ED 101: Let’s Talk Recovery

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“There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” That saying just doesn’t sound right coming from a vegan. So let’s just stick with: there are multiple ways to get a job done. Period. These same rules apply in recovery from ED. Let’s talk about different options for recovery. A little, ED 101 if you will.

ED manifests differently in every person. No two people will experience the exact same symptoms. That being said, it’s safe to say that there is no one specific method of recovery from ED. What works for me, may not help somebody else. It’s important to understand that recovery is not necessarily a linear progression, and not all methods will work for each individual. So what are some of the methods and how do they work?

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: In this approach, a therapist will work with an individual to understand the recurring negative thought patterns surrounding ED. They will try to interrupt and/or challenge these thought patterns. In time, by using healthy strategies, they attempt to alter these patterns of thought to form new ones.PROS: CBD is a commonly used approach as it is said to have had a high success rate in helping people free themselves from ED. It can help to

    CONS: CBD requires a lot of diligence and work. It involves self reflection, and constant attention to the thoughts that are present and can be overwhelming at times. Furthermore, it can encourage the behaviours of ED by ‘accepting’ that relapse is a natural part of recovery.

  • Psychodynamic therapy: Therapists attempt to reveal the underlying issues that led to the development of ED. They will work with an individual to uncover psychological problems. The belief is that by addressing these problems, they can help to alleviate the symptoms of ED and work towards recovery.PROS: Psychodynamic therapy can help to address any psychological problems if the are present. It can provide useful tools for dealing with a wide range of life events.

    CONS: A lot of time is spent focusing on underlying issues in an attempt in indirectly treat the symptoms of ED. This is a very long drawn out process that can last years and doesn’t attack the issue head on. In this approach individuals are taught to believe they have other psychological issues, this can create a sense that ED will always be a part of their lives and recovery is not guaranteed.

  • Addiction/Elimination: In this approach, ED is treated as an addiction to specific foods. Whereas when refined flour and sugars (foods high in carbohydrates) are thought to be addicted and must be removed from the diet.PROS: These types of food are not the most healthy so you’re not doing any physical damage by eliminating them.

    CONS: It’s ridiculous to think a diet like this is manageable. It also creates psychological deprivation, and should the individual attempt to reintroduce these foods down the road, the likelihood of binging on them is very high.

  • The do it yourself method: Quite often, individuals will never seek professional treatment for ED. The do it yourself option can involve a wide array of methods. From reading self help books, to possibly dabbling in one of the above mentioned methods.PROS: In this approach, the individual really gets to know themselves. By spending time understanding the behaviours and triggers associated with ED. It is the most individualized method because it is tailored specifically to the individual. It can also increase self confidence and self worth if they are successful in their approach.

    CONS: Because it’s a ‘DIY’ method, there’s nobody there to hold you accountable for your actions. Aside from yourself. It requires a lot of strength and willpower. It’s easy to fall back into old habits and give up on recovery.

All of the above mentioned methods are just a handful of commonly used practices. Each method has worked and failed. It’s likely that bits and pieces of each have their place in a persons recovery. That being said, it’s important to address the issues head on. Yes, it’s beneficial to learn how manage stressful situations, triggers, and underlying issues. But, at the end of the day, those things are a part of everyday life. Whereas attacking ED head on, deals with the predominant issue at hand. Once ED is removed from the situation, those other things will be more manageable.

At the end of the day, the only way to know which approach will work, is by starting. The first step is the hardest one, but it’s definitely the most important.

Review: My Week Without Social Media

On Sunday night, before bed, I made sure to turn off any app notifications before logging out. A double wall of protection, preventing any updates from sneaking through. When I awoke on Monday morning, I went about business as usual. Morning meditation, free writing, and training at the gym. Logging onto social media wasn’t a thought in my mind, or so I thought. It seems that my subconscious had other plans for me.

I was sitting in the park, enjoying my afternoon, when I caught myself, phone in hand, completely unaware of what I was doing. As if awaking from a dream, I saw that my thumb was hovering over the little IG icon.  I dropped my phone on the ground in shock. How was it that I had almost mindlessly blown my entire experiment? Even more bothersome, the mental fog had made me completely unaware of what I was doing. It was as if my mind and my body were in complete disconnect.

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I started thinking about how this could possibly be.

  • Was I so accustomed to scrolling that it had become a mindless act for me?
  • Perhaps it was the repetition that made my body perform the act without mental instruction?
  • Or, was it simply, that I had not been truly present in the moment and had let autopilot takeover on that sunny afternoon?

I couldn’t fathom the thought that I wasn’t truly living. One of my biggest fears is living on autopilot. Quickly, I positioned myself in a half lotus position and began to focus on the breath. I allowed myself, my awareness, to fall behind my thoughts and begin to observe the minds useless chatter. When I finished my meditation, I felt as if the fog had lifted. I had returned to my seat of consciousness.

Instead of dwelling on what had happened, I allowed myself to let go and remain present. My intent for the remainder of the week was to be as conscious as I possibly could be. To allow life to unfold around me, simply observing what happened. No attempts to control or change the situation.

I felt lighter in the chest. Free of any previous worry. When I began to notice my mental chatter, instead of letting any emotions stir, I let it flow through me. Focusing on my breath, and remaining in my seat of awareness. For the remainder of the week, I didn’t have any other thoughts of social media. I was simply living, and enjoying my life.

As the week came to a close, I began to reflect upon my experience. Why would I want to spend my down time transfixing my awareness on a little screen, observing the highlight reel of other peoples lives, when I could simply live my own? Did I consider this to be a success? Yes. Was I going to limit the amount of time I spent on social media? Absolutely.

And with that thought, I kept my notifications turned off, and my spiritual awareness on.

 

 

Social Media: Our Disconnected Connection

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You know the scenario. You’re out for lunch with a friend. You’re sitting across the table. Bursting with excitement. Itching to share your radical new job offer, or the details of your sexy new significant other. You dive head first with enthusiasm into your story. No stone left unturned. You come up for air, expecting to be met with the same energy you’ve put forth. Instead, a blank stares back at you. Phone in hand. Eyes glazed over. Your friend looks up from their IG news feed and nods silently. Absolutely no clue as to what you’ve just said. Instead of calling them out on their zombie-like trance, you reach for your own phone and start some scrolling of your own. Hey, if you can’t beat em, join em, right?

Wrong.

Is it not amusing that the social media platforms that were intended to connect us on a global level are also the same culprits of our complete disconnection? Am I alone when I say how hard it has become to engage in meaningful conversation with loved ones? When did we become so preoccupied with updating our statuses? In an effort to ‘be the change’, I’ve decided to do something about it. A little social media experiment if you will. Or rather, lack thereof.

For the next week, I intend to abstain from all social media activity. The purpose of this experiment is to see just how addicting these time fillers really are. I’m also interested to see how my productivity levels will increase, whether I am more engaged in conversation, and finally, if and how much more present, aware and connected I am in my everyday life.

So, until next week….. I bid you adieu.

Mindfulness and Food

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I have been reading a lot about the practice of mindfulness. Letting go of thoughts of the past or future, and really being present in the moment. Allowing your attention to focus solely on what is happening in the now, without any judgement or preconceived notions. I have been trying to practice being mindful through meditation. After one of my morning meditation practices, I started thinking about the art of being mindful in relation to food. I noticed just how disconnected I had become with the act of eating. Almost as if I had been going through the motions on autopilot.

We all know what autopilot is, right? An act or task that we perform so often that it becomes second nature. While it’s neat that our minds can perform said tasks automatically while focusing on something else, it’s also kind of disheartening. Take brushing your teeth for instance. You put the toothpaste on the brush, put the brush into your mouth, and what next? Next thing you know, you’re rinsing your mouth with water and the act is done. Where did your mind go during the brushing process? It’s the same thing with morning routines such as getting ready, driving to work, etc. The problem is, the more repetitive the task, the more often our minds turn to autopilot. Eventually we’re operating in a ‘dormant’ state for the majority of our days, and even lives.
Scary, isn’t it?

When I came to this realization, I also became aware that I was shifting into autopilot when I was eating . In my efforts to kick Ed to the curb, I knew I had to change my eating habits. I started to implement changes into my routine and immediately noticed a difference. While you may not have an eating disorder that you’re trying to kick, I do believe that some of these exercises will help you to become more mindful as well.

  1. Getting rid of distractions. When eating, just eat. Don’t watch television, read a book or text. Focus your attention on the smell and taste of the food and really enjoy the experience of nourishing your body.
  2. Take your time. Chew your food and really take your time eating. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, but sitting down for a meal is your time to slow down and give back to yourself.
  3. Probably my favourite of the three exercises is the practice of eating with your non dominant hand. One of the best ways to become mindful of your eating is to practice this. If you’re right handed, hold your utensil in your left hand. Using your non dominant hand forces you to focus more on what you’re doing, bringing you back to that seat of awareness. It also helps you to appreciate the plight of others who may have mobility issues.

Using these tools to practice mindful eating will help you to find more moments of clarity on a daily basis. Furthermore, it also forces you to slow down the process of eating. By slowing down the process, your body has the ability to actually detect the sensation of being full. This will help to avoid overeating, or if you’ve been acquainted with Ed, it can stop the act of binging (and purging). So, mindfulness and eating?!? Why not give it a try?

Just a little food for thought….

 

Minimalism: How It’s Helping My Recovery

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Image: Google Images

Everyone has heard the term “minimalism”, perhaps you might even have a friend who leads a minimalist life. Your interest might be piqued by the subject, but maybe you don’t quite understand the purpose or reasoning behind it. It’s ok, neither did I, until recently.

