7 Ways To Deal When You Have That ‘Bad Body Image’ Day

*article originally published on The Odyssey Online*

We are all going to face some days where you just don’t want to look in the mirror. Self-love and appreciation can be incredibly hard during times like these. But do not fear! Here are a few things you can try when you are struggling to appreciate you!

1. Put on some really comfy clothes.

Your favorite leggings and sweatshirt, a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, even a dress. Anything that feels comfy and good for you. Sometimes, though, you want to avoid baggy clothing on an already bad body image day. See what works for you!

2. Pamper yourself.

Turn your home into a spa for the day. Focus on spa activities that feel good but don’t emphasize appearance too much. Paint your nails, do a face mask, take a bath with bubbles and wine (only if you are of age) and a good book!

3. Make a list of things your body can DO.

List out all the things your body does for you on a daily basis. Think what it DOES not how it looks. If you can’t think of anything, go back to basics! Your body lets you live by breathing, etc.

4. Journal.

Seriously. Sometimes putting what is bothering you — exactly as it is bothering you — out on a page is so relieving. It takes the jumbled thoughts and makes you see them a bit more clearly. Often, it is easier to challenge the thoughts when they are physically on a page in front of you.

5. Eat what you crave.

If you can, make your favorite meal. Whatever it is. If you like mac-and-cheese, make it. Want ice cream for dinner? Have it. Just because you don’t love your body today doesn’t mean you shouldn’t honor hunger.

6. If you need to go out, put on an outfit you have always felt stellar in!

Wear whatever that one outfit is that literally makes you feel like gold. I am giving you permission to take it out of the dirty laundry pile, if that is what you need to do. Because feeling good in what you are wearing — especially on a bad body image day — can help a lot when going out into public!

7. Remind yourself that your bad body image day will pass.

We all have them. It is normal. How much we like what we look like is going to fluctuate. But learning to appreciate our bodies anyway, even on the bad days, is the basis of self-love.

This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals. 

xoxo

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Exercising Is About Loving Yourself, Not Punishing Yourself

*article originally published on The Odyssey Online*

“Ugh, I had too many cookies. I will have to go to the gym for hours later.”

“I ran three miles, so I can have this ice cream.”

“I worked out a lot this week, I can eat whatever I want.”

“I cheated on my diet yesterday. I have to go work it all off today.”

“I would love to have some of that dessert, but I didn’t work out today.”

Do any of those phrases sound familiar?

If one or more does, I am so sorry. I’ve been there. I know how horrible the constant guilt, work-out, repeat cycle truly is.

Exercise mindsets centered around food and dieting and working off what was eaten are unhealthy. They are dangerous and cyclic and a recipe for disaster.

But they are also the norm. They are promoted by society and normalized by peers.

You can find references to “magic” workouts on magazines. Exercise fads are almost as insidious as diet trends! They are discussed almost constantly.

Seriously, I dare you to go a day without hearing (or mentioning) working out, dieting, food or guilt around something you ate.

But, would you like to know a secret?

Exercise. Is. Not. A. Punishment.

Exercise isn’t something you do because you think you had one too many cookies.

It isn’t something you do because you want to eat a certain way later.

It isn’t something that gives you permission to “let loose.”

Our society treats exercise like the end-all-be-all of what you can and cannot eat. It is the magic permission slip for dessert. It is the go-to for guilty thoughts and fixing that cheat meal.

(Oh, and those cheat meals… those are bullshit, too.)

Food is not good or bad or healthy or unhealthy. (It’s all about that moderation!)

Food is not something you earn.

Food is not something you compensate for with hours on hours of time at the gym.

Let me tell you something. I used to think that food was all of the above. I logged hundreds and hundreds of miles running. I worked out all the time.

I was miserable. I had an eating disorder that constantly told me food was bad. And I punished myself with exercise.

And now, years later, in recovery from my eating disorder and months and months away from compulsive exercise, I look around me and I see the same unhealthy relationship with exercise everywhere.

I hear it in conversations I pass on the street or floating around the air in cafes. I watch it in the monotonous strain of those who attend the college gym with a pained, dead look in their eyes.

It’s not healthy.

But, as I have started to add exercise back into my life, I have redefined my relationship with it.

Exercise. Is. Not. A. Punishment.

Exercise is something you do because you have lots of energy and you want to move.

Exercise is something you do to relieve stress…and not the stress that comes from feeling like you ate something you “shouldn’t have.” (Shouldn’t have really doesn’t exist, unless, for example, you are lactose intolerant and had a lot of ice cream…)

Exercise is something you do to appreciate all that your body is capable of achieving.

