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Three Thanksgiving Recovery Tips

Three Thanksgiving Recovery Tips

In last week’s blog, Kylee Marshall gave us some great illustrations of what Thanksgiving can look like for intuitive eaters. (If you haven’t read her blog yet, go check it out!) This week, I want to give you three simple suggestions for staying on the right track with your eating recovery this Thanksgiving.

1. Envision Your Wins

Thanksgiving in eating recovery can feel overwhelming for a lot of reasons, food-related and otherwise. At the same time, because it can be such a challenging day, Thanksgiving can be an opportunity to take meaningful steps forward in your recovery. Envisioning your recovery wins can help you make them a reality. Take some time to think about just one success you hope to have this Thanksgiving. You don’t have to think on a grand scale here. In fact, keep this win small, but specific. For example, maybe you want your win to be truly savoring and enjoying one of your aunt’s homemade rolls. Maybe you want to be able to focus on talking with your sibling during the Thanksgiving meal, instead of being preoccupied with thoughts about food. Maybe your win will be checking in with your hunger/fullness level before, during, and after the meal. Write your intention down as you approach the day, and commit to making that vision become a reality. 

2. Support Yourself Instead of Pushing Yourself

Monica Packer, host of the About Progress podcast, talks about the idea of supporting yourself instead of pushing yourself as you work toward goals. I think this concept is a beautiful one to apply to eating recovery. After you’ve set your intention for a Thanksgiving win, try planning one simple thing you can do to support yourself as you work toward your intention. What kind, compassionate care can you give yourself to help your vision of success become a reality? Maybe you’ll set aside time to listen to a song that will help you feel supported before your Thanksgiving meal. Perhaps you’ll choose to spend a few soothing moments sitting outdoors after eating. Maybe you’ll FaceTime with a person in your life who understands how challenging Thanksgiving can be. Whatever you choose, remember that any small act done with the intention of lovingly supporting yourself can make a difference in your recovery.

3. Keep the Day in Perspective

Finally, as you approach Thanksgiving prepared with your intention and your plan to support yourself, remember that Thanksgiving is just one day. It’s a holiday that can be messy and complicated, and in many ways, it can be just another day. Your body will use food on this day the same way it does every other day–for nourishment and energy. On this day, just like other days, you do not have to participate in diet talk. Food you eat on Thanksgiving, like food you eat on other days, will not create drastic changes in your body. Food will be one feature of this day, but it does not have to be in charge of your day. This is true every day, not just on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving might not ever be the easiest day of the year in eating recovery, but I hope you’ll remember that you can keep moving forward in your recovery tomorrow. You can make a difference in your own recovery, even through the difficulty of the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Five Reasons to Consider Journaling

Five Reasons to Consider Journaling

Let’s talk about how journaling can help you in eating recovery. I’m not necessarily referring to journaling as in, “Dear Diary, today I…” (although that type of journaling can be great!). Rather, I’m talking about the practice of processing thoughts and feelings through writing. I know, journaling does not come easily to some. We all process things differently, and journaling doesn’t appeal to everyone. That being said, I do give journal prompts out to many of my therapy clients as a supplement to the work we do in therapy. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Responding to a specific journal prompt can help you dig deeper into thoughts that you might not typically approach. Jotting down even a few lines in response to a writing prompt can take you down a path of exploration that you might not otherwise encounter.
  2. Journaling is an opportunity to spend some quality time with yourself. Self-reflection through writing can be a powerful tool for connecting with your internal world. Taking some time to write can help you acknowledge and understand your emotions and needs.
  3. Writing can help you unravel tangled thoughts and feelings. Turning experiences into concrete words can be tough, but engaging with your thoughts and feelings this way can help you make sense of what you’re going through. Some research suggests that putting your feelings into words can help your brain regulate emotional responses. (1)
  4. Journaling gives you something to look back on. There can be power in looking back at journal entries written months or years in the past, and seeing the evolution of your perspective, your successes, and your circumstances. Especially in eating recovery, it can sometimes feel difficult to see progress. Recording your thoughts throughout your recovery process can help you see that you really are growing and changing.
  5. A focused journal prompt can be like a bonus therapy session! (Sounds super fun, I know.) Therapy is great, and it’s only a 50-minute blip in your week. Adding a focused journaling activity between sessions can help you get more out of the work you started in a session and can set you up to make the next session more productive. Trust me, your therapist would love to hear about any journaling you do between sessions. Journaling is an opportunity to stay connected with your work between therapy sessions.

Below are some journal prompts you might find helpful in your eating recovery process. Pick whichever one speaks to you, write down today’s date, and see where your writing takes you.

– What made my most recent recovery “win” possible? Write about (1) a person or resource and (2) a choice you made that contributed to your success.

