On the Recovery Journey: Rough Patches and Body Hatred

The truth about recovery is that it is not pretty, perfect, or easy.  It is never a straight line or a sudden epiphany and then everything falls into place afterwards and there is no more work.  Truth is, recovery is sometimes painful, awful, and ugly.  Even so, it is better than being sick because the days when it is not that way, which grow with each day in recovery, are beautiful and wonderful and there is so much to life that was not there before.

In my recovery, I have come to a rough patch.  One of the biggest issues I face in my eating disorder and my recovery is my body image and right now it is at its absolute worst.  All day my mind seems to filter everything through a “I’m fat” lens and that is the only thing that matters.  It does not matter that something positive happened or that I am a good person because everything ends the same—I’m fat.  The sky is blue and I am fat.  I challenged myself today and I am proud of myself, but I am fat.  Needless to say, these endless conversations in my head lead no where positive.

It feels as though these dark thoughts are suffocating me and there is no escape or air to breathe.  I cannot run away from the thoughts in my head nor can I avoid what I see in the mirror.  I am trapped from the inside and the outside, forced to face this and all the memories, pain, and despair that comes with it.

And am I ever terrified of myself and of the reflection staring at me when I look in the mirror.  Despite it being only my body, it instills great fear, hatred, and pain.  I put so much power into body image and what it holds for me since it is all I have ever known.  That power continues to drive so much hatred towards my body.

A part of recovery and maintaining it, especially during times such as this, is knowing in your heart that this is temporary.  However it works for you, reminding yourself as often as you need that it is only temporary.  I continue to tell myself that this shall pass and that I have worked too hard to fail now and that is the truth.  I may not be ready to embrace fully that I am beautiful or that I love my body, but at least I can say to myself that this shall pass and I can keep working on finding the beauty in myself.

Are you struggling with something in your recovery?  Remember: This too shall pass. ❤

Taking Good Self-Care

The NEDA Conference was absolutely amazing, wonderful, incredible, the best, and everything that I could have hoped for and more….and it was EXHAUSTING! I was so worn out afterwards both physically and emotionally. I came home and rested for a few days before getting back to my usual schedule, which turned out to be anything but usual and especially busy pretty quickly. I decided it was the perfect time to take a short self-care break and visit family, especially considering it was so close to Thanksgiving (though it had just passed).

For the next several days, I will be in the company of my family, taking extra good self-care and being gentle with myself, relaxing and not doing much, and simply enjoying the moment instead of being so busy both physically and emotionally. I am so fortunate to be able to have this time to be able to do this.

Self-care is so essential to recovery. I have learned it is absolutely necessary for me to sustain my recovery and be able to avoid being too vulnerable to emotional upsets, triggers, etc. I take every opportunity I can to take good self-care of myself because I know that it will not only make me happy but make me stronger.

Do something good for yourself, whatever that is for you. Take a break when you need it. Have a treat, go to the beach, listen to your favorite song, or whatever it is that your heart desires that makes you happy.

Take good self-care! 🙂

A Letter to the First Lady

Dear First Lady Michelle Obama,

I heard that you will be appearing on the Biggest Loser to promote your Drink More Water campaign.  At first, I was shocked and frustrated.  I wondered why you would promote a campaign for healthy choices and behaviors on a show that only promotes unhealthiness, unattainable weight loss, and weight shaming and bullying.  But then I started to feel sad.  I felt sad because I know what it is to experience weight-based stigma and bullying and how for me that turned into a deadly eating disorder.

I used to watch the Biggest Loser when it first started.  Back then I was very overweight and hated my body.  I watched every week as these contestants lost incredible, impossible amounts of weight while being screamed at.  I thought, ‘Why can’t I lose that much weight?‘  I tried and tried and failed.  I could not understand why I could not “motivate” myself through the punishment/bullying model I watched on the Biggest Loser.

I had no idea at the time that it was not a way to lose weight.  I only knew that I was desperate and would do anything–anything–to lose weight.  I believed after experiencing weight-based stigma, shame, and bullying throughout my entire adolescence, only that would work to make weight loss permanent and that I had to lose the weight and be thin in order to be good enough and loved.  There was no other option.  It was out of this desperation and body-hate that my life took a disastrous turn.

It was only after I stopped watching the Biggest Loser that I started to really lose weight.  It was in a healthy way at first with small, doable, and mindful changes.  It was a slow but steady process.  However, it was not long before unhealthy behaviors took over.

I followed the Biggest Loser’s model for motivation and weight loss and bullied, shamed, and hated my body in order to lose more and more weight as fast as I could.  Combined with my obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), it developed into an eating disorder.  Due in part to sources such as this show, I overexercised, purged, and restricted all in the hopes of never feeling the pain and despair again and feeling instead that if I were thin, I would be lovable and good enough.  I chased that dream nearly to the grave because I never knew that loving yourself was possible if you were not thin or that you were good enough just as you are.  I thought that, like on the show, if I was fat, I deserved to be treated badly.

To this day, I fight back demons telling me I am not good enough, thin enough, lovable enough, tall enough, etc.  However, as I have discovered in my journey of recovery, it is of paramount importance to love and accept yourself and that neither health nor worth is determined by a number on a scale or the size of your clothes.  I make a conscious effort daily to remind myself of that.

First Lady Obama, shows like the Biggest Loser that promote body-hate and shame.  The trainers constantly yell and scream at their trainees and shame them into continuing to workout.  It is the stereotypical abusive relationship–they abuse, they come back, explain why it was in the best interest of the abused to be treated that way, and then they do it again.  Sadly, the media seems to believe this is the right way to get people to lose weight and that has influenced what so many of my peers believed would “work” too (or maybe they simply enjoyed poking fun at my body).  It is shameful.  What people do not realize and what I did not realize is that it does not “work”.

Instead of teaching the contestants to love and accept themselves and strive towards true health, these trainers shame them for being fat, “losing control” of their eating and weight, and set them on a series of unhealthy behaviors and unrealistic weight loss.  The participants are not taught that they are beautiful for who they are, just that they must to lose weight.  It is truly a flawed show.  Additionally, the Biggest Loser portrays each contestant in a grotesque manner.  For example, during every weigh-in, each wears nearly nothing as if to shame them even more because their bodies are on display for all to see.  Simply, the Biggest Loser ensures the contestants feel shame and hate towards their bodies.

I hope you reconsider appearing on the Biggest Loser because the nature of the show is so unhealthy and based in weight shame and bullying.  Promoting health and wellness deserves a national stage that includes body acceptance and love to facilitate healthy living, not a life based in fear or shame.  It is only then that we can start making a change so that individuals like me do not have to go through so much body hatred and shame and turn to eating disorders in order to attempt to no longer be “fat” and be subjected to the bullying we endure daily.

Please, First Lady Michelle Obama, do not appear on the Biggest Loser.

Thank you,

Kristin Bulzomi

Kristin Bulzomi

Last (But Not Least) Day: NEDA Conference 2013

It was the last day of the Conference today.  And another wonderful day at that.  How amazing is it to be amongst some of the most incredible people in the field and people in recovery and their family.  I am so incredibly fortunate and grateful to have had this opportunity to learn and connect throughout the entire weekend and connect with these individuals and organizations.  I am a better, stronger person for it.

I was especially moved today by the first general session of the day, which was a family panel.  Each of the speakers discussed how an eating disorder has personally affected them whether it has been their eating disorder, their daughter’s, or their partner’s.  It was so amazing to hear from a range of people and stories and know the likeness between them that connect us and the differences that are unique to everyone’s eating disorder experience that we can all learn from and grow from.  It was moving to me to hear those aspects of similarity that I could relate to as well as reflect on the differences.  It was also so helpful to hear the perspectives of a father and a significant other of a sufferer despite not knowing what it is to be either.  I could find hope in knowing the continued love and support in their voices and talks.

It is such a weird feeling that the conference is over.  It seems surreal as if the whole thing was a dream and that the conference will be on tomorrow, too.  I wish it were true.  I am, however, ready for next year or for the next conference I may attend.