Exercise is something you do because you feel strong and powerful and fierce.

Exercise is something you do to enjoy the outdoors and the fresh air.

Exercise is something you do only when you can enjoy it.

Exercise is something you do because you enjoy it.

Let me say it again… Exercise. Is. Not. Punishment.

Trust me, I have used it as one. The other, enjoyable, self-fulfilling, side of the exercise spectrum is a lot more fun.

This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals. 

Stop Worrying About Your ‘Perfect Summer Body’ And Just Enjoy The Weather

*article originally posted on The Odyssey Online* 

As it warms up and winter clothing *finally* starts to withdraw into the back of the closet, discussions about body appearance move to the front hangers. ‘Tis the season for ads promoting how to get the body you want before summer and different diet trends to help you get rid of those last few pounds.

Feeds start to fill with alluring “body goals.” Promises re-emerge to take up that New Year’s resolution to hit the gym that you dropped on January 3. I sound sarcastic, but honestly, it’s OK to not go to the gym or drop those pounds!

And that’s the point.

Magazines, friends, commercials, etc. all say it’s time to get in shape before you hit the beach.

But, you don’t need to.

You don’t need to have abs and trim thighs and sculpted arms to be seen.

You don’t need to look like you work out every day to be worthy of space.

You don’t need to be a certain way to dress in shorts, skirts, a bathing suit, something that shows your legs or your form.

And anyone who says you do is wrong.

You can tell them I said that. Please do.

Society and (especially American) culture send messages basically saying to be worthy — of love, belonging, respect, space, time, empathy, etc. — you need to be a certain body type.

To be worthy, you need to look worthy.

But worth does not lie on the skin. As cliché as this is, “beauty is not skin deep.” (I honestly have no idea who said that, but they were/are correct and I give them mad props.)

Someone who looks different than you is just as worthy of love as you are.

We, and here I mean society as a whole, because, like it or not, we who disagree with thin ideals are part of society too, judge so much on how we look and what we wear that we forget the object of the judgment is a person too.

A person with feelings and dreams and desires who just wants to love and be loved.

Who cares if you have some shape to your stomach and you like to wear bikinis?

Who cares if you don’t have super thin thighs and you sport shorts in the warm weather?

Who cares if you have scars, stretch marks, birthmarks, acne, etc. and you don’t try to hide them?

If you answered “I care and it bothers me to see” to any of the above questions, it’s time to reevaluate your values because you just defined someone simply by their appearance.

What a petty thing to do.

In the spirit of full disclosure, when I read the questions I wrote above, I think: “I care if people think that about me.” But you know what, that’s OK and, honestly, to be expected.

Society conditioned me to care what people think.

Society conditioned me to think I have to hide my flaws.

Society conditioned me to think I have to work out and look a certain way in order to take up space. (When did exercise change from something we do to alleviate stress to something we do to punish our bodies for the way they look? But, that right there is a different article for another week.)

Society conditioned me to think if I don’t look like a model, I can’t love who I am.

As hard as it is (for me too), I challenge us both to let go of those fears — if only for five minutes — and wear the shorts, the bathing suit, the outfit that doesn’t hide every flaw.

I challenge us both to drop the ridiculous standard we hold ourselves and others to in the spirit of just enjoying the world.

I challenge us both to view our bodies not as the enemy or of something to be ashamed, but as a means of exploration of the places around us. Of the vehicles that allow us to laugh, smile, hug, play sports, lounge on the beach, swim in the water and soak in the light.

Because, in the end, whether we look a good in a bathing suit is not the memory to look back on when we are older.

This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals. 

Dear young Lexi

A letter to the girl on the left, who looks happy, but is aching inside. From the girl on the right, who has learned how to laugh and smile and feel joy.

“Dear young Lexi,

I wish I could tell you that you will be okay. 
I wish I could give you a hug and tell you its okay to cry, be angry, feel.
I wish I could tell you it’s okay to ask for help.
I wish I could help you see that life will get better.
I wish I could take the emotions and the struggles you feel and put them into present day me. Because I know how to cope with them now, and you don’t.
I wish I could tell you that starving yourself doesn’t fix it.
I wish I could tell you that the numbers on the scale do not change your worth.
I wish I could list the things that are so much better than being skinny.
I wish I could explain to you that you don’t have to have it all together.
I wish I could tell you that control over food doesn’t mean the chaos in life goes away.
I wish I could make the lies go away.
I wish I could have stopped you from all the pain and hurt and tears and heartbreak.
I wish I could show you how to love yourself.

But you will learn.

You will learn to trust the process.
You will learn to feel the pain and accept it is part of life.
You will learn to ignore the voice.
You will learn to tell society’s standards to fuck off.
You will learn to work on accepting yourself.
You will learn how to live life again.

And those lessons, they are priceless.

From,
Present-day Lexi”

xoxo IMG_4747

*originally published on my instagram

Mephistophelian weariness of chronic

This week, in therapy, I talked a lot about being tired.

Not sleepy, didn’t-go-to-bed-early-enough tired.

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me thinking about that recovery life

Tired of the energy it takes to do recovery. Tired of the time I have to spend thinking about what I ought to do to fight the eating disorder, what I need to do to keep myself fueled…

…when what I want to do is hit the “fuck it” button and just stop.

There is a dichotomy between chronic and chosen. With chosen–like a goal or a desire–you can stop if you opt to. You can, for example, decide you want non-decaf coffee today even if your goal was to limit caffeine.

But with chronic, you cannot decide. Your choice is void because it was never your decision to begin with. 

When you decide to recover, you waive any possible “fuck it” option. You contend with the idea of never-ending mental energy.

Most of the time, the benefits of recovery vastly supersede the annoyance of your waiver.

But occasionally, the Mephistophelian truth of your decision comes out: you don’t have a choice. 

I sound negative. I recognize this. But I also acknowledge that recovery is not universally positive.

A multitude of recovery, the little undiscussed bits and pieces, can fluctuate between the poles of experience: positive, negative, neutral.

Just like the comprehensive trajectory of recovery, the energy consumption annoyance goes up and down. Remember: “recovery isn’t linear.” Turns out, the stamina it takes to consistently pick recovery isn’t linear, either.

However, there is a silver lining (er, gold lacquer… just a little kintsukuroi reference there 😉 ).

In my experience, opting for the endurance it takes to be in recovery is much more preferable to the pertinacity  it takes to be symptomatic in an eating disorder. Eating disorders are WORK, mental energy wise. You think about calories and food and exercise and guilt and your body and etc. and etc.

If you are already putting in the energy, why not have it be directed in the direction of the path giving you back vitality… towards recovery.

 

xoxo

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on fashion, clothes, and body neutrality

In my opinion, navigating the world of fashion has some potholes.

Maybe a lot of potholes.

Fashion, at least as we know it in contemporary society, is rife with body ideals and

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unattainable beauty standards. Models are such a small percentage of the population, body type wise. Actually, the ideal body type we see in the media and on fashion magazines is nearly equivalent to that of a prepubertal girl. Seriously, I am not kidding.

As someone who really loves fashion and clothes and expressing myself in this way,figuring out how to appreciate fashion without bombarding myself with image upon image of edited, manipulated, unattainable bodies has been challenging.

Here’s how I do it: I don’t.

I simple don’t look at fashion media. Occasionally, I search Pinterest for inspiration. But mostly, I figure out how to appreciate fashion through my own body and appearance.

Fashion, therefore, serves as a means of appreciation for my body. It is a neutral ground of body acceptance.

B9A48871-3FA4-4FCC-89C0-D1BC7003A76CThrough clothes, I work to acknowledge my body. I don’t necessarily LIKE my body, even if I like my outfit, but I can appreciate my body as a part of the art of fashion. Body neutrality.

Part of my recovery, past and current, is figuring out who I am both in what I like and how I present. Throughout my recovery, I experimented a lot with clothing styles. I went from dark and gothic, to dark vintage, to somewhat alternative, to a strange mix of all of the above.

Fashion style is personal. It doesn’t have to fit into a box with a label and a color and sit on a shelf that is labeled “me.” It can change and flow and be fluid. Much like us, fashion  is not static.

Embracing the fluidity of my personal expression, though it means I have gone through IMG_4212lots of clothes, has allowed me to experiment with my comfort zones and boundaries. And, boy, have I learned how to thrift shop! (You have to, if your style keeps changing!)

Even now I look in my closet and wonder what in the world I was thinking when I bought this or that article of clothing, much like I look back at my past and wonder why I did something or why I picked what I picked or cringe because an experience was just really embarrassing and I didn’t realize it.

And, that’s okay. People change. Trends change. Clothes change. We change.

It’s all part of life.

xoxo

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NEDA Week

“Recovery isn’t linear,” I tell myself for the umpteenth time…“Ups and downs. You are going to struggle…” a constant reminder for me.

When I first began treatment 617 days ago, I didn’t believe in anything beyond my eating disorder. There was no “life without anorexia.” Although I don’t necessarily think there is a recoverED—a point I struggled with for a long time—I believe wholeheartedly in recoverING: the ability to live a life free of disordered thoughts, actions, restrictions; one where I make the decisions and enjoy the turbulence of living. A constant, everlasting work-in-progress type of life. Part of my personal recovery was denying the dichotomy of healing, and learning to embrace a “third space.” It was learning to be okay with imperfections in all spheres: body, recovery, intelligence, actions, feelings.

617 days ago I got my life back. Granted, it didn’t feel like it. I was living in a different state at a place where you had to ask to do just about anything. I tried to quit recovery more times than I can count. I wanted to recover, but “not like this.” I wanted to be MOSTLY better, but hold onto a bit of my eating disorder because it was safe, known, and it made me feel in control. Turns out, you can’t do that. Surprising, right?

For me, recovery meant letting go, going against everything the eating disorder “supposedly” gave me—what I thought was control—to become autonomous. It sounds so easy, when I write it out and look at it… but if you ask anyone who is in recovery or treatment, I can almost guarantee they will tell you the process of freeing yourself is no where near simple. (I want to make sure I note, here, eating disorders do NOT discriminate by gender, race, social class, age, etc. You don’t have to look like you have an eating disorder. Eating disorders come in a variety of forms.q They are ALL illnesses. They are ALL real.)

“Recovery isn’t linear.” Recovery will never be linear. Healing isn’t linear. And, although sometimes I wish it was, ultimately, these twists and turns supply more than a straight line ever would. Sometimes I still struggle with accepting my ups and downs; I probably always will. That’s okay. “It’s okay to not be okay.” And it’s okay to ask for help, take time for yourself, and give yourself the love you deserve.

 

XOXO

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*This post was originally published on my personal Instagram

living in limbo

I did something I never, ever thought that I would do: I quit.

I quit my job. I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed something new–something better for me and my mental health.

It was probably one of the hardest things I have had to do. That might sound strange, but I have a tendency to want to people please. And leaving a place because I am the one who wants to is very different for me. Doing something because it is in MY best interest is an action I have only recently begun to act upon consistently.

I’m in a strange place right now. I am stuck waiting for a few different events to either play out… or not. And that is difficult for me, because I have no control over them anymore. I can no longer influence the outcome–they are in others’ hands.

Limbo is, well, uncomfortable, almost by nature. But it is especially trying when the limbo rests between what *feel* like two very different, important outcomes.

It is nearly impossible to resist trying to affect the outcome one way or another.

Sitting here, writing this entry, my brain keeps pointing out all the other, more productive (or not) things I could be doing instead. It keeps trying to redirect my brain to something more comfortable. Because that is what it is supposed to do–help me be comfortable.

But change, bravery, lessons do not lie in what is comfortable. No, one must leave the comfort zone to discover something new. For nothing is unknown in comfort, in the common.

What’s worse is that old habits lie waiting in the discomfort, trying–though unsuccessfully–to win me back. It was expected, but not welcome. Unhealthy habits are never welcome.

I’ve been vague in my discussion above for a reason. I intended to NOT name what it is I am waiting for and in limbo between. Because it doesn’t matter.

There are always going to be these weird times of limbo. The events, decisions, actions are going to change–but the feelings, they stay the same.

The discomfort lives in the limbo–it always will. It’s what you do IN the discomfort that makes the difference.

 

let’s talk about the green

*trigger warning: facts about the meat industry are included. No pictures or calorie numbers are present. Please assess whether this will be okay for you.*

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There have been a few changes to my life lately.

First, under the supervision of my nutritionist, I have made the switch to a vegetarian lifestyle. I am so thankful for my recovery and the ability I now have to make choices like this.

Why vegetarian? I’ve thought a lot about it. I’ve mulled it over for years and years and then put it aside when I went into treatment. However, I am now in a place where I can responsibly choose a vegetarian lifestyle and remain grounded in my recovery.

Vegetarianism, for me, is a moral and ethical decision. I do not support the meat industry and the factory farming of animals. I do not support animal cruelty and the immense amount of waste that is brought on by the meat industry.

Here are some crazy facts (and by that I mean really striking) about it:

  • In one month of vegetarianism, you can save 8+ animals.
    • In one year, 100+ animals.
  • 80% of the antibiotics sold are used on livestock
  • 6 million animals are killed PER HOUR for food
  • 50% of our grain production goes to feeding animals…
    • Think about how many we could feed with this grain? It would greatly help with world hunger.
  • 91% of Amazon Rainforest destruction is done for animal agriculture
  • US livestock produces 116,000 pounds of waste PER SECOND
  • Feed stock grown for animals is responsible for 56% of all of the US water consumption
  • It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef
  • Livestock (and their bi-products) produce 32 billion tons of CO2 per year

But most of all, I just can’t get myself to support an industry that generally mistreats, abuses, and crams animals into small spaces. Nor can I even fathom the idea of de-beaking chickens. It just isn’t right.

Therefore, I am eating vegetarian and supporting what I believe as an animal lover.

This includes buying only from companies that do not test on animals and are free of animal cruelty.

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Second, I’m going green. I mean MUCH more green than before. I used to recycle and occasionally bring my own reusable bags to the store, but I want to do way more than that. I’ve done a lot of soul searching around what I believe and one of those is that the environment needs to be protected in anyway possible. This means more than just reduce, reuse, recycle. It means doing everything possible to eliminate some of that contribution in the first place.

So what have I done so far:

  • My kitchen is going paperless. I have replaced paper towels with different towels for hands and spills. There is a laundry bin specifically for them in my cleaning closet.
  • I started a little compost container. It’s just an air-tight jar, but it’s something and the best I can do with an apartment.
    • I am… however… looking into worm composting.
  • I am growing my own herbs and have many other plants on my window sills. I am looking to increase these.
  • I am buying secondhand whenever possible and trying to donate everything I don’t really need. Because I have way to much “stuff.”
  • RECYCLING.
  • I am going to start making some of my own cleaning products. This can include laundry detergent, and other household cleaners. If I don’t make it, it is going to be bought from an environmentally responsible company.
  • I will be biking and walking when I can and driving only when needed. (It’s a college campus, I don’t NEED to drive unless it is to the grocery store.)
  • No straws, sytrofoam, wasteful use of plastic, plastic utensils that I cannot wash and reuse.
  • Tupperware and reusable bottles. Everything possible reusable.

I’m pretty happy with it! I am cooking so much more and I just feel better in my life when I know I am doing my best to be sustainable and help animals.

it’s been a bit

It’s been more than a month since I last blogged on here.

Over the past 4-5 weeks, I have opened this blog, thought about how I “should” write something, opened a draft, stared at it, closed the draft, sighed, closed the tab…. more times than I would like to admit.

The truth is, I didn’t know what to write.

I still don’t. But I want to write anyway and just see what comes.

I recently got the metaphorical rug pulled out from under me when I fell and broke my wrist. In treatment, you learn to build your foundation and go to that whenever you start to feel unsteady.

But what happens when your foundation doesn’t just crack… it collapses?

My foundation was art, journaling, working my barista job, doing yoga, driving, and taking my bunny places. But if you break your dominant hand and end up in a full arm cast for two weeks (just came off today BITCHES!), and then have a short cast for 2-3 after that, and then a brace after that… what do you do when insurance doesn’t come through and you need to switch practices and therefore end up with a brace for a week AFTER the long arm cast instead of a different cast and you have to work and a removable hard cast is 600 dollars and so maybe that won’t work, especially without insurance, and having to wait a week to figure it out puts you without a cast and a week closer to going on vacation to a lake with your boyfriend and a week further from finishing with this cast business for good? (massive run on there, but hey, stream of consciousness writing currently).

Then what do you do–foundation less and confused?

I’ll be honest: I felt this making me start to slip. I felt my eating disorder warping it into a “you CAN’T do anything and therefore, since you can’t get the food easily you don’t have to eat it because it’s too hard and your arm hurts when you strain it.” I felt it telling me that, since I couldn’t be active (or at least as active as I was before the injury) I didn’t need as much (read like no) food.

FUCK THAT.

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I made a sling out of a scarf because the actual sling didn’t fit my bulky arm cast.

The last two weeks have been spent on my floor with the bunny boy, then a week and a half at my bf’s where he helped me be a functioning (albeit down an arm, temporarily) human being, and then back here again playing more hours of sims 4 than I would like to admit… but I have a really nice virtual sim house to show for it!

In a way, I am thankful for my broken wrist. Because it taught me a lot about being a ‘person being’ instead of a ‘person doing,’ as my therapist likes to say.

Over these past two weeks, I have done exactly zero “exercise” (just sightseeing and thrift shopping), eaten water boiled bagels more times than I can count, had dinner and lunch out a ton (sometimes both in the same day), eaten ice cream to my heart’s content, and been super flexible with food in general…. guess what, I feel just fine and I am the same as I was before. Well, aside from the broken bone.

Because sitting and just being doesn’t matter. I don’t NEED to do ANYTHING to deserve food or love or life. I can simply enjoy being in the world.

That doesn’t mean I am not antsy about getting back to my life. I miss my job and yoga and journaling. But, I know I can always think back to these few weeks if my eating disorder ever tells me something bad is going to happen if I just take it slow and let me be me.