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Submitted by Amy Hastie
Sometimes I forget how far I have come and how much I have progressed through my recovery from an eating disorder. I had one of those moments last week. I had slept in and as a result, I ended up hastily sprinting down the road towards my bus stop in the hope of still making it to work on time. Thankfully, I did manage to reach my place of employment in a punctual manner that morning, but that’s not the point of this story.
I didn’t feel the physical effects of my spontaneous bus-catching jog until later that afternoon when I was enjoying a walk at the gym and started to feel a muscular pulling sensation near my groin. Here’s the amazing part ― I immediately pressed the “STOP” button on the treadmill, stepped off and went home to rest. This seemingly simple choice to stop exercising when feeling an injury coming on might seem like a logical and mundane decision for someone to make, but for me, it was an achievement.
See, I used to get injured ― a lot. I wasn’t accident-prone, clumsy or unlucky. Under the control of Anorexia and even in the later stages of my recovery, the incessant pressure to push past pain and risk my physical health for fear of gaining weight truly controlled and consumed my life. I could never risk a day without exercising. I was never allowed to alter the type of work-out, the intensity or length of time. Every session was rigid, punishing and exhausting beyond words. That’s why getting injured used to be the most terrifying thing in the world for me – it meant resting and the potential weight consequences that could follow.
Yet, the ironic thing was that over-exercising had always created injuries and physical health issues for me. If I had just listened to my body on so many occasions in the past, if I had rested for just a day or two, I could have spared my body so much pain.
During one of my anorexic relapses, I was participating in artistic in-line skating – essentially figure skating on roller blades. It was a wonderfully fun sport, but coupled with my obsessive and disordered tendencies, it was at times, unhealthy for me. I was over-exercising in addition to the skate training so my body was rapidly weakening in all its forms. One morning whilst doing my usual rigorous walk before work, I began to feel pain in the top of my foot. Of course, Anorexia told me to keep walking and disregard it, so I did. Weeks later, I was practicing at the rink when I landed a jump and suddenly felt excruciating pain in that same place in my foot. I stopped skating that evening, but the next day I was back to my grueling walk, once again ignoring all of the discomfort.
It wasn’t until I could barely stand on the foot (let alone walk), that I finally caved in and begrudgingly sought medical advice. After receiving the results of my x-rays and bone scans, it was confirmed that I had not one, not two, but three stress fractures in my foot. I was also informed that the bones in my feet were osteopenic, which can be a precursor to osteoporosis. I was devastated – not because of the severity of the injuries, but by the reality that I would not be able to exercise for weeks
What followed my stress fracture diagnosis was six months of wearing a protective boot. I was banned from any form of weight-bearing activity which in turn had Anorexia restricting my food intake once again. I was in such a dark place at a time when self-kindness and compassion should have been in full force.
A few months after my fractures had finally healed, I launched myself back into working out. Anorexia was taunting me about “lost time” and all the hard work I would need to do in order to regain its approval. As a result of this fear-inducing pressure, I ended up badly damaging my knee on the treadmill. I decided to rest, but not entirely ― that would have been “unacceptable”. Whilst sitting down and pumping weights one morning, I slipped a disc in my lower back. This injury was the most debilitated I had ever been and involved months upon months of bed-rest, pain and incapacity.
It is truly frightening how much of a hold Anorexia had on me. My body was in such danger and distress, yet the pressure to maintain an image of perfection took precedence.
As I have worked through my recovery, I have looked back and asked myself over and over – why didn’t I stop and rest as soon as I had felt that little twinge in my foot? What if I had decided to forego the treadmill and stay in bed the morning my knee gave out?
Moving forward, it’s amazing how natural it has become for me to simply listen to my body. I now stop when something feels even slightly uncomfortable or unnatural. Now that my mind is clear and healthy, I have the power to nurture and take care of myself physically. I have reduced the intensity and frequency of my workouts. If there is something fun occurring after work, I will skip exercising completely. If I am exhausted or run-down, I will simply rest, sleep and recuperate.
I now choose to move my body in a variety of ways, based on my genuine desires and needs. Sometimes if I am pumped and energized, I will turn up my favorite music and go to the gym. If I have been cooped up inside all day, I will enjoy a gentle wander around a beautiful park with my husband. Above all else, I stay in tune with what my body is asking of me. I decide on exactly what I feel like doing instead of what I am falsely obligated to.
Self-care is absolutely essential in our lives. Our bodies are all we have, so it is vital we take the very best care of them. Since embracing this mindset and lifestyle, I have been completely injury-free. It has taken me a long time to come to this peaceful, free and powerful place both physically and mentally, but I am so happy, content and proud that I made it here.
Written by Heather Olson
I’m constantly amazed by how powerful the mind is. I’ve become more aware of this every day as I work through recovery. I’ve found that renewing my mind is a daily process (even hourly at times), which involves filling it with truth rather than the lies that have held me captive for so long. I know I’ve felt in so many instances that I don’t have any control over the thoughts that can debilitate me, but I’ve learned that I have more power than I realize.
I get to choose what I’m going to focus my thoughts on and what I’m not.
I get to choose whose words will be allowed to enter my mind that will help me grow (whether they are uplifting or constructive criticism). Ultimately, I get to choose what fills my mind and what doesn’t. I’ve personally found that reading my Bible and learning about how God sees me and how much He loves me helps to change the negative thoughts that come into my mind constantly throughout the day, especially the lies I personally tell myself. One verse that I love replaying in my mind every day is 1 Peter 5:7 – “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” This reminds me that I have the choice to give God ALL of my worries, stresses and daily struggles and don’t need to carry them on my own. He has placed people in my life to walk beside me and help me through them. As a result, my mind can refocus on positive thoughts and can be renewed!
By Emily W.
What if society was different and women were taught that there was no such thing as an “ideal body?” What if instead of always longing, yearning, and working for the perfect body, we could just accept who we are? I believe that we can be part of making that idea a reality!
As a high school girl, I face words and thoughts daily that make me question my body. Am I pretty enough? How can I look more like that one person? We all know that voice inside that makes us think we’re not good enough. But I’m here to tell you that there is no such thing as good enough because life would be boring if we were all the same, and our imperfections are what make us beautiful!
I love my body! Sometimes my mind tries to convince me otherwise, but when I truly think about it, I am so blessed to be who I am.
I love my legs that can carry me from place to place, leading the way in my life of adventure. I love my arms that can be strong to help my parents carry in the groceries from the car but also soft to embrace someone in a hug and let them know how amazing they are. I love my eyes because they can take in the beauty all around me, from landscapes to animals to people. I love my ears that hear beautiful birds chirping in the morning and can listen intently to people who are talking to me. I love my hands that can gracefully play the piano and break open pistachio shells. I love my feet that can withstand thousands of steps during my long runs and carry me during the times when I realize that the body is capable of unbelievable things! All in all, I just love the fact that because of my functioning body, I am able to reach out to the lonely, find people to spread love to, laugh, smile, learn, run, dance, jump for joy, and chase my dreams to my heart’s content!
The body is an amazing machine, and there is definitely no such thing as an “ideal body.” I think that if more people join me in reflecting on all of the great things our bodies can do, we will be one step closer to realizing that unique is beautiful and complete contentment is attainable. Even just writing this blog has made me happy and thankful for the body I have. I hope you can realize how imperfectly perfect you are and join me in challenging our society’s standards! It’s not about attaining the perfect body. It’s about believing that your body is perfect just the way it is. 🙂
On April 5th, 2017 The Emily Program Foundation and scholarship recipients traveled to Washington D.C. for the Eating Disorders Coalition’s National Advocacy Day. Below are the reflections of our award recipients from their first experiences on The Hill.
Award Recipient Jamie Margetta:
This past week I was given the privilege to attend the Eating Disorders Coalition Day on the Hill. I was graciously awarded a scholarship from the Emily Program Foundation to fund my travels to Washington, D.C. to advocate alongside EDC members who are as passionate as I am about eating disorder advocacy. I expected to walk away with a new experience and a sense of accomplishment from advocating, but I ended up walking away with so much more. My experience at EDC’s Advocacy Day was eye opening, exciting, educating, and overall an experience I won’t soon forget. I was given the opportunity to meet with House and Senate representatives and express my passion to eating disorder research, early intervention, and education. It was very empowering to be able to express not only my passion on this subject, but why others should care. Presenting fact sheets, personal stories, and evidence that eating disorders matter and they need help was very gratifying. I am so thankful the Emily Program Foundation gave me the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and truly express my concerns and needs for the eating disorder community. I met the most amazing group of people and learned so much from the advocates. This is definitely an experience I will not forget, and I am so grateful I was able to advocate on behalf of friends, family, and loved ones who have experienced the challenges of an eating disorder. Your voice matters!
