fbpx
801.361.8589 [email protected]
The Swimsuit

The Swimsuit

It’s almost summer, which means it’s almost swimsuit season. Do you dread swimsuit season? Well maybe my experience can help you. As part of my recent vacation planning, I kept a running list of items, including sandals for my one-year old, a beach umbrella, and a new swimsuit for myself. Not just any swimsuit. A maternity swimsuit. (Cue some dark scary music) I started on the impossible task of finding a cute, comfortable, maternity swimsuit.

Swimsuits are hard enough to find, but try finding a cute maternity suit and the task is almost impossible. So I took my quest online and ordered a few options to choose from. When they arrived at my house, I pulled them out of the package and instantly thought “there’s no way that will fit me – it’s huge!” Guess what, they all fit. One was actually a little tight if I am being completely honest. I could feel myself start to dread our family trip and I actually said aloud to myself “stop it!” 

When talking about her body, Dr. Anna Packard refers to it as she/her and I started to do the same. I started to list the positive qualities of her as I looked in the mirror. It went sort of like this: 

“She is growing a human!” 

“She is strong.” 

“She has the arms to carry and hug her one-year-old.” 

“She is growing a human!” 

“She can feel the ocean breeze on her face.” 

“She can read Harry Potter aloud to her son.” 

“She is growing a human!” 

I repeated that last one quite a few times. I didn’t all of the sudden love that I was fitting into these much larger suits, but the dread of laying on the beach in them started to lessen. Try it! When trying on clothes, give your body some positive self-talk. Maybe the changing rooms won’t be such a dreaded place. 

Invisible Scars

Invisible Scars

I got my first scar at five years old. I was playing at a friend’s house and bent down to pet their Scottish terrier. I accidentally surprised the terrier, and he greeted my advance by tearing flesh off my face. I remember warm towels and the feel of wiry stitches pulling through the skin above my lips. Today, this scar looks like a misplaced, poorly angled smile line.

​In third grade I loved playing soccer with all the boys at recess. I especially liked playing against Matt Cisek; the love of my elementary school world. One fateful day, Matt and I collided brutally on the field. His foot missed kicking the ball and connected directly to my shin instead. The strength of his kick was so forceful that it knocked cartilage off my bone. To this day, as my fingers trace my shin bone I can feel a divot left from the lost cartilage.

My stomach bears a variety of puncture marks. Some randomly scattered holes came from playing capture the flag on a moonless night when I was 17.  My best friend Robert told me to “run for the trees!” when the enemy spotted us. I ran full speed and never saw the barbed wire fence. Several people had to, literally, pick my body off the rusted coils and call my parents to make sure I was current on my tetanus vaccination.

Three other scars, right beneath my ribcage, bear witness to my emergency gallbladder surgery that took place just five days before my wedding. It turned out my stomach pains weren’t actually “pre-marital nerves.” The ER doctor told me that if I didn’t get my gallbladder out immediately, I wouldn’t make my wedding day. My stomach barely squeezed into my wedding dress later that week, still bloated from the surgical gas and wrapped in gauze.

Three more holes puncture my lower abdomen where doctors saved my life after an ectopic pregnancy burst my fallopian tube and tried to take me. These holes remind me of the miracle that is my preserved life and the life that was the twin baby safely nestled in my uterus. We both survived the trauma of emergency surgery and so much lost blood.

While scars manifest the physical impact life has on my body, my body also holds invisible scars deep inside her soft spaces. The creases around my eyes bear witness to years’ worth of smiles and laughter. The ache in my chest weeps my deep loss and empty arms. My upset stomach testifies of my vulnerabilities and yearning. The soft, gray hills inside my skull guard and protect my precious memories.

Scars and marks aren’t pretty, but they reflect truth. They reflect moments lived and the passage of time: a physical autobiography. My scars remind me that through all my living, my body has borne witness to my messy and wonderful life. My body was built for this. It was built to hold all that is me: every memory, emotion, and experience.  And isn’t that beautiful?  

 

Body Image and Your Younger Self

Body Image and Your Younger Self

One of the more difficult parts about recovering from an eating disorder is healing your relationship with your body. This is often so difficult because your relationship with your body has been developing since you were young, reinforced by external messaging time and time again.

Can you recall some of your earliest memories of body shame? How old were you? Do you remember how it felt? Did someone say something to you? If so, I’m betting that you probably remember their exact words and tone of voice. Did you engage in any specific behaviors after this first experience of feeling shame about your body? What other factors influenced your developing relationship with your body?

Most of your current negative experiences of your body probably stem from childhood. Part of natural child development is looking to others to help you understand the world. You watch how your friends pump their legs to swing higher and so you do the same. You see your dad lick the spoon of the chocolate cake batter and so you try it too. Your mom swears when she’s upset and the next time you stub your toe, you use that word as well, much to her chagrin. However, because young human brains are constantly taking in information from others to try to understand how things work, you might also have taken in some painful, negative messages that have been truly hard to shake as time has passed. These messages might still be part of your core belief system about your body and about yourself.

For me, one of the most difficult and informative experiences happened when I was in about 7th grade (the most awkward, humiliating time of life). I had a good friend tell me that the boy I had a crush on told her that I would “be the prettiest girl in our grade if I was skinny.” Oof. Talk about one of those memories that sticks with you. My little 12 year-old self drew some pretty painful conclusions from this conversation. Conclusions that stayed with me for more than a decade after.

When you are trying to heal your relationship with your body, I believe that it’s helpful to go back to those early, formative memories that shaped your relationship with your body and try to understand what happened there. Your younger self is probably still clinging on to those messages even if your current self understands that those beliefs are untrue.

There are several ways you could try to help younger you when it comes to healing your relationship with your body. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Look compassionately at a picture of your younger self from a difficult time in your life. How do you feel about your younger body? Do you feel critical? My guess is that you don’t. If you can view yourself the way you’d view a younger child, you might be able to look at your body in the photograph with more compassion. That body is still yours. That body may have changed, but it never lost its value along the way.
  2. Write a letter to your younger self around a painful memory that contributed to the development of your body shame. What would she need to hear? How can you help her in a time of difficulty and uncertainty? How can you show her compassion?
  3. If you’re up for it, do some exploring of the source of some of these negative messages you received. Was this person or source trustworthy? Were they dealing with their own body-image issues? If it was a company or organization, how did they benefit from you feeling insecure? For me, one of the most healing things when it came to body image was reconnecting with my childhood crush/friend on Instagram, the same boy who said the painful comment that I had in the back of my mind for years. We kept up with each other on social media and he was kind, supportive, and respectful. This new interaction helped me look back at that painful event with new eyes. I was able to understand that he was probably also an insecure kid (at the time, he was much shorter than all the girls in our grade). He was also probably a product of diet-culture and media that portrayed beauty in a certain way. Going back and analyzing the source didn’t take little Kylee’s pain away, but it did help me recognize I gave a lot of power to a struggling, insecure teenage boy who was not actually the expert on my worth.

What is it like for you to revisit some of these difficult messages from your past? In what ways have you found healing as you’ve gotten older? What healing does your younger self need a little help with?

Lessons from Vienna

Lessons from Vienna

 My all time favorite song is Vienna by Billy Joel. Every time it begins playing, I feel the need to sink into my chair, close my eyes, and soak in all of its goodness and wisdom. Over the years I have learned a few lessons from the lyrics that I would like to share with you. Feel free to pause here and listen to Vienna if it’s been a minute for you, then come back. 

  1. “Slow downnnn, you’re doing fine”. These words can be applied to every single one of us, and in many areas of our lives. Here’s a gentle reminder: Healing takes TIME; Oftentimes, a very frustrating amount of it. But you are going to get there, and there is so much to be learned along the way that you are meant to experience. I know too well how easy it can be to get caught up in anxieties, what-if’s, and should-haves. But what really happens is we miss out on the present by stressing out over the future. Slow down, you are literally doing fine! 
  2. “Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while. It’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two”. Consistency is great, but so is flexibility. We truly need a balance of both in life. It’s okay to take time off, switch up your routine, or not be working towards a goal 24/7. When it comes to recovery, it’s impossible to be perfect. In fact, the healthiest thing we can do may be to take a step back from perfectionism. It’s okay to take a day off of school, work, or any other stressor in your life. Trust me, you can afford it. It may actually pay you back. 
  3. “You’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need”. I think our minds like to distract us from the raw and real sides of us. So much so,  we create tasks and situations that distract from truth. In my own journey to healing, my anxiety propelled me into every future possibility. When I hear these words, I think back on what I really needed at that time, which was emotional and physical safety, and basic self-care. Ask yourself, am I using distraction to cope with something? What do I actually need right now? 

