8 Goals for 2018

Every year despite the amount of blog posts I have been able to make, I create my goals for the new year.   This will be no different.  Hopefully I will find the time and energy to write the post I really want to about all the changes and transitions happening in my life right now and what the start of the new year means for me.

As always, these goals are changeable.  This time of year is rife with “new year, new you” and “new year’s resolutions” rhetoric, but these goals are different.  Instead of a resolution that I must achieve or else I am a failure, these goals represent what I hope to accomplish in the new year with the knowledge that life happens and things change and with that, so do my goals.

  1. Write – My writing is personal in nature and requires a lot of emotional and mental energy.  I have found it very difficult to write if I do not have the energy.  I make it my goal every year to write more and each year I feel like I fail regardless of my intention to not make my goals absolute.  Since writing is so important to me and is something I want to do in the future, I feel much more critical of myself for “failing” to accomplish my goal.  This year I truly hope to feel as though I accomplished writing more.  I think being in school is a good opportunity to really get back to my writing.
  2. Relationships – I am lonely.  I have wanted to write a post about my lack of friend relationships since graduating from university all those years ago, but I have yet to find the courage for such a post.  I think being an adult and finding friends is rather difficult.  I think the feelings of loneliness are amplified by social media where everyone looks to be out having fun and living the life.  I want to make the goal of finding more friends in my life and fostering the relationships I do have so that I have more people in my every day life than my family and partner.
  3. Self-care – Some days I am so good about taking good self-care, others I am terrible.  I think it is even more difficult now that I am in school again where attendance is mandatory and will effect my grade to the point of failure of a course.  It has been hard transitioning from being able to take a self-care or sick day when I needed at my prior job to now going to class no matter what because my grade will be effected.  I need to work on finding more and different ways of self-care that work around this insane policy.
  4. Planning – I have been doing a lot of thinking about my future in the past several months.  Is this program the right program?  Should I stay in school or find a career now?  Do I even go to graduate school?  It is a lot of think about and a lot to contemplate on my own.  I still have not quite figured out the answer, but I think I am getting closer.  I think the path I am currently on with getting a second degree is the right path and will lead my to my ultimate goal of a pants-free, stay-at-home career.
  5. Body – Another blog post that I need to write is on my body image.  It has been a tough transition from my eating disorder back to nearly the same body I was in before it.  I have been struggling for many years as the weight I lost during my disorder returned and how my body compares to others who are in recovery/recovered.  I really need to focus myself on not necessarily loving my body, but simply being neutral about it.  Some may frown upon the idea of body neutrality, but I think that is enough of a goal for me and what I feel I can accomplish in the future.  Maybe one day I can love my body, but my main goal is to simply stop hating it.
  6. Struggles – I have been without much therapy at all for a little over a year and there are few if any resources where I am now living.  It is hard to go from therapy a couple days per week to none at all.  I want to acknowledge how well I have been doing and at the same time acknowledge how difficult certain things still are.  My goal this year is to reach out when I need help and continue to work on my own through my struggles and issues.
  7. School – I was awesome this past fall.  I realize that I am in undergraduate courses and some lower level undergraduate courses, but I still had the best semester I have ever had in all my years of school.  My goal is to remind myself of how smart I am, how well I have done thus far, and continue to do well.
  8. Organization – I have had difficulty organizing since my move, whether that is organizing my time or my space.  I really want to try to better organize my life so that I can accomplish all that I want to accomplish and have the space in which to do it.  It may feel unobtainable at times given my time constraints and whatnot, but I know I can make little changes that will impact the overall goal.

Weight Stigma and Bias Research Paper

I had an assignment this semester in my English class to write a research paper.  We could pick any topic, so I chose Weight Stigma and Bias.  I feel proud of what I wrote, so I want to share it here in a blog post.  It is a long paper with a lot of references, so be prepared.  Here we go!


Weight Stigma and Bias

Weight stigma and weight bias refer to the prejudice, discrimination, and stigma experienced by individuals based on that individual’s weight.  This discrimination can happen in every facet of life including employment, education, healthcare, relationships, and the media (Lee & Pausé, 2016; Puhl & King, 2013; Phelan et al., 2015; Washington, 2011; Puhl & Brownell, 2001; Blodorn, Major, Hunger, & Miller, 2016; Carr & Friedman, 2005).  Individuals can experience stigma and bias through bullying, shaming, and discrimination.  According to the Binge Eating Disorder Association, “Weight stigma depends upon three basic suppositions: thin is always preferable, thin is always possible, and thin people are better people,” (Pershing, 2013).  This is known as the thin ideal and it is socially and culturally validated by the media, clothing stores, furniture and architectural design, etc.

The media promotes the thin ideal on extreme weight loss television such as The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss where contestants are put on unhealthy extreme diets and exercise routines to lose drastic amounts of weight in short time spans.  In the case of The Biggest Loser, contestants are shamed for their weight through forcing contestants to wear barely-there outfits to weigh-ins and yelling at contestants throughout the competition, especially during workout scenes, to “inspire” them to exercise and lose weight.  This idea that shame can promote weight loss is especially present in the show despite research showing stigma and shame result in the opposite effect including weight gain, ill health effects, and negative psychological consequences (Pearl, Puhl, & Dovidio, 2014; Nolan & Eshleman, 2016).  Additionally, following the show, most contestants regain a significant amount of the weight lost and show signs of metabolic slowing with those contestants with more long-term weight loss showing greater metabolic slowing (Fothergill et al., 2016).  This is because of the dangerous, unhealthy, and unrealistic tactics used in the show to promote weight loss.

The thin ideal is also promoted in the media using ultra-thin models in magazines and runways.  The average American women is a size 16-18 (Christel & Dunn, 2016) while the average fashion model is much smaller and growing even smaller over time from weighing 8% less than the average women twenty years ago to weighing 23% less in 2012 (Jones, 2012).  Even the size of plus fashion models is decreasing from averaging between a size 12-18 ten years ago to a size 6-14 in 2012 (Jones, 2012).  The average size of a fashion model has decreased in size despite research suggesting that average-size models are more effective and do not have the same negative effect on body dissatisfaction (Diedrichs & Lee, 2010; Diedrichs & Lee, 2011; Bartlett, Vowels, & Saucier, 2008; Dittmar & Howard, 2004).  These differences can be seen when comparing models in older magazines to those today.

Research suggests that the thin ideal and the media negatively impacts individuals.  In a study of adult women by Grabe, Ward, and Hyde (2008) on body image concerns and the media, the study found a correlation between exposure to the media and the thin ideal and body image concerns.  These results were similar in study by Field et al. (1999), who studied this effect in girls.  In the Field et al. (1999) study, “The frequency of reading fashion magazines was positively associated with the prevalence of having dieted to lose weight, having gone on a diet because of a magazine article, exercising to lose weight or improve body shape, and deciding to exercise because of a magazine article,” (p. 3).  The negative effects of the media were also present in a study by Barlett, Vowels, and Saucier (2008) who studied the media’s effect on men and found the men in the study felt pressure from the media and this pressure correlated with negative body image.  These studies support the idea that the media and the thin ideal have a deleterious effect on viewers.

The thin ideal in the media is also present in social media.  In a study conducted by Mingoia, Hutchinson, Wilson, and Gleaves (2017) on the relationship of social media and the thin ideal found a positive correlation between social media use and internalization of the thin ideal.  Mabe, Forney, and Keel (2014) in their study of Facebook use and disordered eating found that increased Facebook use was correlated with greater disordered eating.  Both studies show the negative effect of social media on its users with correlations between the use of social media and body image.

Fashion further reinforces that thinness is the ideal through clothing retailers.  In the US, clothing sizes in the average women’s clothing retailer range from 0-12/14 (straight size) with plus size starting at 14/16.  The average women’s clothing retailer does not make clothes for the average woman.  The average woman instead must shop at retailers who carry plus size clothing, which can be hit or miss.  Simply because a retailer carries plus-size options does not mean that those options are fashionable, stocked, or priced the same as straight size even within the same store (Banjo, 2016; Bellafante, 2010; Cheng, 2017; Hanbury, 2017; Reagan, 2015).  However, there is reason for hope.  The plus size market is continuing to see a growth in annual sales and the growth is larger than that of straight sizes (Banjo, 2016; Hanbury, 2017; Reagan, 2015).  While there may be a growth in sales, a widespread change in the industry has yet to happen.

This sizing for smaller bodies is also present in furniture design.  The design of seating, for example, is not always created to accommodate larger bodies (MacVean, 2010; Park, 2012).  This is present in restaurant booths, chairs with arms, and airplane seats where larger bodies may or may not fit.  This reinforces and promotes the idea that all bodies must fit a certain size.  Though there is change occurring in the industry with increasing options for accommodating furniture (MacVean, 2010; Park, 2012), the industry still has a long way to go, especially in regards to airplane seats, which are shrinking in size rather than increasing (Associated Press, 2017; White, 2017).

This culture of thinness and shame creates even more shame and stigma.  From 1995-1996 to 2004-2006, discrimination based on weight increased the most when comparing weight/height, race, age, gender, and ethnicity discrimination rates (Andreyeva, Puhl, & Brownell, 2008).  In that study, weight-based discrimination increased the most over that time span.  There were comparable results in a study by Latner and Stunkard (2003), who studied the stigma of childhood obesity.  The study showed children various drawings of children from healthy to disabled to obese and compared the reactions from 1961 and 2002.  The results of the study were that children in both 1961 and 2002 liked the drawing of the obese child the least and the bias against the obese image increased from 1961 to 2002 (Latner & Stunkard, 2003).

And yet people are not getting any thinner.  The weight of adults and children has increased from the 1980s to the 2000s (Flagel et al., 2002; Ogden et al., 2006).  People are subscribing to this thin ideal and turning to things like the weight loss market to avoid the stigma and shame with being overweight (“U.S. Weight Loss Market To Reach $58 Billion in 2007”, 2007).  The more people weigh, the more weight stigma there is.  The more weight stigma there is, the more people weigh.  In a study done by Stevens et al. (2016), “…an increase in BMI was associated with a significant increase in lifetime weight stigmatization,” with “…weight status directly affect[ing] psychological outcomes.”  Weight stigma begets weight stigma.

In a study by Ashmore, Friedman, Reichmann, and Mustante (2008) on the correlations between weight stigma, psychological distress, and binge eating behavior, the results suggested that weight stigma predicts psychological distress and binge eating behavior.  Comparable results are found in O’Brien et al. (2016) who studied the relationship between weight stigma and eating behavior.  The O’Brien et al. study found, “…weight stigma was significantly associated with all measures of disordered eating, and with weight bias internalization and psychological distress,” (p. 70).  These results of weight stigma correlating with psychological distress and eating disturbances are consistent throughout the literature (Stevens et al., 2017; Nolan & Eshlemann, 2016; Vartanian & Porter, 2016; Puhl & King, 2013; Thompson et al., 1995; Stice, Marti, & Durant, 2011).  The consensus from these studies is that weight stigma has negative consequences.

The negative psychological consequences of weight stigma and bias include body image dissatisfaction, depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, and other psychological issues (Puhl & King, 2013; Durso & Latner, 2008; Ashmore, Friedman, Reichmann, & Mustante, 2008; O’Brien et al., 2016; Vartanian & Porter, 2016).  These negative psychological effects can result in internalization of the stigma and declines in physiological health including causing unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders (Culbert, Racine, & Klump, 2015; Durso et al., 2011; Durso & Latner, 2008; O’Brien et al, 2016; Webb & Hardin, 2016).

Weight stigma’s negative impact on body image and eating behaviors are supported by eating disorder research, which suggests a correlation between weight stigma and body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders (Culbert, Racine, & Klump, 2015; Stice, Gau, Rohde, & Shaw, 2017; Stice, Marti, & Durant, 2011; Thompson et al., 1995).  In a study done by Stice, Marti, and Durant (2011), “…body image dissatisfaction was the strongest predictor of risk of onset of any eating disorder,” (p. 7).  Though the research suggests a correlation, none of the studies referenced found any causation.

Weight stigma and bias exist because of the thin ideal.  The thin ideal is socially and culturally validated, which reinforces weight stigma and perpetuates the negative physical and psychological effects of this unattainable ideal.  Men, women, and children all face negative consequences because of the thin ideal and weight stigma.  Perhaps if the thin ideal was debunked and denounced, individuals would no longer suffer from the negative effects and one risk factor of eating disorders would be eliminated.

 

References

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Ashmore, Friedman, Reichmann, & Musante. (2008). Weight-based stigmatization, psychological distress, & binge eating behavior among obese treatment-seeking adults. Eating Behaviors, 9(2), 203-209.

Associated Press. (2017, July 29).  ‘Incredible shrinking airline seat’: US court says seat size a safety issue.  The Guardian.  Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jul/29/incredible-shrinking-airline-seat-us-court-says-seat-size-a-safety-issue.

Banjo, S. (2016, May 10). Retailers Ignore Most of America’s Women. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2016-05-10/plus-size-could-save-retailers

Barlett, C. P., Vowels, C. L., & Saucier, D. A. (2008). Meta-Analyses of the Effects of Media Images on Mens Body-image Concerns. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27(3), 279-310. doi:10.1521/jscp.2008.27.3.279

Bellafante, G. (2010, July 28). Plus-Size Wars. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/magazine/01plussize-t.html

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Carr, D., & Friedman, M. A. (2005). Is Obesity Stigmatizing? Body Weight, Perceived Discrimination, and Psychological Well-Being in the United States. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46(3), 244-259. doi:10.1177/002214650504600303

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Christel, D. A., & Dunn, S. C. (2016). Average American women’s clothing size: comparing National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (1988–2010) to ASTM International Misses & Women’s Plus Size clothing. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 10(2), 129-136. doi:10.1080/17543266.2016.1214291

Culbert, K. M., Racine, S. E. and Klump, K. L. (2015), Research Review: What we have learned about the causes of eating disorders – a synthesis of sociocultural, psychological, and biological research. J Child Psychol Psychiatr, 56: 1141–1164. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12441

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Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Ogden CL, Johnson CL. Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2000. JAMA. 2002;288(14):1723–1727. doi:10.1001/jama.288.14.1723

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Jones, M. (2015, August 25). Plus Size Bodies, What Is Wrong With Them Anyway? Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://www.plus-model-mag.com/2012/01/plus-size-bodies-what-is-wrong-with-them-anyway/

Latner, J. D. and Stunkard, A. J. (2003), Getting Worse: The Stigmatization of Obese Children. Obesity Research, 11: 452–456. doi:10.1038/oby.2003.61

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Mingoia, J., Hutchinson, A. D., Wilson, C., & Gleaves, D. H. (2017). The Relationship between Social Networking Site Use and the Internalization of a Thin Ideal in Females: A Meta-Analytic Review. Frontiers in Psychology8, 1351. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01351

Nolan, & Eshleman. (2016). Paved with good intentions: Paradoxical eating responses to weight stigma. Appetite, 102, 15-24.

O’Brien, Kerry S., Latner, Janet D., Puhl, Rebecca M., Vartanian, Lenny R., Giles, Claudia, Konstadina, Griva, Carter, Adrian. (2016). The relationship between weight stigma and eating behavior is explained by weight bias internalization and psychological distress. Appetite, 102, 70-76.

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Pearl, R. L., Puhl, R. M., & Dovidio, J. F. (2014). Differential effects of weight bias experiences and internalization on exercise among women with overweight and obesity. Journal of Health Psychology, 20(12), 1626-1632. doi:10.1177/1359105313520338

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Thompson, K. A., Kelly, N. R., Schvey, N. A., Brady, S. M., Courville, A. B., Tanofsky-Kraff, M., . . . Shomaker, L. B. (2017). Internalization of appearance ideals mediates the relationship between appearance-related pressures from peers and emotional eating among adolescent boys and girls. Eating Behaviors, 24, 66-73. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2016.12.008

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Endings and New Beginnings

–I had written this post before, but it got lost. Here is attempt #2.–

Today is the last day of operation of FxMcRory’s. I am more emotional about it’s closure than I thought I would be.

