Why You Should Quit Purging Before You Quit Bingeing

I’ll quit purging as soon as I stop bingeing. 

Bingeing is my real problem.

I would never purge if I didn’t binge.

If you’ve caught yourself thinking like that, you’ve fallen for another ED lie designed to keep you trapped in the b/p cycle for the rest of your life.

When you purge after a binge, you allow the binge.  If you had a child who tore apart his room every day, knocking over his bookshelves and shaking out his clothes drawers, but you came in every night and cleaned it up for him, do you think the behavior would stop? Even if you yelled at him, as long as your behavior didn’t change, neither would your child’s behavior. You have removed the consequences.

So even if you hate yourself for bingeing, if you “remove” the consequences by purging, you will never stop. What you have to do – and this may be the scariest thing you do in your entire life – is stop purging after bingeing. You have to hold yourself to your behavior. You can’t give yourself a way out. You have to feel the binge all the way through – what it does to your body, how it hurts, how it makes you feel the next day. That is the only way you will stop. And you know you need to stop.

You will feel bloated. You will feel fat. You will feel thirsty. You will feel angry, depressed, and betrayed. You will have a food hangover. It will suck.

But you will have victoriously defeated another recovery roadblock, and you will be that much closer to a big, fat, juicy life.

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How to Quit Pro Ana

Most people who are addicted to the world of pro-ana and pro-mia aren’t there because they believe eating disorders are lifestyles. They’re there because they’re hungry for understanding, for community, and for someone to make them believe that they aren’t crazy.

But there comes a point when we realize that pro-ana isn’t giving us what we came for. At that point, we’re so stuck in the world that it seems impossible to pull out.

Here’s five choices that helped me quit ana:

  1. Quit thinspo. Thinspiration is ana porn, leading you to objectify people, searching strangers for butterfly collarbones, and to have unrealistic expectations for yourself.
  2. Delete. Delete all documents, secret pinterest boards, blogs, tumblrs, memberships, and email accounts associated with your pro ana network. Unfollow pro ana blogs, bid adieu to ana buddies. Keep nothing.
  3. Resist the urge to lurk. Surfing the pro ana world without participating still affects you. Notice how you feel after wading through ana/mia propaganda for an hour. Empowered? Encouraged? Probably not.
  4. Distinguish fake love from real love. “Stay strong, lovelies” is the song of the day, and you do feel a sort of love for fellow ana and mias, but it is a selfish love. We are promoting potentially fatal choices. That’s not love. It’s a fondling hatred.
  5. Fight the fantasy. Transformation is the pro ana’s god, but if you visit the community again after five years, everyone will still be wrestling the same demons. Nobody will have transformed into a skeletal angel. There is no transformation, there is only an eternity of ABC diet challenges and reblogged waifs. And that’s no way to live.

I wish you the best for your fight.

Have you fallen for some pro-ana myths? Find out here: Pro Ana: Mythbusting Questions.

Pro Ana: Mythbusting Questions

I’m not pro-ana or pro-mia, but I used to be. Here are some answers to questions that I’ve heard bouncing around recoveryland.
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  • Does anyone who calls herself pro-ana or pro-mia have a real eating disorder?  Many people involved with the pro-ED community are just searching for companionship in a disorder they aren’t willing to give up yet.
  • Then why do pro-EDs call eating disorders a “lifestyle?” Personally, when I was involved with the community, it was comforting to believe that bulimia was an easy choice like vegetarianism or minimalism. I was already the queen of self-deception – “It’s not exactly lying to throw my pancakes under my little brothers’ chairs” and “stealing food doesn’t count if I purge it” – swallowing that lie was easy.
  • But aren’t there fakers that think anorexia is a diet? Of course. But how long do you think someone would last on an anorexic diet without either a) becoming anorexic or b) eating a pizza and moving on with their lives? (I wish recovery worked like that). Also, many “fakers” are just people trying to switch disorders, often Binge Eating Disorder for anorexia. They say they’ve already got the hell, so why not the body?
  • So are you saying we should allow pro ana and pro mia? No! Pro ana is wrong. It encourages people, often very young girls, to starve themselves to death or commit suicide trying. All I’m asking you to do is to soften your eyes when you look toward the world of ana/mia.

Above all, be compassionate. Look at the people, not just the problem.

Any more questions? Just ask!

Are you stuck in the world of pro ana or pro mia?  Check out How to Quit Pro Ana  or talk to me.

3 Ways to Quit the Self-Esteem Game

 

1. Stop monitoring your “self-care.” Sure, it’s wonderful to take a cinnamon bubble bath, read the Witches by Roald Dahl, knit toe socks, and otherwise nourish yourself, but self-care is a side-effect of enjoying God and glorifying Him, not the goal. Self-care is the fruit, not the tree.

2. Stop sweating to win. Guess what. There are people better at life than you. There will probably always be someone better than you. And even if you are the world-proclaimed champion of this-or-that, you’ll always be terrified that people will realize that you’re just you. So jump out of the game now. Stop faking strength or hiding strength, be honest about where and who you are, and start doing what you do for the glory of God rather than the glory of you.

3. Read Job or the first few chapters of Hosea. God is not comfortable. The self-esteem game pursues what you need for your recovery – a faithful significant other, a cookie, or alone time. But Jesus doesn’t preach healing through comfort and happiness, though He does promise healing. When we submit to Jesus, our lives fall apart. Old routines split like plastic grocery bags, spilling treasured dreams like eggs in the middle of the parking lot. But it’s only through the process of losing ourselves and our comfort that we are forced to rely on Jesus, and it’s only in His arms that we find healing.

Why isn’t self-esteem the answer?  Here’s what I think.

What do you think about high self-esteem? Is it really necessary for recovery, or is there a better path toward healing? Spark the conversation with a comment!

Enough

I am learning to say enough.

When chattering calories surface, I say enough. When I crave another handful of chocolate chips, I say enough. When I am walking through a store and start gathering odds and doodads, I put them back and say, I have enough. When I feel overwhelmed by college looming on the horizon, I say, I am enough because Jesus is more than enough.

Enough is not a bald desert, it’s a content simplicity. I am not hungry, so I will not eat the rest of my apple. I am hungry, so I will eat a brownie. I need a coat, so I will buy a snazzy maroon pea coat at a thrift store. I don’t need a car, so I won’t buy one.  I watched a movie yesterday, so I won’t watch a movie today.

As I say enough, I clear space in my life for what really matters – bringing God glory and enjoying him forever.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. – Psalm 131:2

What do you think? Have you learned to say “enough?” Tell me in the comments!

The Three Pitfalls of Intuitive Eating

1. Slavery to hunger. Every time your stomach feels a pang, you drop everything and fix yourself a snack, terrified that leaving hunger unwatched will push you into a binge. You eat a little beyond the full point, because you’re afraid of starving yourself (understandable, especially if you’ve suffered with anorexia or anorexic behaviors in the past). You obsessively check in with yourself – am I hungry? Am I hungry now?

2. Slavery to the rules. You wrote the rules all over your kitchen, freezer, pantry, bedroom door. You chant them to yourself before you eat. And when you break them, you feel so guilty that you say, “I can’t even do intuitive eating. I’m a failure” and give up.

3. Slavery to fullness. You use the stop when you’re full statute to skimp on your meals. Instead of eating until you are satisfied, you take the minimum bites to ease your rumbly belly. You feel hungry, but you tell yourself you’re not sure if it’s “real hunger.”

Life happens. You’re at a birthday party, or you’re watching a movie and munching popcorn and milk duds, or you forgot to plan and ended up without lunch. It’s okay. Remember the definition of normal eating? Trust your body to make up for lapses.

You’re still figuring this out. You’ll make mistakes. Just examine yourself, recognize the pitfalls you’ve tripped into, and crawl back out again. You’re okay. You can eat normally, and intuitive eating can help get you there. Believe in the process and persevere.

Do you struggle with any of these pitfalls? Have you found a trick that helps keep you on track? Let us know in the comments!

God & Spilled Milk

I use God like I use Perfect Recovery.  I am spiritually illuminated by a book, retreat, or sermon, so I launch into a New Life with Jesus. I construct bible reading plans, fasts, prayer time, and accountability groups.

I create a different identity and a different life that are much more worthy to lay at the feet of the Creator God of the Universe. I create a new self empowered with multivitamins and the Lord’s Prayer instead of surrendering who I am in the moment. I create an alternate life jammed with new good habits and purged of old bad ones.  I use spirituality like make-up, highlighting the best and concealing the worst.

Then I spill the milk. After all my spiritual perfection, I accidentally reveal the real me – bulimic, cutter, needy, greedy. And I immediately pull away from God. I can’t meet him when I’m ugly. I only want intimacy with him when it makes me look better.

God has so much more for me (and you!) than that. He already knows me keeled over the toilet, a toothbrush jammed down my throat. He already knows me with a knife tugging through my skin. He already knows me stumbling across porn on tumblr and lingering too long. He knows me. I can’t hide from him by refusing intimacy with him.

But if I look up to him in that ugly moment, something new happens. I confess where I am, what I’m doing, what I’m looking at. And his sweet forgiveness rushes in to wash me pure, his strength moves my fingers to make a different choice, his conviction slices through self-deception and gives me the clarity to cry out and run in the opposite direction.

I become too wrapped up in my Savior and His adventure with me to hate myself. It’s just not about me anymore. It’s about Him.

If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing messy. And a relationship with God is so worth doing.

Transformation & Spilled Milk

Photo by Dan Pupius

It’s your first shot at recovery. Or perhaps it’s your hundredth. Perhaps you’re crawling out of a long relapse, bloated and hungry and tired of lying to yourself. So you create a Recovery Plan, perhaps with bible studies to complete, friends to call, exercises to finish, and books to read. You wake up glittering shining on Day One, committed to Intuitive Eating or Josie Lenore. You’ve reblogged “No Binge August” and written “1 Days Since Purging” on your mirror. You’ve tattooed the eating disorder recovery symbol on your wrist. This time, you won’t mess up. This time, no milk will be split.

Until you do. And milk goes sprawling across the table.

Then you’ve ruined your Perfect Recovery. You’ve messed up again. You tried your hardest, so you must just not be strong enough for recovery. You did your best, so you’re obviously not good enough. You’ve been in your disorder too long, you’re carrying too many scars, this recovery thing is not for you. So you leap back into your disorder. It’s all or nothing. Either you do it perfect, or you don’t do it at all.

Perfect Recovery is just another extension of your disorder. It’s crushing black & white thinking disguised as something wholesome. But it’s not wholesome. It will drag you down just as surely as vomiting, bingeing, and starving. You’re trying to create a Perfect Self with all the right answers for the therapists and for herself – just like your eating disorder is trying to create a Perfect Self with control, beauty, and strength. Both are destructive.

My friend said something crazy last night when I confessed to my perfectionistic ways. He said, “If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing messy.”

What? You mean recovery is worth doing up to my elbows in spilled milk? Even if today I binged, yesterday I cut, and my head is a whirlwind of lies? It’s worth it to just keep going? To confess my failures and move on into fresh success, then stumble again, confess again, move on again? To accept my disordered, goofy, clueless, flibbertigibbet self as I really am – broken, needy, and hungry for truth?

It’s only in that place, when I accept that I am desperate, incapable of perfect, that I can give all the Transformation power to Jesus. I can’t transform me. But he can. Jesus sees me down to my core. I can’t fake it for him like I fake it for myself. He knows that I can’t squeeze and bludgeon myself into perfection. He knows that six months out, I’ll still have a rumbling stomach for Perfect, Skinny, and Power. And he takes me anyway.

I’m no longer in control. I’m no longer worshipping my own Perfect Self. I’m where I’m supposed to be, open handed, centered on Jesus, letting go of myself. And that’s when healing happens. That’s when recovery happens. Because I never had the power to make them happen in the first place.

Release perfect. Get sticky. Anything worth doing is worth doing messy.

Planting First Thoughts

A gargantuan hill mounts before me, a monster of sidewalk and height. Yes, one mile up, steep enough to land you on your back. It’s 85 degrees, I have sweat running down my calves, and at the moment, I hate running. But my first thought as I face the Hill is: I can do this. I will do this.  I’m not an optimist of epic proportions. Trust me, at this point, I’m more likely to strangle myself with my shoelaces than chant a mantra. But I’ve learned to plant pockets of empowering thoughts along my run before I get to the challenge.

Early in my run, when I’m feeling strong and shiny, I coach myself. “When you get the the Hill, what will your first thought be?”

“I can do this.”

“When you’re tired and stupid with heat and you hit a wall, what will your first thought be?”

“I can do this.” 

And I can.

This technique works for recovery, too. You can plan ahead. “When I see a skinny, perfect woman and I look down at myself to compare, what will my first thought be?” “When I feel like all I want to die, what will my first thought be?” “When I open the refrigerator, what will my first thought be?”

“I am beautiful.”

“This too will pass.”

“I choose recovery.”

Create your own first thoughts. Something that touches you deep. Something you will respect enough in the heat of the moment to flip your attitude for. Over time, these thoughts become automatic, springing up to meet you whenever a trigger is tripped.

“I can do this,” is simple, but for me, it represents a mountain of effort. I can run three miles. I can mount the hill. So I have no excuse to shirk it. I’ve trained for these moments, I know I have the option to be strong. So how could I choose anything else? A single burst of truth can pierce the negative chatter and give you an open door to a different choice.

How Shakespeare Can Teach You About Recovery

Self-help books, blogs, TV shows, and fabulous online magazines (like this one!) have their place, but they can never bring fully healing. An idea may challenge your perspective (Women Food and God by Geneen Roth rocked my world), but if you find yourself obsessively consuming self-help material, it may be because your eating disorder is feeding on it. In recovery, it’s easy to put all the focus on your eating disorder, when recovery is about embracing a big, fat, juicy life – with so many other facets and streaks of rainbow than bulimia/anorexia/compulsive-overeating. You need to shoot cracks in the walls of your eating disorder centered world.

How? Take a hammer. Read Shakespeare. Pick up an interesting novel and voraciously consume it. Put a book of poetry by your bed and read a poem each night before you sleep. Find a blog on something unrelated to your ED: knitting, writing, art, or mothering. Listen to a band unrelated to self-esteem issues.

Disorders are suffocating. What you’re doing is opening a window.

THE LISTS

Pick one from each list and request it from your library. Right now. I dare you. 

Marvelous Poetry

Ogden Nash

Emily Dickenson

Walt Whitman

Shel Silverstein

Maya Angelou

Robert Frost

Lewis Carroll

Imaginative Classics

Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Light Princess by George MacDonald

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Breathtaking Modern Novels

So B. It by Sarah Weeks

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt