Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Guest Post: Losing Mia/Ana, Finding Me/Allie

The relationship status on my Facebook profile would most accurately read “in a relationship with recovery, and it’s complicated”. At a certain point fifteen years ago, I made a commitment to myself that I would live, because in those darker times, that seemed the very best I could hope for. Since then, I have learned living is just the beginning, that there is also room to blossom and thrive.  I lost important pieces of me, and recovery is the ongoing, difficult, but ultimately necessary process of setting intentions to reclaim them. After losing Mia and Ana, I needed to find me (Allie).

Finding my why was the first step. I attended a workshop on care planning for people with disabilities, and the message was that if you want to support someone to do something that is important for them, they need to be able to connect it to why it is important to them. It was important for me to get better. To do so, I had to remind myself regularly why it is important to me. That reason changed over time. In the beginning, it was about going to college and falling in love one day. Later, it was about maintaining my career and participating in my marriage.  These days, it’s about being a healthy single parent and setting a good example for my young son about loving oneself. Visual reminders can be helpful, like a photograph in a prominent location, a word on a whiteboard, whatever cue that is meaningful to keep that reason handy if you need to shine a light on your path. When setting out on a journey, it is easier to plan how you will get there if you have an understanding of why you are going in the first place.

Something that fuelled me on my journey was the creation of new rituals. Self-destructive behaviour can be habitual, finding new things to replace those patterns of behaviour was important in order to develop a sustainable plan.  Reclaiming my life was a big undertaking, but building these rituals were the baby steps I needed to be able to run one day.  A cup of herbal tea and a bubble bath before bed every night might not seem like much to the casual observer, but in recovery, they are part of a strategy to manage stress in a healthy way and new rituals that form the foundation of a new life. 

Learning to self-soothe is a big part of stress management. I remember thinking “How do I make myself feel better now?” Eating disorders can be mal-adaptive coping strategies. Change can bring unpleasant feelings or even numbness. Feeling good can seem a long way off. Consider it part of the mission to find the things that make the body feel good. Maybe it’s the peace of yoga, the power of strength training, sand between toes at the beach, the creativity and beauty of dance or the healing touch of massage.  I had to find the things that make my heart sing and add them to my “feeling better” toolkit to be well equipped for the rainiest of days.

 I found my why, lovingly selected rituals to adorn my new life, and discovered ways to make my body feel good again. These are key strategies to support my recovery that I re-evaluate on a regular basis.  My relationship with recovery might be complicated, and it is not an easy road, but it is what I need to blossom, thrive and live. It is through this commitment that I have been able to lose Mia and Ana, and find me (Allie). 


Author bio:
My name is Alison Tedford. I was Anorexic and Bulimic for five years and have been in recovery for fifteen years. I am a single mom, a data analyst and a pole fitness instructor. I write about my passions on my personal blog (www.sparklyshoesandsweatdrops.blogspot.ca).

Monday, June 2, 2014

Guest Post: 5 Tools For Re-Building Body Trust, by Ali Washington

In my counseling I have noticed that there is a huge epidemic of people who are struggling with being out of tune and out of touch with their bodies. What I mean by this is that I notice that it is very common for people to have no idea what their bodies are asking them for in terms of food, exercise, rest, play and don’t know how to tune into the storehouse of knowledge that their body contains. This is as common in people who have had eating disorders as it is with those who have not. Most of us grow up never being taught how to listen to our bodies.

Here are some common symptoms of body disconnection I have witnessed both in myself, and in those with whom I have worked:

   The feeling that your body constantly “craves” foods that are seemingly unhealthy.
   Feeling that your that your body is working against you, either in that it is not the size or shape you want it to be, or that it cannot perform the tasks you would like it to.
   Having trouble regulating your eating or sleeping cycles.
   Not having the ability to tap into your body awareness to let you know if a situation is right for you or not.
   Having difficulty finding a lifestyle that works for you, and are constantly jumping from one diet to another.

These are all basically signs that you have fallen out of trust and out of sync with your body. When you are in sync with your body finding a diet and lifestyle that really works for you, and ability to love and respect your body will all become much easier. So if you are feeling that you have lost touch with your body, I have 5 tools for you to start using today to help bring you back in touch with your most precious gift here on earth.

