COVID-19 and Recovery
By: Jessica Cushing-murray
The CoronaVirus, COVID-19, the world pandemic. The chaos that is our lives today.
Maybe you know someone who has been diagnosed with this virus, or maybe you are lucky and you and your family have been safely and successfully quarantining as directed. But whether or not this world pandemic has affected your medical health, a big question is has it affected your recovery?
For those of you in recovery from eating disorders, you know that a big part of recovery is learning to become more flexible: with what you eat, how much you eat, your habits before and after you eat, your exercise routine. So this Coronavirus outbreak is likely having an impact on your ability to do your normal routine.
Whether you are in quarantine, or still working an essential job, all the COVID19 restrictions and precautions might feel like they are taking away from your autonomy. This post is here to remind you that no matter how long you've been in recovery from an eating disorder, it is still important to check in with yourself and with where you are in your recovery journey.
A few things that have crossed my mind over the past few weeks: your appointments with registered dietitians/physicians/psychologists that may have been canceled or postponed, the idea that we need to be "stocking up on non-perishable food" may be changing how you grocery shop, the closures of state/national parks and gyms may keep you from your normal exercise routine. All these have affected me in different ways. In my head I think "well I want to be safe, so I should buy a good amount of non-perishable foods, even if they aren't included in my usual food groups," but that can be stressful. For those of us in recovery, any deviation from our daily routines can be stressful, especially when it involves food.
So, there are a lot of things to consider. But while some of these changes may give you some stress or anxiety, it's a great time to practice the flexibility we learned when we first started our recovery journey. It won't kill us to buy boxed mac n’ cheese at the grocery store, just in case this pandemic worsens. Losing your gym to COVID closures doesn't mean you can't exercise: go outside and go for a walk, buy a yoga mat and sign up for the free at-home workout lessons posted by Chris Hemsworth! And give yourself the flexibility of not needing to achieve at the level you were before quarantine.
It’s ok if you are not working out as much as normal right now.
It’s ok to rest.
It’s ok to just survive.
No matter what the world situation is, now is the time to practice all the important lessons you learned at the beginning of your recovery process and stay strong! Don’t let this pandemic change all the hard work you have put into your recovery. Remember that you are strong and that this too shall pass.
Are you struggling with worsening ED thoughts and behaviors during quarantine? Not Your Average Nutritionist is here to help! Our dietitians are well-versed in telehealth, and have openings for new clients. Contact us today!
Libby also created a video for grocery shopping when you have anxiety that you can view HERE.
By: Jessica Cushing-murray
Jessica graduated from UCLA in 2018 with a degree in Psychobiology and continued her education at University of Hawaii for a Masters in Nutritional Science. Though she loved her first semester studying nutrition, she realized that life is not always a linear process and made the decision to apply for medical school with hopes to be accepted this cycle in 2020. But, as a former collegiate distance runner, Jessica will always have a passion for nutrition and helping people struggling with eating disorders.
I probably have never met you, I don’t know what color your hair is, what your family is like, or where you live. And yet, I know you. A big part of you. The part struggling with an eating disorder, the part that has probably taken over your life and is consuming all your thoughts.
Before you roll your eyes and get ready for a lecture you’ve probably been hearing from your family and friends lately, you should know that I get it. Because I used to be you. You wake up every morning and go exercise and probably put off eating for as long as you can. The question constantly running through your mind is “to eat or not eat.” Some foods are acceptable, you’ve deemed them “healthy” in your mind; other foods are things you will not even consider eating. For me, a big “can’t” food was pasta. I used to love pasta: all kinds, spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccine Alfredo, mac and cheese, you name it, I loved it... But then my ED developed and I just couldn’t, it gave me so much anxiety.
You probably have a routine down filled with things like exercise, coffee, maybe even laxatives. Your friends are worried about you and you’re sick of hearing that “you should talk to someone” or “you need help” because you think you’re fine. I used to think that too.
So I have a question for you: what’s the goal? What’s the end point? Do you even know? How long have you been stuck and unhappy in your eating disorder? Is there an end in sight? I had a goal weight. An “if I hit this weight then I will be done and I will be proud of myself.” Here’s what I know: your goal--whether it’s a weight, a clothing size, a feeling--it won’t feel like you think it will. When I had exercised to the maximum and avoided all the foods I used to love, I hit my ‘goal’ - and I felt more empty and lost than I ever had, and I sure as heck didn’t feel any better about myself. When you’re stuck in an eating disorder, you are trapped in a cycle of dieting, cravings, and exercising, and it seems like there’s no way to stop. You might not even realize yet that life isn’t supposed to be this hard.
Two major things I learned in treatment:
1) Nobody can make you want to get better. You have to want it for yourself. And that’s the hardest part about navigating through an ED: the fact that you have to be the one who chooses recovery. Maybe you think that words like “recovery” and “treatment” sound like total BS things that you don’t need. That’s how I felt too.
But now let me tell you the 2nd thing I learned…
2) There are no shortcuts in life. Every decision you make in your ED is going to have real consequences that you probably don’t know about. I broke bones because of my ED. I have friends with permanent heart problems from their excessive exercise/binging/purging. I know people who’s repeated “I’m fine” and “I don’t have a problem” phrases left them hospitalized.
So yes, it’s your life. And it’s your choice to listen or not listen to the people around you. But it’s your life. Don’t you want to be around to live it and enjoy it? My psychologist once asked me, “Jess, what are some things you are unable to do now [because of your eating disorder] that you would be able to do once in recovery?” The long answer was: I could sleep better, have less anxiety, enjoy ice cream and going out to eat with friends, and again ICE CREAM!
But when I really thought about: what could I do when I finally accept recovery? The short answer was: anything and everything.
This is what I wish for you.
I'm speaking at the adorable local restaurant, Nourish SLO,
on July 19, 2019, and you are invited!
Get your ticket HERE they are going fast!
You can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Nourish SLO is excited to host registered dietitian and author, Libby Parker, for an evening of healthy discussion.
Join us at Nourish SLO with Libby Parker, MS, RD, for a Wellness Seminar on Intuitive Eating Friday, July 19 from 6-8pm.
In this seminar, you will learn:
-why you should ditch the tracking apps (never count calories or macros again!)
-how to check in with "what's eating you" before you eat.
-the difference between hunger and appetite, and that they don't always occur at the same time.
-about the physiological body systems that control our hunger and fullness.
-how to eat your favorite foods, and be healthy!
6:00-6:30 Meet & Greet w/ food from Nourish SLO
6:30-8:00 Intuitive Eating Seminar, followed by Q&A and book signing of Permission to Eat with Libby Parker (books will be available for purchase - $15)
Bring a notepad & pen - you're going to want to take notes!
Libby Parker, MS, RD, is a local Dietitian and author of "Permission To Eat: A practical guide to working yourself out of an eating disorder during college, while celebrating the awesomeness that is you!" Libby's private practice in SLO, Not Your Average Nutritionist, specializes in helping young adults and performers recover from eating disorders. Find her at www.NotYourAverageNutritionist.com or get social, @DietitianLibby
By: Lauren MacLeod
Lauren is finishing up her dietetic internship at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to become a registered dietitian. She hopes to work in outpatient counseling and has enjoyed working with the eating disorder population.
Body Positivity/Body Acceptance - Comes from The Body Positive, which was founded in 1996 as an alternative treatment for anorexia nervosa; it shifts focus away from changing body weight. The core competency of body positive movement is:
“uncover the messages that have influenced your relationships with your body, food, and exercise and develop a weight-neutral, health-centered approach to self-care to become the authority of your own body by sorting out facts from distorted societal myths about health, weight, and identity.”
In summary, body positivity is about accepting your body as it is and encouraging lifestyle choices that focus on health, not weight.
Fat Acceptance - A political movement focusing on equal rights and medical treatment of fat* people. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was established in 1969, when fat people realized they were being discriminated against in the workplace and medical settings based on body size. NAAFA gives them access to education and support for self-empowerment.
*“Fat” is a word that is being reclaimed, as “queer” has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ movement. It is meant to be empowering, not demoralizing.
Health at Every Size - Health is not determined by weight, but rather by healthy lifestyle changes: eating all foods in balance (intuitive eating), and mindful and enjoyable movement. It focuses on taking care of your body at whatever size it is, and looking for actual markers of health, such as blood pressure, rather than a number on the scale. It was established by Linda Bacon, PhD in her book Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. She has since written another book to combat the modern fight against diet culture: Body Respect.
Intuitive Eating: A term championed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (CEDRDs) in 1995 through their book Intuitive Eating. It is composed of 10 principles that focus on rejecting diet culture, listening to what our bodies truly want and need, and repairing our broken relationships with food. It is not a diet, but rather the way humans naturally eat when listening to their body.
Diet Culture: I think the Eating Disorder Registered Dietitians and Professionals really hit the nail on the head with their definition: “...a belief system that focuses on and values weight, shape, and size over well-being. Variations of diet culture also include rigid eating patterns that on the surface are in the name of health, but in reality are about weight shape or size.”
Eating Disorder vs Disordered Eating: An eating disorder fits the diagnostic criteria as defined by DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Disordered eating classifies irregular eating behaviors that do not neatly fit in to an existing diagnosis, but may still pose health risks, physical and/or psychological.
No matter which definitions you identify with, I hope to help you find a way to love yourself. Even if you cannot accept the body you’re in now, can you appreciate all the work that it does for you? Maybe you can even work towards loving it tomorrow.
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.
Here's a quick tip for those of you who get too busy or otherwise forget to eat -
Assuming you are not trying to not eat, many of my clients have found this tip helpful once we figured out that remembering to take the time to eat (or remembering to prep food) was the problem.
Set alarms on your phone.
I know, it sounds simple; but you have your phone on you all the time, right?
Set alarms at times that make sense in your schedule for meal/snack times, or a time to prep tomorrow’s food. Most cell phones have the ability to label what the alarm is for, so use that feature as a visual reminder!
“Lunch time” or remember to eat” or “make lunch for tomorrow” are great visual cues to go along with the audio component of the alarm (or vibration, if that’s your preference).
If you stick to a consistent schedule your body should start to get used to eating at regular times, and eventually you can delete the alarms and let your body remind you.
If you are struggling to remember to eat or prep food, give it a try!
Let me know how this works for you in the comments.
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.
Check out this podcast episode I was interviewed in!
Episode 35 of "Ignite Her Fire"
Key takeaways: All foods fit in a healthy lifestyle, and you don't have to be hospitalized/look "sick" to get help with your eating, Registered Dietitians are different than "nutritionists" or "health coaches," sugar is not evil, keto is not a good diet plan, we need to STOP talking about our bodies!, a little about my acting...and I'm sorry you have to hear me sing (and yes, I know the lyrics are out of order).
http://www.igniteherfire.com/ or on itunes
A podcast full of stories of badass women living life on their own terms.
Thanks to Sabrina and Shawna for hosting me!
Want to learn more? Sign up for my monthly newsletter for free nutrition/health info, and body positive messaging!
The concept of choreographing meals is one that I came up with when working with a client.
As a dancer, I like to bring art and creativity to my work with eating disorders. Here is a fun way of looking at food if you are stuck in a food rut.
A while back I posted about the body positivity I see in the drag queen community.
Due to a good friend who stage manages the local drag shows, I have had the fantastic opportunity to help out with a few events recently and have had a blast hanging out with the queens in the dressing room.
And, girl, can they teach us all a thing or two about body acceptance!
For those that don’t know, a drag queen is (typically a man, but can be female/non-binary) who dresses up in women’s clothes (usually gowns and over-the-top makeup, complete with huge false eyelashes), typically for purposes of entertainment (ex: drag show).
As I watch these queens get ready I noticed several things that I think us unconfident biological females can take away from the experience:
1. Curves. Many of the queens actually add padding to accentuate curves. They add hips and breast, and it is not in jest. They genuinely think this is beautiful. How many of us have tried to hide our feminine form? To starve or run-off the curves? The queens would be appalled. Takeaway: rock the curves you were given.
2. They take up space. Even when getting ready the world is their stage. The tables, floor, and every surface is “theirs,” they don’t try to contain their fabulousness. It almost seems a point of pride to have more space and to drive out another queen (though the locals here tend to get along well and help each other, too). Takeaway: It is ok to take up space!
3. They are unapologetic in how they present. Queens don’t shuffle-along with heads hung low trying to disappear, they f-ing shine! A queen sashays in her stilettos, head up, shoulders back, checking that her lipstick is on-point. She does not apologize for being there, being the center of attention, or walking in front of you. Takeaway: Hold your head up proud, walk confidently, and as Coco Chanel said, “if you are sad add more lipstick and attack!”
Today I want you to think of one way you can live a little more like a drag queen (and I am not saying you need to load on the makeup if that is not you!). How can you stand confidently in a room? What will it take to look up instead of at your feet? What clothes make you feel fabulous in your current body? Wear them!
You are fabulous darling!
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.