– Write about one step forward in your recovery that you know you need to take, but haven’t yet. What could change if you take that step?

– Asking for help is a vital recovery skill, and may require you to think outside the box. Write down one thing you can ask for from each of the following people to support your recovery: your therapist, your best friend, a family member.

– Write a letter from your future self, 10 years from now. How do you imagine your future self will feel towards your current self and what you’re going through right now?

– What do I hope will happen if I accept my body as it is? What do I fear will happen if I accept my body as it is?

– What was the take-home message from my last therapy session? What are my intentions for applying that message this week?

Source:

  1.   Torre, J. B., & Lieberman, M. D. (2018). Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling as Implicit Emotion Regulation. Emotion Review, 10(2), 116–124. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073917742706

You Deserve Validation & Recovery

You Deserve Validation & Recovery

Imagine this situation: You’re in recovery from your eating disorder, and your roommates invite you to go out to dinner with them. Your mind starts to argue with itself. You want to make this dinner a recovery win, but you also feel self-conscious about eating in front of your roommates because they know about your eating disorder. Will they think you’re eating “too much” for someone who has an eating disorder? Or will they be watching you the whole time to make sure you’re eating enough and not struggling? Will they think your eating disorder isn’t that bad, and you’re being dramatic? Or will you feel embarrassed if they notice you stressing about food? Should you eat in a way that will prove that you really do have an eating disorder (because you do), or should you eat in a way that shows you’re totally ok (even if you’re not)? Now should you even go, or should you just stay home? Then what will they think?

If any of this sounds at all relatable, this blog post is for you. If you’re feeling like you have to prove your eating disorder is real, and at the same time feeling like you have to hide your struggle, please know you’re not alone. I hear my clients express these feelings on a regular basis, and it’s a struggle that makes sense! Here is the core of what I hope you can take from this post: You deserve (and can have) both validation and recovery.

Having an eating disorder is an incredibly painful and difficult thing, and you DO deserve validation and help as you work on healing. At the same time, you don’t have to engage in ED behaviors to prove that you are “sick enough” to deserve care, concern, and support from others. You are inherently deserving of all of those things right now, and you will still deserve them after you recover from your eating disorder. You deserve attentive, loving support, regardless of how ill or how well you are (and you deserve to be well!).

Choosing to challenge your eating disorder by going out to eat with your roommates will not mean you don’t have permission to struggle or ask for help. Challenging all-or-nothing thinking is an important part of recovery, especially when it comes to feeling like you have to be either 100% struggle-free, or 100% sick in order to merit validation.

Even if you are progressing in your recovery, that doesn’t mean your eating disorder was never real, or that recovery is a walk in the park for you. It can feel SO scary to acknowledge and talk about the unseen struggles of your eating disorder (past or present), especially if you worry about others not validating you.

A couple of gentle reminders: (1) even if others don’t or can’t understand what you’ve been through, your experience IS valid. (2) The fact that you’re doing better now than you were before you started recovering doesn’t mean that your eating disorder wasn’t/isn’t a serious reality. Your successes in recovery don’t invalidate the struggles in your past, and the struggles in your past don’t invalidate your successes in the present.

You don’t have to stay in your eating disorder to make your struggle valid in the eyes of others. Your battles were and are real, and you deserve to feel free to move forward into a recovered life. What’s more, you are worthy of help and support in your recovery process, no matter where you are on that journey. You deserve validation of how painful, how challenging, how exhausting, and how miserable your eating disorder has been, AND you deserve to heal. You don’t have to trade recovery for validation. You absolutely deserve both, and there is care and help available for you.

The Power of Curiosity

The Power of Curiosity

My four-year-old son is one of the most inquisitive human beings I have ever met. As his mom, I often find myself exhausted by his never-ending stream of questions. I keep a running list of some of his most intriguing (and hilarious) questions because I’m constantly astounded by the wonderings inside his little mind. Here is a sampling of questions he has asked me:

“Can moths burp?”

“How do pandas get their hair cut?”

“Where did that guy get his mustache from?”

“How do penguins scratch themselves if they don’t have fingers?”

“Why don’t people talk more about cat birthday parties?”

Sometimes his questions leave me unsure of how to answer, but nonetheless, I appreciate his way of thinking about the world. As you can imagine, his questions often lead us to some very interesting discussions and discoveries. I don’t see him running out of questions any time soon.

Criticism vs. Curiosity

The process of recovering from eating and body image concerns can raise many questions as well, on topics that likely feel more overwhelming than the subject of panda grooming or moth digestive systems. Often, these questions can come from a place of frustration or discouragement. What follows is a sampling of questions that may come up during recovery. As an experiment, I’d like you to compare how it feels to ask these questions with criticism, and then to ask the same questions with curiosity:

Why do I binge any time I’m home alone?