I worked here many years ago as a food runner during Seattle sports gamedays. Located nearby the stadiums, FxMcRory’s is a popular bar and restaurant with over 40 years of operation. It has a reputation of being the tailgate location before games, especially the Seahawks, where the bar fills up by 9-10am and there are wall-to-wall people.

The years I worked here were very busy and when I was at my most ill. I spent many days struggling to make it through the up to 10-12 hour shifts with few breaks. I was anxious, stressed, and sick most every day I worked. It was some of the roughest years of my life.

But working here and those years in my life were not all bad. Between the stresses of my job and my eating disorder and anxiety, I also entered my recovery. I went from struggling to make it through my days and shifts to thriving and moving forward with the rest of my life.

This place, this bar, is my constant reminder of the struggle of where I started and the joy of where I am going. I look around here at this place and those memories and I am reminded that I have grown so much and I have so much ahead of me. Where I used to barely get by, I now thrive. This was the end of the pain and sadness of my eating disorder and the beginning of my recovery.

As it closes, I too close a chapter in my life. I am transitioning from the beginnings of my recovery into the next stage of my life–going to school again and getting a second Bachelor’s degree. I do not know exactly what is ahead of me, but I am reminded what is behind. I feel grief, relief, sorrow, and triumpth. I know that the past may have been difficult, but my future is here and now and I cannot wait to see what will happen and what I will experience.

A salute to endings and new beginnings! Goodbye FxMcRory’s and hello Washington State University and my future!

Politics: Healthcare

Today is a very difficult day for me.  It is a difficult day for so many people.  We are entering an unknown period of time with a new US president and a GOP controlled congress.  Their goals are not necessarily the goals of the majority of the American people and it is scary.  No one knows what will happen, what the president and congress can or will accomplish, and no one can say that everything will be okay.

And it scares me.

I rely on healthcare and the mandates of the Affordable Care Act.  There are so many people in America who do.  It was a lifesaver covering me because of my mental health pre-existing conditions, erasing lifetime limits, and covering me on my parents health plans until I was 26.  I rely on the mandate that people are required to purchase healthcare to keep costs down for everyone because the more healthy people that purchase healthcare, the cheaper it is for all of us.  These healthy people who use their insurance less, keep costs through paying into the system and not using their health insurance as frequently as others.  When so many healthy people did not buy into this system and instead choose to pay the fine, my premiums and so many other’s rose.

The law is not perfect.  Definitely not.  For instance, with the ACA I qualify for subsidies and plans that would not meet my needs as a person who needs to utilize my plan often.  Therefore, I need to purchase a plan outside of the exchange and usually it means only being able to choose between two companies in the state of Washington.  Neither plan necessarily meets my full needs because I use in-network and out of network care and the deductible for out of network are always ridiculous even on the best plans available.

I am lucky.  I can purchase outside of the exchange.  I have the financial ability to do so when so many do not.  They may have healthcare but these deductibles in the ACA that are too outrageous to make it worthwhile.

The logical thing would be to make the law better or replace it with universal healthcare, which would be a single-payer system.  But the current people in power do not see healthcare as a human right, only a right of the privileged few who can pay.  They will do what they can to destroy what is good about the law, not replace it with something better, and those like me who rely on healthcare will be left wondering what to do next, which is paying for basic needs like housing and gas and our doctors and medication.

And this is what terrifies me.  It is not only that my healthcare is at jeopardy–it is the healthcare of millions.  People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake all in the name of partisan politics and money.  Disproportionately it is the lives and livelihoods of poor and minority households that will be affected by a repeal and already struggle to afford healthcare under the ACA because of huge deductibles and rising premiums.  It is because rich white men in government do not care about people who are not other rich white men and blatantly lie about their true motives to continue to get elected by an electorate that is (sometimes) well-intentioned yet uninformed.

 

7 Goals for 2017 & Update

I cannot believe how quickly 2016 came and went.

There has been so much going on in my life over the past many months since my last entry.  I have tried writing many times, but I have been interrupted or became too busy to finish posts.  While it is not a bad thing to get busy with life, it does make me sad that I have neglected my blog so much recently.

I am going to work in the next couple weeks on making updates on what has been going on in my life since my last entry.  One update in particular is so big that it definitely needs its own blog post.  Keep an eye out for those.

Since it is 2017 and I always like to make goals (whether I achieve them or not) for each new year, here are my 7 goals for 2017:

  1. Write: I always have all of these great ideas in the car, shower, and at work but never can find the time to actually write!  I really want to work on creating more space and time for myself for writing.
  2. Keep working on my issues: I still have things I need to work on, places where I can improve, etc.  I am always a work in progress.
  3. Prepare myself for Fall: There are new beginnings happening in the fall.  I need to prepare myself as much as I can for the changes ahead.
  4. Resources: Ensure I have the resources I need to accomplish what I want to.
  5. Relationships: Continue to invest in the relationships I have and build new ones.
  6. Next step: Keep working towards the next step in my life, whatever that may be–grad school, career, etc.
  7. Stay positive: Re-frame, re-frame, re-frame! #CBT

ICED 2016 Wrap-Up: Advocate/Blogger Perspective

I have never been to ICED before and it was a bit of a shock.  Unlike the NEDA Conference, which I usually go to, this one is a lot more academic and focused on research and clinicians.  It was also a lot bigger with roughly double NEDA’s usual attendance.  As a current non-student and introvert, I felt intimidated and overwhelmed.  I realized over the course of the 4 days I was there that my feelings were not unique (a lot of people have the same feelings) and that really I was in the right place–I belong at ICED and in AED.

Despite my fears, the conference was incredible.  It was everything that I was hoping that it was going to be, but feared expecting of it.  I was able to learn tons and network with the people I needed to.  It was the richest experience from a conference that I have had in a while and it makes me want to attend every ICED.

Plenaries, Workshops, and SIGs Oh My!

From the opening speaker, I knew the conference was going to be controversial.  To open ICED with a speaker formerly employed by Unilever speaking on her experience working for Unilever’s Dove brand and their Self-Esteem Project was bold.  It ended up sounding as positive as one can imagine.  Half the speech was a Unilever advertisement on the awesomeness of the company and the good that they are doing for society and the world (this is the same company that owns a skin-lighting cream and Axe body spray) and the second half was focused on the actual Dove Self-Esteem Project.  It was not a particular hit with the audience or me.  I am not a fan of this company (or any company) co-opting the body-positive movement for sales to begin with and this speech really reminded me of why.

The next day’s opening Plenary was just as controversial with phrases thrown about such as “obesity kills a lot of people” as if it were somehow even a fact or relevant at an eating disorders conference.  The presenters had some interesting things to say in general, but it was hard to listen when their speeches and studies had quite a bit of weight stigma and lacked diversity at all as though every individual with an eating disorder is a cis-gender white female.

Beyond the controversial plenaries and speakers, I went to some absolutely wonderful sessions.  It is those sessions that made my time at ICED so much more meaningful and inspiring.

The SIG Discussion Panel on eating disorder recovery was fascinating and thought-provoking.  Several presenters were questioning the definition of recovery and whether we can or should define it and ways to possibly define it.  It really made me think about how I have defined recovery, how the field defines recovery, and how society defines recovery.

That presentation really stuck with me throughout the weekend and this past week.  I have really been contemplating all the ways recovery is defined by not only myself, but others.  One of the great points brought up in the presentation was if it was actually a good thing to define recovery.  The reason for this was that others would feel as though if their recoveries did not look like those that it was just another way they did not measure up and how they have failed.  That made perfect sense to me.  I have been using the hashtag RecoverED for quite a while and I have used it as a definition for the outside world and others to know that I no longer have eating disorder behaviors and suffer from an eating disorder.  But what kind of message might that send to others who are still suffering?  What is RecoverED?  I think I need to change my message and go back to simply using the word ‘recovery’ and better define how my life is now post-eating disorder.

Another really meaningful session for me was the Trauma, PTSD, and Eating Disorders workshop on Saturday with Dr. Timothy Brewerton, Jenni Schaefer, and June Alexander.  June and Jenny shared their trauma, PTSD, and eating disorders journeys with the group and Dr. Brewerton provided the medical background for the session.  Jenni’s story in particular was one I could relate to and touched me deeply.  This topic of eating disorders and trauma is one of the issues I bring up often at conferences because of how common it seems to be in eating disorders and how deeply it has affected me in my life.  It does not seem to be on many provider’s or treatment center’s radars when it really should be.

I could not end this without discussing how amazing Plenary Session IV was on Saturday morning.  The plenary had a social justice focus and brought together some incredible speakers–Thereasa Fassihi, Chevese Turner, Ilan Meyer, Marcella Raimondo, Sigrun Danielsdottir, and Deb Burgard.  In this plenary, the social justice, marginalized voices, intersectionality, sexual and gender minorities, diversity, etc. topics were front and center.  It was clear from the opening that it was about not just who was in the room, but who was not in the room.  (From the demographics of the conference, that is an important thing to point out.)  The theme centered around who we are missing from the research and treatment and why.  The only thing that would have made this plenary better was if it was not relegated to the last day at 9am.  It should have been an opener for everyone to think about throughout the conference instead of something about half attended.  This topic is too important.

Networking

For me, conferences are not just about going to sessions.  It is a lot about networking.  Connections help me move forward and make what I do feel even more fulfilling.  I think that is why ICED was even more wonderful.  It was almost as though everyone got the same memo–attend ICED!  Nearly everyone who I am connected to went to ICED this year.

It is truly hard to describe what it feels like to be at the same conference with so many people who share your passion and drive with the same kinds of beliefs and desires.  It is a very validating experience and one that I do not get very often since I live in Seattle and far from many other advocates, organizations, conferences, etc.  It really fills up my soul to know that I am not alone not only in my experience but in my desire to make a shift in the conversation surrounding eating disorders.

This conference was special from any of the others that I have ever been to.  Instead of simply another conference experience, it was a culmination of all the conference experiences I have had and all the social networking I have done.  People knew who I was and wanted to connect with me and others who I had connected with wanted to connect even more.  It felt incredibly validating and made me feel happy, as if I had finally made it into this field that I have tried to insert myself into for so long.  I have been searching for that for quite a while and to find it is really hard to describe with words.  It is like finding your best friend you have pretty much everything in common with and you wonder how you never found them until now.  Like being recognized for your work with an award or recognition and everyone is ecstatic for you.  Like finally finding that validation that you needed so badly and feeling that relief that comes afterwards.  Or maybe even like enjoying your favorite dessert with your favorite people.

It was this finding my place and my people about ICED that really touched me and made the conference a success.  It is a big part of what I need to continue to do what I do and hopefully do more in the future.  Definitely not the only part, but a big piece.  I cannot wait to see everyone again and be even more inspired by and vocal about the workshops.

I hope to see you all BEDA 2016 Oct 27-29 in San Francisco (yes, also!), which I will be attending!

My Recovery Journey: Four Years Later

Four years ago today I was returning home following my second stay in residential treatment.  Today I am at the ICED conference preparing to network, learn, and figure out a next step in my life as I navigate working as a professional in this field.  It is incredible to look back each and every year and realize the changes that I have made and the hurdles I have overcome.  None of it was easy, some of it was incredibly painful and hard, but it has all been worth it to get to this point.  If I have made it this far in four years, I can only imagine where I will be in four more.

I hope that you, too, celebrate each and every accomplishment.  You are worth it.

ICED and Other Things

I am on my way to AED’s ICED Conference. I have been looking forward to going to this for an entire year, ever since I heard it would be in San Francisco. I am so excited that it has been hard to contain my excitement. I am also terrified because this conference is a big deal and going is yet another step towards working in this field and moving forward in my life as a whole.

ICED is going to be huge this year. It is double the attendance of NEDA in a usual year. It will be epic to say the least. I have to be on top of my game as well as well versed in who I am and why I am present. It is daunting and overwhelming. But at the same time, I will have so many people there that I know that I know I will be and feel supported. It is those individuals that really help the fear and apprehension that I feel in finally going to this conference.

Outside of going to this conference, I have been busy with family stuff, contemplating graduate school moves and/or future careers, working through important issues in my life, and thinking through plenty of blog topics. Of course whenever I think of blog topics, I am either in the shower, driving, or otherwise engaged, so it is impossible to write down my brilliant ideas. Hopefully I will get to writing some new things in the next few weeks/month or so. I have ideas regarding post-treatment life and some other treatment-related topics. I want to get a bit more academic in these posts since that’s where I am in life.

I cannot wait to update during the conference and post-conference. Don’t forget to follow my Twitter as I will be posting a lot of it there, too, including Donut Quest 2016! See you soon!

6 Goals for 2016

Hello again!  Forgive me for my absence.  The last 8 months or so have been hectic and crazy with a lot of change and transition going on in my life.  Time to get back to some blogging.

It is nearly the end of the year now and that means it is time for me to set some goals for the new year.  It is something I have been doing for many years now and I love doing it.  It keeps me focused on what I want to achieve and the things I am still striving towards.

Since it is about to be 2016, let’s do 6 for ’16!

  1. Write: I am really striving to write more.  I got out of the rhythm of blogging and let other things get in the way of it.  In 2016, I am going to make it a top goal to keep blogging, journaling, and tweeting.
  2. Work through my issues: I have things to work on—everyone does.  As with every year, I really want to keep working as hard as I can to overcome my issues.  I have confidence in myself.  I know I can do this.
  3. Continue and finish re-organizing my space: I finally have some new pieces for my space that I have needed desperately.  Now it is up to me to put it all together.  I really want to accomplish this and make my space even more my own and workable.
  4. Graduate school applications: I am finally going to apply to graduate school in 2016.  It will be a full-year commitment to get everything together to apply.  I have some of it done already, but there is still more to go.  Fingers crossed!
  5. Create a backup plan: If not graduate school, then what?  If I do not get in, what will be my next move?
  6. Keep reaching towards my goals: Sometimes I get really down on myself because I believe that I am not good enough for this or that, but I need to keep in mind that I am.  I need to keep reaching towards the things that I want instead of allowing other things to get in the way.

What are your goals for 2016?

Happy (almost) New Year everyone!

My Recovery Journey: Sharing My Story

Ever since I entered a solid recovery from my eating disorder, I felt a calling to have a voice in the field of eating disorders and mental health.  I felt that in order to reduce shame/stigma, increase awareness, and help spread the message of recovery, I needed to be a voice in the community—no, I had to be.  I knew that staying quiet about what I had experienced would keep me in a place of shame, stigma, and secrecy and I did not want that anymore.  I decided to create this blog and write in order to share my story.

I wanted to make a positive impact.  I wanted to pay-it-forward after receiving so much while I was in the throes of the eating disorder.  It is in sharing my story and doing advocacy that I have tried to do this.  With each positive feedback on my work, I know I am doing the right thing for me, that I have done what I have set out to do.

To not speak out for me would be keeping myself in secrecy and shame.  Instead of putting a face to this illness and a story of how I overcame what I did, I would be another individual in the shadows.  That is not what I wanted for my recovery and my journey.

It is a risk to share my story knowing that anyone can read what I have written.  But I do so unashamed of myself and where I have been and where I am now.  All those experiences–slips, falls, fails, setbacks–made me who I am.  They made me a stronger person.  It is those experiences that shine a light on this disease and the journey past them that give hope.

Not everyone makes the choice I did and not everyone has to.  That is the beauty of recovery–you get to choose what you want to be/do!

I do not regret my decision to speak out and share my story.  It has given me so many opportunities to connect with others, grow as a person, and learn.  It has been an extra push for me in my life to make it to the point in my life where I can now say I am recovered.  It is a constant inspiration to be not only a recovered person but the person who I am meant to become.

This blog is where I have been and where I am going.  And I am unashamed.