portrait of the beautiful young girl

What does recovery look like to you?

To me, recovery means filled pages instead of empty body. Filled life instead of empty heart.

It looks like ups, downs and fighting to ignore my sabotaging self-critic who craves “perfection.”

If you’ve struggled with an eating disorder, you may also be a strong self-critic. Your own worst enemy. A perfectionist who cannot be proud no matter how hard you may try.

Me? I was four years old trying to learn multiplication before school started. I always needed to be in control, prepared and “perfect.”

My disorder is my self-critic on hyper speed. My hyper speed self-critic makes it difficult to maintain a level head in recovery. In my experience, critical voices want to take control.

If you lapse in recovery, your self-critic — who seeks perceived “perfection” — may scream failure.

It may ask you, “Why keep going? Why should I be proud when I’m not perfect at recovery?”

Answer back.

I scream back at my critic, “I will still choose recovery!”

I choose recovery for myself. Tomorrow will be one step closer to freedom. I will choose recovery for myself today and in the future.

Pride can be an awkward feeling when you’re used to your self-critic being in control.

You may think, I can’t be proud because I’m not perfect!

I’m learning I can and should have pride in every single step I take. Recovery successes and steps sideways.

I have confidence in my journey — that I’ll be OK — because I choose recovery

I hope you do too.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via ARTQU.

RELATED VIDEOS


Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

To the dietitians, therapists and doctors treating patients with eating disordersPlease know I can hear you.

I hear you tell me to trade the negative behavior for a positive behavior. I hear you tell me to focus on my values and not give into my eating disorder (ED). I hear you stress about my medical stability and how I’m not immortal. I hear you talk about my meal plan and how I should stay off the scale. I hear you when you tell me over and over to trust the process of eating disorder recovery. I promise I am listening and not deliberately ignoring you.

I am caught in the middle of the biggest tug of war with my life. I am not sure how to fully live without an eating disorder. I question if I can live a more “rational” and “normalized” life. You ask me to let go of my behaviors, and I cringe at the thought because these behaviors have given me a sense of comfort, solitude and control in my life. Albeit, a false sense of comfort, solitude and control — and that is why I am listening to you. I understand that I am the only ones who can let go of this eating disorder, but sometimes fear creeps in and grips me at the core.

Values. You tell me to, “Find your values and connect with them to bring focus on what the most important things in life really are.” I am searching for my values. I am trying to allow them to surface while combating the loud, screaming voice of my eating disorder that is fighting equally hard to suppress my values. The voice of the disorder seems to get louder at first. It seems easier to succumb to ED then to fight against it. I can hear the exacerbation in your voice at times. I want to sigh right along with you as I barely tread water — so please keep telling me to focus on what is important. I am listening.

Medical stability. Yes, I hear you when you say eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Do I think I’m immortal? No. Truth be told, I’m often scared for myself. The sense of control I assumed I had in the beginning now controls me, and I’m not sure how to ask for help. Even when help is offered, I’m afraid to accept it because I might feel unworthy. So please, don’t give up on me when I push back against your recommendations. I ask for forgiveness when I fight and use harsh words. All the negative comments I say to you are really meant for my eating disorder — you just happen to take the blows. I am trying to learn how to love myself and accept all that you are offering to me. Keep offering your advice and support even when we say I don’t want it — because I really do.

Trust the process. Trust is something I probably don’t hand out easily. My eating disorder tells me to trust no one and to isolate myself from everyone. Extending my trust to you scares me. I am afraid of getting hurt, while opening up about the webs my ED has created. Setting aside certain expectations I have of treatment and trusting the process is something I know I should do to embrace recovery. I hear you. Our trust may fail many times as I struggle, persevere and struggle some more. Keep telling me to trust the process. Keep encouraging me along the way. I am my biggest cheerleader and own worst critic. I hear you coaching me along the path to recovery. When I am unable to cheer for myself, please continue to cheer for me. I am listening.

Thank you to the dietitians, therapists and doctors treating patients with eating disorders. Know that your advice, words of support and genuine concerns are being heard. I hear your voice among the chaos of my ED voice. As I learn to suppress that negative voice, your advice takes a greater stance in my life. So please, don’t stop talking, or decide to pass me onto the next dietitian, therapist or doctor. I promise I hear you — and I am beyond thankful for your support. I will eventually start using my voice to advocate for myself and take hold of my own recovery.

Thank you to every dietitian, therapist and doctor, past and present, that has given their time to help me throughout the course of my treatment. I heard you and I still hear you. I have learned something from each of you. Your effort was not in vain. I was truly listening to your compassionate words of wisdom. My stubbornness has led me to a place of humility. I am holding onto the hope of recovery and the time you have invested in me.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via nazileom


I still feel guilty using the washroom after a meal. I’ll hold it until I get home.

Maybe I drank too much water. Or maybe I forgot to pee before I left the house.

But panic sets in. Even if my dinner date doesn’t know my story I still worry.

In treatment, you get used to supervision while using the washroom. Then your family and friends keep a close eye.

“Don’t shut the door.”

“Are you sure you really need to pee?”

When you get used to living a certain way for so long the feelings still rumble inside you.

Yesterday, I forgot my lunch. So I grabbed a sandwich.

I almost want to tell the person next to me how excited I am. Sitting at work like, “Look I’m eating a sandwich.

But being excited that you’re eating a sandwich usually celebratory. For me it is.

They’ll think, “What is your problem? You don’t look sick…”

I don’t look sick. In my mind, I never was sick enough anyways.

I step into a food court and take a deep breath. A warrior headed to battle.

Only the battle is my own mind and I’m trying to conquer lunch. Casually like the hundreds of people in suits and with shopping bags around me.

Numbers start spinning around. Numbers that don’t add up. Rules. According to who? Not according to me.

These days in recovery it is easier to run from this.

That is the easy choice. But I’m used to the discomfort. After over a year actively breaking my eating disorder’s rules.

I feel like cheering when it is over and I choose something.

Recovery warrior onwards.

Ebbs and flows.

 

Some days I am flowing and celebrating even when the war is still battling on.

Because I’m fighting.

I felt lame the first time I said that.

Fighting. What the hell am I fighting for? A life. To thrive and live without rules. To be authentically myself. Sensitive and all.

I’m talking because I know I’m not alone. I’ve had messages, phone calls, hugs and stories told.

And because we don’t talk about it enough.

And because every time we share we show up and give ourselves the chance to be seen and heard.

Eating disorders have swallowed me and spit me out many times. Maybe they have for you too.

Choose to get back up and keep going.

That is what recovery is to me.

The outside world may not see the battle. It is not always a sunshiny day filled with successes.

But the elation you feel when you overcome? It is so freakin’ worth the dark days and discomfort.

Let the light in.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo provided by contributor


Last night, I posted a picture of my children enjoying ice cream sandwiches following dinner with a caption that said:

Years ago, I would spend nearly an hour in the grocery store’s ice cream section. Opening and closing every glass door, pulling every carton out and quickly putting it back in. My mind raced as I carefully analyzed every black and white nutrition label. Too many calories in this one, too much sugar in that one. I would ultimately walk out with the lowest fat/cal/sugar ice cream-ish substance I could find. I would also leave in the throes of a massive panic attack. Because of my eating disorder, a task as simple as grocery shopping left me debilitated by anxiety.When the ice cream made it to my freezer, it haunted me. I wanted to throw it away. I wanted to eat it all and purge it. But all I really wanted was to stop the monster in my brain. I wanted ice cream to be just that — ice cream. I wanted freedom from my eating disorder.

Now, seven years later, I quickly push my cart up and down each aisle, tossing in items on my list: avocados, black beans, chips, crackers, milk. I strolled down the freezer section and caught a glimpse of ice cream sandwiches. “That sounds good!” I thought and tossed them in. I kept my quick pace to the check out so I would make it home to unload the groceries before it was time to pick up the kids.

I often hear from parents they limit sweets or do not keep them in the house at all. I believe it is so important that we offer our children a variety of foods and do not label food “good” or “bad.” Food is food — no moral value. All foods fit! When we deny our children certain foods, it creates a hierarchy of food and can possibly shame them from eating it in the future, associating the food with feelings of guilt. Above all else, I believe it is so important for our children to see us enjoying a variety of foods. This evening, my kids and I enjoyed the delicious ice cream sandwiches. I never take a single moment of recovery for granted and the ability to share it with my children. I am so thankful for my recovery and the freedom that comes with it — both in and out of the freezer aisle!

The post was shared widely across social media with many “YES”’ comments and women in recovery posting about their own journey with ice cream. However, I knew it was a matter of time before someone questioned my “all foods fit” approach to food.

Here are some responses I got:

“I disagree in one respect. Junk food is junk. Chemical filled and not healthy. Once in a while a Twinkie or something junky is fine. But children should learn about healthy foods.”

“Moderation is so key. As long as my [child] eats a balanced meal that covers most of the food groups, I don’t mind sharing my ice cream with her. She’s such a fruit and veggie eater, she’d rather have fresh picked strawberries most days over processed sugars.”

I began to respond, but soon decided my response warranted a longer reply than a simple social media comment.

So… Thank you all for your comments. I understand your thought around moderation and labeling food as “junk” because that is certainly what society and many experts tell us. “Don’t eat junk. Childhood obesity is at an all time high! Limit processed sugars. Moderation is key!” I get the “moderation is key” a lot. And to that, I completely agree 100 percent. Is it healthy to eat ice cream and pizza all day long every day? No way. And on the other side of the coin, is it healthy to eat kale and apples all day long? Nope. So yes, moderation is key.

I cringe when I see people talk about “chemical filled” food. This has little to do with my eating disorder history and more to do with my daughter’s cancer. Two years ago, when my daughter was in the hospital fighting neuroblastoma, I posted a picture of her with cupcakes sent by my sweet sorority sisters. I was shocked when I received an anonymous email warning me to keep all sugar away from my daughter.

First of all, my daughter was eight months old and had just spent a week in the PICU — she wasn’t even close to starting solid food yet. Secondly, sugar does not cause cancer. I realize I might be opening Pandora’s box here, but my daughter was diagnosed at seven months old. All she ever had in her body was breast milk. Cancer just happens sometimes. Sure, smoking causing cancer, but there is very little to connect sugar and processed foods to cancer. Trust me, I have tackled every doctor and nurse on our oncology floor and beyond, asking them what caused Marjorie’s cancer. I asked them what I can feed my children to prevent it from coming back or to keep my son from developing cancer. Unfortunately, there is very little I can do. Cancer just happens sometimes.

My daughter’s oncology nurse once told me there were two kids on the unit who both with the exact same cancer. One of the patients came from a family that was vegetarian and ate everything organic. The other child was of a lower socioeconomic level, with two working parents. His diet consisted of a lot of fast food. Extremely different diets and home life — exact same cancer. You can’t keep your children from getting cancer.

Again, is it good for us to eat processed foods and lots of sugar all day? No. Moderation. Kale and cupcakes. Hell, kale and chemicals if that is what you label cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches. And to be completely honest, I do buy organic meats, dairy, etc. That is just my personal preference. You will also find non organic bananas and Oreos in my pantry, too. At the end of the day, we can’t deny our children and ourselves what our bodies want. You can’t tell me at the end of a hot summer day, an ice cream sandwich didn’t sound amazing! I don’t think I’ve met anyone who craved frozen kale after a hot day on the beach.

Food is food. Sure, some foods pack more nutrient punch than others, but it is so critical not to create a hierarchy. When we limit or deny our children (or ourselves) certain food or food groups, that is all we will crave. When we can truly listen to our bodies, it will tell us what we need. Our bodies might signal us to want leafy greens or they might crave a burger because our iron is low. My children are small, but they understand food is food. My son sometimes turns down cake for bananas and sometimes it is vice versa. The bottom line is we are born with an amazing hunger/fullness system that gets distorted with every diet or food denial. Oftentimes we unknowingly pass that guilt on to our children. We love our children and want to see them healthy and happy, so we limit sweets or fast food. I can’t tell you how many young people I meet who feel like they have to sneak McDonald’s because they feel so ashamed about it. What if we drove through McDonald’s with them? No, seriously.

I recently gave a parent presentation with Oliver-Pyatt’s amazing director of nutrition, Mary Dye. A mom challenged the “All Foods Fit” theory, saying if she allowed her daughter to eat whatever she wanted, her daughter would go through McDonald’s every day.

“Let her,” I said.

“She will kill herself with it,” the mother responded.

“No she won’t. I promise,” I said. “She will get tired of it. It will lose it’s novelty. She won’t eat it forever and it will not kill her.”

Mary then elaborated on my point with a story that gave me chills:

“I once had a patient who struggled with binge eating disorder (BED)” Mary said. “Her father was a cardiologist and she grew up in a house that shamed and labeled food ‘bad,’ especially fast food. My work with her was to normalize food and to eliminate the shame factor. In fact, as a therapeutic exercise, we drove to McDonald’s. Fast food was something she would binge in secret and shame, alone in her car. I wanted to normalize the fast food experience for her. So we drove through, ordered, parked and mindfully enjoyed our meal. The more we deny, the more we want.”

I have told that story countless times. And what I would give to one day meet the brave patient who did the hard work of recovery, changing not only her life, but maybe her family’s as well.

I know the thought of keeping a variety of foods in the house or even you yourself driving through McDonald’s is outlandish, but I encourage you to try it. You might even surprise yourself. I never thought I could have ice cream in my house. Today, I have ice cream, candy, cookies, bananas, kale, crackers, chips, cheese, apples… you name it. And guess what? I don’t think about what I have in my pantry or freezer — unless, of course, I’m heading to the grocery store and need a list.

My motivation to recover was to not only be a mom, but be a mom who led by example. I wanted to be a mom who could eat ice cream and kale and everything in between. I am proud to say that I am that mom today. There is also no doubt I am not a perfect mother in a thousand other ways, but I make a conscious effort every day to do my best to live and lead by example.

