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Adult Eating Disorder Recovery

THE ART OF AFFIRMATIONS

 

Affirmations; statements said with confidence about a perceived truth. Affirmations have been a staple of self-help and self-improvement work for decades. They have helped so many people make significant changes in their lives; but they don't always work for everyone. Why can one person have great success using this tool, while another sees no results at all?

An affirmation can work, as it is based on the ability to program your mind into believing the stated concept. Fundamentally, the mind doesn't know the difference between what is real or fantasy. When you watch a movie and you start to laugh or cry, your mind is empathizing with the characters on the screen even though they are fiction.

Very often our negative self-talk actually comes  from negative affirmations. I'm sure many of us can remember as a child being told by a teacher, parent or partner that we didn't have the ability to do something or we were fat, clumsy, etc. These negative statements can stay with us in the conscious or unconscious mind, which we then reinforce throughout our lives through repeated exposure. 

Other negative self-talk, such as the fear of failure, according to Heinz Kohut (1913-1981) deemed the founder of self-psychology, is often intimately connected to a hard-wired childhood fear of being abandoned either physically or emotionally. “When we fear failure, we tend to overestimate the risk we're taking and imagine the worst possible scenario-the emotional equivalent of our primary caretakers deserting us.”  What we picture is so dreadful that we convince ourselves that we shouldn't even try to change. We avoid opportunities for success, and then, when we fail, the negative affirmation we unwittingly re-confirmed is "I will never succeed" or "This will never happen for me."

If such a negative belief is deeply rooted in our unconscious mind, then it has the power to override a positive affirmation even if we aren't aware of it. This is why, for many people affirmations don't seem to work, as their afflicted thought patterns are so strong that it knocks out the effect of the positive statement. What we are trying to do is over-write the old, negative thought with a positive, affirming one. So how can we add more muscle to an affirmation so it has the power to triumph over our negative thinking? Here are some suggestions on how to make them work for you. 

Step 1: Make a list of what you've always thought of as your negative qualities. Include any criticisms others have made of you that you've been holding onto; whether it's something your siblings, parents and peers used to say about you when you were a child, or what your boss told you in your last review. Don't judge them if they're accurate and remember, every human has flaws. Simply make a note of them and look for a common theme, such as "I'm unworthy." This will be a great place to start making a shift in your life. When you write out the recurring belief, notice if you are holding on to the negativity anywhere in your body, for example; do you feel tightness or dread in your chest or stomach? Ask yourself if this negative concept is at all helpful or productive in your life and if not, what would be.

Step 2: Now write out an affirmation on the positive aspect of your self-judgement. You may want to use a thesaurus to find more dynamic words to add power to your statement. For example, instead of saying, "I'm worthy." You could say, "I'm remarkable and cherished." After you have written your affirmation you can review it, or ask someone you trust to read it to see if they have any suggestions to make it stronger.

 

Step 3: Speak the affirmation out loud for about five minutes, three times a day - morning, mid day and evening. An ideal time to do this is when you're putting your make up or shaving so that you can look at yourself in the mirror as you repeat the positive statement, or to stick it up near you bed so you can read it as you're about to drop off to sleep. This relaxed state is perfect for retraining thought processes. Another option that helps to reinforce the new belief and would be easy to do at work is to write out the affirmation several times in a notebook. Notice over time as you write it if your style of writing changes. This could be a clue as to how your mind perceives the new concept and using a mindfulness journal helps to add strength to the positive affirmation.

Step 4: Anchor the affirmation in your body as you are repeating it, by placing your hand on the area that felt uncomfortable when you wrote out the negative belief in Step One. Also ‘breathe’ with the affirmation while you are saying or writing it. As you reprogram your mind, you want to move from the concept of the affirmation to a real, positive embodiment of the quality you seek. 

Step 5: An optional, but powerful step is to get a friend or coach to repeat your affirmation to you. As they are saying for example, "You are remarkable and cherished" identify this statement as good parenting messages. If you don't have someone who you feel comfortable asking, you can use your reflection in the mirror as the person who is reinforcing the healthy message.

Affirmations can be a powerful tool to help you change your mood, state of mind, and manifest the change you desire in your life. But they work best if you can first identify the negative belief that is opposing them. If you struggle to identify these negative thoughts and self-talk, then I recommend seeing a professional therapist to help you uncover what is buried deep in your unconscious and/or start a Mindfulness Meditation practice. Mindfulness Meditation is a very effective method to help you uncover your unconscious thought patterns and allows you to categorise them, identifying what is wholesome, negative and afflicted. Mindfulness is not about change, rather it's about the power and ability to accept first what is, then to adjust towards what is possible. Try it and see how your life can improve!

 

 Cate Lott

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Disordered Rules

"Breaking the Disordered Rules"

So here I sit at 12:20pm eating my lunch.

What is that ED? I’m not allowed to eat my lunch until 1pm?

‘No lunch before 1pm’ is just one of the many, many illogical rules that you force me to follow. I know how this works.

Because I have to leave for an appointment at 1, you want me to wait to eat lunch until after I return. You’re sneaky though because if I obey your first rule, you get to enforce another one of your rules; the ‘no eating a meal and snack in close succession’ rule. By eating my lunch much later, I will be eating too near afternoon snack time and therefore cannot then have afternoon snack as well. This means I skip a meal and end up not eating enough in my day.

That’s just what you want isn’t it? You want anything that is going to make me eat later than I should and as little as possible.

I always fall for your tricks; not realizing that it is just disordered little you, spouting your disordered nonsense. You put the fear of God in me if I even consider doing something different, so I listen to you and I follow your rules like the obedient little girl I am.

Today, I don’t want to eat my lunch at 3pm though. I will be so hungry by then that I won’t be able to think straight. That is when you like to strike again. You get into my head when I am weak and tell me all the things I can’t eat and why. My head gets pretty crowded and loud with both you and me in there arguing. Sometimes it gets so loud I can no longer decide what to eat, so I end up not eating anything at all and you win again.

Well, today I am deciding to break your rules. Every time I listen to you I end up going hungry. I’m hungry now and need to eat something, so it might as well be my lunch.

Yep, here I go. I’m biting in to my sandwich… at 12:20pm!

Just you watch me.

 

 

Navigating recovery while being in a body

Being in a body is a whole new thing for me.  It is completely different than merely, having a body.  I have had a body and to be honest, I tried to hide from it, most, if not all of my life. Writing that makes me sad. The human body is an amazing wonderful gift. The body allows us to be in life, to explore, discover and connect with people, nature and the world around us.

 

I will be honest and say that it is strange waking up seeing your body different. To be going through changes that you already went through as a teenager, except now I am an adult.  

 

Growing up, my Mom was not someone who spoke about the body, except to criticize her own, every once in a while. It wasn’t all the time but still, it put unhelpful thoughts into my head. I grew up not knowing what to expect in terms of my body changing, as my Mom never discussed anything with me. I learned everything on my own. I believe she was not comfortable with her body or how to talk about it because of her upbringing and I guess she thought I would figure it out. Once however, she gave me a something to read once otherwise I was on my own and shortly after my Eating Disorder (ED) crept in.

 

Thus; the whole being in a body thing is very new to me. To connect with it and not judge it, but to hear its needs, is all new. It is fascinating in some ways and curious in other ways. In the past, I grew fearful of my body changing and my ED made it into a big thing. The fact is, in life our bodies are constantly changing. Each day they are changing.  

 

We need not fear change but recognise that flowing with changes is part of life. It is learning to be with myself while things change and to stay compassionate. It is learning to not let my ED trick me and to not judge. The connection to the heart; being honest with ourselves is part of breaking free from ED.  

 

My Recovery Model

 

It’s been a while since I have seen my little brother. I say “little,” but he is actually 6ft2, a good 5 inches taller than me. Again, I say “little,” but he’s actually a 21 year old man now. Every time I see him, he seems to have grown. There is only 2 years difference in age between us. We grew up together. We both have brown hair and blue eyes and glasses. Yet, I have Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and he doesn’t.

I realised quickly that my brother has a lot to teach me about food and exercise.

If you ask him what a calorie is, he might just be able to tell you it has something to do with food, an ingredient perhaps..?

My brother doesn’t think about food for any other reason than because he is hungry. When he is hungry, he goes to the kitchen and gets what he wants to eat. This is regardless of the time of day. Regardless of what exercise he has done or will do, regardless of what he has already eaten or is going to eat. He doesn’t make choices based on “Healthy” or “unhealthy.” He just eats what sounds good at that moment. Sometimes that’s an apple and sometimes that’s a deep pan pizza from Domino’s.

My brother likes to relax. To sleep. To eat. To relax. He is in a road biking group with his friends at University. It’s a social activity and he enjoys it. He likes his fancy carbon fiber bike and fancy biking gear. He recently took part in a 9 hour bike race through the French Pyrenees. Sometimes he goes for 50 mile bike rides and sometimes he goes for 5 miles. Often, he just doesn’t go on a bike ride. There is no schedule or routine, he just goes on a bike ride when the weather is right and he feels like it.

My brother is in general a super chilled out person. He is probably 98% anxiety-free. He might have a small amount of primal anxiety that may manifest itself reluctantly if he was being chased by a ravenous 400kg Grizzly Bear.

My brother is healthy, and he is healthy without ever having thought about what that means. Without “healthy” being something that he strived for or felt that he needed to obtain. He is healthy through eating whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Exercising every now and again, but only if he feels like it.

 

If there was an antipode to AN, it would probably be my brother; a prime example of an intuitive eater. In my brother, I see the potential for my life without AN. I see what recovery might hold in store. And as unlikely as it might be, I see a recovery role model.

Recovery- glorious, messy, scary, overwhelming, anxiety-producing, beautiful magical process.

Recovery is a glorious, messy, scary, overwhelming, anxiety-producing, beautiful and magical process. Where to start I do not know, but I want to share… As the tears start to form in my eyes, I want to share, because this process is hard, challenging and takes so much mental work. You just couldn’t try and explain it to anyone, but you know that everyone who is reading this post, is working so hard on their own recovery.  You know the mental work it takes. It takes pure determination and persistence.  It takes a daily, mindful effort. I want you to know I am proud of each one of you because any Eating Disorder (ED) is mean and will tell all sorts of lies; including, that you won’t recover. The process is an adventure and will test you along the way, but it is also the most amazing journey; to begin to feel again, to come alive.  To be able to have freedom in my head for moments that are clear. In these moments, I can be in touch with my true self.  The ability to fully hear other people when they speak without a barrage of thoughts flooding in. To be able to concentrate.  To see children playing, to see a flower bloom, to taste chocolate and feel you are allowed to have it. To be in the moment without having to run away.  To sit here and type without noise in my head; these moments are the gifts of recovery.   The tears come because for so long I thought that even though I had hope I would recover, I truly didn’t believe I could. So many years I shared with ED but the truth is I can recover and so can you. I am having moments I never thought I would.  I am filled with hope and I want you to feel that hope too. It is never too late and ED will kick and scream but we can all heal and move beyond the illness.

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