Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I read the below blog post this morning and couldn't help but share. The words this young lady writes are the same words that have been racing through my head for the past few days as I see weight loss resolutions everywhere I turn. I hope this encourages you as much as it did me. 

I'm a firm believer in creating New Year's resolutions and especially in writing them down, because my type A personality likes to write everything down and I feel it holds more weight and becomes more of an achievable goal. However, when it comes to body image and individuals like me who are recovering from an eating disorder past, sometimes we just need to remember that we're beautiful just the way we are, no resolutions necessary. Stay strong, my friends. Xoxo.-Bre
Can you make a change by resolving to stay the same?

In the case of New Year’s resolutions, I believe you can.

One can hardly hear the phrase “New Year’s resolution” without immediately calling to mind body image. January issues of magazines blare their neon headlines all about the weight you can lose this year, the people who have done it, and how you can do it to. Blog posts about how to stick to your diet this year crop up like swarm of locusts, invading every newsfeed.

The time reserved for evaluating the kind of person we would like to be in the upcoming year has become distinctly body-specific.

Which is why I am resolving to stay the same. I know that sounds rather counter intuitive within the context of a movement in which change is the banner idea, but in the face of a world that is happy to convince you that you are not enough, it’s brave to say that you like exactly who you already are.
I am not faultless or without bad habits. There are other kinds of non-body-centric resolutions I could make that might improve me as a person, but not this year. This is the year for declaring that I am awesome without a single ounce of ego involved.

Why? Because I spent a lot of time in the past undermining myself. I spent so much time criticizing my body and saying terrible things to it that I began to believe that my appearance said more about me than my words or actions ever would.

And I wasn’t raised that way. I’m proud and thankful to be one of the girls in America who was raised by parents who put value in my intellect and my kindness over beauty. The books I read, the classes I took, the volunteering I did, and the opinions and values that grew from those experiences were what my parents took stock in when evaluating who they were helping their child to become.

I let the voices of the world drown all that out. I gobbled up magazines that promised happiness in being smaller and chewed through books by famous people who spoke more about their diets than their passions.

I want more of us to make resolutions that speak to the core of what truly fulfills us as human beings.
I detail my exact resolutions in my New Year’s Resolutions post on my blog The Joyful Pen.

But the takeaway I wish you to carry off into the blank page of a new year, is that it’s okay to say that who you are, and where you are in your life right now, is more than enough.

It’s okay to believe that you are awesome just as you are, no additional changes required.

Casey Rose Frank is a blogger, fiction writer, and contributing writer to the Syracuse Post Standard. She has experienced great personal change through the Circles of Change community. She believes in the importance of adventures, both great and small.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

5 Years

I know I haven’t written in almost a year but I felt inspired today. I pulled up my TimeHop on my phone this morning expecting to find some silly old picture with friends but instead, the post stopped me in my tracks. Five years ago tomorrow, I graduated from the outpatient rehab program where I was being treated for anorexia. The post I wrote on that day read, “Last Day” which is ironic because in reality it was the first day of the beginning of getting back to the real Bre.

Honestly, when I think back to that time in my life, everything is a blur. All of my memories at rehab have a haze over them and in some ways I think that's a good thing. But there are some things I remember vividly, like the smell of Progresso soup when I walked in each day, knitting needles to try and cope, the clock above the kitchen table that timed my meals, the whiteboard on the back wall filled with all of our feelings from that day, the ever evolving faces that sat around the circle with me, the hard backed chairs, but most of all, I remember the fight

While I was there, I was literally fighting for my own life, my eating disorder had such power over me at that point that the next step was hospitalization. The disease dictated every aspect of my life from the relationships I had to the calories I ate and I was absolutely miserable. Every single day at rehab I fought to re-discover the real Bre and regain even just an ounce of control I once had over my own body and mind. I’m not going to lie—it was a living hell. One of the hardest parts was trying to regain control and gain the assertive confidence I needed to get better while gaining a lot of weight in a short period of time. It’s a lot to deal with mentally, emotionally and physically. I remember being completely exhausted when I got home at night and waking up the next morning, putting the boxing gloves back on and doing it all over again. 

While this was the hardest time in my life, it was also a season of incredible growth, personally, spiritually and in my relationships with others. First and foremost, I am forever thankful for my relationship with the Lord because without Him as my rock and strength each day, I could not have done it. I am also eternally grateful for my incredible family, friends, and treatment team that surrounded me and walked through the valley right alongside me. They didn’t give up on me during my worst days and they celebrated even the smallest victories with me. It’s amazing how crucial having a support team is when you’re fighting the battle but at the end of the day, it’s you that has to choose life. Not a single person can do it for you.

I am so thankful that I chose to admit myself into rehab and essentially, chose life. I praise God for bringing me out of that storm a stronger person and for allowing my time in treatment to launch me into a fresh start as the real me. With that being said, many people believe that after a quick rehab stunt, you are essentially healed from your eating disorder. I disagree. Why is the fight the one thing I remember so vividly from that season in my life? Because for me, the fight has never ended. I still face the struggle every single day and every single day I have a choice to make—either to give in to the eating disorder and begin a devastating spiral or stand strong against the lies. While I still face that fight, I can say that by God’s grace I am now in control of my body and the fight is different in the sense that I know how to combat the lies that are thrown at me. I’ve definitely grown in strength over the years but there are those days where I do get mentally defeated by the eating disorder. However, when I wake up the next morning, I face the day with a fresh slate and pray harder than ever that I can overcome this fight, even just for that day.

Today, as I celebrate the incredible journey of recovery that the Lord continues to carry me through, I am humbled that my God loves me so much that He intervened to save my life. This has happened to me for a reason and I refuse to be silent about it because I am determined to use this hardship for the good and to be the voice that is so desperately needed concerning this issue. I want my story to inspire others with hope and I most of all want them to know that they are loved, unconditionally by their Creator and that they have been made with a purpose. Five years down of fighting this disease and by the grace of God, I pray many more to come. One day at a time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tips to Overcome Holiday Stresses that Accompany Eating Disorders

While the holiday season for so many is filled with delicious food, warmth of home and the joy and laughter of time with family, those struggling with eating disorders often face extreme anxiety around this time of year. Thanksgiving is an especially difficult holiday for those trying to drown out the voice of their eating disorder because the entire day is focused around their eating disorder's biggest enemy: food. This is a golden opportunity for the eating disorder to plant seeds of discontent and worry over the high-fat foods and the mass amounts of calories about to be consumed. And then there's always the issue of what will my family think of me? I know that coming from an Italian family, if you're not eating everything on your plate, grandma isn't going to be happy, and the idea of not going up for seconds....that's inexcusable! So, what do you do if you have an eating disorder and your family doesn't know and is pressuring you as you sit there feeling overwhelmed and sick to your stomach? What if your family does know about your eating disorder but thinks the more food they force you to eat, the faster you can overcome your eating disorder? These are valid questions and thankfully the National Eating Disorder Association issued a publication this week with some holiday coping tips that address questions such as these.Despite being symptom free for about 4 years now, the forces of my past eating disorder often continue to rear their ugly head, as they do for many in recovery, and it's usually around times like the holidays. However, I am committed to staying symptom free for another 4 years and beyond and I know I can't do it alone, so during this time I press into my support group more than ever and remember who I am apart from that number on the scale because above all, I am fearfully and wonderfully made by my creator.

Check out this link for the holiday coping tips I mentioned on pages 4-5 of the publication: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/MakingConnections/volume7issue4/index.html

Praying that you enjoy a blessed, stress-free, and joyous Thanksgiving with loved ones!

Monday, October 6, 2014

What Can I Do to Help Them?

It has been a while since I have written but tonight I made it a point to turn off the TV and distractions and sit down snuggled with my blanket and pumpkin spice candle and write about a topic that has been heavy on my heart for some time now. 

