What is NEDA Week and why is it so important?

It’s finally here! NEDA week – National Eating Disorders Awareness Week – is my absolute favorite time of the year. I am passionate about both eating disorder and mental health awareness, so I take every opportunity to do so. Here is a small blurb from NEDA’s website:

#NEDAwareness Week 2017

Spearheaded by the National Eating Disorders Association, the goal of National Eating Disorders Awareness (#NEDAwareness) Week is to shine the spotlight on eating disorders and put life-saving resources into the hands of those in need. This year’s theme is It’s Time to Talk About It and we’re encouraging everyone to get screened.

It’s time we take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns. It’s time we bust the myths and get the facts. It’s time to celebrate recovery and the heroes who make it possible. It’s time to take action and fight for change. It’s time to shatter the stigma and increase access to care. It’s Time to Talk About It!

My personal goal this week is not only to share all of these wonderful resources, but add my own content as well. My hope is that I am able to reach others and promote change in some way.

I will be posting this whole week on different topics. This is my 3rd year I’ve had this blog for NEDA week, and I want to make it the best one yet. Here are my posts from years past:

I will leave you with an interview from the director of my IOP clinic. She and a few others who are recovered spoke to our local news about eating disorders/NEDA week. I am so thankful for the resources I have right here in GR. Also, they are lighting the downtown bridge NEDA colors, the first and only landmark in Michigan to do so! II cannot wait to see things unfold this week!

While I was gone

My absence has not been the result of me doing too well to blog about my eating disorder. In reality, I admit I have basically ignored the work I need to put into recovery. I attended therapy every week and ate enough food; however, I was just going through the motions. I made little to no progress on my thought patterns. Summer was hard. I dealt with extreme stress at work, guilt/shame, isolated, barely did anything I love, etc. Returning to school has been a wakeup call. I’ve slipped into some old habits simply because I don’t do much to prevent it. Triggers are everywhere – diet talk, being in the same place that contributed to my downward spiral, feeling like I have no people here, isolation because of that, school stress, perfectionism in classes (last week I got a 97 on my bio test and beat myself up about it for a few days), fear of eating in the dining room. Fall at school hasn’t been good for my ED since I first started using behaviors. I want to do my best to prevent another season of hell.

Currently I feel that I’m sort of in this alone with little help. I see my therapist once every two weeks. Before this, I’d only gone two weeks without every once in a while (maybe every other month), so it’s been a huge adjustment. I would be slightly more stable and definitely more accountable if it was a weekly thing. I just get off track sometimes. I no longer see my dietitian or keep any sort of meal diary as of Julyish. I honestly have no desire to see her again, even if she was helpful. $45 a session is too much to go more than once a month. Health services has a new dietitian form the same company as my old one from school did. Slowly, I’ve warmed up to the idea of working with her. I tend not to trust many professionals who “deal with eating disorders” because I’ve encountered many who really don’t (case in point: therapist #2). But, I bit the bullet and emailed health services Thursday. I haven’t told my therapist (I see her Tuesday) and before she was worried it could be detrimental. I’ve spent time thinking and praying. Ultimately, I need to have a mealplan again. Maybe I’ll go a few months and then be back on track, but I am willing to put in the time and work. I am trying everything that could help this fall not be a repeat of last.

I have felt very, very alone in my ED struggles all summer and since being back in school. Honestly, since residential I just haven’t had a positive yet open outlet to express my feelings with those who understand. The one at school was so-so. On one hand, it helped me see I wasn”t alone, but all we did was small skill building activities. I never felt comfortable sharing how I was really doing. As much as I would like to try the ED group on campus, which has a different leader now, it won’t work with my schedule currently. Do I even want to, though? Instead I attend 2 different groups now. Forest View one (my gosh how weird it is to be back there so often now, in the same PHP room with the same cold hospital feel) is every other Monday night. I actually shared quite a bit this past week. I do enjoy the people, conversations, and leaders. This Tuesday was the first meeting for a 7 week ED women’s bible study at a church just a little down the road from campus. I was terrified to go. Like so many times I have worried myself sick, I loved it. I have never had something that ties my faith into recovery (at least not in this level). This is an opportunity to develop my relationship with Christ and use His strength for me to fight.

Other than the many issues I deal with in relation to my eating disorder, I have a ton on my plate of mental health and being. MIt has been a struggle. My depression has been unchanged for a long while. I went to my psych appointment and he upped a med. I’m not hopeful it will change a thing. I have little passion or energy for the things I love. Most days I will lay in my room from the second I’m out of class to when I go to bed. My SH thoughts have come back too. Added to my mental health issues I haven’t been able to sleep. Isolating occurs everyday I can’t remember when I’ve gotten more than 5 in recent weeks.It’s scary knowing that everything I am experiencing now could lead me down the sark pit.

The eating disorder cannot be my go-to for the rest of my life. None of my dreams could be accolmplished of that happens. I just hope and pray that I can make this happen.

World Eating Disorders Action Day – Why I care and you should too

Today marks the first World Eating Disorders Action Day. Just seeing that this is a worldwide event really means something. NEDA week and other campaigns have grown over the years in the US, but rarely have I heard of anything like this across the world. Today we can begin implement change. Key messages and goals include advocating for early intervention and treatment, showing the diversity of ED sufferers, calling for treatment that is more accessible to all who need it, promoting treatment and the truth that recovery is possible, changing policies regarding EDs, and sharing the “nine truths about eating disorders“. More on the goals here and key messages here. The organization’s mission is to “advance understanding of eating disorders as serious, treatable illnesses” and the vision is to “unite eating disorder activists, professionals, parents/carers and those personally affected to promote worldwide knowledge of eating disorders and the need for comprehensive treatment.” All of this excites me. How amazing is it that we are calling global action in the fight against eating disorders? It’s possible that today could plant seeds of change in policies, attitudes, and knowledge of these illnesses all over the world.

There are 70 million people worldwide who struggle with eating disorders. (For reference that is more than the total populations of: UK-64m, Canada-35m, and Australia-24m).Within that group there are those with early interventions, knowledgeable treatment providers, great support, lower stigmas, and ultimately a good prognosis. This is sadly the minority. Instead, most with EDs deal with little to no public knowledge, a huge stigma/shame surrounding eating disorders and mental illness, no access to ED specific treatment or treatment at all, financial barriers if there are options available, feeling alone, and a lack of outside support, leading to a low chance of recovery.

I am very blessed to be in the former. I’ve seen a therapist since relatively early on. My parents have known a long time and are helpful and supportive (especially my mom <3). I also have some friends who are there for me. I live 45 mins from FV, where I have stayed inpatient and done PHP. It may not have been the greatest experience and quality of treatment but at least I had it. I was able to take off school to go into residential (which my insurance not only covered but paid for in full). I haven’t been denied any claims by insurance. I’ve switched therapists a few times to find the right fit and now have one at home and school. My dietitian is amazing and works specifically with EDs. I say I am lucky because all of this means I have greater chance at recovery. It still isn’t easy, but I also could never be where I am if I hadn’t had this support.

Eating disorder awareness is personal for me. I am forever changed by living with an eating disorder. This is for myself but also for the millions more struggling along with me. I know what it’s like. I know how serious these disorders are. I know how alone you feel. I know the hopelessness and being out of control. Because of this, I want use my voice to give others with eating disorders the ability to speak out, a society full of education without stigma, and treatment they so desperately need.

Assuming you aren’t struggling with an eating disorder, why should you care about raising awareness today at all?

  • If it isn’t you, it could be your family member, friend, neighbor, teacher, child, etc. In some populations, such as college, up to 1 in 4 people have EDs.
  • You may not know anything about eating disorders. While you may assume that’s just fine, consider how many people with eating disorders you’ll know over your life.
  • Others need education about eating disorders too.
  • People with eating disorders matter. They deserve acceptance, support, and professional help.
  • Eating disorders are extremely low on funding (which leads to less research, treatment, etc). Funding per person, according to NEDA’s 2011 study: Alzheimer’s-$88, Schizophrenia-$81, Autism-$44, EDs-$.93.
  • Eating disorders are serious and need intervention, which can only happen if we have a greater availability for quality treatment.
  • Better laws and policies regarding EDs are necessary to combat them.
  • Together we can change the lives of millions all over the globe.

My hope is that one day we won’t have any barriers with recognizing, treating, and supporting those with eating disorders. We cannot get there without a global, communal effort. Please join me and thousands more in the first World Eating Disorders Action Day!

To get involved:

  • Use #WeDoAct and #WorldEatingDisordersDay on social media
  • Share the 9 truths of eating disorders video
  • Spread awareness of the campaign, information about eating disorders, etc
  • More ideas here

For more information, please visit the official website, www.worldeatingdisordersday.org and blog http://worldeatingdisordersday.org/blog/

The Freshman 15

We’ve all heard of it. Many teens going into college have this as one of their biggest fears, right along with how hard classes will be and getting along with your roommate. The first mention of the “freshman 15” was in Seventeen magazine in 1989. Back then there was absolutely no medical proof to back it up, and that stays true today. This is a complete myth that so many allow to rule their lives. In fact, the real average weight gain (if there even is a gain) is around 2-3 pounds, not even 20% of the false belief.

Freshman year and getting adjusted to living away from home is hard enough on its own, yet so many go above and beyond and make weight maintenance or loss top priority. Lets examine that for a moment. Is gaining weight really the worst thing that could happen to you, even while knowing that it most likely would be less than the infamous 15 pounds anyways? I know it seems like the end of the world. I’ve been there and I’m still trying to shake off the lies. For me, making a list of all my priorities/goals for the year any other than weight loss has changed my focus significantly.

You may be wondering what’s so bad about dieting and exercising in order to keep those pesky pounds away. The most serious and very common consequence of trying to lose weight is developing an eating disorder. The average age of onset is 19, right around freshman year of college. Students are at the highest risk of eating disorders with 25% struggling. Adding to all of this, a huge chunk of eating disorders begin with the innocent act of going on a diet. Beyond the risk of eating disorders, restriction takes it toll on the body and mind. If you’ve ever seen the Snickers “hangry” commercials portraying what its like when you skip eating for a while, you know what I mean. You are left with little energy, poor concentration, feeling week, moodiness and irritability, and the risk for mood disorders like anxiety and depression. We simply cannot function well missing body’s essential nutrient requirements.

Having the facts about the freshman 15 is just the beginning. Everyday you’re going to hear people talking about diets, restricting, and complaining about how “fat” they are. Instead of focusing so much on size and weight, we should build an environment where confidence comes first. Believing it yourself and measuring your worth by who you are and not your appearance is just the start. Also think about this: do you pay attention to whether your friends or anyone else is gaining weight? Is their size even something that crosses your mind? Do you judge them by it? If the answer to those questions is no, its safe to assume that no one else is judging you either. College is supposed to be an amazing time so why would we want to waste it on some myth made by a magazine nearly 30 years ago?

NEDAW16 – Day 4: To those silently struggling

Today I want to talk specifically to those who are silently struggling. First off, I want you to know that my heart breaks for you. It is so incredibly painful to have an eating disorder and doing it alone makes everything so much harder. I’ve met so many people who have spent years or even a decade or more without a single person knowing their pain.

You are not alone. There are 30 million of us just in the US and millions more worldwide. We are all in this battle together! The eating disorder will isolate you and make you feel like you’re the only one in the world who is like you. It will attempt to convince you that no one will understand. It is a liar. There are so many support groups, blogs, and online communities where you can find others going through very similar circumstances. MentorConnect here is an amazing site that connects you to mentors who can help you on your recovery journey. A list of support groups all around the country and world through the NEDA website is found here. I am completely open to anyone contacting me through here as well.

Reaching out is the best thing you can possibly do for yourself. Silence can be deadly when it comes to eating disorders. At best, it isolates you and reinforces the aloneness feelings. There are infinite ways to reach out. Telling a trusted friend, parent, or other person close to you is great for physical support, which, in my opinion, is one of the most helpful forms. Support groups are a place to talk with others going through the same things and help each other along the way. I highly recommend professional help of some kind, most importantly a dietitian and therapist. NEDA has a list of treatment providers of all kinds here. Another place to find therapists is on Psychology Today’s site here. If neither of those have a therapist or center near you, calling a counseling center and asking for someone who is familiar with EDs. Whichever route you go, I know it can be scary. The truth is, however, once you overcome the fear you’ll find how beyond worth it reaching out will be.

Recovery is both possible and worth it. Being trapped in an eating disorder, you may feel broken, hopeless, and destined to be like this forever. This is so untrue. Each day you live in an eating disorder is one where everything you are and all aspects of your life are being consumed in darkness. Eating disorders are absolute hell. Recovery can be as well, but its the kind of hell that will not kill you like an eating disorder will. I have gained more than weight since beginning my recovery journey. I’ve discovered parts of myself I haven’t seen in years, rebuilt relationships, discovered freedom, experienced more joy than I ever thought possible, gained confidence, have begun healing my body, cared about myself more, and lived. I haven’t avoided really shitty days, lots of tears, and numerous relapses, but I still continue to get back up and choose recovery all over again. As a wonderful girl years into her journey told me recently, you can always go back to your disorder. You know exactly how to get there again, so why not try giving it up?

I will end this with one of my favorite songs that encompasses the kind of support and love I want to extend to each of you. Stay strong and give yourself a chance ❤

A few more resources you can explore:

We survived.

So this my not be your average Christmas Day post, but then again I am not your average person. Like 1 in 4 people in this country, I suffer from mental illness that just so happens to peak in severity during the holidays. Also like 24 million of those 1 in 4, I have an eating disorder. I like to look at those statistics every once in a while. It helps me realize that I am not alone. We are all here, some in recovery, others in the depths of their disorders, all fighting like hell to keep going each day. This season is hard. It’s not quite over yet either.

No matter how today went, whether you won the battle or not, all of you out there are warriors. You survived today. You did it, we did it. I don’t care what anyone says, because the fact that we are still here living, fighting, beating those demons within us is a huge victory. I really do mean huge.

2014 is almost over. We have spent 359 days this year battling our illnesses on top of everything else life threw at us. There were good days and bad, maybe even times we wanted to give up. The fact that we didn’t is truly a miracle. We’re just six short days from starting a new year. Let’s make 2015 one of resiliency, strength, and refusal to back down. These disorders do not own us and we can continue to overcome them this next year!

What will you gain when you lose?

So many advertisements, celebrities, etc claim that simply by losing weight you will acquire confidence, beauty, attention, power, and more. While there may be a few “lucky” ones who are able to lose weight the healthy way and do gain those things, it isn’t always the case.

I was one of those who didn’t end up so lucky. Like millions of others around the world, I developed an eating disorder. What you will gain from these diseases is nothing like what everyone wants you to believe about weight loss.

Your confidence will cease to exist. You will grow to hate your body and yourself. You won’t feel worthy of food or love or anything good at all. You will get so good at brushing off compliments that you won’t have to even think about it. Every chance you get you will tear yourself down even more.

You definitely will get beautiful, if you consider dull and thinning hair, cracked nails, rotting teeth, huge dark circles under your eyes, fine hair all over your body, dry skin, and jutting bones pretty.

For those people who wanted more attention from weight loss, an eating disorder will help you get it. As you slowly waste away, you will grow accustomed to the worried looks of friends and family. Soon, all that will be on other’s minds is your eating habits and weight. All the loose clothing and excuses in the world won’t stop them from commenting.

At first, there is an illusion of gaining power a control through the eating disorder. You feel strong for denying hunger and exercising more than your body is meant to handle. Every time you listen to the eating disorder instead of your voice, the feeling grows stronger until eventually you don’t have any control at all.

A restrictive eating disorder may cause you to lose weight as you intended, but it will do so much more harm than good. Your body, mind, relationships, and future will suffer. Each day will be hell.

You will have to lie to anyone close to you. You will stay up late at night thinking of food and how to avoid it. You will become extremely isolated. You will always be cold no matter how warm it is. Every time you get up you will have to fight passing out. Sitting in a chair for more than five minutes will become impossible unless you don’t mind having your legs go to sleep. You will become extremely weak and will still force yourself to exercise. Concentrating on anything other than your eating disorder won’t happen, partly because the ED voice won’t let you and partly from malnutrition. You will get chest pains and wonder how much longer you can do this without your heart giving out. Depression and anxiety will be so high you might not care anyways.

Please, don’t let any internal or external pressure push you into an eating disorder. You are beyond incredible just the way you are. If you feel like yourself or someone you know is showing signs of an eating disorder, get help as soon as possible. It is so important to fight against the disordered thoughts and behaviors early instead of getting deeper into it.

Some websites with information on eating disorders and their treatment: