Tag Archives: Eating Disorder

Discovering Your Best Look First Thing in the Morning

mirror

The alarm goes off, waking you to another long day.  Before your feet even hit the floor, you begin your body-checking rituals.

Ritual #1 – Lay perfectly flat on your bed.  Can you feel your hipbones? 

Ritual #2 –  Stand sideways in front of the mirror.  Does your stomach look “flat-enough”?

Ritual #3 – Step on the scale.  Have you lost any weight since yesterday?

The answers to these questions determine not only how you will think and feel for the rest of your day, but also how you dress and present yourself to the world.  Continue reading

Intent Former Editor Chelsea Roff Gets “Best Shift Ever”

Chelsea Roff
Photo Credit: Chelsea Roff’s Facebook page

Good things happen to good people – that’s karmic belief. This week Intent’s former blog editor Chelsea Roff was the subject of Break.com’s “Prank it Forward” series where they surprise deserving individuals with life changing gifts.

For those that don’t know, Chelsea left Intent last year to pursue creating her own non-profit organization that shows the vital importance of yoga in eating disorder recovery. Chelsea herself suffered from extreme anorexia – at one point dropping to 58 pounds and caused her to have a stroke two weeks before her 16th birthday. She spent 18 months recovering under the custody of a Dallas hospital. When she was released her therapists suggested that yoga might be good for her – and it turned out to be a life changing experience.

To give back to the community that gave so much to her Chelsea started an IndieGoGo campaign last July that raised over $51,000 in four days. For those four days Chelsea camped out above the “You Are Beautiful” mural in Santa Monica, refusing to leave until she reached her goal. Now that money is going to fund research based studies in yoga studios and treatment centers around the country. To help get the funds to hire a full-time staff for the organization Chelsea has also been moonlighting as a waitress. Did we mention she’s only 24? Chelsea Roff is the definition of using your own talents and abilities – and the power of intent – to save the world. To reward her for all of her selfless good work, her friends and co-workers teamed up with Break.com to provide Chelsea with the best shift ever.

It starts off with a kind stranger leaving a ridiculously huge tip – that Chelsea insists on sharing with the rest of the wait staff. Then a free trip for two to Hawaii, followed up by Chelsea’s dream job where she’ll be able to use the work she’s been doing with Eat. Breathe. Thrive. in conjunction with a funded medical center. To top it off Chelsea was surprised with a brand new car and a visit from her very first yoga teacher that showed her so much about strength and being proud of your body and the space you inhabit.

We are so proud of Chelsea, who will always be a member of the Intent family, and all of the things she’s done. It’s such a wonderful thing to see her get the rewards she deserves for doing such amazing, wonderful work. Congratulations to Chelsea! You deserve it, girl. And we can only hope that Chelsea’s journey also inspires all of you to show the potential of setting an intent and following through with it. We really have the power to make meaningful change in people’s lives!

Learn how you can help Eat. Breathe. Thrive. or find one of Chelsea’s programs in a city near you here.

The Accident That Changed My Life (Part 2)

165Click here to read Part 1.

By Margaret Westley

My optimism carried me through the extent of my six week hospitalization. Life in a hospital is far from easy, but amazing medical care, family, and friends supported me through multiple surgeries and challenging rehabilitation therapy. However, optimism would only take me so far. And like with any traumatic event in life, a person needs to take time to heal.

More surgeries followed the summer after my accident. One morning I noticed a wound had appeared on my residual limb and it turned out to be an infection that traveled to my bone. More bone would have to be amputated. Though I knew the surgery was necessary, I was tired – tired of surgeries and setbacks preventing me from scheduling an appointment with the person who would fit me for my first prosthetic limb.

A shift occurred. Instead of letting myself feel disappointed, I looked for ways to control the situation and prevent myself from feeling sad. I started with eating as little as possible. Being hospitalized only increased my odds for losing more weight. Eating was the last thing from my mind. The fact my wrists were getting thinner and my stomach more flat were pluses in my eyes. I started to tell everyone I was too tired to eat.

