Comparison (part 1)

I’ve struggled with today’s topic for as long as I remember – and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you have too.  I wanted to talk about comparison.  For me, comparing was involved in some of my earliest memories – my brother was smarter than me, my sister was a better singer than me.  It followed me to junior high – that girl is better at making friends than me, his art is better than mine.  Then to high school – she can make friends more easily than me, she’s so much prettier than me….I could keep going with examples but I think you get the point.

Comparison is something we all struggle with at one point or the other and it’s a huge part of the lives of those with eating disorders.  When I had an eating disorder it played out like this “She’s eating a salad for lunch, maybe I shouldn’t get a sandwich.” “She’s thinner than I am, I’m not doing this right.” “She worked out for 1 hour, I’ll work out for 2.” “He said he lost xx lbs this month, next month I’ll lose that + 5.” The comparison game almost convinced me that I didn’t deserve to go to eating disorder treatment.  “I’m not as thin as her, so I don’t need to be there.” “Their body fat is way lower than mine, I’m not sick enough.”

And sadly, being in recovery did not cure me of this issue.  It still plays out like “Their house looks perfectly put together, why can’t mine look that good.” “They make so much more money than me…” “She can lift so much more weight than me, I’m pathetic.” “She’s supposedly in recovery from an ED but still looks super thin, why can’t I?”  I’m embarrassed to admit that these are things I still think and battle through but just want to be real with ya’ll.  But I don’t think I’m alone.

When we compare ourselves, one of two things happens – 1. We feel superior to someone else because we’ve measured ourselves as “better” than them. We then look down on them, pity them, and feel prideful.  2. More often though, we end up feeling inferior. “I’m not as talented, strong, good looking.” We cut ourselves down, beat ourselves up, and end up envying the other person rather than being thankful for who we are.

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OK, so we get that comparison is harmful – but how do we stop something that’s so embedded in our day to day lives?

  • Become aware of how often you’re doing it – Notice when you scroll through instagram and feel inferior to that girls post.  Notice when you’re in line at the grocery store and are jealous of how the person in front of you looks more put together.  Notice when you get mad because that guy is funnier than you are.  Don’t berate yourself for having those thoughts, just be aware of what you’re doing.
  • Become aware of your blessings and strength – change the path of your thoughts to what you are grateful for in your own life. That you liked your outfit today, that you have money to buy groceries, that he may be funny but you are smart. Mentally take note of what you appreciate about yourself and your life.
  • Learn to be okay with imperfections.  The people you are comparing yourself to aren’t perfect either – they’ve got struggles and insecurities – they just probably don’t broadcast them so you’re aware of them.  No one is perfect – you aren’t either and that’s okay. We’ve all got flaws and annoying quirks and that’s ok because that is real life

The last few are ideas to specifically help those with eating disorders who struggle with comparison

  • Focus on how you feel instead of numbers – don’t focus on your weight, (or someone else)      your calories, or size.  Focus on how nourishing your body makes you feel more energized, helps you sleep better, allows you to spend time with loved ones and remember the joy you feel when you’re health.
  • Try to see yourself as God sees you (or through the eyes of someone who loves you) – God does’n’t care about the number on the scale or how many calories you had at breakfast.  He cares that you are living for His glory and running hard after Him. He wants you to be joyful through your struggles and know that He sees you as fearfully and wonderfully made – and just because the person you’re comparing yourself to seems wonderful and amazing – that doesn’t detract from the fact that you are too!

“Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” -Romans 12:6 MSG

Do y’all have any helpful tips on how to overcome the comparison trap? Comment below and let me know!

OMG Body Goals!

“Thinspo” – I feel like anyone who has had an eating disorder has heard of this idea of thinspiration.  When I was struggling with eating disorders, I would cut out pictures of women I wish I looked like and tape them to my mirror, to my refrigerator, hang them up in my closet – anywhere I could see them often to remind myself of my potential to look like my thinspo. I used these pictures or others I saw in magazines, on pinterest, or people I saw on TV to motivate me to further restrict my calories, work out harder, or purge what I just ate.  This was SO harmful to me. One of the first things I had to do when I began my recovery journey was to throw these pictures out and stop watching certain TV shows that egged on my comparison problem.