1.  Rest When You Are Tired: This is my number one tool for re-establishing a loving connection with your body because rest is often not as emotionally charged as changing your eating habits, but is still vital to your health and wellbeing. It is also a way to demonstrate to yourself that you honor your need for nourishment. Rest can be incredibly nourishing and by taking the time to rest when you need rest you are communicating to yourself and to your body that you value you. If you are used to pushing yourself to within and inch of your breaking point, or past your breaking point before you rest, this tip is for you. This does not mean that you have to take a 3 hour nap every time you are sleepy. A quick fifteen minute break where you close your eyes, do something you enjoy doing that does not require a tone of focus like reading a light book, or just sitting and breathing at your desk all count and will all start to bridge the gap between you and your body.

2.   Notice How You Feel Before, During, and After a Meal: It can be so helpful to cultivate awareness around your eating, without the intention of changing anything about the way that you are eating. Simply by taking a moment or two to notice how you are feeling before you eat, noticing how you are feeling during your meal, and then again taking pause after your meal to take note of how you are feeling will begin to set a pattern where you actively check in with your body 2-3 times a day. (or more if you are a snacker :) ) This regular checking in will again start to build that bond and that recognition of signals from your body to your mind and spirit and because eating is something you do several times a day it will be easy to set this new pattern. You may also notice that you start to crave different foods as you progress with this practice, or notice that there are correlations to how you are feeling before you eat and what you choose to eat, or how that food digests.

3.  Journal For 5 Minutes Every Day: Journaling is seriously one of the best tools you have when it comes to connecting with yourself. I recommend that you sit with a pen or pencil and paper at night before you go to bed, and write without lifting your writing tool off of the paper for 5 minutes straight. This is called stream of consciousness writing, and it is very helpful in cases where you are feeling disconnected from yourself. In this practice, if you do it repeatedly you may find that you uncover unconscious thought patterns that are keeping you from being able to trust your body. By bringing them to light in this way you will be better able to move past and heal those thoughts.

4.  Connect Patterns In Life With Eating Patters: This tip is a little more on the advanced side, but it can be very useful if you are ready to do some deeper work. The way I recommend you set this up is in a journal create 3 Columbus like this:


              Situation        How I felt After The Situation        My Food Cravings After


In the Situation column list anything that was emotionally charged for you that day. This could be a stressful meeting with your boss, an exam at school, or a fight with your boyfriend. You may also want to note situations that were more positive like getting a promotion or acing an exam. In the How I Felt After The Situation column record how the emotionally charged situation made you feel, for instance maybe the meeting with your boss made you feel scared and insecure, perhaps your test made you feel inadequate, and maybe the promotion made you feel elated and proud of yourself. Finally, list any food cravings or food related associations that came about after your event in the My Food Cravings After column. Perhaps you will notice that you always want some chocolate after situations that make you feel small and powerless, or that you always crave wine when you accomplish something.  You may also note that certain situations and emotional states make you feel like avoiding food, and that should also be noted. Again this is not necessarily about changing anything, just about cultivating awareness and connection.

5.  Ditch Killer Workouts and Go For Fun: This is my last and favorite tip in the area of becoming more connected with your body, because it is the one that really turned things around for me. The right kind of workout can help boost your mood, help you to think through things that may be going on in your life, and help you to discover the joy of your body through movement. The wrong kind of workout can make you feel depressed, tired and out of connection. I used to push myself through rigorous workouts every day because I thought that is what I needed to do if I wanted to be lean, toned and healthy. But the truth was that I hated these workouts, they stressed me out, stressed my body out, did not deliver to me the body that I wanted and ultimately left me feeling more disconnected from my body than connected to it. When I finally started to honor the fact that I wanted to do more gentle workouts like yoga, dance and pilates I was able to find joy in movement again, and I was able to develop a deeper trust that my body knew what it wanted, and if I was to listen I felt a lot better. And as a bonus I actually began to see favorable changes in the way my body looked and felt.  I am not saying you should give up marathon training or serious weight workouts at the gym if you love doing those things, the key is to do what you love, and only what you love.

I really hope that this article has given you some practical tools you can use in your life to re-establish a deep and loving connection with your body. It is there for you as a gift and a tool and should make you feel good.


About Ali:
Ali Washington is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Yoga Instructor, Trained Life Coach, Reiki Master and author of The Perception Diet. http://perceptiondiet.com/ She has fully healed herself from anorexia, which she dealt with for about 10 years, and now has dedicated her life to assisting those who are still struggling in finding freedom. She fully believes that there is life after an ED, and she hopes that through her words or through her one on one coaching she can help support as many recovery success stories as she can. You can reach her on her facebook page www.facebook.com/perceptiontrainers or through e-mail at unitycoaching(at)gmail.com