At the grocery store, I started checking labels and counting calories too closely. Low fat, fat free, low carb, carb free were my favorite categories. Though I was a size four/six, the Slim Fast Plan became my new best friend.

Externally, I was upbeat and smiled, but inside I wondered why I had started to be afraid to cross busy streets, and why I trembled during class and why when I looked at a line in one of the textbooks all of the words looked the same. Most people had made positive comments about my weight loss, but I’d already decided I was not yet thin enough. So I joined a gym and survived on coffee, bananas, and diet cereal.

The gym became my refuge where I worked out two or three times a day, and when I felt lightheaded I sat on the toilet in the bathroom until I stopped feeling like I was going to black out. I rarely went to class, but when I did, the bathrooms at school called to me. The quiet in between the stalls was one of the few places I felt safe.

I didn’t yet know eating disorders were a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I didn’t even know what PTSD was.

The crash came. My bed was a close second to the gym as my favorite place to be. Everyone thought I’d gotten too thin. I couldn’t balance a full time school schedule, appointments with doctors, lawyers, prosthetists on top of learning how to walk all over again. People began to tell me I was too thin, encircling my emaciated wrists with their fingers to prove I was not eating enough. There were too many questions, and I didn’t have all of the answers.

Withdrawing from school, in my eyes, was the only option. Since I no longer was a student and did not live in the dorms, I sought the guidance of my mentor who had a friend who owned a bar with a boarding house on top of it. The next chapter of my life started in a room the size of a closet. The quiet comforted and frightened me at the same time. I knew it was time to listen to what it was my body needed.

At times, it felt like my world was crumbling, but I knew I would not have made it that far had I not had hope. I found a therapist who specialized in PTSD and eating disorders. She told me I could be sad, mad even, and that I wasn’t crazy. I just needed to take the time to heal.

Yoga became a life saver. I stumbled across the first class I ever took in the East Village. Interestingly enough, I was not nervous. It was as if my body knew being on a yoga mat was where it belonged. At the end of class after the deep relaxation the teacher said, “namaste” and I burst into tears. I knew then yoga and other mindfulness based modalities would be a part of my life forever.

People often want to know about my healing process. Process is a word I prefer instead of overcoming because I don’t want to overcome anything. I want to learn how to be. My amputated leg isn’t going to grow back anytime soon and to be honest, I wouldn’t want it to. I focus not on what I lack, but what still remains.

Life continues to be challenging. My residual limb swells when it’s hot outside and shrinks on a cooler day making it difficult to walk a lot of the time. Phantom limb sensation and spasms are constants. I get tired more easily than before and bed time rarely is past 9:30 pm.

A little over a decade has passed since the accident happened. Sometimes it feels like it was twenty years ago, and there are days where I am shocked it wasn’t just yesterday. I have some regrets, but being hit isn’t one of them. No matter what day it is, I take the time to connect. In the morning, I lie on my back and breathe. Sometimes I cry. A lot of the time I smile. Laughter happens often. There is no shame. Just one incredible journey.

* * *

mwestleyMargaret Westley is a writer, fundraiser, certified integrative nutritionist, and yoga teacher. Each of these professions were inspired by a near death accident she had when she was eighteen years old and got run over by a bus, which resulted in a broken right ankle and losing her left leg below the knee. Though the recovery was tough, Margaret has always seen the accident has a huge gift! Over the years, she’s been a face-to-face fundraiser, worked in a café, been an office assistant, a healthcare attendant, meditation/yoga teacher, and is currently building a fundraising business and writing a memoir. Everyday, something or someone reminds her about how amazing life is and, for that, she is eternally grateful.

My Life With Binge Eating – And the Path to Recovery

338/365 - 9/11/2011To an outsider it might appear that my day was just like any other college student. I got up, went to my morning class, grabbed lunch with a friend, went to my afternoon class, worked out at the gym, did some home work, ate dinner, chatted with friends, got a late night snack then went to bed.

But that façade was far from reality. In fact, I was struggling all day to keep my composure, and desperately trying to hide the fact that I hated myself. I had fallen into a nasty cycle. I would go to bed with my stomach filled to the brim with over 5,000 calories worth of desserts and fried foods. I would wake up ravished and hating myself for needing to eat after the type of dinner I had. So I would try to go as long as possible without eating, and aim to eat only 500 calories a day. My thought process was – if I ate over 5,000 calories yesterday, I should have enough fuel in my body to last me three days. My starvation definitely slowed my weight gain but I still inevitably gained 15 pounds in as little as three months.

The worst part was, I had absolutely no control. NONE. People would look at me like I was crazy when I told them I couldn’t stop myself from eating. Why can’t you just stop when you’re full? They didn’t understand that stuffing my face wasn’t a choice for me. It was a necessity. My hands were not attached to my mind, and I could only stop when I felt so full I wanted to puke. During a binge attack, half of my mind would try to reason why it was okay to eat a whole box of Oreos. The other half of my mind would hate myself and hate the fact that I had no control. There was not an ounce of compassion in my bones. I found myself devouring a whole large pizza, or three whole entrees, or an entire large bag of potato chips. It’s rather astounding how much food my stomach could fit. And the greasier, cheesier or chocolaty the food was – the better.

I do not remember the exact day but I do remember the period of my life when I started having these binge attacks. I was in my second semester in college, and my first real boyfriend and I broke up. I was heartbroken beyond belief, and the sense of abandonment I felt was equal to when I thought my father had abandoned me so many years ago. In reality, my mom divorced my father and moved us to the United States. But to a 7-year-old, all I knew was that my dad was no longer there.

My binges occurred in waves and was never severe enough that I could be officially diagnosed with a binge eating disorder. But that doesn’t take away from the gravity of my situation. My self-loathing only escalated as time after time I would find myself pigging out in front of the fridge. Friends and family tried to help but I knew how to keep my eating a secret. I constantly felt judged and shame ran deep in my veins. WHY ME?!? So many other people in this world have it worse than me, so why do I punish myself? I worried that people would think I was incapable of handing life, and in fact, I did not feel capable at all! No one understood what I  was going through. I was more alone than ever. And so I ate.

I decided to start counseling a month after my first binge and 5 years later I am just starting to understand the triggers behind my binge. The difficulty with this type of disorder, at least for me, is that there is not one cause. A variety of different factors play into my disorder, and its difficult to understand it myself, let alone describe it to others.

What I can tell you is that my binges come more often when I am insecure. When I am lonely. When I feel scared. I was forced to grow up quickly, and to protect myself I was never attuned to what I was feeling. When my boyfriend and I broke up, my heart was ripped oven and all the emotions I repressed since I was a little girl came out. And I couldn’t handle it. So I searched for something to make me feel okay again, and I found food. The feeling of fullness and heaviness was the grounding I so desperately needed.

Food is a tough drug of choice because unlike alcohol, you need food to survive. I cannot abstain from food. The battle happens everyday I sit down with a plate in front of me.

In my sessions, I learned that the most important first step was to find compassion for myself. For the little girl inside me who was terrified of the world. In my seemingly endless binge cycle, it was hard to do. But I started to read books about other people with this problem, and it brought comfort to know I was not alone. Slowly but surely compassion came, and a few times I was even grateful for my disorder. My binges were my body’s way of telling me that I was feeling lonely, overwhelmed, powerless and abandoned. How lucky I am to have such an aware body! Now I just have to get my mind there BEFORE my body finds the need to be comforted through food.

It has been quite some time now since I’ve had a huge binge. In the five years since I first started binging, I have learned to be a little less judgmental. A little nicer to myself. And being nicer to myself includes working on the inner critic as well as letting go of what my diet “should” look like. Allowing myself to eat whatever I want has given me the freedom to eat healthier foods as well as enjoy chocolate here and there. The key is to let go of the guilt.

It’s been a long journey of self-hatred, self-love, suffering and compassion. And I know the journey is far from over. I am still learning how to have a normal relationship with food. I am still learning to treat my disorder as a gift from God. I am still learning that no one is perfect, no one is put together, and all we can do is the best we can at every moment. And I am still learning that self-forgiveness is the most powerful key you can hold in life.

But I also know that because of this disorder, I am stronger than ever. I have faith in life. And if the binge comes again, then so be it. I cannot be scared about the future. Life is a roller coaster and that’s what makes it exciting and livable. And as long as I open myself up to my feelings, and do not allow fear to consume me, then I know I have grown.

We are all imperfect beings trying to live a perfect life. Let me be the first to say – I do not wish to live the perfect life. I just wish to accept my life exactly as it is. That is the true gift of God.

Are You Ready to Stop Eating Real Food…Forever?

Lord, no, this is not about starving yourself.

This is the latest start-up by a 20-something genius, engineer Rob Rhinehart who has apparently invented a product that will free the world from the shackles of real food. It’s a vitamin and nutrient-rich drink, derived from plants but entirely lacking in taste or color, which Rhinehart is calling “Soylent” (somewhat ironically/controversially after the 1970s sci-fi film “Soylent Green.”) The founder claims to be subsisting, himself, almost entirely on the vitamin juice at this point – and with good results.

If this is all sounding a bit wacky, then you’re not alone. Many have raised doubts and concerns over such tampering with the human diet. We are, after all, made to eat real food, and such a reduction might sound dangerously similar to an eating disorder. But when asked about the “real food” concern by Vice magazine, Rhinehart responded:

Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe or healthy, and just because something is artificial doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy or dangerous. Look around you. Nothing we buy is natural. Everything useful is designed and manufactured, and food should be no different. People are afraid of sweeteners when it’s real sugar that’s killing us. They’re afraid of preservatives when food waste is rampant. McDonald’s is trying to engineer lower-calorie food that is more filling to fight obesity, but people are demanding natural-sounding ingredients. It’s frustrating to watch. The idea of “real food” is just snobbery. Everyone has the right to be healthy, even people who don’t like vegetables.

Still not convinced? Well we may need to get used to the idea of food replacements, says Rhinehart, who sees the growing global food crisis as one of the main imperatives for Soylent. And their company has actually seen considerable success in the short time they’ve been around. Their crowd-funding campaign has raised over one million dollars (much more than their initial goal of $100,000)! And apparently there are already people out there ordering Soylent packages online and enjoying the food-free life.

So, what do you think? Would you ever give up food in exchange for a tasteless juice of pure vitamins? Tell us your thoughts!

 

Thumbnail credit: Julio Miles / Soylent

Former Intent Editor Chelsea Roff Launches Indiegogo Campaign to Research Yoga for Eating Disorders!

Setting sail from Intent Blog, former editor Chelsea Roff is now pursuing a path that takes her deep into the heart of her passion: Yoga as a tool for treating eating disorders.

Chelsea’s own background has shown her the power of yoga in transforming body image and bringing about whole-person wellness. Today she launches an Indiegogo campaign to raise $50,000 in order to embark on an in-depth research project to compile the data necessary to bring this method of treatment to public awareness.

Intent: This is an amazing campaign! Can you say a bit more about your inspiration for this project?

Chelsea: Thank you! Yes, of course. As many Intent readers know, I struggled with a very severe eating disorder when I was young. Anorexia nearly took my life. Fortunately I was helped by an amazing team of medical professionals, but while treatment did help me recover physically — I still hated my body, was plagued by self-deprecating thoughts, and lacked the resources to step fully into life.

I left the hospital in despair. I wanted to live, but the eating disorder still haunted me. Relapse seemed  inevitable.

But then I found yoga. Or yoga found me.

Yoga gave me a path. It gave me a future. It introduced me to joy and freedom I never thought possible.

The statistics around eating disorders in this country are discouraging. Nearly  24 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, and only one in ten ever receive treatment. This disease kills nearly half a million people every year — daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, and spouses. That’s not okay. This disease is NOT incurable!

My inspiration for this project is a desire to share the incredible gift that was given to me during my time of need. Eating disorders destroy lives, hurt families and crush spirits. But they don’t have to. There is a way out, and yoga can be an incredible tool in paving the path to healing.

Intent: How has your own history driven your advocacy work around eating disorders?

Chelsea: I think having experienced first hand how agonizing this disease is — and how AMAZING life is on the other side — I just can’t help but want to give it back.

