NEDA Walk Ann Arbor

My mom and I will be attending a NEDA Walk in April. I am beyond excited to participate this year, it’s been on my bucket list for a long while now! I know it will be a fun day and awesome opportunity to get together with others in recovery/raising awareness, but that’s not why I’m walking.

NEDA walks raise money for the National Eating Disorder Association. The funds will support individuals and families affected by eating disorders. Some programs and services offered by NEDA include an online screening tool, support groups, legislation advocacy, research grants, connecting sufferers to treatment options, and funding initiatives to prevent eating disorders.

As you may already know, I am one of the 30 million Americans who will struggle with an eating disorder in their lifetime. I have spent years in this battle. It’s affected every area of my life – friends, family, school, passions, and overall well-being. It’s been a long journey, but thanks to some amazing support and treatment programs, I am still fighting strong. My hope is that I will be able to help others like me in pursuing recovery and spread awareness about eating disorders.

I am walking for myself and everyone else who has struggled or will struggle with an eating disorder. I hope that through the contributions I can make I will be able to impact others.

I hesitated whether to ask for donations here on my blog, but I’ve decided I would, since this is why I’m walking. If you are willing and able to donate, please let me know. I won’t be posting the link publicly but I’ll send it to anyone who asks via my email

Thank you!

For information about NEDA, NEDA walks, eating disorders, and more, visit

Halfway there!

The semester is officially half over and I’m on spring break! It’s crazy how long/fast the past 6 weeks in pediatrics were. I’m thankful for every second (okay, maybe not the stress) and it is by far my favorite placement in nursing so far.

I remember back to my first surgery, in 2009 when I was 14. I was naturally pretty terrified and uncertain about the decision. I’d never stayed in the hospital or had surgery before, and here I was about to have a major operation with 3 nights there. My experience was nothing short of wonderful. The staff was all amazing, especially my nurses. I have the fondest memories of how kind and helpful they were. Other than the whole pain thing, I enjoyed my stay. I vowed then that I would one day work in the medical field, but specifically at Devos. While my mind has changed a thousand times since then, I’ve now come to that same conclusion. I would love nothing more than to work in pediatrics (hopefully NICU!) in the very hospital that changed my life.

I’ll admit, I’ve cried more than a couple of times during this first half of the semester. I dealt with a ton of frustration, anxiety, some panic, stress, and exhaustion. There were late nights and some missed assignments. I made plenty of mistakes (which only added to my frustration). I lacked motivation at times. Despite everything, I ended Tuesday in the happiest of tears. I did it! I’m content with my grades overall and I feel like I put in as much as I could, considering my #1 job right now is recovery. It wasn’t an easy thing to balance, so I am trying to be proud of the accomplishment.

I am beyond grateful for peds rotation as a whole, my professors, the off unit experiences I had, and the floor nurses and patients. These 6 weeks confirmed a thousand times over how much nursing is my calling. Nursing school is tough. I’ve wanted to give up, but the interactions with patients and glimpses of the future I’ll have makes it all worthwhile.

After break, it’s OB time, and I’m getting pumped for that too! It’ll be weird to work with adults again, but I’m excited for the opportunity to witness birth and see more babies, of course. I already can tell I will like this area as well. Still, I think peds will hold my heart 🙂

If only…

I wasn’t born anxious. My cousin never lived with us. I loved myself. No one teased me growing up. My aunt didn’t constantly call me “skinny minnie.” I never self-harmed. I didn’t have pectus excavatum or the Nuss procedure to correct it. The media was less focused on the thin ideal. I started therapy years earlier. Someone noticed that there was something very, very wrong. My depression didn’t exist. I had more self-confidence and higher self-esteem. My family didn’t have a history of mental illness. I never had GI issues and lost weight because of it. No one told me that my chest was weird or that I have the body of a gymnast. My family was different. I had more support. I didn’t push myself so hard in everything. I leaned more on my faith. I never dated my ex. I opened up more.  I lived in a different school district. I had more friends. I cared a little more about my own well-being. I had better body image. I wasn’t a major perfectionist. I never signed up for early college. I reached out to someone, anyone.

These things didn’t happen, because then, maybe I wouldn’t have developed an eating disorder.

For a long time, I wanted an answer, a cause. I longed to have this “aha” moment in therapy so I could finally make some sense out of it.

I’ve realized that eating disorders don’t have just one cause. My anorexia makes sense. Because I didn’t love myself, I had no problem harming myself. Perfectionism fed into the need to count every single calorie. I had no healthy coping skills, so using ED behaviors instead was much easier than dealing with emotions and stressors.

When my brain had all of these things coming at it, the response was to turn to food, exercise, restriction, and numbers. Someone else in the same situation may have gone down the path of addiction, or maybe they would have come through just fine.

I’ve often asked why – why did this have to happen to me? Why couldn’t I be strong enough to deal with everything? Why can’t I just be normal? Why can’t I get over this? Why am I so messed up?

I no longer ask these questions, and part of this is because I’ve begun to accept my eating disorder. It happened. I struggle. I can grow through it. There is nothing I could have done differently. It’s okay that I didn’t take more positive steps. I am not a failure because I got sick. This doesn’t need to be the most important, defining aspect of who I am. I will win. I am strong enough to do it.

Boycott the Before – Why transformation posts aren’t all that helpful

We are accustomed to seeing before and after photos – in weight loss commercials, on personal Facebook/Instagram posts, and pages advertising the next miracle drug/diet/magic fat-shrinking wrap. Most of these involve a before body that is “less desirable” in many ways (“fatter,” less fit, larger, etc) juxtaposed to the “better” body picture in which the person is always smiling. This is so common in the media that it’s easy to glance over and not realize what effects it may have on us. While I could go on about this more, I am instead focusing on a different sort of body comparison: before and after eating disorder recovery posts. This is especially important to talk about considering the numerous posts I’ve seen during NEDA week.

Full disclosure, I was one of these people a few years back. I felt that if I could post a picture of my lowest weight and where I was then it would prove my recovery and validate my struggle. I now realize this isn’t the case, and I would like to encourage others to reconsider the perceived benefits that come from these posts.

I do not feel adding in examples will do good for anyone, so I will instead describe the typical images you may come across. On the left is typically a clearly malnourished and emaciated person, sometimes one who looks more like a skeleton than a human being. The right will show the same person but with added pounds and a “normal weight.” There will be smiles, much like with the weight-loss versions, and a caption that explains their recovery and how much better they feel at the new weight.

I am in no way trying to bash those who make posts like these (remember, I did this too!), just give a little insight on why I believe they can be harmful. A quick rundown on how this can be problematic:

  1. Promotes the belief that eating disorders and recovery are both defined by weight. I have run into this countless times before. Many people are not very well informed on eating disorders in general. There are many myths about the correlation between BMI/weight and how they relate to eating disorders. One is that you need to be underweight to suffer from an eating disorder. Considering just one eating disorder diagnosis has a weight requirement, this simply isn’t the case. Naturally, this thinking leads to weight restoration being proof of recovery. If you’ve gained back the weight, you must be cured! Personally, I have struggled at a pretty large range of sizes/weights. My sickest period in thoughts, behaviors, and overall state of mind weren’t at my smallest. I actually haven’t been underweight for a majority of my eating disorder. You simply cannot judge how well someone with an ED is doing by looking at how their body has changed.
  2. Comparison, comparison, comparison. If there’s one thing eating disorders are great at, it’s comparing in nearly everything. The before and afters open up additional dialogue for the ED to run with. Was I smaller than them? Why did I have to gain so much more? Who is the sickest? The answers to these questions may lead thoughts into a pretty dangerous situation.
  3. Too much focus on the physical side of these mental disorders. Quite obviously, changing eating habits, exercise, and use of behaviors all tend to have an effect on the body. Often times this is a visible marker for the eating disorder. While it must be noted that this is the case, adding more emphasis is not helpful. Having “sick v recovered” photos out there magnifies the outward signs of EDs, while we should be focusing on psychological warfare that those struggling experience. This reduces a multifaceted illness to a superficial view.
  4. The before as a goal instead of a cautionary tale. Some viewing these images will flip the entire meaning of them around. They will idolize the “before” as something to work towards. The hopes of a smaller body become possible, as long as they follow disordered eating and mirror the opposite of how the transformation occurred.

There is a movement that I absolutely love and support called Boycott the Before. This week, #BoycottTheBefore, is meant to change what eating disordered recovery is seen as: a mental change, not just the physical one (that may or may not be present!). I love that their aim isn’t to shame anyone who posts transformation photos, but simply educate how they don’t show the full picture. (Side note: I really support and have posted a transformation that was just of my face before and after recovery because you could tell I was miserable based on my expression, bags under my eyes, etc.) I think it’s so important to emphasize all aspects of eating disorder recovery. The mental and emotional healing that takes place is for the most part way more important than the physical side of things.

If you are in recovery, I challenge you to consider posting something this week to show that there is so much more to recovery than weight!

Here’s mine:

The first time I started treatment and recovery, I remember thinking that if I just gained back some weight and no longer “looked sick” I would be recovered. I was so wrong. I haven’t been at or near my lowest weight since the very beginning of my eating disorder (5ish yrs ago), but since then I’ve seen way more struggle. I have been a walking, talking eating disorder with no real Emily present. Yes, my journey from sick to healthy, and relapse to recovery many times has included some weight gain. That part truly doesn’t matter, though. What’s the most important are the mental and emotional changes I’ve gone through. I am way more than the physical part of my transformation. 
I’m so happy to be a part of the #BoycottTheBefore movement. The goal here is to focus on where you are in recovery and the triumphs you’ve had without posting a before/after transformation photo. It’s not that those are wrong to post, but more so the importance of opening up a conversation about ALL aspects of recovery. 
I go into some more detail about this in a post on my blog too. {Link in bio}
I hope that by sharing a little bit of my story and thoughts I can promote awareness about and the truth behind eating disorders. #edrecovery #edawareness

NEDA Week 2018 – my anorexia struggle (it’s not what you think)

I really love the theme Let’s Get Real because it opens up the opportunity for each individual story to be shared. Every person who struggles with an eating disorder is unique, yet we can also relate to one another. My story, along with everyone who has ever struggled with an eating disorder, is important and needs to be told. Today I’ll be doing it in a little bit different way by sharing some stereotypes about anorexia that I don’t fit into.

I have anorexia, but…

  • I’m not underweight, emaciated, or anywhere close to it. In the 5+ years I’ve had this illness, I was only underweight for around 8-10 months. I came into treatment for the first time with a lower BMI, however; since then I’ve been in the normal range. I went to residential twice without even losing a substantial amount of weight because the outside representation doesn’t matter as much as how you’re struggling on the inside.
  • I don’t feel overly affected by the media. Do I think that what we see in the media influences self-esteem, diet culture, judgment of bodies, etc? Absolutely. Has it played a huge part in my life? No. I do compare myself to people in advertisements, but that happens as I’m walking around campus or the grocery store too. I know enough about how manipulated these photos can be that I basically just take them as false and made up.
  • You cannot tell just by looking at me. I don’t have the “typical anorexic body.” I don’t think anyone would be able to tell I have an eating disorder by analyzing my appearance. I may be thinner as behaviors increased, but I am nowhere near the image most think of when they picture anorexia. I am not alone in this. A huge number of those with anorexia and eating disorders in general don’t look like they have an eating disorder.
  • I have never used laxatives, diet pills, etc. I know many people who have turned to these measures in order to lose weight. It’s just an area where the eating disorder hasn’t fixated on. I definitely have felt that pressure, though.
  • I haven’t needed (or come close to needing) a feeding tube. There are some who wear their feeding tube as some special badge you’ll only receive if you’re a “very good anorexic/bulimic.” I’ve seen countless people and treatment friends who use this as profiles or brag about it. There have definitely been times that I felt like a fraud because I hadn’t been sick enough to receive one. I can see now that being malnourished enough to need artificial feedings isn’t something to be proud of, and I am more than 100% okay with not having one.
  • I’m not on the brink of death. More than any other eating disorder, I see a ton of images and stereotyping that someone with anorexia has to in a danger zone. In reality, complete organ failure and other fatal conditions don’t actually show up until a very critical point. Most people, like myself, are relatively medically stable.
  • I do not enjoy being this way. Eating disorders are often glamorized. I have been told that I must have great discipline in order to lose weight the way I did. In reality, anorexia has taken over my life and made me feel empty. When I’m deep in the ED I become a shell of myself. I would never wish this on anyone or encourage them to treat their body this way. It is absolutely miserable, expect for the brief moments where ED praises me for how “well” I’m doing. Anorexia is not just a way to effectively lose weight and bask in your shrinking body. It is a slow and painful suicide.

NEDA Week 2018 – Treatment myths and truths + an overview of options

Fortunately, there are a variety of resources out there for eating disorders treatment. Unfortunately, there are many stereotypes, worries, and false speculations about what treatment actually involves. I think it’s so important that what really happens with treatment is put out there. I want to encourage others to seek help by showing that it isn’t quite as scary as you may believe. This will be two-fold: dismissing the myths and talking about what types of treatment are available. A note: most of the myths will pertain to groups, IOP, PHP, inpatient, and residential, considering many fears come from being around others with EDs.

Everyone will be underweight. I felt this way, too. The media perpetuates this by showing emaciated suffers and focusing on weight loss. The truth is that most eating disorders don’t need a weight diagnostic. Even those who struggle with anorexia, like myself, aren’t always underweight. I have met a huge variety of shapes and sizes in my treatment experience. The ED may tell you this is a lie, but I can pretty much promise it won’t be the case. Even if that were true, especially with inpatient, it doesn’t make your struggle any less. People have been nonjudgmental of weight in my experiences, too. Also, body type does NOT determine sickness at all.

I’m not sick enough. Whether this applies to residential, outpatient therapy, or even seeking help in general, it isn’t true. If you believe in any capacity that you may need help but simultaneously “don’t need it” given your perceived lack of severity, please still reach out. These are signs that point towards that. Your struggle is enough, period. You deserve help, period.

Going means I’m weak. Making the choice to get better is the absolute strongest thing you can do. Recovery is hard, there’s no sugar-coating it. Take that glimmer of hope and longing for things to be better. It’s worth it. You don’t need to continue living this way for 6 months, a year, or 20 years.

I’ll be the oldest, only guy, “least sick,” largest, etc. Eating disorders are very diverse. They affect all races, genders, socioeconomic statuses, ages, etc. Even  if you happen to be the only one in your specific group, you aren’t alone. There are millions just like you, and that can be comforting.

If I’m not in residential or inpatient that means I’m not really sick. Residential and inpatient are not some badge of honor that proves you’ve become bad enough to have an eating disorder. Most people never end up there and that has not a lot to do with their amount of struggling. The important thing is getting the level of care you need and receiving help ASAP, even if you “just” need outpatient.

I will just be constantly eating. It absolutely will feel like this sometimes, especially when in IP or residential at first. What you’ll soon realize, though, is that you have so much more than meals and snacks. You’re kept busy with groups and all of the activities that are going to help you grow in recovery. Eating is a necessary part of treatment but the other work you’ll do is just as important.

All we’ll talk about is eating. Holy hell thank God this isn’t true. Behaviors are surface level. There It’s like an iceberg. You see these awful things on the outside, when what’s causing all of it really needs exploration. I’ve never spent that much time focusing on the food, minus nutrition groups really. It’s just not the main focus, even though it is ultimately an outcome we’re working towards.

No one will believe I’m sick. The thing about treatment is that no professional would ever recommend it for someone they don’t believe is struggling enough to need it. You don’t go through assessments for no good reason. The fact that you go into treatment means that you need the help and that you are sick enough.

No one will ever understand. I was convinced of this when I was first sick. I never thought I would find people who truly got it. That immediately changed my first day of PHP. Suddenly I had 5+ other people who could relate to me so well. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things about treatment.

There will only be anorexics and maybe bulimics. I haven’t been in any treatment setting for very long before I met people who didn’t struggle with anorexia or bulimia. Many have EDNOS (now OSFED) or BED as well. Another thing I’ve learned is that I can connect with any of the diagnoses. It doesn’t matter what the official label you carry is or what your behaviors are. The underlying problems are very similar.

It will be too hard. This will stretch you big time. There will be tears, maybe lots of them. You’ll want to quit, sometimes every day for weeks. You’re not going to like it and will sometimes hate treatment. Regardless, you have the power to press on and keep fighting for yourself. If it were easy that wouldn’t bring change. Trust me, you CAN do this.

Now I want to give just a quick overview of treatment types, mostly based off of my own time there.

Outpatient therapy and dietitian. This is exactly what the name implies: seeing a therapist or dietitian in the office on a regular basis.

Outpatient groups. These groups are made up of many people with eating disorders and may be a therapy style, experiential, art, or other type of focus. I would say that support groups fall under here, too, although those are typically free of charge. These are both a good stepping stone for someone who has never been in a setting with others before. I think the connection and similarities you can find are very helpful.

Intensive outpatient – IOP. Typically IOP will be for around 5 hours a day, covering one meal and one snack. This varies by facility, of course. My center goes 11-4 three days a week. Besides meals and snacks, there are a few groups a day. Some offerings include group therapy, nutrition, experiential/outings, art, and yoga.

Partial hospitalization – PHP. This is similar to IOP but is more intensive. It usually runs for 2 meals and 1-2 snacks. I’ve been to one that was M-F 8:30-3:30 and another that ran every day 10:30-5:30. The setting can be a psych hospital, residential, or just an outpatient center. It allows for the most structure and support that doesn’t involve staying somewhere.

Inpatient – IP. Inpatient, like it sounds, involves being hospitalized, usually in a psychiatric unit or hospital. This is typically shorter term and mainly for stabilization. It’s required if there are any medical problems that would be difficult to manage in another setting. There is a full-time medical staff with 24/7 support as needed. People with other diagnoses are on the units as well. You attend ED groups and support groups part of the day and then general groups as well. Where I was, the average stay is 1-2 weeks and then step down to another level of care like PHP, or even going to residential.

Residential. This is the longest-term and most intensive treatment. Program size varies, but it involves living in a home-like setting for around 30 days minimum. You are completely removed from the environment that allowed you to grow sick. It’s a huge adjustment but also is very effective because of the radical change. Like IP, there is also 24/7 support, but not the same level of medical care. You have to be medically stable in order to be admitted. Sometimes they may bump someone to IP if they need it. Residential tends to be much less restrictive than inpatient. You are able to go outside, do outings, start back with some exercise, and even get solo passes.

Transitional living. For those who live far away and are unable to travel back and forth to treatment, some enters offer transitional housing. In my case, we lived in apartments not far from programming. It offered a supportive environment while still allowing autonomy. I did this after residential, which was a great way to slowly transition back to real life. Some places only do this for PHP, but others allow IOP patients to stay as well.

I hope that this information has been helpful. Feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about my experience or have any questions regarding treatment. I will try to help in any way that I can. 


NEDA week 2018 – Introduction & past posts

Today kicks off NEDA (National Eating Disorders Awareness) week 2018! This is always one of my favorite times of the year. Teaching others about eating disorders and spreading awareness is something I’m very passionate about. This is my 4th year doing so in some capacity on my blog 🙂

I can’t promise a post every day, but I’ll definitely be doing as many as possible. I do have a ton of ideas

The theme this year is Let’s Get Real. Here is a blurb about it from the NEDA website:

Our theme this year is Let’s Get Real and our goal is to expand the conversation and highlight stories we don’t often hear. Our culture has complicated relationships with food, exercise, and appearance.

30 million Americans will struggle with a full-blown eating disorder and millions more will battle food and body image issues that have untold negative impacts on their lives.

But because of stigma and old stereotypes, many people don’t get the support they deserve. Join the conversation and help us raise awareness, bust myths, get people screened, and start journeys to healing.

NEDA website:

Eating disorders screening:

Eating disorders helpline:

Here are some links to posts from previous NEDA weeks: