Category Archives: Recovery

Beautifully, Wonderfully Made

I used to hate so many things about my body. I know hate is a strong word, but that’s really the best word for it. I had a whole list of flaws about myself that played on repeat in my mind, eating away at me, through each and every day. I was obsessed with controlling my weight, controlling every bite that went into my mouth, and trying to change the shape and size of my body.

Looking back now, I realize how self-centered and inwardly-focused anorexia made me. How much time, energy, and effort I wasted on something that didn’t deserve that kind of attention.

god's love is deeperThankfully, God brought people into my life who cared about me and wanted to help me heal. Through a lot of counseling, prayer, and incredible support from my family and friends, God brought me out of this obsession and helped me develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise. When I think about how much has changed in the past 4 years, it truly leaves me in awe of God’s power and grace.

But today I was struck with something I don’t think about often in terms of my recovery. Yes, I have much different habits these days. I have learned balance and moderation in the way I eat; I enjoy dessert and junk food when I want to, while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I exercise because I enjoy it, not to punish myself or compensate for something I ate the night before.

These are all huge changes for me and have given me so much more peace and joy in my life. But what struck me today is how I have actually come to LOVE my body and be THANKFUL for the way I was created. The things I used to hate and loathe about myself are things that I can now appreciate. I’m not saying I don’t still struggle with my body image. (And I think any woman who denies ever having a rough day with body image might need to be a little more honest with herself.)

I still have those days when I don’t feel very happy with the way I look. There are times when the constant bombardment from our culture to be skinny and to have a “perfect body” drags me down, and I have moments when I don’t really like my curves or my legs. And there are definitely still days when I get sucked back into the comparison trap and find myself envying another woman’s body.

But, instead of being the norm, those moments are now the exception. I no longer live in that vicious and endless dungeon of self-hatred. It doesn’t consume my thoughts like it once did. I’ve learned so much contentment and gratefulness with the way that I am built, shaped, and formed. And it definitely didn’t happen overnight.

But I remember one of the turning points: an evening in 2011, while I was living in India and thick in the throes of my anorexia. I had shut myself away in my room that night, crying and desperately wanting help but not knowing how to ask for it. I had finally begun to see what a sick disease had taken control of my mind, and I was having a brief moment of clarity as I realized how much I wanted out from these chains of addiction.

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Praying with a woman in a leper colony in India

 

Isolated in a tiny village and away from any sort of support system, I didn’t know how I could possibly begin to break free. But in that moment, God brought a verse to my mind, and I flipped my Bible open to Psalm 139:

“I praise You, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14)

I realized that night that I couldn’t possibly imagine PRAISING God for the way He had made me. Because, well, I hated the way He had made me. And that was the crux of the problem. That was the real issue behind my horrible body image. I didn’t really believe God had done “wonderfully” when He designed and created my body. In essence, I thought He had messed up. If He had really loved me, He would have given me a different shape, smaller measurements, and more attractive features.

But as I read this verse over and over again, I actually began to DESIRE to feel that same gratitude and appreciation for my body. I knew I had a long way to go, and a huge part of me wondered if it was even possible to get there, but I had a tiny glimmer of hope. Maybe, just maybe, God could heal me, and free me from the self-hate that had riddled my mind for far too long. I didn’t have a lot of faith, but I had a little. And the beauty is that God can use even the littlest seed of faith to bring His grace and power into our lives.

I wrote that verse down that night in India. I wrote it on a blank 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper, with neon markers in all different colors. I took my time writing out each word of that verse, and then I taped the paper to the back of my door. Every morning when I woke up, I would read it out loud in my empty room, and ask God in a simple sentence to help me really believe and feel the words I was sayComparison-thief-of-joy-printableing. I asked Him to heal me, help me, and change me from the inside out.

And it didn’t happen overnight. It took time, just like any lasting, heart-change does. Shortly after that night in India, I moved back home to the States, and began my journey to recovery. That verse became one that I returned to time and again during the years that followed. And slowly, subtly, my heart and mind began to heal. God began to grow in me a heart of praise, and I started to believe the truths of this verse.

And then, a few weeks ago, it popped up in my life again, but for a much different reason. My husband and I were at the 20-week ultrasound for our little girl who is due in June. As the ultrasound tech ran the wand over my belly and the image of our little girl popped up on the screen, this familiar verse came to mind once again.

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Our little girl at 20 weeks!

I felt tears forming in my eyes as we watched our little one kick and squirm on the screen, and the tech pointed out her strong little heart, lungs, and essential organs. We saw her tiny fingers and toes, and my heart ached with love for this precious girl we can’t wait to meet. In that moment, I praised God for how wonderfully and beautifully He has created this little baby. And that verse that has meant so much in my past has come alive again as I anticipate the future with our little girl.

I pray she will always know that she is incredibly beautiful, and that it’s got nothing to do with how she looks or what size she is.  It’s a crazy world for a little girl to grow up in, and I know we can’t protect her from the pressures of the culture, and the focus it places on size and weight. But I hope she will always know that she is tremendously beautiful and beloved in our eyes, and even more importantly, in the eyes of God. Because she has been wonderfully created and designed by Him.

“You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

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This Article Just Made Me Dislike “The Biggest Loser” Even More

I’ve had a personal dislike for the show “The Biggest Loser” for several years now, (mostly because I have bad memories of watching it during my anorexia and being “inspired” to workout harder and restrict my calories even more), but it’s this kind of inside information that confirms just how awful things are behind the scenes.

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READ THE ARTICLE HERE:

http://nypost.com/2015/01/18/contestant-reveals-the-brutal-secrets-of-the-biggest-loser/

I know a lot of people find it exciting or inspiring to watch the contestants lose weight so quickly, but please read this article and recognize that they are NOT doing it in a healthy way.

Eating less than 1000 calories a day and exercising for 4-5 hours is NOT healthy, period. Forcing yourself to exercise while suffering from a serious muscle tear is horrible for your body. And if your hair is falling out and you’ve lost your menstrual cycle, ladies, that’s your body screaming at you to take better care of yourself.

And what irks me (probably more than anything else) about this show, is all the fat-shaming that takes place by the trainers — both on and off-screen. Fat-shaming is NOT a helpful way to motivate people to lose weight.

As a health coach and personal trainer, I often have to be very upfront with my obese clients about the long-term health dangers they may face because of their extra weight, but there is NEVER a reason to call someone names or shame them because of their size. This has got to stop.

If you need to lose weight, please find a professional who will help you do it in a HEALTHY, long-lasting way that encourages your self esteem and confidence! 

A Letter to Mothers about Body Image

Several weeks ago, I met a girlfriend at Starbucks for some coffee and conversation. (Two of my favorite things.) We were relatively new friends and didn’t yet know a lot about each other, so we began talking about where we grew up, our sports and hobbies during high school, and where our lives had taken us since then. My new friend had read a little bit of my blog and began to ask me about my eating disorder and journey of recovery. After I shared for a little bit, she chimed in and expressed to me that she too had battled an eating disorder throughout her college years. starbucks

There’s often an instant connection, it seems, between two people that have both gone through much the same battles in life. You understand each other in a way that’s only possible because you have similar scars; similar memories, similar struggles and, hopefully, similar triumphs. 

As my friend shared with me her own journey and story, she paused for a sip of coffee, and I took that opportunity to ask, “So, what would you say was your first exposure to a obsessive relationship with food? What were some of the factors that caused you to become worried about your weight and body image?”

She didn’t hesitate, tracing circles on the table with her finger as she replied, “Well, even when I was only 6 or 7 years old, I remember my mom always talking about being on a diet, and she never seemed happy with her body.”

My heart sank as I thought about what that must have been like for my friend to grow up hearing such obsessive messages about weight and size. This mother probably didn’t mean to negatively influence her daughter’s body image, but sadly, she did. And what grieves my heart even more, is that I’d heard this same opening line countless times before.

In my health coaching business, I often meet with young women who are in recovery from an eating disorder. Everyone’s story is unique in various details, but often there are recurring themes that stand out to me from these conversations. And one of those themes that blares repeatedly out at me is how a mother’s relationship with food, body image, and weight makes a enormous impact on her daughter’s values in these areas.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that a client or friend has started off their story with a comment like one of these:

“Well, my mom was always really obsessed with her body when I was growing up…”

“I remember my mom ALWAYS being on a diet…”

“My mom often went on about how much she hated her body and needed to lose weight…”

“My mom never really ate meals with us as a family; she would always just pick at stuff and talk about how she wasn’t hungry or couldn’t eat what we were eating because she was on a diet.”

I haven’t been a mother, so I don’t pretend at all to have this figured out. I don’t know how to raise a daughter with good body image and I wish there was a manual or book that would give us all some step-by-step instructions.