About six months ago, I watched a documentary on minimalism and I began to understand the correlation between my chaotic thought pattern and the accumulation of possessions I seemed to have. My home was a collection of objects. Most of which did not serve a purpose in my everyday life. It wasn’t until my recent move, and full scale commitment to my recovery from Ed, that I decided it was time to let go and rid myself of unnecessary ‘things’.

After hours of sorting and piling up items, I came up for air and was surprised at just how much lighter I felt. Both emotionally and spiritually. For me, it seemed like all of the items I had accumulated were not only taking up space in my home, but they were also living rent free in my mind. I’ve heard people say that a clutter free home leads to a clutter free mind, but I hadn’t put the thought into practice. Until now.

How liberating it was to free myself of objects that served no purpose for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t completely rid myself of all my possessions, but I did do my share of absolving myself from the weight of this ‘stuff’. As I let go of these items, I felt as if a huge weight was being lifted off my chest. It was a spiritual experience for me and I knew, it had to be done in order to move forward in freeing myself from Ed.

So how did I go about this process? And how can you implement some of these ideas into your own life? Start by choosing a room or area of your home and creating 4 piles.

  • One: things to keep.
  • Two: items to sell. Things that are in good condition and can sold close to retail value.
  • Three: donation items. Perhaps they’re used or worn, but can still serve a purpose for others.
  • Four: undecided pile. Put these items in storage for a certain amount of time, (1-2 months), if you haven’t used them or gone into storage for them after said amount of time, let them go.

For me, the goal was clear; if the item did not serve an every day purpose, there was no need to keep it. Easier said than done I know. As human beings, objects can hold sentimental value for us. For me though, I wanted to try my best to let go of any emotional attachment I had to a physical possession. For you, it might be different.

The key here, is to make minimalism work for you. There’s no right or wrong way to declutter your life. If a figurine brings back happy memories, and you just can’t seem to let it go, that’s ok. If it serves a purpose for you, keep it around, for the time being. But give it a try, because at the end of the day, aside from a clutter free home, what have you got to lose?

 

The Whole Truth

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Here we go again. Another year. Another blog. But what’s different this time around? I am no longer writing for comedic relief. I’ve thrown my arms up in the air and have given up trying to make light of situations for the sake of a few chuckles. The truth is, I am finally ready to open up and share the truth. I want to be vulnerable and raw, and it is my hope that opening up and creating this new blog will help to hold myself accountable to my own recovery.

Yes, I admit it, I have had numerous relapses into my eating disorder (let’s refer to it as Ed for the time being).  Over the past year (ish), two of my loved ones have died, suddenly. Instead of allowing myself to grieve, I threw myself into work and school. I took the reigns at home, helping my family to cope with their own grief. In short, I thought I was superwoman. So how did my mind cope with all of this? Well, it’s my belief that Ed was my coping mechanism. Because I was unable to accept the loss of my loved ones, I used binging and purging as a mechanism to numb myself from the pain.

Some people rely on drugs or alcohol. My substance of choice? Food. Food was a way to sooth myself. An attempt to fill the void that I felt inside. If I could just stuff myself full of food, perhaps I could stuff those feelings deep down inside me as well. Fine. But what about after my binge, and feeling as if I’d lost control? How could I reverse the damage I’d done? I had to keep up appearances. In my attempt to regain control I would run to the washroom, plunging my head into the toilet, and my fingers into the depths of my esophagus. Forcing myself to purge, reversing the damage that had been done.

I was no stranger to this binge and purge cycle. Ed had been tormenting me, on and off for 10 years. With periods of time where I’d honestly thought I had kicked it to the curb. It wasn’t until I sat on the floor of my shower after vomiting blood that I decided enough was enough. I’ve spent the last decade of my life allowing food to control me. Ed is a very isolating disease. I can’t even count the number of times I have avoided social situations, cancelled on dates at the last minute, and retreated into myself so that I could be alone with Ed. Because at the end of the day, how could anybody truly love or understand somebody as fucked up as me, right?!? Wrong!

So what was I going to do? Clearly, I had been unable to help myself overcome Ed. I needed to gain an outside perspective. I opened up to my doctor and was referred to a specialist. Somebody who had done the leg work to understand the psychology behind Ed. As I sat in the office opening up about my fears, my eyes scanned a nearby bookshelf. The shelves were filled with medical journals and research on Ed. It was in that moment that I was able to take a step back and fully recognize the weight of the situation. I had always thought that Ed was my dirty little secret. Something that I’d battled alone for so many years, that nobody could relate to. But here I sat, looking at dozens, maybe hundreds of research papers and articles on Ed. It was then that I realized, I am not alone.

So here I am. Mere weeks into recovery. Again. Writing this blog to share my experiences with all of you. I believe that through my vulnerability and my honesty, I will truly and finally free myself from Ed. Forever. I know the journey is not going to be an easy one, but I believe in myself and I am willing to put in the effort to ensure that my health and my self love are my number one priority. And perhaps, in the process, I might be able to help you too…