Why is it so hard for me to commit to my meal plan?

Why do all my therapy sessions feel so frustrating lately?

Why do I feel triggered so often?

Why is it so hard for me to talk about how I’m feeling?

Why do I hate my body so much?

Sometimes, asking these questions with criticism and frustration absolutely makes sense. Eating recovery is challenging, and self-criticism can easily show up in the process of trying to break patterns of disordered eating. However, asking these questions with criticism can lead to the awful feeling of being stuck, trapped, inadequate, and overwhelmed. On the other hand, asking these same questions with curiosity–genuine openness and interest–leaves room for change and discovery.

Questions With Curiosity, and Without Judgment

Think about bringing the same energy to these questions as my 4-year-old brings when he looks at a moth and wonders whether or not it can burp. Practice asking yourself questions with curiosity, and without criticism. Let the questions fly, as if you were looking at yourself and your experience for the first time, without judgment.

For example, instead of “Why can’t I just stop bingeing? Why do I always do this? What is wrong with me?”, try this:

Why is it that I binge when I’m home alone?

How did I learn that bingeing was something I could turn to?

Have there ever been times when I haven’t binged while home alone? What was different?

What would I wish for someone else feeling the same way I do when I binge?

When did I first notice the urge to binge today?

Keeping curiosity at the forefront in recovery can help you be more present and aware of your experience, rather than being swept up in patterns without awareness. Curiosity can help you feel more flexibility in the way you think about yourself and your recovery, rather than seeing patterns and beliefs as rigid and unchanging. In short, criticism can lead to discouragement, while curiosity can lead to hope. The next time you find yourself questioning yourself out of frustration, allow yourself to shift into curiosity mode, and notice what feels different.

Also, if anyone finds out if moths can burp or not, please let me know. Thanks in advance.

The Generosity of Bodies

The Generosity of Bodies

Last summer, I spent the first week of July with a bandage on my thumb. I accidentally sliced my left thumb twice in one week–once while cutting a watermelon, and once while slicing a bagel. (As you may have gathered, this blog is probably not the place to look for tips on knife safety.) Even though the cuts on my thumb have long since healed, some key lessons from that week have stuck with me.

After both incidents with my thumb, I felt slightly frustrated with myself for not being more careful with knives. I felt annoyed that I would now have to deal with the discomfort of an injured thumb, and the inconvenience of having to bandage my cuts. As I grumbled to myself and cleaned up my thumb injury for the second time that week, I was unexpectedly struck with a moment of body gratitude. 

I realized that my body did not resent me for hurting it, even though I had made the same painful mistake twice in a row. My thumb didn’t say, “Well, I tried healing once and you messed up again. You’re on your own this time–you won’t get help from me.” Instead, my body did exactly what it was supposed to do to begin healing. My blood clotted to stop the bleeding, a mild sting reminded me to put on a bandage to protect the broken skin, and my cells immediately began rebuilding to close the wound. Quietly, automatically, my body did its work.

This simple moment left me with a profound insight: our bodies do not withhold healing from us. They are not spiteful, resentful, or vengeful. Our bodies do not hate us or punish us for mistakes or injuries, intentionally or unintentionally inflicted. Our bodies simply do the best they can to heal, to serve us, and to allow us to be here. Bodies are all different in their abilities, histories, shapes, weaknesses, and strengths. All bodies are good bodies. Our bodies are good to us in the best ways they know how to be. Bodies of all types and abilities work at the fullest of their individual capacities from moment to moment.

Now, while our bodies are unquestioningly generous to us in doing the best they can, this is not to say that they are not affected by the way they are treated. Our bodies are perpetually responsive to the things they experience. For example, when our bodies are deprived of nourishment (for any reason), they respond by trying to protect us–either by overconsuming when nourishment becomes available (AKA bingeing), or by slowing or shutting down functions in order to preserve energy. 

When our bodies make changes that feel uncomfortable to us, it is not because they hate us or are out of control. Rather, our bodies are doing what is needed to protect and preserve their functions. We can’t deprive or otherwise harm our bodies without our bodies noticing what’s going on, and responding accordingly! Similarly, when we are kind and attentive to our bodies’ needs, they function at greater capacity.

Your relationship with your body may be difficult for many reasons. Or, perhaps your relationship with your body is in a good place. Maybe it’s some of both. Wherever you are in your relationship with your body, I have an invitation for you: take some time to acknowledge the ways your body is good to you. You may find it helpful to write down a list of your thoughts. My hope for you is that the practice of noticing the generosity of your body will provide you with healing and growth, even in moments when your experience in your body is difficult or painful.