Award Recipient Molly Britt:
As a university undergrad, I did not believe that I could make a difference in the political world without any experience. My experience at the 2017 EDC Advocacy Day completely changed my view of that. While working alongside women and men of all ages, I got to meet with congressional staffers and spread the word about the importance of eating disorders and how the political world could help. It was the first Advocacy Day since the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act which was the first time in history that specific language regarding eating disorders was written into policy. Our mission was to prompt the members of congress to put this policy into action. I was overwhelmed by the support that so many of these staffers conveyed toward our cause and felt as though I was really making a difference. To top of the great day, I got to hear Amy Klobuchar – one of Minnesota’s senators and a driving force for eating disorder policy – speak and thank us for all our hard work. This day has motivated me to participate more in policy change surrounding eating disorders and all other mental health causes.
By Amy Hastie
Anorexia gave me a magic number over a decade ago and it stuck. I remember the exact moment when I received this seemingly positive gift. Whilst at university, I had an important job interview to attend. My friend at the time kindly offered to lend me some of her most professional-looking clothes. I used her dorm room to try on everything she had laid out on the bed for me.
I slipped on the first skirt — it wouldn’t zip up. I tried on the first shirt — the buttons just couldn’t make it through the hole. Skirt after skirt, shirt after shirt ― none of them fit me. None of them. I stood there alone in my friend’s room in utter disbelief and shame. I picked up each item of clothing and checked the label. They all had one thing in common ― a number. The same number on all the clothes stared me in the face as if to say “you’re too big. You’re not good enough”. For the first time in my life, I had this confronting awareness that I was in a larger body than someone else. Suddenly, my sense of self-worth was based on the size of my clothing.
That day at university was the beginning of a long and exhausting journey down a dark tunnel. For so many years after that and only up until recently, my life revolved around the pursuit of that magic number. It was all that mattered ― even if it meant food deprivation, obsessive and punishing exercise, social isolation or scaring my family and friends with my poor state of health.
For Anorexia, if I was fitting into the magic number, I was succeeding. Anorexia instilled in me a sense of pride to the point of arrogance for how well I could adhere to its demands. The magic number was mine and no one else’s. I would even go as far as to leave clothes lying around with the label sticking out so friends, family and my husband could marvel at how “good” I was to fit into that size.
Shopping for clothes was a pressure-filled test of worthiness. If I was not able to fit into the magic number, I would often refuse to try on a larger size and deny myself the purchase entirely. On other shopping trips, I would begrudgingly buy the larger size but then cut the tags off so no one would know my shameful secret. Only Anorexia and I knew that any clothes without tags were the ones I had failed in.
Each time my world was taken under the control of Anorexia, I would excitedly go to my wardrobe where I kept all of the magical clothes. Whenever I slipped them on, these particular clothes gave me a rush – a sense that I was an amazing success by adhering to Anorexia’s wishes.
Anorexia was in and out of my life so many times, but one thing stayed consistent – my fear of going beyond my magic number for good. It was only after an unexpected, frightening and significant relapse in the lead-up to my wedding that I realized enough was enough. I was finally ready to push anorexia away in the pursuit of happiness, health, and true contentment. I decided to embrace, not a number, but a feeling. That feeling was comfort.
Before I moved over to America from Australia, I did something I had wanted to do for so many years but had been too afraid. I removed all of the clothes that had fit me when I was at my most ill and donated them to charity. As long as those clothes stayed in my wardrobe, Anorexia would have continued to haunt me. I had finally reached a point where I didn’t want to fit into those clothes anymore. Having them in my house was just far too damaging and it was time to get rid of them for good. I saw past the illusion of their value and released myself from the cage they had been keeping me in.
I cannot express the immense relief and freedom I felt when I packed all of those clothes up, threw them into big garbage bags and drove them away from my home. They were no longer a
part of me. They were no longer something to incessantly strive for. They were no longer magical.
Now I am enjoying gorgeous clothes that are comfortable. I am learning that it is ok to have clothes of all sizes – whatever feels best in a particular style. My jeans, dress or shirt size have no bearing on what kind of wife I am, what kind of daughter or friend. They have no relevance to my ability to skate or to be a helpful and supportive colleague at work. There are so many attributes and complex layers to what makes me who I am and the number on my clothing tag is certainly not one of them.