Posts Tagged ‘Body Image’

How Sobriety Influenced my Eating Disorder Recovery

Rachel Moe

**Please keep in mind this is one person’s story and that everyone’s path to recovery and beyond will be unique.

Rachel Moe is a Registered Nurse, Emily Program client, Aunt, coffee connoisseur, and writer who loves sharing her experience through recovery in hopes of connecting with and helping others. Rachel started and leads an Eating Disorders Anonymous meeting in Duluth, MN. She also recently started a blog and plans to dive more into recovery advocacy, as she is passionate about ending the stigma around mental illness. She loves to hike, spend time with her family and friends, write, and practice yoga.

I vividly remember the first time I was told by someone that I may be an alcoholic and I should consider a life of sobriety. It was a hot August day in the Twin Cities, I was 24 years old, and sitting in my therapist’s office in a residential treatment center for my eating disorder. I had already been struggling with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa since the age of 13. My parents were on the couch across from me, tears in both of their eyes, and we were participating in family week at treatment. Now, this was not the first time someone had brought up my drinking and substance abuse to me, this was just the first time that I chose to truly listen to what was being said. I could no longer deny my life was falling apart as a result of alcohol, drugs, and my eating disorder.

The flood of emotions came immediately that day—sadness, shame, anger, grief. I mostly felt sad for my parents. I felt as though I had already inflicted enough pain through my eating disorder, how could I add another diagnosis to the list that has been growing for as long as I can remember? I felt angry that once again, I was different from my peers. In my group of friends, I was always the friend who was too anxious to go out for pizza or ice cream, so how could I also be the sober one as well?

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Why Healthy Looks Different on Everyone

Three women on the beach

Health is often described as having a sound mind, body, and spirit. However, society is quick to latch onto the physical aspect of health and question what physical health truly means. Is health subjective? Can people be healthy at different weights? Is everyone’s ideal health different? The answer to all of these questions is yes!

Why Do Body Sizes Differ?

We know that body sizes are not all the same and that every single human being looks unique. Body size and structure is determined and influenced by a variety of forces, which is why all individuals look different. Genetics play an obvious role in physical appearance, as an individual’s gene pool influences bone structure, predispositions, and more. For example, if a child has two extremely tall parents, it’s likely that the child will be tall as well.

In addition to genetics, factors like nutrition, society, and autoimmune functioning can influence body size and shape. Nutrient deprivation in growing children can result in stunted growth, weakened bones, and physical changes. Society can often influence body shape as well—typically, what is culturally ideal has an impact on how individuals strive to look, which unfortunately, can be problematic. Lastly, certain autoimmune diseases and other health conditions can affect the appearance of the body. Some illnesses come with physical or appearance-based symptoms, which can alter body size and shape.

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Why do we Compare Ourselves to Others?

Boy looking at reflection

Teacher and inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant once said, “Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” If that’s true, why do we do it?

Comparison Is in Our Human Nature

In 1954, social psychologist Leon Festinger coined the term social comparison theory. At the core of his theory was the thought that people compare themselves to others so that they can learn about themselves or learn how to act in a socially acceptable way. Comparison, in some circumstances, can keep us safe or be a source of motivation.

For example, imagine an individual who enters a new culture. This person does not speak the language or understand the traditions. In order to find food, fit in, or become a part of the community, the individual may compare others’ behaviors with their own to determine whether they are doing what is necessary to adapt successfully to their new environment.  In this example, comparison helps an individual survive.

The social comparison theory also states that humans compare themselves to others to get an accurate gauge on their abilities, to process situations, and to understand themselves. If a high school student wants to get into Harvard, they will likely compare their grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities to those of students who were accepted into the university in the past. These comparisons arm the student with knowledge of how to get into the university and may assist the student in making smart choices in high school. Additionally, if the student finds out that they do not stack up to admitted students’ academic achievements, it could help them to set a realistic expectation and to avoid future disappointment.

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting in Recovery

Baby in white outfit

Eating disorder recovery can be fragile at times, so it is common to be concerned about if and how your eating disorder may manifest during pregnancy. While pregnancy may trigger eating disorder thoughts about weight, size, shape, or body image concerns, it can also be a time of positive change.

Understanding Eating Disorders during Pregnancy

Many women can become pregnant while in eating disorder recovery. For those who become pregnant while they are suffering from an eating disorder, it is incredibly important to receive proper medical care for both your eating disorder and pregnancy as soon as possible. This care often involves the close support of an OB/GYN alongside an eating disorder specialist. Oftentimes, eating disorders can place pregnant women at a high risk for medical complications during pregnancy—especially if the eating disorder remains unaddressed. However, with proper care and support during pregnancy, it is possible to experience a healthy pregnancy and eating disorder recovery.

Eating disorders may manifest differently in pregnant individuals but they often align with warning signs and symptoms for those who are not pregnant. These signs include:

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Episode 10: Binge Eating Disorder and Weight Bias

Health At Every Size Book

Episode description:

Weight bias is the negative attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, and judgments toward individuals because of their weight. Abbie Scott and Maggie Meyers of The Emily Program join Peace Meal to discuss the reality of weight stigma in relation to individuals with binge eating disorder (BED)—and what we can do to break the stigma and better help individuals who are struggling with BED.

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Meditation Techniques and Apps to Try

Rock stack

Meditation is the process of relaxing your body and training your mind to stay in the present moment. In short, mediation is the process of soothing your mind and body. While the most common association with meditation is someone sitting cross-legged on the floor and breathing with their eyes closed, meditation comes in a variety of forms.

Types of Meditation

Breath awareness

Breath awareness is the most common meditative practice. This practice encourages awareness of breath and mindfulness—the only guideline is to focus on your breath. To do this practice, start by getting comfortable. You may be sitting in a chair, sitting cross-legged, or lying down. The goal is to be in a position that you can stay in for at least five minutes with little discomfort. Once you are comfortable, close your eyes and began breathing in and out through your nose. Focus on your breath. You may notice your thoughts start to wander to to-do lists, stressors, or daily events. If this happens, simply redirect your attention back to your breath. If may be helpful to focus on your breath by repeating the words “in and out” as you breathe or to pay attention to how the air feels coming in and out of your body.

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