I thought being in recovery, I would get away from the concept of thinspo, but boy was I wrong.  Browse instagram for 5 minutes and you’ll find people commenting things like “BODY GOALS” or “CAN I HAVE YOUR ABS?” or “I’d kill to look like you!”  On one hand, I think, cool, women encouraging other women, telling them they look good or whatever.  But then another part of me gets SO angry when I see these comments and here’s a few reasons why:

  1. Often, you don’t know the person who’s instagram or photo you’re commenting on.  What if the woman in the photo actually has an eating disorder or unhealthy body image.  You’re comment of “BODY GOALS” could possibly be very triggering to her.  She may read that comment and think, “I have to maintain this body for people to think I look good or want to look like me.” and she may be doing really unhealthy things to maintain that image of the OMG totes perf body.
  2. You don’t know the other people reading the comment – so again, a young girl might read your BODY GOALS comment and think “man, I’d have to work out 3 hours a day to look like that woman – guess I better start…” Not healthy and not helpful!
  3. You sitting there typing out BODY GOALS is basically you saying your body isn’t good enough.  I struggle with this one because I definitely catch myself saying “Dang, I wish I looked like that….had those muscles, looked that toned.” But basically when you compare yourself like that, you’re saying that where you’re at right now isn’t good enough.  When you catch yourself wishing you looked like someone else, I want you to literally stop and say out loud 2 things you love about your body RIGHT NOW – not your body when you lose 10 lbs or get a 6 pack.  Learn to appreciate your body in all it’s glory exactly as you are – because let me tell you, you’re body is glorious and amazing!

And instead of encouraging other women by talking about the shape of their body (which is just a decaying shell to hold their soul anyway), try complimenting a woman on something deeper & more meaningful – try telling her you love her fashion sense or that she’s freaking strong.  Tell her she’s got a smile that’s contagious.  Tell her her positivity is an encouragement to you – because we are SO much more than the shape of our bodies.

Helpful/hurtful

Let’s be real – eating disorders are a strange and confusing disease.  Family and friends often feel like they just don’t get how their loved one could starve themselves or force themselves to vomit.  They frequently feel at a loss for words – they don’t want to be offensive in what they say but don’t want to not say anything and seem like they don’t care – damned if you do & damned if you don’t.  I thought I’d come up with a few things that well meaning people may say that could be harmful to those trying to recover from an eating disorder.  This isn’t to shame anyone that has said these things but simply to educate & help you understand the way that well meaning comments can come across to someone struggling with this disease.

  1. “You’re eating again? That’s great…” Again, a well meaning comment trying to encourage me to eat, ended up making me feel like a failure and that I was eating too much.  Early on (and sometimes still now), I ate tiny but very frequent meals. This helped me avoid feeling overly full but still got in my calories I needed to recover.  This also meant that I ate sometimes up to 8 times a day. It’s what worked for me.  But please refrain from commenting on how much people are eating or weird things they are doing with their food while they are eating. (i.e. cutting it up into tiny pieces, unwilling to eat with their hands, taking too long or eating too fast).  If you have a serious concern, address it at a time other than meal time so as not to distract or deter the person from getting in that meal.
  2. “If you think you’re fat, you must think I’m huge.” We don’t.  Our eating disorder isn’t about you.  It distorts the way we see our body, making us appear larger than life but we still see you the same.  When I was underweight, I envied people who weighed more than me because I thought that they looked smaller than me.  It doesn’t make sense, but that’s the disease for you.  So please don’t bring in comparing your body into the mix with someone that has an eating disorder. Not helpful, and not true.  And now for the comment I heard most frequently that was the hardest to swallow:
  3. “You look so much better/healthier” – or any variation of this.  Early on in my recovery looking better, healthy, etc. in my mind meant that I had gained weight (which was true and needed) AND that I was fat because of it (not true but the disease makes us think that).  Before I began my recovery journey, people would say “you look so sick, you don’t look well, you’re too thin…” again in an effort to show concern. However, in my diseased mine that came across as “YES, the’ve noticed my weight loss, I’m doing something right…keep going…” So as apposed to making ANY comments about the person’s physical appearance, try something like “I’ve noticed you seemed a lot less joyful.  I’ve noticed your energy level is really low…” And then ask if anything is going on that they’d like to talk about.  When you’re trying to encourage people in recovery try “You look so much happier.  You seem like yourself again. You have a sparkle in your eye.” Things that have NOTHING to do with their body/weight were the most helpful for me and the eating disorder had a harder time twisting those comments to something to spur on the disease.

There’s some author (who I can’t remember their name) that came up with the idea of the “ignorant stamp.” I used this ALOT when I heard these comments.  The people that said them to me were well meaning, loving people just trying to help.  They simply didn’t understand the disease I had.  They were ignorant as to how their comments came across just because it’s a strange/confusing/misunderstood disease.  So if you’re in recovery and hearing these comments – just imagine you have a huge ignorant stamp and stamp it right on their forehead.  Somehow, that actually really helped me because I knew they weren’t ill-meaning, hurtful people – they just didn’t know what this disease does.

And if you’ve said any of the comments above to anyone, I’m seriously not writing this post to make you feel bad.  Give yourself some grace because you simply weren’t sure how to help.  Showing concern is better than ignoring the problem.  I just want to educate everyone else that knows someone struggling.

Do ya’ll have any other comments that have been hard to hear in your recovery? Or does anyone have a unique way they were able to encourage someone struggling with an eating disorder? Comment below!

Food is fuel

The other day I woke up, went to the kitchen and grabbed a banana with peanut butter.  I went to crossfit and worked out hard.  I made myself a protein shake (or my husband made me one rather) that I had before leaving the gym.  I went home and had a big breakfast.  And two hours later, I was HUNGRY.  And then the old familiar voice came up again – “You can’t eat yet, you barely ate 2 hours ago and you’ve already consumed a lot today.”

I had a choice.  Listen to that voice that was telling me I didn’t deserve to eat, that my body was too much, that I hadn’t earned another meal yet.  OR listen to my body, which was telling me I was hungry even though it didn’t make sense to me how I could already be hungry again. But I was.

When I was in my eating disorder and early on in recovery, I would have ignored those hunger cues.  I would have listened to the voice because I was scared to have too many calories and didn’t want to break my own food rules.  I was scared to fill my stomach with nutritious foods, I was scared of eating too much, of being too much.

But last week, I went back to the kitchen and made myself an early lunch.  Even now, a couple of years into my recovery, that feels like such an accomplishment because I spent almost a decade giving in to that voice telling me to ignore my needs.  Our bodies need food, and there is nothing shameful about that.  Like the (probably overused) analogy, in order for a car to run, it needs gas in its tank.

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Well, in order for our bodies to function properly – in order to think clearly, manage emotions, digest foods, have energy for our daily tasks – WE NEED FOOD. We need it throughout the day, everyday.  Food brings energy, food brings focus, food brings joy, food brings life.  And I know that sounds dramatic – but it’s the truth.

Feed your body well today. And be proud of the fact that you did. You’re doing a good thing.

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Fight on Warriors – you got this!

 

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Exercise & my recovery.

Exercise used to be a punishment I used on myself.  When my eating disorder was active, I was addicted to exercise.  It didn’t matter if I was sick, injured, tired, or had other plans – I always made it to the gym.  I only focused on the calories that I burned.  I picked exercises based on what burns the most calories, whether I liked doing it or not.  I would run for miles and miles on the treadmill.  And I can’t say I hated it, because there was the part of me that got satisfaction from checking it off my list, from seeing the calories burned go up and up.  I’d have days where I’d binge, purge, feel like crap from that but still make myself go workout for several hours in case I didn’t purge all the calories I’d binge on.  I’d have other days where I ate 100 calories more than I allowed myself (which was still way too low) and felt that I had to go burn off that 100 calories, then 200 more just to be safe.

But the only reason I exercised was because I hated my body & wanted it to change.

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When I went into treatment at Timberline Knolls for my eating disorder, they didn’t allow me to work out for an extended period of time.  I was at a healthy weight at this treatment center so I thought they were being absurd, but they were trying to change my mindset about exercise.  Then when they finally let me workout – I get to the gym and the person watching said that I was only aloud to Hula-hoop and walk.  She said Hula hooping is a great core workout.  Needless to say I was pissed. HULA HOOPING AND WALKING?! I thought I was being punked, but nope, that’s all I got to do.  When I was finally aloud on the treadmill, they covered up the calories burned so I couldn’t see.  I thought working out was the most frustrating thing if I couldn’t know how much I burned.  The next treatment center (Renfrew in Florida) had the same approach.  At this point, I wasn’t at a healthy weight so I had to gain some and get stable before I could participate. Renfrew didn’t have any exercise equipment that showed how much we burned and we did things like yoga and walking outside.  It was at Renfrew, I started to appreciate how my body felt during exercise.  It felt good to stretch, walk, breathe in fresh air.  Not to say letting go of control wasn’t still hard, it was and would be for a while.  But my body was beginning to feel restored, healthy even.

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Eventually, I was out of treatment and got to choose when, how much, and what kind of workouts I did.  I came across Brittany Dawn, an online trainer who focused mostly on weight lifting and decided to try out her program.  I felt clueless in the gym because I was only used to cardio equipment.  But I you tubed how to do her weight lifting guide and made myself try.  I noticed that I wasn’t burning as many calories weight lifting as I would have doing the same time on cardio, but I also noticed a huge thought shift.  I was feeling strong.  I was setting goals of how much I could lift and surpassing them.  I saw my muscles working and growing and I felt proud.  I FELT PROUD OF MY BODY. That’s something HUGE for someone in eating disorder recovery.  Because I was in recovery and didn’t want to over-exercise, I modified some of Brittany Dawn’s workouts so I was never in the gym for longer than was healthy for me.  That was hard too, saying it was OK not to do everything in the program, and not only OK, it was good for me.  Currently I’m doing Crossfit & it’s SO fun to get a new PR, to do a weight lifting move I haven’t been able to do before ( and I can now officially do 2 pull-ups!) And today, my love of fitness has nothing to do with calories burned but everything to do with how good it makes me feel.

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Through the different treatment centers and Brittany Dawn’s programs, I learned that exercise should never be a form of punishment.  It should be something that helps you appreciate your body, that helps you become more confident in yourself, and that you enjoy doing.  I took my appreciation for fitness and decided to get my Personal Training certification and although I’m not sure what I want to do with it yet – I do know that I want to use it to help people be confident in the body they have RIGHT NOW, not the body they’ll have when the lose 10 lbs. I want women to know the strength they have within themselves. I want to show people that they are capable & have a lot to be proud of and thankful for.

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One of my assignments when I was early on in my recovery was to write out what I loved about my body, what I was thankful for.  And it was SO hard because I thought “I hate everything about my body, my stomach folds, my stretch marks…” but I was redirected and able to come up with a long list of what my body is capable of.  I’m thankful for hands that can comfort others, for arms that can hug, for a belly that hurts after I laugh to hard, for legs that are strong enough to carry me up and down stairs, for feet that can feel the sand between my toes.… Our bodies are so much more than aesthetics, more than sizes, measurements, or weight.  Be thankful today for what your body is capable of.  Soak in the beauty of how your body moves.  Do something out of your comfort zone.  Embrace your inner strength.

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