True confession: I’m terrified sometimes to think about raising my own daughter one day in a culture that bombards her constantly with pressure to be a size 2 or have a certain hourglass figure. I want with all my heart to be able to protect her from the obsession, compulsion, and pain that I’ve experienced because of my eating disorder. I wish there was some guaranteed method that would ensure our daughters grew into well-adjusted young women with positive body image and a healthy relationship with food. But there’s not.

nothing wrongIt was drizzling rain on my way home from the coffee shop that day, my heart heavy as I thought about this cycle of mothers and daughters in exhausting battles with body image and weight.

As I sat at a red light with the rain pattering against my windshield, I began to make mental note of some things I would share with mothers if somehow given the opportunity. I didn’t have it in me to cry that day; I just wanted to be able to vocalize the frustration in my heart, and a mental letter seemed to give me that outlet.

One of my former clients was told by her mother when she was 8 years old that she was fat and needed to lose weight. Another young women I corresponded with over email said that her mom put her on a diet at the age of 10 because she thought her daughter was getting “pudgy.”

These are the more atrocious examples of mothers making a horrible impact on their daughters’ body image, and hopefully they are the exception. I’d like to believe that most mothers probably don’t realize the impact they have on their young daughters with the words they use to talk about weight, size, and appearance. I don’t think most mothers purposefully set out to make their daughters feel awful about their bodies. It seems to me, in most cases, mothers just aren’t as aware and careful as they need to be with the seeds they sow in their young daughter’s heart.

My letter to mothers everywhere would be something like this…

“Moms, please, recognize that your daughters are listening to the things you say about your body. They notice when you make comments about needing to lose weight or being unhappy with your thighs or hips or any other part of your body.

Your daughters pick up cues and signals from you about what is attractive and acceptable and this starts at a very young age. When you refer to someone as “fat” or mention that a certain friend needs to lose weight, your daughter remembers that for years to come, even if you think she’s hardly listening to your ‘adult’ conversation.

Your daughters begin to put together their beliefs and values about weight, size, shape, and beauty when they are very young.

If you place value in being thin, attractive, and well-dressed, your daughter will naturally assume those values for herself and model her thinking after your own.

If you are always talking about needing to lose weight, your daughter picks up the message that being thin is the ideal and something that makes her more acceptable to you and to others. not your worth

This is not to say that you shouldn’t care about your health at all. It’s a fine line and a tough balance to strike, for sure. You want to encourage your daughter to be active, to take good care of herself, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem becomes when you give her the impression that her worth and value is connected to her weight and size.

Please, be aware of how your words and behaviors are influencing your daughter’s views of beauty and self-worth. Do your best to have a positive and balanced relationship with food, and if you’re battling your own disordered behaviors or body image struggles, consider getting some counseling to help you work through those things, so that you can better encourage your daughter in a positive direction.

My heart aches when I hear story after story of mothers who berate and demean their own bodies throughout their daughter’s childhood. If you’re at war with your own body, how can you expect your impressionable daughter to be at peace with hers? She’s soaking up everything she can from you about what it means to be beautiful. Help her learn that true beauty is in the heart and not the outward appearance. Encourage her to focus more on building character, being adventurous, building friendships, trying new things, and pursuing her passion. Inspire her to focus more on living life than on being the perfect pants size. Show her by your own lifestyle and attitude that weight and size are not what’s truly important. Focus on things that are about who she is, not what she looks like. Compliment her personality and character, and not just her appearance.

Love her for who she is, and communicate that to her daily. And even though you can’t guarantee that you’ll protect her from poor body image or disordered eating behaviors, you will at least set an example through your words and actions every day. In a culture that promotes discontentment and obsession with body weight and size, you have the opportunity to give your daughter an example of a woman who accepts and loves her body the way it was created and designed. Don’t underestimate the power of your example. Your little girl is watching and listening to you every day.

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Just a quick picture to say…

From my Instagram this morning:

cards game ice cream

“Being ‘healthy’ for me looks like this. Enjoying ice cream at a Cards game because it sounded good, and not worrying about how many calories or grams of sugar it had. After recovering from #anorexia, I have grown to love a life of BALANCE. Everything in moderation, folks!! There’s nothing fun to me about depriving myself of sweets and treats. Been there, done that, been that person eating carrots while everyone else enjoys cookies. #itsnofun 😦  I no longer try to have obsessive control over everything that goes into my mouth.  Life’s too short to miss out on things like ice cream. 🙂 I’m so thankful for my journey of #recovery and that I’ve learned to let go of the obsessions!! I feel better now – emotionally AND physically – than I ever have before. #eatingdisorder #everythinginmoderation #balance #lifeistooshort #dontmissout #iloveicecream #edwarrior #edrecovery”

The Place I Go to Get Away

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The family dog and me, circa 1999

Have you ever had a special place of solace, somewhere you could go to think, or get away? It could be a quite coffee shop with comfy leather armchairs, or a wooded trail with scenic overlooks. Mine is a quaint, little park, just up the road from the house where I grew up.

My memories at this park go back to my early childhood, before the park was even a park. My siblings and I used to walk the two-tenths of a mile up the road with our friends to explore what seemed to us like a HUGE expanse of land at that very young age. The owner of the land lived in a sprawling one-story home on the property, and let the rest of it pretty much go wild. As wild as you can be in the middle of the suburbs, that is. There were a few unique features about the property, primarily the stable building and carriage house that sat a couple hundred yards away from the house, which had several actual stalls for horses – a novelty to a bunch of kids from the suburbs! And, as if that wasn’t cool enough, there was also a historic log cabin on the property that appeared unoccupied and abandoned, making it quite mysterious to our group of young adventurers.

When I was around the age of 10, the lady who owned the property passed away and there was a big uproar about what would be done with the land. I don’t remember much about it all, except that people were debating whether the land should be turned into a park or used for a new housing development instead. My siblings and I were rooting for the park to be built – a playground sounded much more fun to us than just a bunch of new houses. In fact, my entire family was pretty deeply invested in the park idea, to the extent that my mom took my sister and me to some of the city hall meetings regarding the outcome of this land. I felt pretty grown up, listening to the aldermen and townspeople discuss what should be done.

Eventually the decision was made: the land would be turned into a park. We were ecstatic. After waiting for what seemed like forever, the land was cleared and the park built, and our town held an official ribbon cutting ceremony on a hot and humid day in June.  It wasn’t long before we were up there all the time – taking the dog for walks, playing cops and robbers with our friends, and just reveling in the excitement of having our own little park. It was a pretty big event in the timeline of my childhood, to say the least.

Fast forward a few years, and the park had sadly lost its shiny new allure and become just another landmark on the drive home every day. I was about 13 years old, and was beginning to go through one of the most confusing times of my life – that terrifying transition known as “puberty.” I’m pretty sure every girl can relate to this in some form or another. All of a sudden, it seemed I’d lost complete control of my emotions and fallen prey to things like mood swings, random crying spells, and other unexplained behavior. My brother joked (years later, when I was able to laugh along with him) that he could have said “Pass the butter, please,” and I would have broken down in tears. It wasn’t quite that bad….but close.  😉

And so, I returned to that park on those days when I just didn’t want to be around anyone. On my toughest days, I would go up there just to cry, where no one could hear me.  I didn’t even know what I was crying about some of the time (oh the joys of being a girl!), but it felt good to cry it out. On the better days, I would take my journal and sit on my favorite bench to process things in my favorite way – with paper and pen.

This park was my spot. My place to get away and deal with all the crazy things I was feeling at the time. Somehow it was comforting, just sitting on my bench and being there.

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Senior year of high school

A few years later, it was my senior year of high school, when I had taken up running as a form of exercise. That park became part of my usual route. The path around the perimeter of the park was only ½ mile long, but I loved running up there, doing a few laps, and heading home. Altogether, it was about 2 miles. As I became a more proficient runner, I abandoned the park for longer routes and busier roads. I’d run 7, 8 or 9 miles at a time, sometimes to the Walgreens on Manchester Road or the seminary a few miles away, but as I ran out of my neighborhood, I always went past that little neighborhood park.

Then again, during another crisis in my life, the park reappeared as a place of solace and comfort. It was 2011 and I had moved home suddenly from India and begun treatment for my eating disorder. This park was there for me (not that the park had a choice, really…) during my recovery from anorexia, when I woke up daily at 5am to run. Obsessed about hitting at least 6 miles before I would allow myself to head home, I would often stop in to this little park to finish out my quota for the day. I remember running along that ½ mile path, thinking about my meals the day before, trying to count my calories and make sure I hadn’t gone over. I remember pushing myself to do one or two more laps, because I knew it would quiet the voices in my head and make up for any calories I’d missed from yesterday’s tally.

Months later, after many sessions with a counselor and a lot of hard work, I begun loosening up on my restriction and extreme exercise habits. But now, my battle with food took on a whole other twist. I couldn’t STOP eating. I began eating in secret, bingeing on large amounts of food, making myself sick, and being afraid to leave the house because of how “fat” I felt. In reality, I’d only gone up about 2 sizes in pants, but it happened so quickly that I was sure everyone had noticed and I felt embarrassed to even leave my house. I wore t-shirts and sweatpants whenever I could get away with it, and baggy tunic-style tops the rest of the time. I was so mad at myself for “losing control” with food and didn’t know how to stop the bingeing and weight gain.

Overnight it seemed, I’d become lazy and unmotivated. I’d completely lost my interest in any kind of exercise. It was all I could do get outside and go for a walk, but when I did, I would go up to that park, often in tears, and slowly make my way around the trail. I would mourn the long-gone days of 5am morning runs and the “high” they gave me. I missed the sense of control I used to have and the way I made my body obey me. But, looking back now, I can see that this was an important time in my recovery. During those months, I learned to exercise because I wanted to. I learned (slowly) to give up my compulsion and obsession with working out, and I gradually won the battle over binge eating. As my eating balanced out, so did my exercise routine. Now, I looked forward to those walks in the park and always felt refreshed and content as I soaked in the beauty of nature. Being outside filled me with hope, even on my toughest days. I began once again taking my Bible up to my favorite park, to read, journal, and think. I would talk to God as I walked, sometimes thanking Him for recent baby steps of progress in my recovery, other times begging Him with tears to get me through this hellish struggle. So many ups and downs, but many of them spent at that same park.

By the fall of 2012, I was in a more stable place in my recovery. I had begun to find myself again, learned to relax about my weight and diet, and found new hobbies to enjoy, now that I wasn’t obsessing about food all the time. I’d recently broken off a toxic relationship that had been feeding into my poor body image and insecurity, and I was feeling alive and free. Exercise was a part of my life, but it wasn’t my whole life. I ate a balanced variety of foods and stopped counting calories altogether.

My sister (left) and me, at her wedding

My sister was getting married, and I was the maid of honor. For once, I didn’t diet in order to feel comfortable in my dress. This was a huge step for me, and I felt the gravity of it and the progress it signified. The morning of my sister’s wedding, I woke up and realized I had about an hour until the day began with the arrival of the hairdresser and bridesmaids. I decided to walk up to my favorite park, and just enjoy the brisk, November morning. The temperature was perfect – the sun was out but the breeze made things just a little bit chilly. As I walked by the playground, I stopped to swing on the swings and go across the monkey bars, reliving all the times I’d done those things years ago.

As I left the park, I decided to run the two-tenths of a mile back to my house, but not because I wanted to burn calories; I actually just wanted to run because it felt like the best way to express the peace and happiness in my heart. As I sprinted down the road to my house, I felt like a little kid again, and the excitement of the day ahead made me giddy and free.

A year later, in 2013, I found myself in a new, much healthier, relationship with a guy. He and I went up to the park together in the evenings and made our way around the trail, often with my family’s dog in tow. We’d enjoy the sunset as we discussed our plans for the future, places we wanted to see together and things to check off of our bucket lists.

This is right before I started jumping...

This is right before I started jumping…

By the fall of 2013, he was down on one knee with a ring in his hand, and I was jumping up and down. (Literally, I started jumping and waving my hands around like a crazy person when he proposed… I’m fairly open about expressing my emotions…)

As we’ve made plans for our wedding and future life together, I’ve continued to visit this park from time to time, just to walk and think about everything happening in my life. I’m a very internal processor, so I need those times of solitude to sort through all the swirling thoughts in my head. Being outside, at that park, calms my heart and helps me relax. There are usually kids playing on the playground, who often ask to pet my dog. It feels comfortable and right, being there at that park where so many landmark moments in my life were spent.

A few weeks ago, I woke up on a Thursday morning and got ready to move my fiancé into our new place. We had an appointment to sign our lease together at 10, but I was wide awake at 7 because I was so excited. I leashed up the dog and walked to my park once again, enjoying the morning sunshine and spring breeze that felt just right. As I meandered along the path, I saw the big open field where we used to play catch or kick the soccer ball, or just run around with our childhood friends. I hollered at my dog and the two of us set off in a sprint across the field. We finished with a collapse on the other side of the field, and as I lay there in the grass, I realized how much this park has meant to me throughout my life, and the idea for this blog post was born.

Friends that know I’m into fitness have asked me if I plan to run on the morning of my big day…some even mentioned they’d heard of brides who run a race on their wedding day, which made me exhausted just thinking about it. Who knows, maybe I’ll take a quick run around the neighborhood, or maybe I’ll opt to sleep in and sip coffee on my parents’ screened-in porch. But at some time that morning, before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, I know I’ll make my way up to my little park that holds so many memories for me. Maybe I’ll be swinging on the swings or sprinting across the field. Or maybe I’ll just be sitting on the bench with my journal in hand, soaking in the excitement of the day.
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Who Keeps You Healthy?

A few weeks ago, I was approached by the American Recall Center and asked to participate in their latest campaign, “Who Keeps You Healthy?” which is a way for health bloggers, like myself, to share about the person in their lives that motivates and empowers them to be healthy. I was excited to participate in this campaign and began thinking of who in my life I would highlight in this post as the one who keeps me healthy.

My dog came to mind, because she is always eager to go for a walk, which often motivates me to get out in the fresh air. My parents have influenced my health by always having healthy, whole foods around their house and encouraging me to cook and bake since childhood. My fiancé helps me stay motivated to work out by going with me to the gym and always being up for a hike or jog at the park.  the beagle girl

However, as I thought more about all of the things that go into “keeping me healthy” I realized that the true credit for my health really goes to someone else.

I’ve been through quite a journey with my health, including a battle with anorexia, followed by binge eating, and then wrestling with poor body image for years. My weight has fluctuated a lot. I’ve gone through periods of restrictive “healthy” eating and periods of binge-ing on pizza and cookie dough. I’ve made tons of health resolutions, workout goals, and learned to give myself some grace along the way.

When it comes down to it, my health these days is the best it’s ever been, and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve thought I was healthy many times in the past during my eating disorder and subsequent recovery, and I often fooled myself. But the kind of health I am living out at this point in my life is not just a healthy BMI or number on the scale, it’s a health that encompasses my emotional and spiritual life as well.

1097965_392214087544816_872314355_nThere have been many times in the past several years of my journey where I was “doing all the right things” in terms of health, but I was unhappy, stressed, hating my body, and frustrated at not being able to control my appetite and cravings. I’ve come to learn that health is so much more than just eating the right foods or getting exercise every day.

Health to me means being happy with my body, focusing on things besides how many calories I’ve eaten since breakfast or whether I worked out enough this week.  In a lot of ways, health for me is measured by how LITTLE I think (or obsess) about my health. Health for me is having a career I love, being in a nurturing relationship, and finding time to enjoy hobbies and downtime. Health is taking time in the morning to pray and be at peace, and taking time to enjoy the little things each day. It’s getting enough sleep, and letting go of worry and learning to forgive. It’s knowing when to skip a workout and read a book in the sunshine instead.

My health journey has meant letting go in so many areas, and just living life with more joy and peace. Giving up my obsessions with being skinny, learning to eat ice cream again without guilt, and finding a balanced workout routine that energizes instead of exhausts me.

And I’m not saying I’ve “arrived” at the pinnacle of health, but I’ve made so much progress from where I used to be. There were a lot of people that helped me along the way, as I mentioned above. But in the end, it was only by God’s grace that I got through the hellish trenches of my eating disorder and made it to where I am today.

1474395_10201127367930761_1712911136_n And it doesn’t end here. There are still days where I feel fat or frustrated with the size of my body. Especially since getting engaged, there have been more frequent thoughts in my head taunting me to start a diet or design a new, intense workout plan to prepare for the big day. I’ve had moments where I questioned my evening bowl of ice cream or the occasional potato chip feasts with my fiancé while watching a movie. But then I hear another voice in my head and heart, telling me to remember how far I’ve come and the work it took to get here. Reminding me that even when I was a size 0 and obsessively in control of everything that went into my mouth, I wasn’t happy.

Even when I was the epitome of a “healthy eater,” I wasn’t actually healthy. I was emaciated and depressed.

1098478_392213077544917_769335534_nThere’s no doubt in my mind that God and His grace is what has enabled me to get healthy again. And it’s His voice in my heart that keeps me healthy, gently reminding me to embrace freedom and never look back.

I’m so thankful for the many friends and family members that have been there for me throughout my journey, and above all, the faithfulness of God to lead me where I am today.

For more information on the American Recall Center, check out their website here!

A Pandora Ad that Got Me Thinking

The other day, I found myself in the comfy, upholstered rocking chair in my room, snuggled under a blanket with a book from the library that needed to be returned the next day. I was trying to power through the final few chapters and a cup of Earl Grey tea sat next to me on my dresser as I read. My Pandora Classical Piano station played softly in the background, making the scene feel even more idyllic.

Pandora is a lovely invention, and one that I take advantage of quite often when reading, writing or working. However, they do seem to have a knack for interrupting my contented enjoyment of Mozart (or Michael Buble, depends on the day) at just the wrong moment with one of their peppy, just-a-little-too-loud ads that disrupts my peaceful moment. If only there was a thumbs-down button for the ads as well as the songs, right?

I’ve got to give Pandora credit, though: I don’t remember giving them much information when I signed up except for my gender and email, but they have an uncanny way of targeting ads that are just close enough to my interests to make me wonder how they know me so well. A few weeks ago, an ad played repeatedly throughout my day for a bridal show going on that weekend that I had just attended the day before. Pandora knows I’m engaged?? It was a little creepy, I’ll be honest.

I’m sure Pandora doesn’t actually know that much about the details of my life, (hopefully?) but it’s amazing sometimes how they seem to hone in on just the right ads for my demographic.

Back to the other day, though. I was enjoying my book and the sound of gentle piano music coming from my speakers, when the sonata ended abruptly and a perky female voice came on and asked,

“Ladies, now that the holidays are over, it’s time to start thinking about yourself… Have you been considering a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, or other cosmetic procedure? St Louis Cosmetic Surgery wants to make this your BEST YEAR EVER! For a limited time, save 15% on any surgical procedure. Some restrictions apply. Call today to set up your consultation at St Louis Cosmetic Surgery!…”

Now, I know that plastic surgery is becoming more and more normal for women these days, and I’m not trying to get on a soapbox about that right now. But what caught my attention about this particular ad was the connection being made between the perfect body and the best year of your life. Did you catch that?

“St Louis Cosmetic Surgery wants to make this your BEST YEAR EVER!!”

Do you see the subtle – but certain – assertion being made?

Ladies, if you just get that nose job, tummy tuck, or breast augmentation that you’ve been longing for, then this year is going to be your BEST ONE YET. No matter what happens, if you get this surgery, your year is guaranteed to be AMAZING!! 

Wow, that’s a pretty big claim, in my opinion.

What about all the tough, heartbreaking things that could happen in 2014?

Getting laid off from a job
Grieving the death of a family member
Dealing with financial instability and debt
Trying to make a stressful marriage better
A falling out with a close friend
Dealing with infertility
Battling serious health problems

Not trying to be a downer here, but there are a LOT of unknowns and uncertainties about the year ahead, for each and every one of us! We don’t know if this is going to be the BEST YEAR YET, and that’s ok. But do you see what this ad is subtly trying to say? They’re not just selling plastic surgery, they’re selling happiness. Peace. Courage. Stability. Comfort. All of the answers to the not-so-great things you or I might face in this coming year.

It’s as if they want us to believe that having the “perfect” nose, tummy, or fill-in-the-blank body part is going to get us through the struggles, heartaches, and agonies that might come at us in 2014. Like somehow when we’re trying to figure out how to make the rent this month or stop fighting with our spouse every day, having had that breast augmentation or liposuction is going to magically make it all better.

And you probably already know what I’m going to say next: it won’t.

love yourself firstYou might think I’m taking this Pandora ad waaaay too seriously, but it’s because I believe this is a much bigger problem than one cosmetic surgery clinic trying to sell something they can’t deliver. This is something that’s thrown at us every day from many different angles.

The media, culture, whoever you want to call it, wants women to believe that having the perfect body is the holy grail of happiness. If it’s not plastic surgery, it’s dieting, calorie counting, following a weight loss plan, or some other method. The premise behind it all is the same: having a better body would solve your problems. But it’s not true.

I bought into that lie for several years, and guess where it led me? Um, nowhere. I worked my butt off (literally) trying to get the “perfect body” and fantasized about the day when I would be tiny and skinny and subsequently never have any stress at school, work, relationships and especially the fitting room of Macy’s.

But even when I got there, even when I achieved “the perfect body” I’d been running after, I looked in the mirror and thought, “yes, I finally feel thin and pretty and model-like, but now what?

Life is still stressful with skinny thighs and toned abs. You still have bad days at work and arguments with the people you love. Losing those “last 5 pounds” doesn’t magically bring you happiness or put you at peace with yourself.