This conference has made such an impact on my life.  I have grown so much because of it.  I am sincerely, incredibly, deeply grateful to NEDA for this opportunity to grow, learn, and connect.  This was so much more than I could have ever imagined and hoped for.

Writing, Advocacy, and Networking–Oh My!: NEDA Conference 2013

Once again I am at a loss for words.  This conference has been so incredibly amazing and inspiring for me.  I simply cannot express how excited, happy, and grateful I am for all the connections, opportunities, people, etc. here.  It has been one of the most incredible, awesome, amazing, inspiring, hopeful experiences of my life.  How awesome is it that I am here and in recovery to experience this!

I have connected with former treatment centers and providers, various organizations, people from Twitter, and quite a few people from the NEDA organization.  I am blown away by the response I have received and the people I have been able to meet.  I never thought I would ever make it to this place and meet these people/organizations, but I have.  And I have been able to say how wonderful and in recovery I am.  How incredible is that!  I am able to share my story and the joys of experiencing recovery and what it is to tell others about it.

No words can truly express how amazing I feel at this moment or how deeply I feel it.  No words can express how much I have enjoyed my time here and connecting with all of these people and organizations.  The connections and networks that I am starting to build are absolutely astounding and beyond what I imagined.  I am so grateful and excited to see where each of them take me in the future.

One thing that touches me so much is re-connecting with my former treatment center, Eating Recovery Center.  I have been able to speak with my former doctors, share with them how well I have been doing in recovery, and let them know how much ERC has meant to me in my recovery.  That is truly one of the most amazing aspects of this conference–connecting with former providers.  It means so much to be able to look at them from a place of recovery and joy and say thank you.  It is so incredibly meaningful and simply happy.  I am eternally grateful to these doctors and to ERC for helping me on my path to recovery.

I am so grateful to NEDA for this opportunity.  It has truly been life-changing and inspiring in so many ways.  I could never say thank you enough.

Lobbying and Orientation and the Best Day Ever: NEDA Conference 2013

Today has been unbelievable.  I am blown away by the incredible, amazing people I am surrounded by and the absolutely astounding things that I have done and it is only day one.  This is even more than I had expected.  These people are much more than I expected.

Our day today was focused on lobbying congress for eating disorders.  It was truly an incredible experience.  I shared my story with five staff members of my congressmen/women/senator and even was able to meet two (the senator and a congresswoman).  How amazing!  I even discovered I knew one of the staffers, which went to my high school and graduated with my brother!

Not only that, but, while on the hill, I managed to run into Charlie Rangel from New York and, more importantly, the Al Franken!  Regardless of politics, meeting the man from SNL is beyond amazing.  He was so gracious despite us being on the “senator-only” elevator.  I think me freaking out over meeting him helped that situation!

I have met so many amazing individuals and professionals here as well.  I have networked with so incredible people that I have only dreamed of meeting.  I cannot wait to see where these connections may lead in the future.  There is so much hope in so many of those relationships.

No matter what, I am touched by each person.  Everyone and their stories are so helpful.  It is amazing the feedback and the exchange of ideas I have received from simply speaking at random to others.  There is so much to learn and so much to understand.  I want to consume all that I can.

I have also been so incredibly touched to see former treatment team members from both of the treatment centers I have been to.  It was incredible to see someone from the treatment center I attended for a mere 26 days over 3 years ago remember me and ask me how I was.  I am so happy to be able to say how well I am doing and what I am doing with my recovery.  I also saw once again one of my treatment providers from my most recent treatment center.  I adore this person.  I am so happy to be able to see them once more and share how well I am doing and be able to say once again that I have improved.  Not only that, but I am in the place in recovery I am now and doing the things that I am doing at this time.  It makes me feel so good inside to be able to say, without lying or stretching the truth, that, yes, I am doing very well and I am solid in recovery.

Tomorrow we start with the sessions and the conference really gets going.  I am so incredibly excited.  I cannot wait to continue to see and meet people I know and do not know and learn more and more.  I am so excited to be here and to be in the place I am at in my life and that has never been more true than in this moment right now.  I know I am doing the right thing with my life by writing this blog and sharing my recovery.  There is no doubt in my heart that I am meant to be doing this and that this is what I am supposed to be doing.  I feel it so deeply right now.

I am so very happy I cannot express it any other way except through this and an incredible amount of adjectives!  I hope you all are well, too.

Leaving on a Jet Plane: NEDA Conference 2013

Today is the day I leave for the NEDA Conference 2013.  I can hardly believe that the day is finally here.  I have been preparing and packing for weeks now both mentally and physically.  It has taken up a lot of my time, which is why I have been so occupied and away from both my blog and Twitter.

For me, a trip is not simply a matter of packing a day or two beforehand and flying off to my destination.  It takes planning and preparation that is caused by my eating disorder history, my current OCD behaviors, and a lack of clothing that needed to be purchased.  All those things are time consuming especially considering I cannot always accomplish everything on my own.

But I have made it.  Through help, extra work during therapy and dietitian appointments, and several shopping trips reassuring myself on wearing what is comfortable, I have made it.  I managed to overcome necessary hurdles such as meal, packing, and clothes shopping stress; giving myself permission to nap, snack, etc. while on my trip; keeping my expectations in-check; and accepting that there is only so much I can plan and prepare for and knowing I did enough.

None of it was easy.  At times it was quite hard.  My OCD screamed and fought.  I know, however, that it will be okay.  I have the tools I need—I mostly did already.  I need to continue to reassure myself in my ability to cope and the strength I already possess.  I need to belief that I can do great things because I can.

It is amazing all the things that I have overcome to get to this point in my life.  I have gone through so much and have come out on the “other side”.  If I can fight so hard for recovery through all those things that I have faced, then going on an amazing trip to the NEDA Conference is easy.  And, in the end, I was not chosen for a scholarship for the conference for nothing.  I am not going for nothing.  I am going because of my recovery.  The recovery I fought for.  The recovery I still fight for.  The recovery I believe in so much.  The recovery I hope everyone can have themselves.

I can do this.  I can always do this.

See you at the NEDA Conference!

My Week: Coping with the Stress

It has been far too long since my last post.  I have been so busy lately with Weight Stigma Awareness Week, my job, therapy, getting prepared both mentally and physically for my trip to DC for the NEDA Conference that is now less than a week away, and various family obligations.  I have had little time to breathe or take a break.

These last few weeks have definitely tested my ability to cope with stress and anxiety, especially without turning to my eating disorder or my OCD.  Although I have managed to stave off the eating disorder, it is so much harder with my OCD at the moment.  It is without the eating disorder that my OCD is so much louder.  I am grateful, however, that at least I am doing better with a few OCD behaviors.

One thing that has especially been on my mind as of late is what I wrote for Weight Stigma Awareness Week.  It has brought up a lot of emotions and memories for me that are not particularly pleasant.  It reminds me of my childhood and all the comments that were made (even the ones I failed to mention) and of the time before and during my eating disorder.  It reminds me of all those times of pain, sadness, loneliness, and isolation and only those few brief moments of some happiness and acceptance by my peers.

Of course, that is not the whole story, but my emotional mind goes straight to that as all the story is–sadness and pain versus happiness and how my weight must be a factor in it.  It is hard for my logical brain to interrupt these thoughts and remind my self that this is not the truth and that my weight has nothing to do with me as a person and there were other things going on that effected my emotional state such as my bipolar disorder, which played a huge factor at the time.  I wish it were as easy as knowing it in my heart and emotional mind as it is logically.

The memories, too, have challenged me.  I have put some to rest, but others I have not.  It is a work in progress to overcome the bullying as a child/adolescent and the ruined relationships as an adult in college.  It is not as easy as “sticks and stones”.  It is learning to trust others again; building new, healthy, and healthier relationships; and working through the pain of the past to move on to the now.  None of it is easy.

I have a lot to work on at the moment, a lot on my mind.  I can do it though.  Always! 🙂