Colleen Werner joined NYAN in early 2019 to be our fabulous on-line ED recovery group leader!
Colleen is a mental health advocate, public speaker, eating disorder recovery coach, writer, and eating disorder therapist-in-training. Her personal experiences with anorexia nervosa, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and trauma led her to want to turn her struggles around to both inspire and help others in similar situations.
In the video below, I interview her about her work, journey with her own eating disorder, and about her upcoming book, Brave Girl Healing.
To join a group Colleen leads for NYAN, check out the online recovery group page here.
Kayla Douthitt is an intuitive eating health coach, and owner of Wisdom ‘N Wellness. Her goal is to inspire and empower others by looking inward to heal negative body image, self-esteem issues, eating disorders, and honoring their body fully. She’s on a mission to help end crazy dieting, stop negative spectators who damage body image, and believes strongly in healing from the inside out. Kayla overcame a 10-year battle with anorexia and binge eating that she hid from the world for so long, and now she truly wants to give back to bring awareness to the community and fight for those suffering low confidence and eating issues. Her positive attitude is infectious, she loves all things chocolate, and finally isn’t afraid to talk about the “F” word…Food, that is. Kayla recently started managing Project Heal, (the Largest US non-profit organization providing funds & recovery support for people suffering from eating disorders) Facebook page and is actively seeking more opportunities to end body shaming and food blaming. Learn more at www.facebook.com/WisdomNWellness
Do you find yourself stuck? Stuck staring in the mirror wondering why you think your butt looks big? Or why you think you arms need to be toned in that shirt? Heck, maybe you often wonder why you can’t look like THAT girl. You know the one that seems to have her “stuff” together. How the heck does she have 4 kids and still able to wear a bikini? How is it that those skinny jeans make her look…well…skinny?
Then you get mad. You get angry at yourself. You compare and perhaps even cry. I’ve been there. It’s human nature to want to look good. I would be doing you disservice if I didn’t say that everyone wants to look good, even if they don’t admit it. Looking good is not the problem. The problem is how you treat your body and what you say TO your body.
I say that to say this - Why are you body hating? You aren’t doing yourself any favors by pin-pointing every little area that you think is wrong. Because I can promise you, it’s society that is wrong! It’s the tabloids, the media, the articles, etc. They have us thinking salad is better than cake and celery juice is the next BIG thing.
Folks, I spent years of my own life wishing I should have, could have, would have, looked perfect. I searched for flawless clothes, the just perfect food choices, the ideal hair, etc. If it was the latest and greatest in terms of lookin’ good, you can bet I probably tried it or attempted to try.
Moral of the story, love you FOR you. Love YOU because YOU are made EXACTLY the way you are suppose to be made. I beg you to start taking into consideration that your body deserves kindness, moved with joy and not hate, cared for in a hot bubble bath, and rest when it’s tired. Your body needs you to trust it. Even just a wee bit means so much to those toes that stay bound up in high heels all day long. Your body needs you to just be. Be as you are, not as what everyone else wants you to be. That’s right. This is coming from the girl who thought she had to impress the world and be just like it.
I finally figured out that I can’t stand being like the rest of the world. It’s DISGUSTING!
I’d rather be called a weirdo. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight, and I’ll be honest, it won’t happen fast for you that fast either. It is POSSIBLE if you start now.
I believe that it’s possible to wear whatever you want, how you want and love your body.
It’s possible to show the world your battle wounds of carrying a baby, falling down that dirt road scars, and getting scratched by a cat. We’re human, inevitability made of flaws, and THAT alone is powerful. From here on out, please do your body and your soul a favor:
Give it love. So much love that you can’t even handle it.
By Miranda Daschian
Daschian is a student-athlete at Cal Poly - SLO majoring in Psychology with a minor in Ethnic Studies. She aspires to work with athletes struggling with eating disorders and promote body positivity to those competing in adolescence and beyond.
Imagine a young student who has recently begun high school. Freshman year, full of
opportunity...and a vast amount of awkwardness and hormones. This student, now
surrounded by peers years older and influences from the world of adulthood, begins to
feel pressure. This pressure is on the appearance of their body. They begin checking
mirrors more often, analyzing their face for any ominous pimples, poking and prodding
at their stomach and arms. Mom and Dad notice their once carefree child is now highly
selective at meals and has been frequently skipping homework and assignments to go on
runs or to the neighborhood gym. Weeks pass, and yet these behaviors only increase.
The student’s body is now changing noticeably, and yet they still don’t feel good enough.
Based on this, what gender do you believe the student is?
If you said girl, you may be one of many who thinks of eating disorders as a cis-gender
female-specific issue. While the problem may effect more females than males to this
day, the rates of disordered eating traits and diagnoses in males is on the rise...and at
alarming rates. According to NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) around 10
million males in the United States alone will experience disordered eating symptoms,
and rates of sub-clinical eating disorder behaviors are almost as common in males as
females. These rates may even be higher when stigmatization of males with these issues
is taken into account, causing many to suffer in silence.
So if all genders are susceptible, why do we so rarely hear about one of the populations
at risk? Many aspects of masculinity in our culture involve reluctance to be open or
acknowledge illness or weakness. “Just tough it out”, “don’t be a sissy”...all push males
to put their heads down and ignore things that may be going wrong in their lives. This
masculine stereotype not only tells someone how to process their emotions but also goes
as far as to push them into certain physical portrayals of how a “real man” should look.
If you need examples of this, google “dorito body” or “superhero body” and you will see
an endless array of muscular males (in various degree of dress) who we all know don’t
just naturally look that way. Photoshopped and posed images rule the internet and are
presumed to be the ideal, circulated broadly across social media and the internet. We
have assumed a type of sexualized and polished beauty to be superb, yet the influence of
this type of imagery is toxic and can be seen in rates of disordered eating increasing
among the spectrum of gender.
The biggest impact on eating disorders across the board can be made by changing
aspects of our culture. Sound easy? Not likely, but steps are being made slowly. Breaking
down gender roles and body image stereotypes will allow more individuals to develop a
sense of self separate from how they or others view their body. Individuals who identify
as male that deviate from a traditional “built” frame or masculine features won’t feel
devalued or shamed, and students like the hypothetical one I mentioned earlier will base
their self-worth on aspects other than their bodies. Self-love or body positivity
campaigns in groups as young as elementary school can promote the ideal that one
should love their body for what it is and the purpose it serves. Families can take new
approaches to how meals are introduced in the household, emphasizing less on any
critiquing and more on the energy and sustenance gained from these meals. And more
than anything, future generations should be taught that every body is different, but
every body holds worth.
"A question I keep getting is, "when can we talk about specific foods?"
With all the "super foods" for health/weight loss/etc, everyone wants a magic bullet.
But, it's not that simple. There are other things we need to consider before we can think about how turmeric and kale are going to change your life.
I came up with the "hierarchy of nutrition needs" to explain what is most important for you to be working on right now. Start at the top of this upside-down pyramid and see where you are at.
1) Enough food. The most important piece is simply to make sure you are eating enough food/calories to support your body. Low calorie diets, famine, food insecurity, these need to be conquered before we can move on to the following steps (Consult a Registered Dietitian for your unique calorie needs - please don't use a book/article/formula to make up your own).
2) Balance of Macronutrients. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are our macronutrients, and we need all of them in proportion to have a healthy diet. In general carbs should make up 45-65% of your calories, fat should make up 20-35%, and protein 10-35%. Where on the range you fall depends on many factors including growth, type of activity, and medical issues like diabetes.
3) Spacing food out over the day. Once you have figured out how much to eat, it will really behoove you to space it out over your waking hours. I don't care how popular intermittent fasting has become, your body likes a continuous trickle of nutrients coming in to keep it running at its best. Our body actually stores more fat when we eat too much food in a short period of time. If you had the same [foods/calories/everything exactly the same] on 2 different days, and one day you spaced it out with meals and snacks, and the other day you ate it all in a short time frame (2-4 hours), you would store more of that food as fat on he day you ate it all in a shorter period of time, and your body wouldn't be able to use all of the nutrients. When in doubt- space it out!
4) Micronutrients. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in our foods that are a necessary part of our body function. These are nutrients like calcium, iron, and zinc. I'll spare you the long boring lecture, but once you have the above mastered the next step is making sure you get the correct balance of micronutrients. In general, this is not something you need to calculate or be overly concerned about if you eat a wide variety and colors of foods.
5) Specific Foods. Only after figuring out the other steps should you think about what specific foods you are eating for health. As stated before, there are no "super foods" or "miracle foods." That being said, it never hurts to try out different fruits/veggies and dishes. Just don't take it to extremes. Even kale or carrots in excess can cause problems. As it is said, "the dose makes the poison" (-Paracelsus). Try to create balance in your diet and eat a rainbow of foods.
You'll feel better.
Picture this: you’re a NCAA Division I student-athlete who spends over 25 hours a week at practice… and you’re struggling with an eating disorder (ED). You have practice every morning at 7am, and you run anywhere from 4-14 miles… you eat as little as possible afterward. You go to class and then back to your second practice of the day and run some more… and you think about what food will be most beneficial to eat so that your legs don’t get too shaky during weight room. Then you finally go to dinner at the dining hall… and you spend all your time online looking up the nutrition information for every item at the buffet. You repeat that day for weeks or even months, and ask yourself why you never have time for other things and why you’re so tired and unhappy.
That was my life in college. A horrible cycle of falling in and out of that pattern for years. I spent a long, long time being torn in half by my sport and my eating disorder.
At the time, the cycle felt impossible to break.
Gradually, I learned how to be happy again. Once I started seeing a psychologist, I was able to get help and express the pain I’d been feeling. Slowly but surely, I saw the return of the “old” me. It didn’t happen overnight, in a week, or even a month. It’s still ongoing, but I began noticing the smallest things as victories. My college coach used to preach, “it’s the little things that make big things happen.”
So I got tools from a psychologist and my support from friends and family, and I started to mend everything on the inside—piece by piece—that had felt broken for so long. At first, a victory was something as minimal as “I ate a full breakfast with my team after practice,” or “my hands didn’t shake at all during weight room today.” But they build on each other. Small accomplishments like that transition into “I didn’t look at a single nutrition facts label all week,” to “I don’t know how much I weigh because I stopped using my scale.” It was all about knowing that there was a win in each of these steps. The greatest feeling in recovery came when I finally reached all these steps and I was no longer just checking things off a list that the dietitian gave me, but I was actually OKAY with taking these steps—both on an emotional and mental level.
Then came one of the most momentous steps in my own personal recovery. I was able to go for a run and not think about the calories I was burning according to pace and mileage. I wasn’t basing my run on which foods I had eaten that day, the calories would be “canceling out.” I was just running—for fun, for me. With lots of time spent working on my recovery process, and myself, I was able to mend the horribly fractured chain that linked me to my ED on one side and my sport on the other.
Since that day and the moment I realized what an accomplishment that run was, things haven’t always been perfect or smooth. Anyone who has been through a similar relationship with food knows that recovery is a messy, ongoing battle. Some days or weeks I’m lured back into calorie counting and I think a little too often about food and its ingredients/labels. Other weeks I’m pulled in the opposite direction by running and I waste energy trying to make the perfect workout schedule and do everything according to pace. BUT, I know exactly what to do or who to reach out to when either of these things happen, and I find ways to re-center myself. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, and I don’t have to be stuck in the middle of two equally difficult problems. Both my sport and my ED will always be a central part of making me into the person I am today, but I am no longer being torn apart by either. I’m in control of how I spend my time, what I think about, and what deserves my attention—on any given day.
And, wow, regaining control over my life feels so damn good.
Author: Jessica Cushing-Murray is a graduate student at University of Hawaii Manoa pursuing a Master's degree in Nutrition. She was a member of the UCLA Cross Country and Track teams during her undergraduate career and is using her last season of eligibility as a grad student now on Oahu. As a competitive long distance runner, Jessica understands the difficulties of trying to balance proper nutrition with college athletics, and hopes that she can make a career out of educating and counseling student-athletes as her future career.
Let's face it, we tend to be our own toughest critics. Whether we're picking apart how we perform in school/work and relationships or breaking ourselves down physically and mentally, we can be pretty hard on on the person we see in the mirror. As a result we forget to practice kindness towards who we are. Join us for this four week series to learn how to create realistic and SMART goals that will help to gain and build up confidence for yourself and work towards a better relationship with your body and your mind.
At Spark Yoga in SLO (New dates coming soon!)
Pricing and Sign up here
Yoga & SMART Goals
In our first session, we’ll start with an hour-long yoga flow before switching gears into learning how to set goals that make sense for you. We’ll teach you how to fine-tune what it is you really are striving to achieve, show you how to work towards it and keep you accountable for the steps you take along the way.
Time Management Tips & Mental Health Check-Ins
After a mellow 30 minute yoga flow, we'll dig deeper into these topics. Whether you’re a student or not, time management can always be improved. We’ll show you ways to stay on track and organized to help you achieve your goals. In this session, we will also talk about mental health and provide some ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Why diets fail & what is actually healthy eating
Following Building on your goal setting from week 1, we are going to dig deeper on setting actual healthy health goals that do not deprive your body or mind. Libby will describe why diets fail, and realistically how to eat for health (spoiler: ALL FOODS FIT!). We will begin this session with a strong 30 minute flow.
Disordered eating, exercise extremes, and body kindness
When is it too far? Whether with food or exercise how do you know when you've crossed the line from "healthy" to "obsessive"/dangerous?
In this session, we will talk about how to be kind to your body RIGHT NOW, just as you are (not when you achieve x goal). This session will start with a light hearted and fun 30 minute flow.
In this beautiful letter to herself a woman, whom I had the privilege to work with, wrote her personal reasons for wanting to recover. I was so moved by this statement of self love and respect I asked if she would please share in hopes that it would inspire others.
You don’t have to have this eloquent of a “why” statement, but I do encourage you to write out why YOU want to recover. What will you be able to do that you can’t while staying in your disorder? Read it every day. If you feel bold, please share in the comments, perhaps it will inspire someone else.
“People say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, which is why we recommend it daily.” -Zig Ziglar
I want my desires back. I want my sense of belonging back, my right to belong. I want my voice back -- my own voice that listens to my desires from a place of giving my body freedom to just be, to just be comforted, to just be heard, to come out of my own shadows, to regain self-trust and self-approval, to recognize that while my body may expand or contract, it is an injustice when I fall short of being a safe confidante to my body.
It is similar to living a lie, to gaslighting my body into believing that it is wholly wrong.
Overriding my body, judging my body, slandering my body, muting those voices within my body is almost akin to perpetrating a crime against all of me. In some ways, it also adds up to me becoming my own judge and jury and, so-to-speak, to being my own executioner.
That all shapes up to me becoming a threat to my own being, a threat to my own survival. It poses a form of self-harm. Self-harm be gone.
I want to be in conversation with my body -- to mind my body by mining for the gold within its contours, between the layers of my skin, in my jiggly, squishy or soft rolls.
Otherwise, I am and may forever be constrained by cultural chatter that breeds fear of food and fear of self.
Otherwise, I am confused by mixed signals, and I easily misunderstand my own self, my own wisdom, my own nature.
Otherwise, eating enters a state of chaos and confusion.
Otherwise, I live by dictates of “should I?” or “should I not?”
Otherwise, I omit all questions about my desires and about my deeply personal choices for food and in life.
I want the memories I have of meals to be soothing memories, and I want to be able to connect food and meals to comforting thoughts -- not to feelings of restraint or to lost opportunities for self-connection. I don’t want to be my own troll, posting critical messages in my mind concerning food.
In the end, I want to rethink my life, rethink the words I speak to myself, rethink the actions I take around current meals and meals that I am planning. I want to arrive at my table open and curious.
I want to readily pull up a seat at the table and honestly be all I am. All I am, meaning welcoming my whole self -- knowing my vulnerabilities, subtleties, and nuances and sitting with and helping myself to meet my truest desires. All I am, meaning that I fill my plate in tandem with becoming a more fulfilled self.
In the end, I no longer want to forsake myself. I want to feel that I deserve a place setting and a place at my own table -- and in the communal table of the larger world.
As a small business owner and "solo-preneuer," I am incredibly grateful for each and every client that I get to work with. When you work with a small business, you are not paying for some big corporation to make monogrammed journals, or a CEO to take a trip to Hawaii, you are helping someone pay their bills, get groceries, take dance lessons, get therapy, and ultimately pay it forward.
You are the reason I do what I do, and to celebrate that, I have some incredible deals coming for those who are signed up for my email newsletter!
There will be a price reduction for group recovery coaching,
and an incredible deal on one-to-one nutrition counseling!
...But this deal (along with other cool stuff throughout the year) will only be available to email subscribers (Nov 24th), so sign up below and make sure you get all the deals sent straight to your inbox!
Have you seen the info about group ED recovery coaching yet?
I'm wrapping up the first group now, and we have had a blast, and had really insightful conversations about recovery. Each week the participants left with motivation, education, and small goals to achieve, and the next week they would come back to a safe space for accountability on their goals, and go further. Check out the details, and how you can join a group HERE.
by Jessica Cushing-Murray
Mental health and issues like eating disorders (EDs) are being talked about more and more on platforms like social media. More people are speaking out about its importance and why these topics need to be addressed and brought up in conversation. And these are all great things - it’s exciting to see people spreading awareness with public social media posts - but posting about it and having a real life face-to-face conversation with someone struggling with an eating disorder are two very different tasks.
On my Division I college athletics team, issues like EDs were known but not necessarily voiced. Everyone knew the risk factors, the warning signs, and the importance of a well-balanced diet, but we didn’t have very many honest conversations about these things as a team. You can be someone who posts on Facebook that you support the education of athletes on the dangers of eating disorders, but you don’t really understand what that means until someone on your team (who you run with and see every single day) becomes so thin that the doctors bench her because they believe that continuing to race would be hazardous to her health.
So what does an open, in-person conversation about eating disorders look like? And why is it so important to have them, especially within the athletic community? The conversation starts with either a troubled person reaching out for help, or with a person concerned about a friend/family member.
Because the stigmatization of issues like eating disorders, or potential to be pulled from the team, athletes are often less inclined to talk about it or reach out for help than a non-athlete. However, in my experience, the most significant occurrence is the chain reaction that starts when one person speaks up about their struggles with eating, exercising, or dieting. All it takes is one brave person to tell a teammate that he/she is having a hard time, and we as athletes hear someone else admitting vulnerability, and are suddenly less afraid to acknowledge our own struggles. These conversations are so instrumental within athletics because we have very strong feelings about avoiding signs of weakness.
My team experienced this in a truly positive way. By one girl confessing something as small as “it makes me nervous to eat a lot of carbs,” it opens up the discussion into eating issues, and we realized that a lot of us were having the same fears and feelings when it came to nutrition. Talking about our own food beliefs with each other helped us realize that we weren’t alone in our thinking and that there are other people who know exactly what we are feeling. Once the conversation is opened up, everyone on the team is able to pitch in helpful ideas.
For some reason, in athletics, we find it harder to discuss mental issues in comparison to physical ones. But the conversation would actually follow the same outline regardless of whether someone is struggling with eating or dealing with a broken bone. For example, say you stress-fracture your tibia (shin bone). In distance running, odds are someone else on your team has had the same injury. They’re going to give you all the advice they can on non-weight-bearing forms of exercise, how important it was to wear the protective boot, and the best/worst days that came along as a result of their injury.
Discussions on issues like EDs would go exactly the same way. Because some people have never experienced food fears or the need to exercise or restrict calories, these people can give insight into their healthy way of thinking that keeps them on the right path to a well-nourished body. Some people have experienced these problems before and have guidance on the tools that can be used to overcome these fears. Others on the team are currently struggling, and the team atmosphere and accountability enables them to go places like the on-campus counseling services to seek advice from professionals. The best part about having other people know is that this difficult step of getting help can be done together and with friends.
So I ask again, why is opening up this conversation so important? Because seeking help and getting well is a process that is held up by a support system of people who want your recovery just as much as you do. There is so much to be gained by not having to go through an eating disorder alone. Talking about our mental struggles and fears and looking for support from the people around us is beneficial for ourselves and can unknowingly be the life-changing difference for others.
If you’ve noticed someone close to you showing signs of an ED, first try to understand that what they are going through is very difficult. Then, see if they’re ready to be open up about it; because talking about it is the first step toward getting help. And when it comes to asking someone about it, realize there are so many different possible outcomes: you can be supportive, have lots of questions, or you may even be wrong about them having an ED, but the worst thing you can do is to ignore it. So, ask. Be the person who’s willing to have a conversation about it. Be the difference.
Libby is a non-diet Registered Dietitian focusing on eating disorder treatment and prevention. She approaches health from the inclusive standpoint that any "body" can focus on health regardless of size. She is a ally in diversity.
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it is not a substitute for medical or mental health advice or treatment.