So many of us have been there...that day when you realize someone close to you is sick with an eating disorder. Maybe you've noticed drastic weight loss or a change in personality, maybe they've become withdrawn and depressed or maybe you notice they avoid food at all costs. No matter what the situation, we're left with the burning question of, "What Can I Do to Help Them?" This is a question I have gotten a lot from many of my friends and when asked this question once again last month, I came to the realization that no matter how I tried to craft a response, the truth is, I'm not really sure what to tell them. You see, when I accepted the fact that I had an eating disorder, I went to my family therapist and family members and actively sought out help and therefore, I wasn't really sure how to respond to the burning question mentioned above. So, in search of answers, I reached out to my faithful doctor and asked for some wisdom. I want to share his response with you because I know it helped me to  grasp a better understanding of what I can do to help my friends who are hurting. 

1.)  Do not approach someone with an eating disorder with anger.  When you approach him/her with anger, the person immediately closes down and feels like you're rejecting them and/or putting them down. The eating disorder does enough of this, they need encouragement most of all. 

2.) Approach the person with the goal not to change him/her—but instead, let him/her know that you care about them, and that you have noticed a change in them. Be very concrete on what you've noticed (ie: getting thinner, not going out with friends to eat, excessive exercise,etc.). Do not approach them with the phrase, “I think you have an eating disorder”. Making such assumptions will only cause one to become defensive- especially because at this point, he/she will do whatever it takes to defend their eating disorder behaviors, even if they won't admit that they are sick. 

3.) Expect an angry response.  This is where unconditional love comes into play. The individual's angry response is due to the distortion that the eating disorder has created in his/her brain. The eating disorder causes the individual to respond defensively and to push you away in an effort to continue to control his/her thinking and actions.  The best thing you can do is show that their response does not make you care any less about him/her. Your persistence means the world to them deep down. 

4.) Do 90% more listening than talking.  A lot of times, someone wants a listening ear and compassion more than anything. Your actions should be non-judgmental, warm, empathetic, loving, caring, and accepting-like Jesus :)Don't give up, you're making a difference just by showing that you care. 

I have been in a place before when my eating disorder consumed me and controlled my every thought and action, and in the midst of that hell, it was the people around me that never gave up on me, and never stopped loving me that pushed me more passionately toward recovery. 

Please don't give up. 


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Great National Eating Disorder Awareness Week Post

I wanted to share this article with you that I read from the Huffington Post today. I hope it encourages and inspires you! xoxo
"I Had No Idea" is the theme of the 27th annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which is Feb. 23 -- March 1. Ask anyone. Most people suffering from eating disorders are young, wealthy, Caucasian women. And you can't be too rich or too thin, right? Wrong.
We expect to see eating disorders diagnosed among young girls and raging rampant in Hollywood and the advertising and fashion industries. As 2008's reigning Miss America, I am the stereotype. I did battle anorexia and, today, am thankful to be fully recovered.
But America is a melting pot like no other country and New York City, where I live, like no other city. And the truth is that eating disorders look much like our population, affecting every socio-economic demographic -- young/old, female/male, wealthy/poor, heterosexual/gay, Christian/Jewish, African-American, Hispanic, Asian and, yes, Caucasian. The rate of occurrence is also particularly high among college students, athletes and gay men. There may be challenges that are unique to each demographic -- men and African-American women are less inclined to seek help, for example -- but bottom line is that an eating disorder is a life-threatening illness no matter who you are.
Nationally, more than 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Four out of 10 Americans have either suffered or have known someone who has suffered from an eating disorder. [1]
I had no idea... that you can be too thin... that over-exercising can lead to an eating disorder... that 35 percent of "normal" dieters progress to pathological dieting and that, of those, 20-25 percent progress to full-blown eating disorders [2]... that an eating disorder can kill you or lead to permanent physical damage... that (I, my daughter, son, sister, brother, friend) had a problem.
Eating disorders happen behind closed doors. Signs are frequently overlooked (particularly among minorities), even by medical professionals... until the damage is undeniable. And even today there is often a reluctance to seek help, fearing that others might consider the disorder self-imposed. An eating disorder is a bio-psycho-social illness, not a lifestyle choice. We wouldn't judge someone with cancer or diabetes. Yet someone suffering from an eating disorder is sometimes criticized or dismissed.
But not much is going to change until we start a dialogue... until we love ourselves and strive to be healthy, not to achieve "ideal," unrealistic body images... until bullying is no longer a problem on our school campuses. As many as 65 percent of eating disorder sufferers cite the effects of size and weight bullying as the root of where their struggle began.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, research and program outcomes show that education and outreach lead to more people recognizing the problem and seeking help. Get the conversation started now in your family, your schools and your community.
Let's all come together to model acceptance and celebration of diversity in body shapes and sizes. And if you are concerned for yourself, a friend or family member, you can take a free, anonymous online screening for eating disorders at MyBodyScreening.org. And find more information at MyNeda.org.
I had no idea... that freedom from an eating disorder was possible. But I am living proof.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

NEDA Awareness Week 2014

February 23-March 1 2014 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I am going to do everything I can to use the materials http://nedawareness.org/ provides to spread the word about the seriousness of eating disorders. Get involved and make a difference!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Biggest Loser's Controversial Finale

I couldn't help but see all the news stories focused around the controversial finale of the most recent season of The Biggest Loser. The finale that named Rachel Frederickson the winner of this season has created some major waves among radio and television media. Many are blaming the show's producers and others blame Rachel herself for the frail and extremely unhealthy frame that was revealed during the show. Her frame left even her trainers speechless and their faces of shock clearly show that even they believe there's a problem.

I haven't put a link on here to the story because I don't want you as my readers getting distracted by the story and the numbers they throw around in the articles concerning her pre-show and post-show weight. However, I couldn't sit back and not comment on this. First of all, I want to say how pleased I am to see that the media IS making such a big deal out of this. I am so glad that viewers made such an impact on all forms of social media after seeing the finale that it caught the attention of some of the biggest news sources out there and offered the opportunity for them to voice their opinion. Which to my surprise, is showing deep concern for Rachel and her unhealthy weight, some even rightfully so calling her anorexic.

Second of all, concerning Rachel, my heart broke as I watched the reveal video and saw her frail frame, barely standing on the scale and her gaunt and malnourished face saying the words "I now know I can move forward in my life and know that I can take control and do anything I want." When I heard her say those words, I knew it was true. This woman who used to place herself in hiding because of her excessive weight, had turned to the opposite extreme and had gotten caught in the trap that ED laid out for her, the trap of control. Those of you who have had an eating disorder know exactly what I mean when I say that the element of control in an eating disorder is at the heart of so many body image issues. I know for me, it was one of the only senses of control I felt that I had over my life. The ironic part is, I thought I had so much control over my body but in reality, it wasn't me, it was my disease that was running my life and deciding my every single move; leaving me with no control at all. The eating disorder creates the illusion that you gain control but in reality, you lose it.
Seeing this story from the perspective of someone who has been in recovery for years now, I empathize with Rachel because I have been in her shoes before but I also see the road to destruction that she's headed down and I can't help but want to scoop her up and rescue her.

One of the toughest things for me now is seeing people struggling with eating disorders and wanting to throw that rescue rope out to them as they're drowning but knowing that unless they want it, unless they truly desire recovery, I can do absolutely nothing for them. It's such a helpless feeling that leaves me on my knees praying that they would realize the trap that's laid before them.

I am writing these words to you, my friends, if you feel like you're in that trap right now but are too scared to grab onto that rescue rope, JUST DO IT.  I did and it literally saved my life. There's so many resources out there that will help you on your road to recovery. One of the greatest resources out there, in my opinion is http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ This site has the help and support that can get you into recovery programs and set up with the right doctors who can help you. Don't allow ED to ruin your life even one more moment, reach out for help now!