurting me? If I could mirror anything to my daughter, my friends, my clients and the world it would be that we need no explanations for who we. Just take me as I am and allow for grace, as I am guaranteed to make some mistakes!

Angie Viets - Rebecca McConville

Rebecca McConville, MS, RD, LD, CSSD is a Master’s Level Registered Dietitian & a Board Certified Sports Specialist. She specializes in the treatment of anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating & exercise addiction. She also treats the female athlete triad & athlete-associated disordered eating. Becca understands that the drive for peak performance may lead to disordered eating. Her goal is to help you fuel your body, so that you can fuel your life! Visit her website.

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.

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.

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.

How to be Good Enough

How to be Good Enough

Learning how to believe I’m good enough still feels like walking on a tightrope.  Each step is calculated and timid.  Fearing the fall into the dark abyss of my past, I move cautiously.  Breath held, hands shaking, arms outstretched for balance as I try not to look down.  When can I relax, breathe, and trust in myself that all will be well?   When will I float above the tightrope with the grace of a ballerina, light on her toes?