This song reminds me that the nature and beauty in life comes from growing, learning and experiencing. Life would have no purpose if we already had it all figured out. The truth is, no one has figured it out yet, and neither should you! If you are feeling stressed or discouraged in your healing journey, take a second to zoom out for a bigger perspective (maybe give Vienna a listen to help you do so). Create some space between yourself and the heavy parts in your life and recognize that you don’t have to carry it all at once. We are all simply doing the best we can on the bumpy path we are on. The nature of life is to figure it out as we go, and we are exactly where we need to be right now. 

 

Changing Old Stories

Changing Old Stories

 The other day, I listened to a podcast and heard the host say, “girls never forget anything.”

​In my experience, I would say that’s true. I remember everything, especially language. A big one is from when I was 12. I was in gym class, and we had to learn all about our data based on our weight and height. My gym teacher taught us what number was too high and what was too low. Based on the numbers, I was considered too “high.” After that, my classmates compared numbers. I have never held a paper so tight, thinking I was less than because of that number. I felt shame around my body—feeling like I was not enough for social acceptance. For years I struggled with labeling: good exercise, lousy exercise, good and bad food.

As I grew older, I felt like my self-compassion grew, but an experience I had with my daughter has impacted me the most. 

I was pregnant with my little girl, Henley. When my daughter, Henley, was born, we discovered some medical issues, including being born without a specific nerve that impacts the right side of her body. To that point in my life, there was always a solution to medical problems. A surgery or therapy of some sort, right? Then the neurologist sat down with us and began to talk. Your daughter is beautiful. She should hit all her typical milestones. However, Henley was born without a nerve in her brain and what this means is she has permanent facial palsy. She won’t be able to blink her right eye and will most likely have a crooked smile as her right side is paralyzed.

He was still talking, but everything went silent. All I could think about was me as a little girl. Feeling so self-conscious about my body that the most important thing in life was my appearance. I felt extreme self-compassion for my child self at that moment. Knowing I have this perfect daughter who may be different from the “normal” beauty standards. I wasn’t worried about her as I knew I could raise her to be a warrior to see the beauty in being different. But at that moment, I knew I needed to work on self-love because the most significant teaching I can do for her is showing up for myself with true self-compassion and acceptance. 

It was time to change the stories that no longer served me. The first lesson was to relearn the love I have for my body and that my body serves me in many ways. My body gives me the option to see all the color this life provides.

The second lesson is differences are what make experiences rich. I had to stop worrying about hitting the next trend. For so long, I thought my biggest priority was fitting a mold that didn’t serve me. I had to come out of my bubble and see the beautiful differences in all of us. 

Third, radical kindness. This one is hard—especially inner kindness. But I learned to sit with my negative stories and let them pass. Learning that my thoughts are not always true. What is true is what serves me, which is having radical kindness towards myself. 

My hope is both my kiddos will learn to see there is so much color in this world. To experience the differences all around them. To learn to have self-compassion and kindness as they grow older will serve them more than fitting the perfect mold. It’s okay to see change is needed, even when it may be more comfortable to stay in the old stories. Having awareness around what is not working is sometimes the first win.

 

Eyes on Your Own Path: Dealing with Comparison in Recovery

Eyes on Your Own Path: Dealing with Comparison in Recovery

Recently I’ve been reading Atlas of the Heart by Dr. Brené Brown. In this book, Brené Brown explores words describing human emotions and experiences and shows how these definitions shape our existence and relationships. When I got to her exploration of the word “comparison,” I knew I had to share it in a blog. She says:

Comparison is the crush of conformity from one side and competition from the other–it’s trying to simultaneously fit in and stand out. Comparison says, “Be like everyone else, but better.”

Wow, right?

When I read this mic-drop of a definition, I think about how comparison shows up in eating and body image recovery. It shows up in ways that might seem obvious: comparing your body to other peoples’ bodies, comparing what you’re eating to what everyone else is eating, comparing your workout routine to everyone else’s, and on and on. And then there are the comparisons between your current body and your past body–“before and after” pictures, items of clothing that used to fit differently, etc. Comparison can feel motivating at times (for better or for worse), but for most people, the end result of comparison is a sense of inadequacy and exhaustion.

Comparison can also show up in eating recovery in more covert ways. Like Brené Brown says, comparison might whisper in your ear, “Be like everyone else, but better” when it comes to how sick you are. The eating disorder can turn comparison into competition. Comparison might make you feel worthless or invalidated because you are not “sick enough” compared to others, or even to yourself in recovery at different times of your life. Comparison might cause you to look sideways at others’ recovery journeys instead of being able to focus your eyes ahead on your own path. You might find yourself checking the pace of your recovery against someone else’s, and then wondering what’s wrong with you for not moving at the same speed as them.

However it shows up in your recovery process, comparison can end up creating pain on top of pain–an extra layer of suffering on top of the already intense challenges of recovery. And you might be thinking to yourself, “Yeah, I shouldn’t compare myself to others.” And maybe people in your life are saying the same thing: “Don’t compare yourself to others.” And sure, stopping comparison would be great, but HOW?

Here’s my take (and Brené Brown and her research team can back me up on this–check it out in Atlas of the Heart): Don’t expect to be able to just stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, when you find yourself comparing, bring your focus back to your own path. Comparison is almost for sure going to happen to you, and to all of us, automatically, without you really choosing to compare. It’s a mental reflex that is only human. When you notice yourself comparing, it’s up to you to either choose to stay on the path of comparison, or pick another path.

One of the alternative paths to comparison that Brené Brown suggests is CREATIVITY. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené says, “Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared.”  You are unique, and what you can create and contribute is entirely your own.

Living life through comparison is like being a measuring stick–rigid, limited, and in a constant state of calculation. Living life through creativity is like being a paintbrush–flexible, unbounded, and in a state of inventiveness. If you find yourself comparing yourself to others to see how you measure up, keep that image in your mind and turn that measuring stick into a paintbrush and create the life you want for yourself.

Another alternative path to comparison: CONNECTION. There are some great thoughts on this alternative in Atlas of the Heart. (Can you tell by now that I want you to go read some Brené Brown?) When you feel the urge to compare or compete with others, think about what it might look like to connect with your own humanity, and the humanity of others. Here are a couple examples that came to my mind when I think of how connection can help you manage comparison:

Comparison says: “She looks so good. I hate my body. I feel disgusting standing next to her.”

Connection says: “She is more than her appearance, and I am more than mine.”

Comparison: “He is so much smarter than me. I’ll never be good enough.”

Connection: “I can appreciate his strengths while honoring and developing my own.”

Comparison: “I am so awkward. Everyone else is so much more confident than me.”

Connection: “It’s human nature to feel self-conscious sometimes. I can be kind to myself when I’m feeling vulnerable.”

If you find yourself struggling with comparison, please remember that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re all bound to compare ourselves to others sometimes. Especially in recovery, comparison will happen. Remember this: you can choose the direction you want to turn when comparison tries to pull you off course. That direction might guide you toward creativity, connection, self-compassion, or some other value you hold close to your heart. When comparison tries to pull your focus sideways towards others’ journeys, turn your eyes forward to look at your own path. That path is where you will find your unique self, the healing you personally need, and the singular, beautiful contributions you can make to the world. 

Intuitive Eating Basics: Respect Your Body

Intuitive Eating Basics: Respect Your Body

“Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.” -Evelyn Tribole, Intuitive Eating 

Accepting genetic blueprints? Having realistic and kind expectations? YES- these are possible and attainable mindset goals when we shift toward the idea of BODY RESPECT.  

I had an experience this morning with my middle school daughters. Imagine them, 13 and 15, half asleep while I do my best to instill some religion into them before sending them off to the junior high school trenches. We were reading the creation story from the book of Genesis in the Bible- “and God saw that it was good” is a phrase used over and over again as God looked over His creations. I pointed this out to my half asleep teenaged girls- and asked them, “So if God calls the things that He makes ‘good’, what does this suggest about the way we should view God’s creations? Including… ourselves?” I honestly wasn’t expecting much beyond the typical half asleep nods I usually get- but suddenly, my 13 year old perked up, having made a personal connection to what we had been reading. 

“MOM!” she began, “like all my friends need to hear this. THEY ALL talk about how they think their bodies are so gross and they compare bodies all the time. Like can’t we all just look around and say, ‘IT WAS GOOD’!”  

I was kind of surprised at her passion. This really struck a nerve with her- all creations, all bodies- are good. All are worthy of care, respect, and dignity.  

How comfortable are you with acknowledging body diversity-  and calling it good

I believe that all bodies are good bodies. None of our bodies look the same- just like the earth, there is beautiful diversity. I can admire a sweeping mountain vista and not shame it for not being a serene tropical beach. They are both “good”.  

How to practice body respect 

This may be a radical thought to some- but shaming your body isn’t getting you very far. It’s not making you fit differently into your clothes, be more productive, or feel any happier. In fact, body shaming is probably doing the exact opposite: making you feel exhaustingly sluggish and miserable as you go about your everyday tasks.    

In therapy, I like to illustrate this principle by having clients imagine a sweet little baby girl, just learning to walk. Now, as that tiny child embarks on learning this novel skill of walking, imagine standing beside her. What words naturally come to mind when you think of speaking to her?  

“You dumb baby, you still can’t walk? Gosh, all the other babies are figuring this out so much faster than you. Some are even RUNNING, and you can’t figure out a few steps? What is wrong with you? Oh, there you go again. Falling over on yourself. Tripping over your own feet. You are never going to get this right. There is something seriously wrong with you.”  

Did that just make you feel a little sick to your stomach to read? Could you ever picture yourself saying that to a sweet little baby?  

If you were to speak to a baby like that, how far do you imagine she gets in life, how many new things is she willing to try (and sometimes fail at!)? When you stand next to her, constantly critical and harsh, does it set her up for success or failure? This illustration works so well because most of us could never imagine being that awful to a small, innocent child- yet we have no problem being that awful to ourselves. Part of learning to respect your body is taking the time to relearn ways of approaching and speaking to yourself. This isn’t about “letting yourself off the hook”- it’s about learning a new way to interact with yourself, a respectful one. Just like that baby, you will be far more set up for success in life when you shed the constant critical voice inside of you pointing out and emphasizing every misstep.   

Love VS Respect 

You don’t have to LOVE your body. But can you imagine getting to a place where you aren’t beating yourself up constantly? When you put the goal at “LOVE your body!” you are setting yourself up for failure with an unrealistic expectation. Can you set the dial to a more realistic setting of ‘RESPECT your body’?  

Let’s think about that word- respect- and why it may be the right foundation for a healthy relationship with your body. Dictionary.com tells us the definition of respect is: 

“esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability”

A sense of worth, a sense of excellence, a quality or ability- when applied to your body, do you see how this translates to a heck of a lot more than size or appearance? It encompasses being able to comfort a friend with a hug, wrap your arms around your grandmother in greeting and shared affection, appreciating your body for getting you through another long shift at work, and acknowledging her ability to renew and heal after a sickness. There is so much more to the idea of respecting your body than just loving the size or appearance of it!  

As you continue on in the work of healing your relationship with your body, I want you to envision what a respectful relationship with her would look like. Examine your expectations of yourself with fresh eyes.  And more than anything, give yourself permission to start seeing yourself as “good”.  Because you are- you are SO good.

 

The Story of “Too Much”

The Story of “Too Much”

Sit back and relax, because for this week’s blog, I have a story for you to read. Stick with me until the end of the post for the moral of the story!

Once upon a time, there was a girl who had a marvelous talent for inventing machines. From the time she was old enough to pick up a hammer, she created contraptions that amazed everyone in her village. As the girl grew, her inventions became more and more magnificent. Her innovative mind was bursting with ideas for making her village a better place. At age 16, she created her finest invention yet: a complex pulley system that allowed the villagers to transport heavy loads of stone from the quarries, straight to their village building sites.

Word spread about the girl’s village, and the inventions that made it such an amazing place to live. More and more people began to move to the village. The villagers welcomed the newcomers, and the community grew. The girl felt proud of the prosperity brought about by her inventions. The pulleys she made ran day and night for months, bringing stone from the quarry to the village so the newcomers could build their homes.

One day, the girl hiked to the quarry to check on her pulley system. She saw that some of the ropes were fraying, and the pulleys were beginning to rust. She looked closer, and her stomach dropped as she saw just how thin the ropes were wearing from pulling so many loads of stone to the village.

The girl knew that if repairs weren’t made soon, the system would break down completely. She started to call to the quarry workers to stop the pulleys, but then stopped herself as she thought about the new arrivals to the village. The repairs could take days, or even weeks. How could she force the people to stop building when they had just arrived and were depending on the pulleys to supply them with stone for their homes?

She thought about asking the villagers for help, but realized that she was the only one who knew enough about the pulleys to fix them. She feared there wasn’t time to teach others how to make the repairs. Besides, what if a well-meaning villager were injured while trying to help, or accidentally made things worse? What if the villagers were upset with her for not making repairs sooner? With her stomach in knots, the girl collected her tools, and set to work on the pulleys.

Workers in the quarry waved cheerfully to the girl as she moved from pulley to pulley, hurriedly oiling and sanding the jagged rust that was wearing the ropes down. She flashed nervous smiles at the workers, not wanting them to worry about the state of her invention. 

All day, she rushed around, trying desperately to reinforce the frayed sections of rope with twine. Her fingers became raw from handling the rough ropes, and she was hungry and sunburned, but she couldn’t afford to stop. A worker noticed the girl’s frenzied work, and offered help, but the girl didn’t have a chance to answer before she heard a startled cry from across the quarry. A rope connected to a heavy cart had frayed under the strain of its load, and was now a few strands away from snapping completely.

*RECORD SCRATCH*

Are you still reading? I think you can probably tell this story is heading to a rough place. This is a tale of too much–too much strain, too much pressure, too much at stake.

Let’s do a quick check-in: how are you feeling toward the girl in the story? What do you wish for her? Do you relate to her? If we could rewrite this story and create a better situation, what might we change?

Many of the clients I work with are much like the girl–incredibly talented, capable, and driven to help those around them. Perfectionism and the fear of letting others down can create excruciating, constant pressure. Many of these clients struggle with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Like the girl in the story, many of them face barriers to asking for help and support from others, even when things begin to break down.

Here are a few thoughts that may have been useful to the girl in the story, and that may be useful to you when things feel like too much:

  1. If the load is wearing you down, that doesn’t mean you’re inherently defective. The pulleys in the story weren’t a bad invention, and the girl wasn’t to blame for their breakdown. They were just carrying too much. Saying “no” to things that will make your load too heavy lets you say “yes” to the important work you CAN do.
  2. Imperfect support is better than no support at all. Just like the villagers didn’t know the pulley system, maybe people in your life can’t fully understand your problems. Receiving help from others doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. Even if the support you’re getting doesn’t solve all your problems, letting others be there for you is an important part of managing overwhelming situations.
  3. Rest is essential, even when it’s inconvenient. The girl in the story felt like she couldn’t stop the pulleys to repair them because of how the delay would impact others. Then she felt like she couldn’t stop and take care of herself because she was trying so hard to help her village. Continuing to push herself and the system instead of allowing a pause had negative consequences. Stopping and taking time for rest and repair–whether that’s allowing your body to rest, or taking time away from responsibilities–can help you avoid breaking down.

What can you learn from our inventor girl’s experience? Consider one recommendation from the list that can be useful to you, whether you are repairing pulleys or taking on the challenges of eating recovery.