Eating disorders are terrible. Having anorexia is like having a demon inside you that controls your thoughts, manipulates your emotions, and isolates you from everyone and everything you ever loved or cared about. Many people think eating disorders are driven by a wish to be skinny or get attention — I assure you that is not the case. Eating disorders are biological illnesses, triggered by a combination of genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors. No one chooses this illness.

I think my history gives me a combination of empathy for those suffering and hope for their future. I know there’s a way out of this illness, and I hope I can offer a few tools to help others get their lives back from this disease as well.

Intent: After experiencing yoga as such a powerful tool for recovery, are you eager to share this method of treatment to others suffering from eating disorders?

Chelsea: Absolutely!

Over the past several years, I’ve put a lot of thought into which elements of the yoga practice were helpful in my recovery and which weren’t so much (I think some aspects of yoga culture can actually exacerbate an eating disorder). I’ve developed a program called Yoga for Eating Disorders™ that teaches patients practical tools for learning how to tune into hunger and fullness signals, cope with difficult emotions, and relate to their body as an ally rather than an enemy. Without those skills, it’s nearly impossible to be successful in recovery.

Intent: That’s amazing! How can others get involved?

Chelsea: Please support our campaign! Here are a few ways people can help:

1. Donate to the campaign – today! Every little bit counts – even $5! If you’re going to contribute, please don’t wait! We’re trying to reach our first 15K in the first week.  If people see the campaign is successful, they’ll donate too.

2. Like,  Comment on, or Share our IndieGoGo page.

3. Tell a yoga studio in your city about the campaign. For the first 12 studios that make a tax-deductible $5,000 donation, I’ll teach my 3-day Yoga, Food, & Body Image Intensive at no cost to the studio. The program is priced at $300 per participant, so 17 registrations will earn all the money back, and 30 registrations will generate $9,000 in revenue.

Did You Overeat This Weekend?

Do you suffer from the barbeque binge? Holiday weekends can sometimes be a trigger for our worst eating habits. Obsessing over food like many other addictive behaviors is just another way of numbing out and avoiding un-felt pain, blocked emotions, or a true experience of life.

Everyone faces their relationship to food in unique ways. Some people obsess over every calorie, whereas others have no boundaries whatsoever. Whether you overeat out of boredom or you don’t eat out of fear, there is a spiritual condition that needs to be addressed.

Admittedly, I still struggle with my relationship to food and in this vlog I share some of my tips for recovery. Feel free to share your experiences with me in the comments below. Outing your ego is the first step in the healing process.

If you’re interested in this topic and want to deepen the conversation then join me next week for the start of my new course, Finally Full: A Workshop on Spirituality and Food.

photo by: Keoni Cabral

Cook Your Way to Total Self Love

Pink Summer Cherry LoveMost of our fears and inner conflicts arise from a lack of self love. The first thing I tackle with clients is identifying and eradicating the root causes of self-beat, shame, guilt and insecurity. I call it “radical acceptance”.

Ironically, one of the best ways to build self-esteem, confidence and a deep, inner sense of contentment and acceptance is incredibly simple and easy to overlook.

Cooking for yourself and practicing conscious eating are perhaps the most primal and important acts of self love. We build a deep sense of trust in ourselves and the world (and relieve stress) when we take time to nurture ourselves by making our own food, sitting down, practicing gratitude and enjoying it mindfully.

You can begin to improve your relationship with food and your physical body by enjoying healthy meals that have been prepared for you, but investing time and energy to plan and prepare your own meals allows for the opportunity to reap the benefits of the loving energy you put in.

A potent message of worth and value seeps into the unconscious mind when we nurture ourselves. Food and shelter are our most primitive, basic acts of survival. When you practice self-care by maintaining a clean (sattvic), safe, inviting home and cook for yourself, you send a powerful message to your psyche that you are worthy and important.

Love is an action verb. How do you love yourself? What do you do to show love? Actions speak louder than words. Affirmations are great…but how are you showing up for yourself on a daily, consistent basis.

