Healthy Happy Hannah
Healthy Happy Hannah

What I've learned

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The Day ED Joined Me for Brunch

ED (my eating disorder) and I were old friends, if you even choose to call him that. I hadn’t heard from him for quite a while, other than a sporadic hello or an unwarranted knock on my door, so it was to my complete surprise when he invited himself to our family brunch this past Monday morning – unannounced and most certainly unwelcome.

I can’t even tell you the last time I felt a ping of food-related guilt, until yesterday. It had been months since any feelings of regret or anxiety came to the surface during mealtime, and I was beyond proud of myself for how far I had come. In fact, I had almost forgotten what it felt like to walk into a restaurant, open the menu, and hear 2 opposing voices in my fragile head demanding my adherence. It had been so long since I heard ED’s demands, and I was hoping it would stay that way for quite some time.

Throughout my recovery, I’ve learned that progress is most certainly not linear. It is not a straight line up, or even a straight line in any direction. Recovery is filled with loops, circles, reverse arrows, and every single bump you can imagine. It’s hard for most people to understand this concept, because as a gal who proudly publicizes a full recovery from her eating disorder, I often get questioned as to why I still hear ED’s voice every now and again.

So before I begin talking about my recent breakfast date with ED, let me clarify that full recovery does not mean that I don’t ever hear ED anymore – full recovery is rather having the ability to hear his ruthless commands, but not give in to them. It is the strength to face my demon head on, and still walk away victorious. It is being able to now stand tall when for so many years all I could do was crumble.

So let me set the scene. I am on spring break in beautiful Marco Island, Florida. I have spent the past 3 days baking my pale winter skin on the sunny beach, sipping on ice-cold mojitos, and treating myself to a daily ice cream cone or slice of peanut butter pie. I am livin and LOVING this freedom. I am exercising as I want to, sleeping in as I please, and enjoying every precious moment I have with my family. And most importantly, ED was nowhere to be found.

Now, on our final day in the sunshine state, we decide to hit up my favorite brunch spot on the island. I woke up drooling over the pancakes and eggs I was about to feast on. I was so relieved to know that I no longer needed to earn my food, or validate a “cheat meal” by telling myself that I would compensate for it later. Since reaching recovery, my brain just didn’t think that way anymore (instead, all food was now seen equally as fuel and nourishment), and that within itself was the biggest blessing.

We pull up to the restaurant and the line is out the door, which typically doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but today it instantly threw me off. I didn’t want to wait because I could begin to hear ED whispering in my ear, “make sure you choose the right meal this morning.” The longer I had to wait for our table, the more time ED had to hound me with his demands. As I stood and stared at the menu, his voice got louder. My hunger cues were overpowered, and I was no longer looking at the menu through fully recovered eyes, but rather through eyes that were clouded by his rules.

I narrowed the menu down to 3 potential choices, but none seemed to satisfy my demon. No matter what I suggested to him, there was always something that needed to be tweaked or changed before it was “acceptable.” I knew deep down that my body wanted a combination of sweet and savory, just as it always does for breakfast, but for the first time in a long time, ED wasn’t allowing it.

“You cannot order two meals, Hannah. That’s disgusting. You can either pick the eggs or the pancakes, but not both.”

“If you order the pancakes AND you eat the toast and hash browns, you will have to restrict your carb intake for the rest of the day to compensate for it.”

“If you just get a traditional omelet, I’ll leave you alone. But don’t eat the sides that come with it.”

“You’ve already eaten a lot this weekend, why don’t you substitute the eggs for egg whites. Save yourself some calories.”

So now imagine trying to sort through these thoughts, while holding a conversation, while trying to not look like you’re a crazy person. I’ll be the first to tell you, it’s even harder than it sounds. And to add to the fun, ED decided to use all of the people in the room as sources of comparison. I was now comparing myself to every man and woman in my line of vision, making sure that I would order a meal smaller, or less calorically dense, than they did.

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for…the waitress arrives. I demand that the rest of my family orders first, giving myself a few extra moments to breathe, but before I know it the waitress is positioned toward me with her pen in hand. “And what would you like this morning?”

Fuck.

So I visibly take a deep breath (and then one more for good measure), close my menu, and look up. For anyone who has never experienced an eating disorder, you may be thinking I am the most dramatic human being to ever walk this planet.

“Just order the damn pancakes, Hannah.”

Believe me, I would be thinking the same thing if I were you. You may not understand why such a simple skill of decision-making was so difficult for me. You may not be able to fathom hearing 2 opposing voices in your head. And that’s okay.

To try to clarify, think of it in these simplified terms: you’re torn between going to your best friend’s party to celebrate her acceptance into her dream graduate program or your mom’s 50th birthday party. You fear that regardless of where you go, you will feel guilty for letting the other one down. And on top of that, you fear that you’ll regret your choice, regardless of which one you make, because the grass is always greener on the other side. You’ll weigh the pros and cons of each situation a million times over, making sure you’ve accounted for every aspect of the two parties. You will lie awake every night for a week straight feeling like you cannot possibly please everyone. Your best friend tells you that she will be disappointed if you don’t show, and your mom tells you that you will break her heart if you aren’t there to celebrate. You wish you could just disappear and fly under the radar for a little while to escape making the final decision, but that’s not reality. By the time the day comes to actually make your decision, your brain is fried and you're absolutely exhausted.

So now, let’s bring it back to the pancakes and expedite the process. All within a matter of 60 minutes, I went through this entire debacle in my mind and became tragically afraid of the guilt and regret I would feel for listening to my cravings, but I was even more afraid of the disappointment I would feel in myself for listening to ED. I was torn between a rock and a hard place, neither option seeming better than the prior. I wanted to either scream or run away, or scream AND run away. I was exhausted from the back and forth, and just wanted to walk out of that restaurant and try again another day.

But guess what? By some work of God, I found my strength right in the knick of time. I opened my mouth, and before even realizing what was coming out, I ordered exactly what my body was begging me to get.

“Can I have two meals please? I’d like the scrambled eggs with toast and home fries, and then a short stack of your pancakes topped with strawberries and powdered sugar.”

Woahwhere did that come from?

So now the hard work was done, but what I wasn’t expecting was for the food to take about an hour to get back to our table. From the time I courageously opened my mouth to the time my plates circled back, ED got nasty. He was pissed that I went against his rules. He was screaming louder than I had heard him scream in years. He told me that I needed to ask for the car keys, take myself home, and call it quits. He demanded that there would be no breakfast for me today. I broke the rules, and now I would be punished.

But I decide to stay, and stand my ground. I had made it this far, and now I wasn’t going down without a fight. As my two plates get placed in front of me, ED tries to compromise. “If you eat all of this, you’ll just have to skip lunch and dinner and then I’ll leave you alone.” His deal sounded promising, because I wanted nothing more than to dive face first into those syrupy pancakes and then just restrict for the rest of the afternoon, but I knew deep down that taking ED’s bait had never solved anything in the past, so why would that change this time?

So, do you know what I did? I picked up my fork…and I ate. I ate to a level of comfortable fullness, satisfied my cravings, went heavy on the butter and syrup, and smiled pretty damn big the entire time. And no, I wasn’t eating because I knew that I could compensate for it later. I was eating because I knew that one meal couldn’t hurt me, change me, or make me blow up like a birthday balloon. I knew that I could trust my body, listen to its signals, and remain on the right track. I knew that one big brunch every now and again was 1000% okay to do. I knew that spring break was a time for me to enjoy, relax, and unwind. I knew that pancakes were so damn good, and that a giant pool of sugary syrup was an absolute must. And I knew that I was lucky to be at breakfast with my beautiful family.

No matter how hard he tried to convince me otherwise, I knew that ED held no power over me anymore. I am recovered. I am in control.

As the waitress cleared my plates, I felt a sense of empowerment I haven’t felt in quite a while. It’s not the same empowerment you feel after getting an A on your paper or crushing a killer workout – it’s a sense of strength, pride, and relief that reminds you just how capable you are. It’s a feeling I had taken for granted throughout these past few months, and although I am pissed ED felt that my spring break was the best time to come visit, I am grateful beyond words that he did.


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When Everything Seems To Be Falling Apart

If you've made the effort to continue reading this, I have a strong feeling that something in your heart just isn't right these days. 

Maybe you're feeling uneasy, unsettled, or anxious about what lies ahead. Maybe you're experiencing heartbreak, loss, or a change in passion. Or maybe you're overwhelmed by the crushing weight that life has placed on your shoulders.

And in your eyes, the only conceivable solution is to wave your white flag and surrender, right?

Of course it is because the natural, human reaction to a feeling of overwhelming discomfort is to abandon it as quickly as possible. That's how we were built - to escape the things that present a risk, danger, or source of harm. It's how we were designed - a built in security blanket, some may call it.  And I cannot blame you for that because it'd be dangerous to your survival to do otherwise.

 

But, unfortunately, running away doesn't always solve the problem. Have you ever resolved a heart wrenching fight with the one you love the most by simply ignoring the pain and attempting to continue on regardless? Have you ever overcome the grief of loss by keeping that darkness and confusion bottled up inside the prison of your mind, and trying to ignore the hurt? Have you ever found your answer through passive action?

Fleeting the sources of our discomfort is undeniably a simple solution, but it will not always lead us in the direction that we are intended to go. Know why? Because sometimes we have to dive face first into everything we've been so deeply afraid of. We have to feel the feelings we've so desperately been trying to avoid. We have to experience the moment before we can move on from it. We have to crash before we can rebuild.

But, why?

We are tested so that we can see what truly matters - to see what's worth fighting for. Sometimes we have to be pushed to our limits to achieve clarity. What is it that we really want, and want can we leave behind?

 

Your heart breaks. Your rejection letter arrives in the mail. Your dream job slips through your fingers. Your most beautiful friendship crumbles right in front of your watery eyes. 

And now you are left with two choices. Fight like hell and commit to total reconstruction, or decide that this chapter of your life needs to come to its close. When our sadness, anxieties and confusion come to their peak, a breakdown can be a beautiful, beautiful thing. Something incredible happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges just at the point when our knees hit the floor. Clarity is achieved.

Yes, the build up is excruciating. The culmination of pain is heart wrenching. The darkness and uncertainty seem to consume you whole. But guess what? This darkness and uncertainty does not last forever. Ironically, this peak of everything you've been avoiding is the answer. This breakdown is the solution you've been seeking. And please trust me when I say that when the fog clears, and the tears dry, your heart will know exactly where it needs to be. 

Trust the process.


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What Are You Willing To Fight For?

My journey is unique – but that’s what makes it mine. Every step that has brought me here, to this very day, has served a purpose. It has taken me years to comprehend the value of the uncertain moments that seemed to characterize the majority of my early adulthood, but here I am now, sitting in awe of the magic behind this crazy thing called life, finally able to understand its madness.

The ups and downs of my journey – from being deep in the throws of my life-threatening eating disorder, to standing tall in my new life as a survivor – have not been systematic or “by the books.” I didn’t dare to merely move through the motions of my recovery process and just hope that I would end up on the other side of this battlefield. I reached a full recovery because of the motivation, passion, and fight that flowed through my veins. I was not passive or indirect in my pursuit, but rather aggressive and steadfast in my efforts to kick that demon’s ass. I took a unique approach, and discovered what worked for me. I fought like hell. I came to find the smallest sliver of hope to hold on to, and I went for it. And look at me now – I made it.

My recovery has undoubtedly helped shape me into the warrior I am today, but it is not the only thing I want to be remembered for. It is not the only aspect of my being that defines me. I am recovered, and I wholeheartedly pride myself on that, but I am also a student, writer, athlete, personal trainer, daughter, sister, best friend, girlfriend…all of which would be unfeasible while living a life with ED.

My goal wasn’t to reach recovery and then stop there – it was to reach recovery so that I could continue to serve all of these other roles; the roles that slipped by the wayside during my battle for health, happiness, and freedom. 

I am not saying this to undermine my efforts in winning this war against my demons, because it was undoubtedly the hardest thing I will ever have to do, but rather to emphasize that my recovery was motivated by my desire to reclaim all of these things in my life that were being stolen away by my illness. Recovery is not about reaching a certain weight, eating all of the items on your meal plan, or saying the “right” things in your therapy sessions. Rather than approaching recovery with the mentality to “check off” all of the boxes and hope for the best, approach it with the mindset that recovery goes far beyond the physical healing – that is only the beginning.

The determination I developed to reclaim my life did not come without strife. My eating disorder unapologetically ripped all motivation I had straight out of my chest, locked it up, and threw away the key. For years I remained empty, unsure of how to move forward. My shell of an existence lingered with a dark, heavy omnipresence. I had two options: find something to fight for, or wave my white flag and surrender.

Hannahyou have to do this for yourself.” The words were simple, but my ability to implement them was not. My treatment team, friends, and family begged for me to dig deeper and relight my flame. They begged for me to want recovery for myself, just as much as they wanted it for me.

They begged for me to pick up my sword, hold my shield high, and walk back into battle once and for all. After years of hearing this empty request, it began to resonate.

I didn’t want recovery simply to be able to call myself a survivor. I couldn’t attach myself to my journey until I found something deeper – more intimate, more inspiring. I wanted recovery so that I could live my life the way it was intended to be. I found my determination when I realized that reaching recovery was only the beginning. It wasn’t the act within itself that would bring me happiness, but rather the thousands of doors that would open in front of me once recovery was attained – that’s what I was fighting for. For the long-term benefits: the carefree vacations with my family, the lazy Sunday mornings with my boyfriend, the spontaneous nights out with my best friend. I wanted to do all of these things without ED. I wanted to rediscover my independence. I wanted to rediscover myself.

Define your recovery. What is it in your life that you want back? What has ED stolen away from you that you need him to relinquish? Where do you want your recovery to lead you?

Think long. Think hard. Think about what you are willing to fight for.

I am rooting for you always.


Here I Am, Asking You To Jump

Sometimes we all need a little reminder that recovery is about embracing change for all that it is. 

Here is my response to an email I received this week about being stuck in the place between wanting to recover, but also being terrified of letting go of ED for good.  

First and foremost, thank you SO much for reaching out and sharing your story with me. My heart shatters just thinking about the pain you're experiencing, but please know that recovery is possible. For years, I would sit and just wish away my days hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel. I told my parents multiple times that I couldn't do this anymore - I didn't have enough energy to fight. I had no intention of rediscovering myself because I was convinced that I was too far gone. But hey - look at me now. IT IS POSSIBLE.

Secondly, I am so proud of you for the amount of effort you have already put into your recovery. What's tricky about this process is that it can take one person 6 months, and another person 6 years. There's no rhyme or reason to it, but we just have to respect the fact that everyone recovers at their own pace. You have spent a lot of time trying to overcome this disorder, but based on your email I have noticed one common theme - it never seems to resolve the issue at hand. Simple observation, I know, but I am getting somewhere I promise. If it's not working, then you only have one logical solution. Try something different.

For my recovery, I tried everything you can think of. I tried individual therapy, group therapy, family counseling, nutrition appointments, exposure therapy, medication...you name it, I tried it. In addition, I would do things on my own that I thought might help, just praying that something would help me escape the pain. I covered all of the mirrors in my house, would eat with my eyes closed and headphones in to try to silence the voices in my head, deleted all social media, created a recovery journal...the list goes on and on. But for years, I would get into bed at the end of the day and nothing changed. I was stuck in a rut of wanting to recover, but also being terrified of letting go of ED. After all, he had been with me for years. I thought he was keeping me safe. I relied on him for comfort.

But let's take a step forward and think about what life in recovery means - freedom, happiness, health, spontaneity, joy, energy, love, compassion, friendship, excitement...I could go on forever. Is there ANY possible way to have these beautiful things in your life while you're chained to your abuser? ED would never allow for these things to happen. It's against everything he believes in. He wants you to be broken, isolated, and insecure. This is the only way he knows how to keep you around and keep you reliant on him. So do you see how these two lives are completely contradictory? We cannot have any part of recovery while chained to ED - even if it's only tiny parts of you that are still reliant on him. Recovery means letting go. It means abandoning EVERY single rule, ritual, fear, and obligation that this stupid demon has demanded you to follow. During my hospitalization, I was told time and time again to jump.

I was told to leap from the cliff and embrace the free fall. I was promised that recovery would be on the other side. I didn't believe them, but I jumped anyway. And here I am today, on the other side, telling you to jump.  

Your body is begging for life. It is waiting for you to take that running start and leap from the cliff. So here is my advice - do ALL of the things that terrify you so much that you shake just at the thought of them. Eat that one "toxic" food ED has told you time and time again to never even let cross your mind. Take a whole month off from the gym. Delete your calorie tracker. Cover all of your food labels. Have someone else cook for you. Go out to eat and have the waiter choose your meal for you. Journal your thoughts in the moments when you feel like your mind and body are shutting down. Cry when you need to. Talk about EVERYTHING going on in your head. Take an unplanned weekend trip. Smile even when you feel like you can't. Live.

Above anything else, remind yourself that YOU decide when you're ready to recover. You are the only person who can change your life. If you are unsatisfied with your life right now, then let's do something about it. I don't want you to live another moment at war with yourself. I am sending you my deepest love and forever blessings. You can do this. You have to do this. You are a warrior.


Recovery: You Asked, I Answered

Over the past few weeks, I have received a number of questions regarding my recovery journey, with specific questions focused on the re-feeding process, overcoming my exercise addiction, and becoming comfortable with my body's set point. One email I received was from a sweet, strong gal who wanted clarity about these aspects of my recovery. 

This is what I told her...

My heart aches knowing the pain you’re going through, but I am so hopeful for your healthy and happy future. 

Recovery is an ongoing process, and I’d be lying if I said I never had ED thoughts anymore, but to be honest they VERY rarely cross my mind these days. I have bad body image days, and days where I feel insecure, but I no longer attribute those thoughts to ED. Everyone experiences these feelings! I attribute these tough days to life, stress, and being a normal human being. ED still pops into my mind in times when I am feeling alone or overwhelmed, but I do not act on these thoughts anymore. To be honest, I haven’t been tempted to return to my disordered habits in MONTHS. I just don’t need them anymore, I have found other ways to cope. My life is so much better without ED. So yes, I occasionally have thoughts of ED, but they are rare and they no longer hold power over me.

During my re-feeding phase of recovery, I was RAVENOUS all the time. I would finish a meal and be hungry 20 minutes laterno joke. This is because your metabolism is FINALLY getting the fuel it has been begging for throughout your restrictive eating phase. You’re putting fuel in the tank, so your body is using that fuel within seconds to try to rebuild your body and restore itself. This is totally normal, and I promise it doesn’t last forever. Your body is merely making up for lost time! So don’t fear, you won’t always feel like a bottomless pit. But for now, listen to your body and FUEL it when it’s telling you it needs it. 

Exercise was a crutch for me throughout my disorder - always something I could rely on to keep ED around. Because of my reliance on exercise, I cut out all forms of working out for 6 months. When I finally agreed with my medical team that it would be safe (mentally and physically) for me to begin working out again, I started SLOW with walking and yoga. I would only do light intensity exercise in order to challenge myself to refrain from entering the “I must burn calories” mindset. Once I became more confident in myself, I began to go back into the gym and do weight lifting. I had to reteach myself that I love working out because it makes me feel good, NOT because I “had” to do it. Only after weeks and weeks of light workouts did I start cardio again. You have to be careful with this and make sure you’re staying balanced.

A tip I have for you, when you choose to start working out again, is to write your workout before you begin and have someone you trust look over that workout with you to make sure it’s reasonable.Holding yourself accountable to ONLY do the exercises on that list is crucial, because when ED starts to tell you that you must do more, you have to stay strong and walk away knowing you treated your body well and that’s enough. 

My recovery team agreed on a weight for me that I have now ended up exceeding. This weight is more than I have ever weighed, and that’s okay because I have truly never felt so healthy. I thought that the weight my doctors agreed upon was unreasonable, but now being over 10 pounds heavier than that weight, I realize that the number does not dictate when I can be “done” with recovery. When I reached the weight my team decided was “healthy” for me, I still felt trapped in ED. It wasn’t until I let my body decide where it felt best that I truly escaped my demons. So don’t worry about that number, whether it’s an overshoot or not, because ultimately your body will tell you where it feels best. 

I am so happy to know my account has shed some light on your journey. Thank you for allowing me to become a part of your recovery. I am sending all of my love to you! Fight hard, sweet girl. It’s so worth it.


How Austin, Texas Brought Me Full Circle

"She wore her troubled past like scars - she had been through battle, and though no one could see her demons, they could see the face that conquered them."

3 years of life, 2 full marathons, 4 months spent traveling the world & 1 strong, healthy, resilient body. Since 2014, these are a few of the things I have accomplished since my discharge from my hospitalization for a life-threatening battle with anorexia, and yesterday I added another thing to this list...

Solidifying my purpose in this world. 

I am in Austin, Texas this week for Eating Recovery Center's "Mission Recovery" Conference, and I can say from the depths of my heart that I have never felt anything so surreal. Attaining a summer internship with author, speaker, and recovery advocate, Jenni Schaefer, was a dream come true within itself, but attending this conference alongside her, and so many of my other beautifully inspiring role models, brought me full circle.

As I sat in that room yesterday, listening to Jenni speak, I couldn't shake the image in my head of my sick, broken body lying in my hospital bed 3 years ago with a highlighter in one hand and a tissue in the other, reading through Jenni's first book, Life Without Ed. To say this book changed my life is an understatement, but it is the only phrase I can think of to even scratch the surface of how much Jenni's words impacted my journey to recovery.

If only I knew back then where I would be today. If only I could see then that my pain was serving a purpose, and my struggle was bringing me closer to my life's meaning. If only I knew that my recovery would not only save my life, but save the lives of others. I wish I could've seen into the future and understood that those years of life with ED were only training me to become the woman I am today. From reading Jenni's books and praying that my demon would soon loosen his grip, to now working alongside Jenni in pursuit of my greatest passions, I can wholeheartedly say that we must trust the process

Yesterday was not just a step in the direction of where I aspire to be in my career, but rather the first page of an entire new book. This book will be filled with love, passion and adventure. The first chapter of this book is called happiness - and it begins here. It begins with an extended hand, forgiving heart & gracious soul, reminding me of the past I have left behind to pursue the bright life lying ahead. Its roots are planted in my journey, but its growth is fueled by my strength. My heart has found its place. My soul has found its balance. My spirit has found its home.

I cannot wait to embark on this new adventure. My heart is beating out of my chest at the thought of what lies in front of me. I hope to someday be standing on that stage, telling my story, knowing that my life's greatest purpose has been fulfilled. I pray that my story will not only help save others, but also inspire these brave souls to then return the favor and spread their new found light to those around them.

I am humbled, blessed and eternally grateful. May the adventure begin.


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Defining Freedom

Freedom is such a loose term – what exactly does it mean? For years I claimed that I wanted to be free from my eating disorder, but I never truly knew what freedom was because I had never fully experienced it. I imagined what it was like – but I could only explain it in vague terms. I knew it encompassed a life of happiness and spontaneity, but I couldn’t pinpoint any other words to describe my distant dream. I wanted it, but didn’t quite know what it was.

As I saw others live their happy lives, I couldn’t fathom it.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept that life had the potential to be beautifully and wonderfully spent. I was so trapped in my thoughts that the world was nothing more than a slow moving blur. I saw faces and I heard sounds, but that was the extent of my comprehension. Not only was my mind suppressed, it was numb. I had successfully numbed myself from emotion, other than the overwhelming darkness that lingered within my soul. 

I did not come to use the term ‘recovery’ until very far into my battle. I didn’t understand how you could recover from something that wasn’t an illness – yes you read that correctly, I didn’t think of my eating disorder as an illness for years. I assumed it just to be how my brain was wired. I assumed it was the way I was meant to be. I thought I was just born as a sad soul, and that’s how it would always remain. I knew I had eating issues, but this was not registered in my own mind as an illness. It was just another part of my genetic makeup – something that couldn’t be resolved.

If you know me at all, or have just come to know me through my social media platforms, I hope you can see that the term ‘sad soul’ does not even remotely encompass the person that I am. In reality, it’s the exact opposite. That is what my eating disorder morphed me into, but that’s not me. The beliefs my demons instilled in my mind were all rooted in one purpose – to kill me. If these monsters could convince me that my struggles were irreversible, then why would I even try?

This mindset is where I remained for years. I saw other people recover and understood that it was possible, but it just wasn’t possible for me. “You’re too far gone,” my demons would whisper. “This is just how your life was meant to be.”

As I sit here writing, I can think of 10 things off the top of my head that have already made me smile today (and please keep in mind it’s only 11am). I can tell you 100 things that have made me laugh within the past week, and I can tell you 1,000 things that have happened in the past month that have reminded me how blessed I am. This joy that overflows from my soul – it is rooted in my strength. It is rooted in the fact that despite the lies my demons fed me, I continued to challenge them. My joy has come from my pain, but I am thankful for this because I don’t think I’d understand the beauty of my life today without experiencing the hell I went through to get here. It was completely and totally horrific, but look where I am today. It was worth it. It taught me who I am.

So now I have to ask you, have you fallen into your demon’s trap? Have you removed yourself from the possibility of recovery? Have you accepted that recovery may be possible for others, but not possible for you? If you answered yes, I beg of you to reconsider.

I now have my own definition of freedom – something that is no longer loosely defined. It is a concrete part of my everyday life. It is waking up in the morning and instantaneously craving my warm and melty peanut butter oatmeal. It is getting dressed without looking in the mirror, knowing that I look just fine. It is answering the phone to an old friend and agreeing to a few glasses of wine without a moment of hesitation. It is my ear-piercing laughter and a radiant smile. Freedom is having the ability to survive without any reliance on another person, place, or thing. It is the ability to thrive independently. Freedom is my favorite ice cream on a summer night. It is peace of mind. It is mental clarity, accompanied by a passionate heart and a strong body. Freedom is not just the ability to escape the things that once held you back, but also the chance to rediscover the person you lost sight of in the midst of your battle. It is happiness. And if you haven’t yet experienced this freedom, I promise it is right around the corner. Keep fighting. 


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To The Bone: Through The Eyes of A Surivor

 As many of you know, the Netflix movie To The Bone was released last night. After much controversy and speculation, I decided to watch the film in order to familiarize myself with the message that would be portrayed to the public regarding eating disorders. It has taken me nearly 24 full hours to come to terms with what I saw, but here are my two cents.

From the eyes of someone who has lived and breathed the living hell of anorexia, I can say that this movie brought a whirlwind of emotions along with it. The simplest way I can explain my feelings during and after this movie is by saying that my heart stung with pain for the entirety of the film, and hours after. It brought back horrific memories that I have purposely blocked out of my mind for years. I stared at the screen, hoping to watch the movie from an outside perspective, but fell victim to the pain and horror of my past disorder all over again. It was as if I had taken three years off the clock, and re-entered the hospital in my emaciated and broken body. I could feel the pain, weakness, and fear eat away at me all over again. Reminding myself of that chapter in my life was one of the hardest things I've put myself through in a very long while. To talk about my past illness is one thing, but to see it lived out right in front of your eyes is something far different. 

In my opinion, this movie did not even scratch the surface of what an eating disorder truly is. Although it did an incredible job at showing the severity of anorexia, my biggest fear with the release of this new film was that it would reemphasize the stereotype that already comes along with eating disorders, and that's exactly what it did. The movie's main focus was anorexia, which is one of the most common eating disorders, but not the only one in existence. To solely focus on anorexia is like developing an educational program about cancer, but only providing information about breast cancer, without mention of the hundreds of other forms of that specific illness. The concept was rooted in good intention, but it unfortunately confirmed in the minds of many that the other horrifically dangerous eating disorders are not "serious" enough to deserve attention. ALL eating disorders have the potential to kill, so do not assume that they are unworthy of treatment, help, or recovery solely because they have not been portrayed that way. 

In addition, the portrayal of anorexia did not encompass ANY of the mental anguish that comes along with the illness. With anorexia, the battle is 10% physical and 90% mental, but unfortunately not a single moment of the mental battle was portrayed. Anorexia is often inaccurately conceived to be a physical problem, but the mental aspect is far more dangerous. The actions of the illness are what load the gun, but the thoughts are what pull the trigger. I was very disappointed that the character's illness was only represented through her emaciated body. Anorexia does not necessarily have to result in a skeleton-like frame, and by showing anorexia solely through that lens, it has yet again reconfirmed the stereotype that all anorexics have to look like skin and bones in order to be taken seriously. So yes, I do agree that anorexia is a life-threatening battle that can result in extremely low weight, bone density, muscle tissue, etc. but this is not always the case. Regardless as to what your weight, size, or stature is, if you are struggling with food, body image, fear of weight gain, depression, or obsessive thoughts, please seek help

Also, it is so important to understand that the treatment utilized in this movie does not represent all of the treatment techniques and programs that are out there. My treatment experience was completely opposite of what was portrayed in this movie. I know for a stone cold fact that the treatment shown in this film would not have worked for me, so I am sharing my opinion on this topic because I want others to know that there are far more treatment options than what was depicted. The house, program, doctors, and nurses in the film did not represent a large percentage of what real-life treatment looks like today. Regardless of whether you or a loved one is receiving treatment in a hospital, outpatient setting, doctors' office, or inpatient center, please keep in mind that there are thousands of options out there. It is so crucial to understand your options before selecting one, so here I am reminding you all that what works for one person may not work for another. Do your research and find the right fit. 

Above all else, I was hoping that this film would show why recovery is worth it. I was praying that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel - something to show why the pain of recovery is worth it when a life of happiness is achieved.

The moment the main character began to stumble upon her strength, the movie ended. It did not even come to mention the love, joy, passion, spontaneity, happiness, and vitality that comes along with a life after ED.I prayed that this movie, if nothing else, would inspire others to detach themselves from their demons in order to achieve a beautiful recovery, but the recovery aspect was not touched upon. So here I am, telling you for the millionth time, recovery is better than your wildest dreams. It is something I will never be able to express through written-word, but I beg of you to believe me. Recovery is worth it.

Lastly, I want to express the most important point. I am confident in my recovery, and I know that my disorder is far behind me, but this movie shook me to my core. As soon as the credits began to roll at the end of the final scene, my body broke down. I bawled as I sat in silence with the pain of my battle sending shots down my spine. The hell I escaped came back. I was overcome with emotion. I was grateful beyond measure for the miracle that saved my life, but I also walked away with a heavy heart as I was reminded of who I used to be. So here is my advice - if you plan to watch this movie, be ready to bring old emotions back to the surface. If you believe you are not ready for this, please do not watch. If you are in recovery, talk to your medical team, parents, or friends before watching. Make sure you are stable and confident enough to walk away without falling back into behaviors. Make sure you are ready to face your demons.

If you do not agree with me, I respect your opinion. If you do, I hope you now know that you are not alone. I am praying for all of those who are seeking recovery, or hoping to someday get to a point where they can begin to seek a better life. If you or a loved one needs more information about treatment options, please do not hesitate to reach out. I believe in you, my beautiful warriorsKeep fighting the good fight


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Recovery: Physically, Mentally and Spiritually

Yesterday I was asked for some recovery advice from a gal who has been trapped in a life with ED for a little over a year. 

Here is what I told her.

First and foremost, I am so proud of you for the progress you’ve made so far. It is not easy to talk about your journey, and it is especially hard to take steps in overcoming this battle. For years, I was terrified of what life without my eating disorder would be like. I simply couldn't fathom my existence without it. I used my eating disorder as a security blanket, and I was completely reliant on it to get me through each day. I struggled for about 5 years before any substantial progress was made in restoring my physical & mental health, but the reason I was able to reach a full recovery was because I got SO sick and tired of “living” my life that way. It was exhausting, painful and full of guilt. I got sick of it, and I fought like hell to defeat that demon living in my own head.

In terms of advice, it goes far beyond the food and exercise component of the disorder. So many people tend to think that recovery is solely the process of gaining weight, breaking through your fears of certain foods, and cutting back on exercise. That’s such a tiny fraction of what recovery truly is. Although restoring your body to a healthy weight is the first step, and is a vital step in order to continue making progress, it is not the only component to regaining your health and happiness. To explain why it is so crucial to nourish & restore your body to its natural weight, think about it this way - you have to restore your body’s weight in order to allow the brain to begin properly functioning again. Without adequate nutrition, the brain simply cannot think rationally. That’s where ED comes in and takes over. So by restoring your body to its healthy weight, you are moving in the right direction, and lessening ED’s power.

The most crucial part of recovery is discovering what the root of the disorder is - searching internally to find what it is that is causing this behavior. My eating disorder developed as a result of me trying to find a way to regulate my life when everything seemed to be spiraling out of control. I needed to regain peace of mind, so I did that by obsessing over my food, exercise and weight. I developed obsessive habits, insane rituals and countless “rules” in order to maintain this sense of control in terms of my food and exercise. After years and years of making this sick attempt to find even the tiniest bit of confidence through these obsessive habits, I realized that no matter how rigid I was in controlling this aspect of my life, I was still unhappy. No matter how many pounds I lost, or how many hours I spent in the gym, I was still so heartbreakingly unhappy. It took a hospitalization for me to realize that losing my life to this disorder would not make me superior to anyone else, and that this competitive mindset I developed to be the skinniest girl in the world did nothing for me but send my anxiety, insecurity and fear through the roof. Weight loss was not the answer, so I needed to look elsewhere to solve the issues I had inside.

I learned to look at the bigger picture. I constantly reminded myself throughout my recovery process to take a step back and reflect on what is truly important to me in my life - my family, friends, passions, goals, relationships, and so so many more. Nowhere on that list do I hold my weight or size as a priority, because those aspects of my life are not the source of my happiness or the solution to any of my problems. Our bodies are our outer shells, but they do not have the ability to provide love, peace or happiness.  Our brains, hearts and souls can do all of those things for us, but our bodies most certainly cannot. The obsessive mindset you’ve developed is sadly a result of the demon attempting to take control of your life, but this mindset does not need to become permanent. You have the ability to break through these thoughts at any moment, and by continually breaking through these thoughts, they will become less and less common.

The more you fight, the less power ED will have.

My biggest piece of advice is to make yourself uncomfortable. Remaining in your comfort zone will not lead to any type of progress. Do things that scare you, eat things that make you nervous, try new coping skills, skip a day at the gym, wear a new outfit you’ve been afraid to put on, be spontaneous. By doing these things and realizing that, although they may be terrifying in the moment, they did not hurt you and therefore do not need to be feared. These fears you have developed are irrational, but you have to prove that to yourself by doing them over and over and OVER again. Do not allow ED to dictate what is “good” or “bad” because those terms are so meaningless until we put meaning behind them.  Work to discover what you love about yourself as a person, beyond your physical outer shell. That is where your true value lies.

I am praying for you and I will be sending all of my strength & positivity your way. You are a warrior, and I know you can win this battle. Keep fighting.



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I Crumbled

I am human. I am not perfect. I make mistakes, I fall, and I crumble. And yesterday, I crumbled. 

Recovery is a tricky thing. It is not always linear, or even comprehensible in that matter. Our brains may occasionally fail to sync with our bodies, which inevitably causes a break in the harmony between our minds and souls. Unfortunately for the sake of humanity, it is impossible to be forever happy, or forever positive. We strive to be our best selves day in and day out, but we must learn to acknowledge the stone cold truth that having a bad day is part of what makes us human. And that's okay. 

I will be the very first to admit that while my highs are sky high, my lows bring me to the deepest of rock bottoms. I am blessed to feel things so deeply, but I am cursed to feel the stings of my struggles so intensely. While my life has changed drastically from the years I suffered the most painful of mental turmoils, I still feel the piercing pain of these internal battles every now and again. This is a part of recovery, although not a glamorous part, it is one of the most crucial building blocks of discovering my true strength.

These rock bottom moments are the moments we come to see that the fire within us truly does burn brighter than the fire around us.

It is when I am sitting alone, tears overflowing from the depths of my heart & holding my head in my hands that I realize that I am not invincible. I was broken for so many years that my soul still lingers in my past, forever healing from the wounds I caused. My foundation is cracked, and while I have worked on filling these cracks for years, they still exist. Rather than ignoring them, I embrace them. I may be broken, but that is not all I am. I am strong, resilient, and passionate. I am a warrior.

Yesterday, my demons awoke. They crawled back into my mind and refused to leave until they flipped my world upside down. They ransacked my thoughts, ripped apart my rationality and demolished my sense of reason. My demons took over, and I sat back while I watched my body sink deeper and deeper into the dark water. I surrendered to my relentlessly horrific abusers. I allowed them to swallow me whole.I crumbled.   

But today, I fought. My demons, though less overpowering in this moment, are never quite silenced. They wait patiently for a reason to wake and crawl back to my ear. But I am resilient - pieced together by the strength in my soul. Today my heart is full, my mind is still and my spirit is at ease. I am not blind to the fact that my demons are forever present, but I am strong enough to fight them off for another day. 

Above all, I am not ashamed of my failures. Yesterday I did not recognize myself. I looked in the mirror and saw a shattered girl with pain in her eyes, not the fighter I have come to know and love. I am not embarrassed of my breakdowns, but rather grateful for them. With days like this, I am able to see how insanely strong I am for having come so far. Yesterday, I was reminded of what a life with ED was like. I was reminded of the hopelessness I felt deep within my core, and the fear I felt flowing through my veins every single day for years. But today, I am finally able to see that I am one hell of a fighter. I overcame my abuser. I killed the demon that tried to kill me. You may see me struggle, but you will never see me give up.

And so, I leave you with this...be thankful for every failure, for they were planned. They come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. Their purpose is to shake you up, tear you apart, reveal your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life. And you do.