My encouragement to you is this: don’t buy into the lie that happiness is wrapped up in that “ideal body” you’ve envied on magazine covers and Pinterest graphics for far too long.

Those models might have a great body, but it doesn’t mean they’re happy. Happiness is something altogether separate from the way you look or the number you weigh on the scale. Don’t let anyone – even a perky advertisement on Pandora – convince you otherwise.

Brides and Body Image …a little soapbox rant

Note: This is the first in a series of posts on my experience as a bride-to-be. Yep, that’s right – my guy popped the question on November 14th, and I said YES. Can’t wait to marry him this summer!! 

Stepping into the world of wedding planning websites as a newly engaged woman is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Thrilling, because who isn’t excited about planning their own wedding?? Terrifying, because of the bombardment of headlines and articles, proclaiming 10 Wedding Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make and 12 Things Every Bride Needs to Know. I can feel my stress levels rising already.

One of the more useful things on The Knot is the checklist feature, which organizes your to-do list and keep you on track with all the big and little things that planning a wedding entails. Sounds helpful, right? I thought so too, which is why I eagerly entered my name and wedding date and hit “create an account” a couple days after getting that ring on my finger.
bride ecard
A couple days into my relationship with The Knot, I came across an article titled 10 Things to Do As Soon As You Get Engaged. Sounded urgent and important, so I clicked the link. (Marketing at its finest, right? They sure know how to reel us me in.)

The first item in the glossy photo slideshow was “get a manicure” and I proudly made a mental “check” because I’d already given myself one at home the day before. Nothing like freshly painted nails for showing off the gorgeous diamond, right?

Feeling pretty on top of things, I continued to click through the slideshow, until I came to #5 which boldly proclaimed in big, black letters on my screen:

“Choose a Diet Plan and Start It.”

The picture showed the back of a (size 2) model in a wedding dress with a salesperson holding a tape measure around her waist. Talk about intimidating. And #5 went on to say that brides should “choose a proven plan like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.”

Excuse me?

First of all, since when does a bride-to-be want to start thinking about a diet in the first week of getting engaged?! I was still on cloud nine at that point and showing my ring to every checker in the grocery store that asked how my day was going.

“Choose a diet and start it?” Um, no thanks.

My deeper problem with #5 is this: why do brides even need to diet for their wedding in the first place? I understand that every woman wants to look gorgeous on her wedding day, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get healthy and fit before your wedding. My problem is with the endless pressure on women to always be on one diet or another – and never be happy with our bodies. What if I was a size 18 bride-to-be and I was completely fine with being a size 18 on my wedding day? What if I wanted to enjoy my engagement and the planning process without counting calories (or “points,” in the case of Weight Watchers) all the time and obsessing over every bite of food that enters my mouth? This is something that really makes me mad, so I apologize for the soapbox rant.
contentment

But seriously, can we stop pressuring women about weight loss and encourage them to be confident and happy in their own skin? Since when does a size 4 bride automatically look more gorgeous on her wedding day than a size 14 one does? In my opinion, the media – or whoever you want to call the forces behind these messages – realizes that us brides are a little whole lot of anxious about everything being “just perfect” on our wedding day, and they know just how to play into that fear. All around us there are subtle messages that if we just lose some weight and finally achieve “the body of our dreams” then somehow all the other stress of the wedding will disappear and the day will be blissfully perfect. Which is a big, fat lie.

Believe me, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my battle with food and body image, it’s that size and weight does not equal happiness. Period.

No matter how thin/toned/fit you get your body to be, that alone will NOT bring you true happiness.

So here’s my suggestion to myself and fellow bride-to-be’s:

Instead of starting yet another diet in hopes of creating the perfect wedding day or finally being happy with your body, step back and focus instead on what the wedding is really about.

You’re marrying the love of your life, and isn’t that more important than what size is on the tag of your white dress that day? I know body acceptance and self love isn’t easy – believe me, I still struggle – but let’s do what we can to treat our bodies with care and respect.

Rather than finding a diet plan to follow for the rest of your engagement period, why not start working on loving your body at the size you’re at? That doesn’t mean you can’t work on eating healthier or try lose some weight, but check your motives first. Are you counting on Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig to bring you happiness? Because I guarantee you, they can’t.

Begin today to push back on the messages of our culture. Realize that happiness can come at any size.  Make the decision to stop hating your body and give yourself some grace instead.

You’ll be glad you did.