My hope and prayer is not to raise healthy kids, but kind kids who love and live life, kids who forget there are cookies in the house unless their bellies tell them they want one. I want my kids to listen to the amazing bodies God gave them. Moving their bodies when they have bursts of energy or when the sun is shining just right, eating when they are hungry, stopping when they are full and if they eat too much, they know next time to stop.

Food is not the focus of our lives — it is important, but our day does not revolve around it. Our daily focus is on loving and living — playing outside, building towers, chasing lizards and avoiding shoes flying through the air when Marjorie throws them in her daily tantrum!

Raising what society views as “healthy” kids isn’t as important to me as raising kids who love themselves. At the end of the day, if we love ourselves, like truly love ourselves, we will honor our body. We will nourish, move and rest it as it desires and needs. When we love our bodies, we take the time to take care of it in all aspects: mind, body and spirit. So go ahead, eat the McDonald’s, the kale shakes, the daffodil sprouts and yes, even the “chemicals.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photos via contributor.


I have looked at myself as someone who has been on a pretty steady recovery path for a while now. I have been so “recovery minded” that I thought negative body image would never come up again for me. But looking at that thought now, I see it may not be the most logical one. As someone who’s struggled with self-esteem for over 10 years, I know I will probably always struggle with this. I think I got so obsessed with the idea of loving my body and not putting myself down that I forcefully painted the bulletproof recovery look on me and on my recovery blog. I can confidently say I do not hate my body as much as I used to. I have finally began to come to peace with it. However, I realized recently that just because I am more at peace with my body, doesn’t mean those thoughts won’t still creep inside of my head.

For a little while now, I have been doing a lot of patient testimonial work as well as running a recovery blog full time. Part of one of my patient testimonial projects is a photo shoot. This particular photo shoot was centered around yoga. Now, hear me when I say I love yoga and I truly believe it played such a big part in my recovery. People have told me I look very beautiful and have a good formation in my poses, and I guess my mind automatically believed them because I felt so wonderful in the poses. It wasn’t until last week that I realized I’ve never really seen what I look like while I’m doing yoga. For the shoot, the photographer had me do at least three different poses so I could find the one I liked the best and have that one be used for the project. After the initial three poses, the photographer showed me the photos. At that moment, I wanted to break down and burst into tears. I hated the way my body looked. I thought that my formation was awful and my mind automatically went to thinking, “If I was skinnier, this pose would look so much better.” Eventually, after a couple more poses, I found a pose I felt like I could at least deal with. I wrapped up the photo shoot and didn’t want to look in the mirror the rest of the day.

As a body positive blogger, I felt so incredibly guilty. I thought if I was really in recovery I shouldn’t have felt the feelings I did. I kept telling myself I’m an awful influence for all my followers and many more negative thoughts. I slowly but surely realized my mind was in a state of judgment and was in what I call, “my eating disorder mode.”

After going to bed early, I felt a little bit better when I woke up and a little more at peace. I felt like I was able to come to terms with the fact I had more work to do with body image than I thought. I also realized that nobody’s recovery is “perfect” and that just because I sometimes struggle with my body image doesn’t mean I am toxic to my followers. I have actually felt that my authenticity of my recovery journey has been most helpful to my followers.

So, although last week I realized I wasn’t “healed,” I also realized it’s nothing to beat myself up over and it is something I can and will continue to work on.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Maltiase.


This is encouragement for everyone who is currently in the process of recovery.

I wanted to encourage you on your decision to overcome an eating disorder. It’s not an easy decision. I wanted to encourage you by letting you know that you are brave.

You are probably thinking, “No, I’m not. I am nowhere near brave.”

You are probably thinking, “She isn’t talking about me.”

Yes, I am talking to you.

I am talking to you — beautiful, brave warrior.

You have made a decision to recover and that is brave.

You are a brave warrior because maybe you:

1. Got out of bed this morning.

2. Followed your meal plan.

3. Asked for help.

4. Kept your appointment with your counsellor or therapist.

5. Let someone know you are struggling.

6. Made the decision to be real with someone about how you are feeling.

7. Ate breakfast.

8. Laughed.

9. May have cried.

10. Went out for a coffee with a friend.

11. Chose to ignore the negative thoughts.

12. Wrote in your journal.

13. Prayed.

14. Read.

15. Went grocery shopping.

16. Listened to music that inspired you.

17. Stopped and just breathed.

Maybe you have been brave in your own way. Maybe you’ve only thought about doing something on the list above, and that is OK. Sometimes just thinking about doing something is a step toward recovery. Every day is a step forward in recovery.

Be kind to yourself — beautiful, brave warrior.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via ArthurHidden

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.