Self love through food is connected to the root chakra, or first chakra, which governs the first stage of emotional and psychological development. The root chakra (mulhadhara) is connected to physical identity, physical body, grounding, our relationship to the mother and sense of feeling safe and secure in the world.

Eating disorders, food addictions or obsessive control over diet, the body and food often result from a child growing up in an unsafe environment (abuse, war zone, constant fighting, financial distress, physical illness) or having an insecure attachment to the mother (mother was depressed, alcoholic/addict, working all the time, emotionally unavailable or unsafe). Our unconscious tries to overcompensate, insulate or create an external sense of safety or control through our food choices and physical body.

Always eating out, rushing through or skipping meals, watching TV during meals or choosing unhealthy foods sends a message that you are not worth the time and effort to slow down, nourish, nurture and listen to your body and your deepest needs.

Focusing on your relationship with food builds a sense of safety, trust and connectedness. Your arms and hands are a horizontal extension of your heart center (chakra). When you prepare a meal for yourself, you literally infuse loving energy from your heart into the food you eat. Ayurvedic master Bri Maya Tiwari recommends massaging your food with your bare hands as much as possible and focusing on positive thoughts while you cook. Send loving thoughts, pray, chant or play pleasant music while you cook. These vibrations all end up on your plate, in your belly and healing your mind and heart.

Nourishing yourself by preparing your own food and eating consciously can lead to big shifts internally and externally. Start by making a couple of meals for yourself each week. Take time to eat each meal in a ritual space (clean environment, at a table, sitting down) and mindfully savor each bite. Celebrate quality time with family, friends or yourself.

Lovingly preparing food and cooking for yourself will increase feelings of self-worth, inner security, grounding and be a ritual to receive the love you give yourself – the most important love in the world.

* * *

Ashley will be leading a retreat to Galapagos Islands in July 2013 and works with clients worldwide via SKYPE. Ashley is a member of Young Living Essential Oils, so if you’d like to sign up using her as a sponsor or want more info on oils, click here.

What If Barbie Reflected an Average 19-Year-Old’s Body?

829420150_1371948989If Barbie were a real woman, she would have half a liver, a head too heavy for her neck to hold up, and feet so tiny she’d have to move on all fours. The iconic Mattel doll’s proportions are so wildly unrealistic yet pervasively admired that it’s no wonder women around the world are plagued with a sense of inadequacy.

Well move aside, Barbie, because there’s a new doll in town! Artist Nickolay Lamm has created a 3-D model of what Barbie would look like if she were based on the proportions of an average 19-year-old American girl (as reported by the CDC.) Granted, the average 19-year-old will have a youthful body, a fast metabolism, and may not yet have had children – so her body is still going to look a lot different than the average adult woman’s. But with eating disorders and body image issues so prevalent during teenage years, it’s imperative to have representations of beauty that model something closer to real life.

In an interview with Huffington Post, Lamm said, “If we criticize skinny models, we should at least be open to the possibility that Barbie may negatively influence young girls as well. Furthermore, a realistically proportioned Barbie actually looks pretty good.”

Drum-roll, please! Here is Barbie as a beautiful young woman, who would have a head raised high, a full set of organs, and two sturdy feet to carry her to college, work, or wherever her heart wishes!

Barbie 3

Barbie 4

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Barbie 1

What do you think of this re-imagining of the Barbie doll? Is it still too far from what the average woman’s body really looks like? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Down with Fat-Shaming: 8 of the Worst Ads for Self-Esteem (Slideshow)

The tragic statistics about body image and eating disorders apparently haven’t been drilled into our brains enough for us to definitively take a stand against fat-shaming. With Dove‘s recent beauty campaign, Israel’s recent ban on underweight models, and endless discourse on bodies, plastic surgery, and celebrity diets, it is troubling but certainly eye-opening to see the kind of body-negative messaging that fills our public sphere.

Here are 5 of the most offensive fat-shaming ads out there. In posting these, our intent is not to perpetuate these messages but rather to inspire the kind of fire that will ultimately lead us to say NO once and for all to these ads and everything they stand for.

What kind of ads would you like to see promoting health and body-positivity? Tell us your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!

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