Last week, eating disorder survivor, advocate and author Andrea Roe shared her story of recovery (check out part one and part two). Today, she generously shares several tips she used to recover and improve her body image. I think everyone, in one way or another, can relate to Andrea’s story and use her tips to boost their body image and/or recovery. I’m so grateful to Andrea for sharing her advice. I highly recommend signing up for Andrea’s Support Letter (sign up here).
Also, even though NEDA Week is over, I wanted to continue to feature a few more posts on eating disorders. This week, stay tuned for wise words on how families can help their loved one, from women who’ve recovered from eating disorders, along with a review of Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder & Take Your Life Back by Shannon Cutts.
Remember that Mondays feature ideas on improving your body image, so you can check out previous posts here.
During my eating disorder struggles, I would look in the mirror, many times even stare at myself—my body and face—for hours and I hated what I saw. I hated myself and everything about me. All I saw were flaws. I felt so ugly, like everything was “wrong” with me. And many times I would hide in my room, crying, punishing myself.
Today, I look in the mirror and I see a person. I see ME! I like what I see. I don’t criticize myself, I don’t pick on myself, I don’t beat myself up.
There are many things that helped me develop a positive body image. And I’d like to share a few of these things with you.
- I stopped weighing myself. I used to weigh myself several times a day and the number on the scale would determine how I felt. This number had so much power over me—it was in control. So I broke this unhealthy obsession, from one day to the other. And even though I was scared and tried to avoid getting rid of the scale with all different kinds of excuses, I did it anyways. And getting rid of my scale was a big step forward in my recovery. The scale didn’t do me any good, all it did was make me feel worse about myself. By breaking my obsession with the scale, I was freeing myself from an essential part of my eating disorder.
- I stayed away from celebrity and beauty magazines and TV shows. Even though there was a part of me that wanted to look at all these pictures, I knew it was poisonous for my mind—so I stayed away from them during my recovery process. Whenever I saw these *perfect* celebrities, I would start comparing myself with them and beat myself up because I didn’t look like them. So for me the solution was learning not to pay attention to this information.
- I would look in the mirror and say something nice about myself. I would say “I love you” and “I am beautiful.” I did that every day. Yes, it was very painful. I felt like I was lying to myself. I *knew* I was ugly and worthless and saying all these *nice things* just felt so wrong. But I stuck with it. And after some time, the things I said slowly started to feel real and I slowly started to like my appearance. Baby steps.
- I cut the labels out of my clothes. I was very obsessed with the clothing size I could fit or squeeze myself into. And one way that helped me overcome this was to cut out all the labels of my clothes. It was very liberating. And whenever I went clothes shopping with my mum (who of course knew about my eating disorder and body image issues), I’d go in the changing room and she’d bring me clothes to try on. I never looked at the clothes’ size labels. And when I liked something and I needed it a bigger or smaller, I told her and she got me another size… but because I never looked at the label, I had no idea what size I was wearing, and that was very liberating. As soon as we arrived at home, she’d cut out all the labels before I put the clothes away in my cupboard. It’s something very simple, but helped me a lot to take my mind of the “size obsession.”
- I had a gratitude/recovery journal and goal list. I had many motivations that kept me going… and I’d remind myself on an almost daily basis about my goals and dreams. I had a journal in which I’d put all the things that I wanted to do in life and in order to achieve most of these things (and actually be able to really enjoy them), I knew for myself I had to be healthy and free of my eating disorder. In this journal, I’d also write what inspired me, things I was grateful for, my achievements, things I was proud of, happy memories, fun photos, etc. — everything and anything that made me feel good about myself and life. Working on this journal was therapeutic. And when I felt down, I’d take this journal out and remind myself of all the beautiful things I needed to be reminded of. I also had a goal list glued to my mirror in my room. These goals motivated me to keep moving forward and keep taking action. It is rewarding to look back now and see how many of those things I have actually done.
- I read lots of stories of Hope. During my recovery I read a lot of books on eating disorders. My favorite books were about other people’s recovery stories. These stories gave me hope and motivated me to keep working on my own recovery. The main message that I got out of these stories was: If they could recover, I COULD TOO!
- I had a ‘coping catalogue’ filled with coping methods when I felt like I was about to lose control. I had a ‘list of things to do instead of bingeing’ which I’d carry around with me and whenever I felt the urge to binge, I’d take the list out and make myself do something from that list. Did it always work? No. But whenever it did, I was SO proud of myself (and I’d make a note in my recovery journal). And the more I used it, the better I got with it. Here are some examples from my coping catalogue: scrap booking, taking a nap, going for a walk, painting my nails, taking a relaxing bath (with candles and aroma oils – my favorite!!), visiting eating disorder recovery websites and chatting online with others who were going through the same thing as I was. I also planned regular activities for my most difficult times of day.
- I was in touch with others who were also in recovery or recovered. During my healing journey, I spent a lot of time online, connecting with others who were either also in recovery or already recovered. We supported each other, listened to each other and provided encouragement, hope and comfort. I got a lot of strength out of these conversations. And with some of the women I met online years ago, I am still in touch today… and many of them are actually also recovered now (and some of them have contributed their stories to one of my books).
Thank you so much, Andrea, for sharing your insight with us! Again, I think we can all take away some great ideas and inspiration from Andrea’s advice.
Winners of the Giveaway!
Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments last week! The winners of the giveaway are: Shelley, Sayhealth, Melissa and guest.
To get your free book, please email me with two pieces of information at [email protected]:
1. Your mailing address.
2. Your book preferences. Just number the books in order of preference. Again, we have one copy of Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder & Take Your Life Back by Shannon Cutts; two copies of 100 Questions and Answers About Anorexia Nervosa by Sari Shepphird, Ph.D; and one copy of Andrea Roe’s book, You Are Not Alone.
What’s helped you in developing a positive body image? What helped you in recovering from your eating disorder?