Green Recovery: Rose Carves Out Space in Her Life For Healing

by Gena on February 27, 2013

Rose CR Photo 2

Thanks so much for the wonderful comments on Monday’s post, everyone. I’m really grateful.

In staying with the NEDA theme for the week, I have a new Green Recovery post for you today! This one is from fellow blogger (and longtime CR reader/commenter) Rose, who submitted it to me saying, “I have read and benefited from every single one of your posts, and I mean it when I say this: Choosing Raw was instrumental in my ED recovery.” I’m happy to share Rose’s recovery story with you all today. I am particularly excited because Rose addresses binge eating disorder, which is more prevalent than classic anorexia or bulimia, but is often under-discussed in ED/recovery circles. I’ve asked for Green Recovery stories that address binge eating a few times via social media, and it’s great to finally be seeing some submissions. I hope you’ll all appreciate Rose’s candor, energy, and empathy as much as I do.

Hey CR readers! I’m Rose, author of Rosie Glow Wellness, beatnik preacher of blooming health, self-imposed euphoria and incessant dreaming. Today, I (usually) succeed in living my life as an artsy fartsy sparkle fairy of light, love and wellness; but in truth, it took nearly a decade of struggle to find and occupy the utopian mental space I now call home. The following is my Green Recovery Story, and I promise it has a happy ending.

For now, the beginning: given my ferocious imagination and inherent longing to be different (yup, still afflicted), I latched onto the false superiority of skinniness at a really young age. I didn’t want to be thin because the teenybopper magazines I devoured extolled thinness; I wanted to be weightless and pixie-like and I wanted my small stature to be yet another feather in my outrageously dramatic cap. Perhaps even more damaging than that notion was an idea that I picked up from all of the great literature I was reading (mind you, I grew up in the heyday of Babysitter’s Club): the diva supreme I wanted to be – the woman who every other girl was jealous of – could eat her weight in pizza and chocolate cake and never gain an ounce. Simply put, I wanted to be a freak of nature.

So at the age of nine or ten, I became a young lady of extremes. I loved fruits and veggies, but I also thought it perfectly acceptable to stuff myself stupid with junk food as long as I maintained my willowy build. It filled me with maniacal glee when my family members would exclaim “Where does she put it?!” and when they dubbed me Bottomless Pit… boy oh boy, I felt like a queen. All this to say, I wouldn’t classify myself as having had an eating disorder at this age, but it’s now obvious to me that I was setting myself up for disordered behavior.

I started restricting my sophomore year of high school, which, to this day, I identify as the most stressful year of my young life. I was a 15 year old snarl of hormones and adolescent girl histrionics, and my combatant to a world of inner turmoil was to eat under 1,200 calories a day. Ever inclined to theatrics, this backfired into binging by the time I graduated high school; and in college, especially when alcohol was introduced to the equation, my eating benders became even more overblown. It didn’t help that I was utterly SURROUNDED by brilliant, beautiful girlfriends who had EDs of their own (after college, readers, you can reflect on how confused and scared and desperate everybody really was), so no one really questioned it when I would come home after a night out, rip through a whole bag of pita chips and a tub of hummus and then think… “Screw it! I’ve already messed up… might as well eat everything in the kitchen and then go out for Burger King!” In these instances, I was on a mission to self-destruct; and I would spend the entire next day skipping classes due to “illness,” lying in bed sipping tea or some icky calorie free soda, refusing food, and avoiding friends and my boyfriend because my whole. body. hurt. The skin under my chin, the sides of my abdomen… they just ached. I’d have a day or two to “detox” like this (ill-advised) and then try to eat healthily for a few days. But because I wasn’t up on my nutrition facts and because I was predisposed to eating extremes; healthy eating equated to not eating enough. And then this cycle would start up again… every single week.

I had a turning point the summer before my senior year of college. Essentially, I hit rock bottom. I was enjoying a staycation with my mom, with whom I had always had an incredibly loving relationship, but had never, until this point, been honest with about my struggles. We had planned out a week of fun in our own city, and after one particular day of museums and shopping and an expensive dinner out… I proceeded to come home and eat the contents of my mom’s pantry. I mean, it was an epic binge. I felt too sick the next morning to participate in anything that we’d intended to do, and it was then that I finally came out to my mom. I’d never before uttered the words “I think I have an eating disorder” and all of a sudden, I felt free of the shame I’d been burdened with for years. I’d been ashamed, I think, of what my need to be different had manifested into. I had so carefully crafted the person I wanted to become, but I hadn’t planned on developing an eating disorder. What hurt most was that I had done this to myself. I went back to school as a senior in the fall with a new ally: my mom; and a new enemy: my eating disorder. I was determined to kick its theoretical ass.

Ok, y’all – I know I just deluged you with my ED history and a public psychoanalysis of my inner artiste, but here’s where the green recovery comes in. When I got back to school, I was desperate to be healthy. I was tired of being under my ED’s thumb and I wanted to take control of my health and my life. I distinctly remember being handed some crazy hippie-pamphlet about cow-butt induced methane gasses destroying the universe, and because I wanted to do good and eat in a way that didn’t cause me shame, I interpreted that pamphlet as a sign. So pretty much right then and there, I decided to go vegan. Soon after I bid adieu to animal products, I found healthy living blogs like Gena’s that advocated finding what works for your body. Plus they shed light on nutrient dense foods I had never previously considered eating (nut butters, avocado…) which then became staples of my diet. Eating suddenly became a great experiment – a way to see how my body reacted to certain food combinations and when it felt its best. Readers, I was so gosh darn proud that feeling good was my goal at that point. The fact that I would put a few caloric tablespoons of almond butter in my oatmeal or eat a heavy raw dessert speaks volumes, because those foods supported my health but did not support my inclinations toward being rail thin. Truth: I was still counting calories at this point (something I’d trained myself to do early on), but as I found my groove and learned what a satisfying but not overly filling meal meant to me (all macronutrients fully represented/ sh*t ton of greens), I gradually stopped counting. I was exercising regularly, too, and began consciously snacking for the first time in my life to make up for calories burned. And everything I was eating was good for me! Everything I eat now is good for me, for the most part. I know there’s a lot of talk in recovery communities about there being no such thing as good and bad foods, but I think women who suffer from binge eating disorders need a new mantra. I don’t know about you, girlfriends, but it’s apparent that I don’t do moderation. I’m a volume eater through and through, and I’d rather eat a salad bowl full of fresh fruit then a single cookie. Ok, scratch that – I cannot, physically, eat a single cookie. When I do eat flat-out desserts, I make sure they’re made with wholesome ingredients so I still feel as though I’ve made a positive choice. You need to find what style of healthy eating works for you.

Rose CR Photo

Now that I’ve freaked you all out by writing my first novel (above) some quick tips that really saved me:

Try to eliminate the word “binge” from your vocabulary and from the forefront of your brain. If young, pre-ED you was at a family party and happened to eat an entire bowl of M&Ms in one sitting, would she freak out that she’d binged and then proceed to eat everything else on the table? Heck no! She would have acknowledged that she’d probably get a tummy ache, c’est la vie… and then blame the incident on her cousin. Or take this example: I’ve never had a boyfriend call me crying about how he ate an entire pizza… but I’ve had boyfriends call me, post-eating an entire pizza, to ask if I could bring over another case of beer and some dessert. They didn’t identify overeating with any sort of disorder… they just moved on. This idea really helped me accept that… just because I ate 5 cookies… doesn’t mean that I have to say “F it!” and eat all 2 dozen cookies… you know what I’m sayin’? Don’t think of yourself as a binge eater. Think of yourself as a human who occasionally eats too much, like the rest of us humans.

Be selfish: with your time; with your energy. You need to carve out space in your life for healing. When I’m exhausted and burnt out, I’m a lot less apt to make healthy choices.

Don’t try to be anything you’re not. I’m going to hugely overgeneralize here, but most of the women I’ve met who’ve struggled with binge eating are both perfectionists AND messy, creative types. We all want to be organized, put together, and structured in our diet and exercise habits… but it’s not going to happen. Choose where you want structure – I AM pretty darn disciplined about exercise and very picky about what I eat, but my house is a mess and sometimes my hair is blue – and forget that girl you’ll never be. She sounds hella lame. Choose a new you to become!

Quit being so thoughtful. Can I overgeneralize again? A lot of women who struggle or struggled with EDs have this deep desire to know every bit of themselves and understand exactly what their relationship with food says about them. Try to simplify your relationship for the time being and come back to it when you feel whole again (and you will! You really will!) For now – food is fuel. It can be delicious and fun to make. That is all.

Choose healthy over skinny. Really and truly make that your priority… don’t just use “healthy” as a cover up when you’re trying to explain your eating behaviors. Embrace it. Make sure you’re always eating enough – real meals, friend. I think a lot of those of us who’ve had food issues have always wanted to be healthy and happy, but things got seriously messed up along the way. Really own it now and treat yourself with the utmost care and respect.

Finally, and most importantly, see a therapist. Healing is hard work and you want an expert on your side.

A lot of words, huh? But I seriously believe in all of us! It’s really difficult to break old habits and I’ve definitely had instances where I’ve been nervous that I’m falling back into old patterns. But a whole lot of self lovin’ has led me to realize that those are one off instances and I’m not “a binge eater” anymore. I’m just an imperfect person, and I’m cool with me :)

Own yourself, love yourself, and you’ll get to your happy place!!!

XOXO times ten thousand,

Rose

Rose CR Photo 3


Thank you, Rose!

I’m sure that many of you can relate to many points in this story, but a few stood out to me in particular. First, I smiled in recognition with Rose’s description of her early desire to stand out by being impossibly thin: “I wanted to be weightless and pixie-like and I wanted my small stature to be yet another feather in my outrageously dramatic cap. Perhaps even more damaging than that notion was an idea that I picked up from all of the great literature I was reading (mind you, I grew up in the heyday of Babysitter’s Club): the diva supreme I wanted to be – the woman who every other girl was jealous of – could eat her weight in pizza and chocolate cake and never gain an ounce. Simply put, I wanted to be a freak of nature.”

When people email me their ED stories, I’m often struck by how many of them refer longingly to a time in their lives when they could “eat whatever they wanted” and were still “tiny.” Perhaps longing for this moment—which, for most of us, characterizes the growth spurts before adolescence—is part of the lure of disordered eating. And perhaps it’s why the onset of puberty is the age when so many of us try to shut our developing bodies down through deprivation and self-abuse. We want to keep that contrast alive—the contrast between unfettered appetite and a body so ethereal that it appears not to demand sustenance at all. It is a potent desire, and it often persists straight through recovery. I cannot tell you how often I’m asked, via email, how someone might recovery from his/her ED without gaining any weight. My answer, of course, is that, while weight gain is not the only, or (in my opinion) even the most important part of recovery, the desire to recover while also aspiring to have a pixie’s body is almost definitely a contradiction in terms.

I also really appreciate that Rose is capable both of acknowledging that EDs demand serious consideration, treatment, and support (in the form of therapy) while also not pathologizing them to a degree that is crippling. This point came up yesterday in my comments; how much does talking about EDs through the prism of mental illness stigmatize them, and possibly hold people back from recovering? I think it’s crucial to acknowledge that EDs are mental illnesses, rather than extreme diets or expressions of narcissism/vanity, but I also realize that a certain amount of focus/fixation on one’s ED can become its own form of obsession. I like that Rose encourages us both to recognize the problem, and also not to allow it to oppress us.

And that, friends, is that. I hope you’ll enjoy this post, and speak up if it spoke to you. As always, thank you for reading.

xo

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

E February 27, 2013 at 10:38 am

Thank you Rose for such a wonderfully insightful post. I am currently struggling to overcome my ED, and reading something like what you wrote, which articulates every emotion and situation I’ve been going through is overwhelming (in a good way). I’ve been considering going vegan because I love how I feel when I eat healthy. I whiplash between binging/not caring what I eat and focusing on every morsel of food that I put on a fork. Your story reminds me that I will be able to get out of this insane cycle.

I also love how you described the girls who have EDs. I too am simultaneously an obnoxious perfectionist and a creative mess. I get worried about lacking direction and my anxieties manifest themselves in my eating habits.

I think/hope this blog may be part of my solution. The stories posted here give me chills, I’ve been so frightened for so long and finally I am starting to regain courage. I want to find myself again and divorce ED.

Thanks.
E

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm

E, I’m so glad you found this and were moved by it. It’s so easy to get stuck in that cycle you mentioned, but I have absolute faith that you’ll find your way out like I did. Thank you for reading!

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M.B. February 27, 2013 at 11:25 am

This is incredible.

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Thanks M.B.!

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Bronwyn February 27, 2013 at 11:36 am

Maybe it’s wrong to say, but I enjoyed (can you “enjoy” a post about eating disorders?) this post simply from the way it was written. EDs are a very serious issue, and I found Rose’s voice, filled with a little humour, really nice and refreshing.
I especially like the point to not over think things, especially our relationship with food. I think many of people (of ED history or no) can do that. And sometimes we have to let go of the words that define ourselves and our eating behaviour and relationships…

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I really appreciate that, Bronwyn! Gena – correct me if I’m wrong – but a major goal with this series is to ignore social taboos that generally prevent us from talking about this stuff. I figure we’re more likely to keep talking if we enjoy the conversation!

Thanks again for reading, Bronwyn.

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Emma February 27, 2013 at 11:59 am

Oh, Rose. I can’t tell you the amount of RESPECT and admiration I feel for you right now. Although my own struggles with wellness have less to do with food, I’ve learned that the single greatest way to pick yourself up is with the help of many (perhaps calloused, perhaps once wounded, perhaps healed like brand new) hands of friends, strangers, loved ones, who are honest about how difficult it can be to be the wonderful women that we are. Thanks for being a set of those hands for me and many others. XOXO

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Emma, this comment MELTED me. I think you’re so outrageously brilliant and to have your respect and admiration is such an honor. Thank you from the bottom of my hippie heart, and let’s proceed in being wonderful women, even though it can be tough. <3

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Laura C February 27, 2013 at 12:58 pm

This is fantastic, Rose, thank you! I love that you describe people prone to binging as often “both perfectionists AND messy, creative types.” I’ll never be the food blogger with the camera-ready plated meals- I’m the one eating the giant salad out of the bowl I made it in, with the serving fork because I haven’t done the dishes yet. I also really relate to your comment about volumetric eating. It sometimes takes a lot of effort for me to not overeat (and even more energy when I’ve been restrictive), but it’s less effort when I’m eating lighter plant foods in high volumes (and so much more enjoyable!). I also appreciate your focus on carving out that time for healing and letting go the parts of you that want to obsess about every bite during recovery. It’s really finding your voice and passion in other places of your life, and trying to focus less on food, that works the magic.

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Agreed on all accounts, Ms. Laura C.! And please, who has time to do dishes when we’re busy being passionate and fabulous?!

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zosia February 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm

What hurt most was that I had done this to myself.

I used to believe this same statement about myself, but the truth is – that statement is FALSE. for both of us.

You didn’t do this to yourself. You had a mental disease. You didn’t inflict mental illness upon yourself.

Much love.

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Hi Zosia! I very much understand what you’re saying and agree to a large extent, but what I really meant by “I had done to this myself” is that no one else was making me a victim – my own issues were to blame. It had come from within and when I had my aha moment, I finally acknowledged and took ownership of my disordered eating.

I don’t fault myself anymore or fall into self loathing, but in the moment I felt betrayed by my own person.

Just some clarification – thank you for reading!

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Tori February 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Rose, this is amazing! Wonderfully written, engaging, and so honest. Love you! xoxo

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 2:32 pm

You know I love you :)

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Molly February 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Love it, Rose! As you know, I can fully identify with your struggle and cyclical patterns of binging/detox. I do appreciate your candor, and I’ve been employing many of the tips that you share here.

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Molly, girl, you’re a special soul. Thank you for reading and I’m so happy you’re working to make positive changes in your beautiful life!

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Emma February 27, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Thanks so much for sharing Rose. Although our eds manifested themselves in different ways- I struggled with anorexia (not completely recovered yet…) and you binge eating I can still relate to so much of what you say here. As Gena highlighted that desire to stand out really resonates, and I think is perhaps what I’m still finding difficult to give up with getting back up to a healthy weight- giving up my thinness somehow equates to giving up what I perceive makes me “special”? I know my weight really does not define me but it’s hard to let go of, especially right now when I haven’t carved out my real identity yet (just about to finish university and don’t know where my future lies). Thanks for your advice and inspiration :)

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Oh, Emma! So glad this spoke to you… and think of it this way: the beauty of an ED-free life means you can reinvent yourself however you so choose. Use a practice of mine: envision future you doing your thang and living your dream life… just imagine that the difficult steps you take to kick your ED’s butt, figure out what makes you light up, and then do it are all leading up that vision.

You can do it, girl!

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Emma February 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Aaaaw thanks girl. I love that idea :)

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wendy (healthy girls kitchen) February 27, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Rose rocks. That is all.

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 9:48 pm

So sweet! Thank you Wendy!! I think you rock, too :)

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Raya February 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I have never read a post that I related to as much as this one. Ever. Seriously, I am blown away. I am experiencing almost everything Rosie talks about, and it has come at the perfect time.

Thank you so much for this.

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Raya, you sound like a soul sister! Comment/Facebook/email me anytime. You’ll get through it, girlfriend.

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Elisabeth February 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm

I am so glad that you have found your niche, Rose! I think that part of the reason I struggled with anorexia was that I didn’t know where I belonged. I realize now that I don’t have to have a concise definition of myself or a neat, little category that I can fit into, especially one that is based off my weight or ability to starve and overexercise myself; I can just be me. Thank you for inspiring me with your lighthearted story of a complicated and serious subject!

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Audrey February 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Yeah, I could relate to that, too. My eating disorder has taken over my personality in a way so that I can clearly see the moment of my pre-ED self and the person I am now. It’s hard to go forward and forge myself into the person I want to be, not what the ED dictates. In many ways finding that niche and acceptance is one thing that I think would help the ED lose some of its hold. But it’s also the thing that holds me back. So it’s kind of a vicious cycle.

Great post, Rose. It’s really great to hear that I’m not the only one that struggles with this. I hope I can get to the place of peace and progress that you are at. Blessings!

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hannah February 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Gena’s post on this topic from the year before last is totally worth re-reading (http://www.choosingraw.com/in-honor-of-neda-week-rebuilding-a-sense-of-distinctiveness-after-recovery/)
I think it’s a really common difficulty and Rose is so inspirational to have addressed it so well

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Hannah, I love that post, too. :)

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Audrey February 28, 2013 at 10:51 am

Thank you! I’m going to read that now.

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Audrey, girl, I understand the idea of dual-personalities; pre-ED and disordered. In terms of passions, though, I haven’t really settled into any sort of niche post-ED that I didn’t hold near and dear before. I’m doing the same things (writing, performing, cherishing my loved ones), I’m just better able to stay present and truly enjoy the things I love, rather than focus on food and my relationship with it. I hope that you heal, but I also urge you to consider that once you’ve made it through to the other side of your ED, you’ll be ONE person who is more compassionate, wiser and stronger because of her struggles. You’ll get there. I know you will!

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Audrey February 28, 2013 at 10:50 am

Thank you, Rose, for the reminder and the encouragement.

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 9:57 pm

I love this, Elisabeth. You’re totally right – when we ditch the disordered part of our identities, we’re finally free to build beautiful, blossoming lives for ourselves that, as you said, don’t fit into neat little categories. So happy that you can just be you! And you’re so very welcome.

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Vegyogini February 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm

So well-written, Rose, thank you for courageously sharing! My favorite part is the quick trips and, especially, this phrase therefrom: “treat yourself with the utmost care and respect.”

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Rose February 27, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Thank you so much! I like that part, too… it’s very necessary.

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Caitlyn February 27, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Thank you SO, SO much for this post, Gena and Rose! I have been reading this blog regularly for over a year now, and I cannot tell you how much hope and inspiration it has offered me during my struggles with an ED: thank you, Gena, for your bravery in addressing this issue, even if it’s not the most popular topic with all your readers, and thank you for your post yesterday as well: it really hit home.

Rose, thank you for your incredible honesty and bravery (all mixed in with a wonderful wit!). I have struggled with BED for years now, interspersed with periods of weight loss and extreme orthorexia. It can seem so superficial to those not experiencing an ED, but (as Gena noted so poignantly yesterday), to someone in the throes of the illness, a few pounds up or down on the scale can feel like the end of the world. The last six months or so have been extremely trying for me: my life plans, living situation and job all changed at once, and this kicked me back into the binge cycle of my orthorexia-binge pattern. Add in some problems with medication, and you get a rapid and agonizing weight gain that threatened to destroy my sense of self and my sanity. There were times on this journey that I contemplated giving up veganism, a choice that means a tremendous amount to me as a yogini and animal rights activist, as a result of the disordered thinking that I could only ever be “ethereally small” if I was eating eggs and dairy again.

I am happy to report now, though, that I am taking big, dramatic steps towards recovery, and for the last month and a half or so, I’ve been on a progressive up-swing, that finally, for the first time, feels like RECOVERY, and not just another swing back into orthorexic obsession. I’ve stuck with my commitment to veganism and all-around healthy choices, and I’m happy to report that these are the best decisions I could have made. It is stories like Rose’s and many of the other Green Recovery writers, whether they suffer from BED or other EDs, that offer me daily inspiration and encouragement. It was particularly nice, Ros, to be reminded that although we must acknowledge and address our EDs, we don’t have to be defined by them!

I still have a long road to travel, but I’m much more optimistic now, and I hope that one day I’ll be able to submit my own Green Recovery story and add my voice to Rose’s in the annals of recovered binge eaters :)

Thank you again both so much for your bright spirits and courageous sharing! I, (and many others like me, I’m sure), appreciate it more than we can ever express.

PS- Gena, your NEDA week themes have inspired all the yoga classes I’ve been teaching this week; thank you for helping me to find ways to spread the word about EDs in even more forums and venues!

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Rose February 28, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Caitlyn, thank you for YOUR spirit! I sense, from the way you articulate yourself and your ED, that you really are on the path to recovery. It’s a long road, girl, but I know you’ll get there! No judgement on an occasionally faltering vegan diet… I’ve definitely been there. (I wrote a post about it here: http://rosieglowwellness.com/2013/02/08/the-vegan-thing/) Healing is your priority, whatever that takes!

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Elizabeth February 27, 2013 at 10:38 pm

What a great writer you are, Rose, and what an inspiring story. I think that ability to insert a bit of humor into the re-telling of painful episodes in our lives speaks volumes about our recovery (I know it’s sometimes a way of detaching, too, but that’s not what I’m detecting in your story).

I do think your eating disorder, at least the way you describe it, falls on the so-called restrictive spectrum. It’s important to note that as there are different genetic markers in than in the case of binge eating disorder that leads to obesity. There are pure restrictors, I know many of them, but in many cases the binge episodes are brought on either as a result of prolonged restriction, or, through the mental act of restriction – buying into the idea that some foods are “bad” (i.e. fattening) and should not be eaten. It is this reasoning that leads some therapists (my own included) to be wary of veganism because for them the path to recovery involves deconstructing that binary between “good” and “bad” foods (see Donna Fish’s excellent article on this in the Huff Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/donna-fish/mindful-eating_b_2442156.html).

Even though my own diagnosis was anorexia, I can really relate to your story. I had rough couple years early on when I was trying to imitate friend who would pick the chocolate chips out of a single cookie and that would be dinner. Or the berries out of a muffin for breakfast. When I tried to do that, I couldn’t stop, I’d have to eat the whole muffin, and then, well then the day would be ruined so I’d be like, “well, I might as well eat whatever I want.” And then I’d be full, obviously, which made me feel fat, and horrible, and determined to eat nothing at all the next day … and eating nothing at all wasn’t ever going to work for me. I had one anorexic friend in particular who subsisted on vodka and Bremer wafers. And I wanted to be like her SO badly that I could not buying that green box of (tasteless, really, not something I’d eat today) crackers whenever I went to the market and keeping a bottle of Absolut in my freezer. Well, let me tell you, as long as the box went unopened I was fine, but as soon as I opened it, I had to finish it. It was the strangest compulsion. I’d be lying in bed after a row and I’d have to get up and finish the other row. Whereas my friend would have two. Two 12 calorie crackers. Or whatever they were. And I had to eat all 30. What a pig …

I had to break out of that cycle because I would have killed myself had I stayed there. And that meant coming to terms with the fact that while I was masquerading as someone with perfect control, I actually had none to speak of. My strategy was to eliminate all those foods from my life. I whittled down my diet to a list of 15 or so safe foods and with some exceptions (in controlled environments like restaurants, where I could order “one” of something), that’s how I ate for the next seven odd years. I remained smug and aloof and contemptuous of the dietary habits of those around me, but in the back of my mind, I always felt like a fake. I mean, I was the kind of person who could eat a whole box of Bremer wafers.

Those years were calm ones. Even though I was still underweight, I felt “recovered” in a way – I was eating three meals a day, religiously, I wasn’t trying to lose weight, and I wasn’t binging. Maybe I could have kept it up? Who knows?

Many, many people choose this route. A route I’d define as “complete abstinence.” There are people, and I’m one of them, for whom abstinence, in some cases, is easier than moderation. I’m not physically capable of eating only one cookie either. Unless it’s monster-sized.

You touch on something that I’ve been struggling to find a way to articulate, and that is a kind of third way between moderation and abstinence. I don’t want to call it “occasional overeating,” even if that’s what it is, because it presumes there’s a right amount (an appropriate serving size), but the point is there are foods out there that don’t trigger an appropriate satiety response for me. Most people would encourage me to avoid those foods outright, and that’s not bad advice. it’s probably better to avoid cookies than to eat six cookies a day. Maybe (and I’m hardly a medical professional, so who knows) this is the best strategy for those with a true binge eating disorder, that is, a binge eating disorder on the overeating spectrum (not your case, or mine).

But the thing is, if I eat six cookies tonight (that is probably the amount it will take for me to reach satiety, just like it will take three or four giant macaroons, a POUND of cherries, or a recipe of hummus (if I ever order hummus in a restaurant, I have to order three servings)), I don’t eat that much tomorrow and the next day and the next day … if I eat six cookies, I’m inclined the next day to think I don’t like cookies anymore. And this is just how it is on the restrictive spectrum … the over and undereating tend to balance out. Which is why I believe in eating to satiety, all the time, because then I avoid the extremes.

Anyway, all of this a long way of saying that as long as you are not in diet mentality, if nothing’s off limits for reasons of vanity or *health* (I’m not referring to ethical restrictions, like veganism, or medically dictated restrictions, in case of true allergies), you really can eat intuitively, EVEN if you don’t moderate some foods naturally (and I don’t!). It’s hard when you have preconceived ideas of what’s an appropriate serving size, if you feel compelled to eat according to a nutritionist’s guidelines, but in the long run, it pays to find a way of eating that works not just physically but psychologically. Abstinence worked for me physically, but it was a way of eating completely out of synch with the rebel in me. The person who chafes at rules. At restriction. At the word “no.”

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Rose February 28, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Girlfriend, this is a post in itself! Incredible! I, too, believe there’s a balance that INITIALLY lies between abstinence and moderation… but once you master it and find, through trial and error, what works for you (both physically and psychologically – love that!)… it simply becomes second nature. Agree on every level and hope that you’ve found YOUR balance.

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prescription designer glasses February 27, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Good post. So how are you now?

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Marissa February 28, 2013 at 12:40 am

Rose, thank you so much for this fantastic post! I love your unique style in it, but also how relatable it is–I don’t think I’ve seen any comments in which someone doesn’t say that they see themselves in this post, and I think that’s the wonderful thing about the Green Recovery series. I think it helps us all understand each other and relate to each other, and I know for me at least, I learn something new about myself and find something else to keep me in recovery with every post. So thank you Rose, for sharing, and thank you Gena, for giving this series life.

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Rose February 28, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I agree about the Green Recovery Series being incredibly relatable, Marissa!… Food issues are INSANELY prevalent and I really hope that we’ll all be comfortable sharing and healing someday! This Series is an amazing first step toward openness :)

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McKella February 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I love this! I see so much of myself in this post. I too, have a bit of a flair for the dramatic and that definitely played out in a desire to be a short, skinny wisp of a girl even though I’ve always been tall and was a very stocky kid. I think I believed that only wispy girls are allowed to stand out because their type of beauty is “accepted”, and whenever I stood out I just got made fun of. So I learned to be invisible and found solace in food.
The statement about being obesessed with our relationship with food also hit me pretty hard, because I feel like I’m there right now. I still struggle with overeating, but I also read and reread TONS of books about the subject while trying to analyze every little bit of who I am to get to the bottom of things. And I still overeat. And I still feel bad about it.
I read somewhere that the only thing that sets a compulsive eater apart is the way we obsess and feel guilty about overeating instead of just letting it go. So true.

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Audrey February 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Great points, McKella. When Rose mentioned how a person with a more “normal” relationship with food processes eating too much of something versus how a disordered mind processes it, I found that really interesting. For many of us, I think there was probably a time when we were able to let things go more (for me it was when I was a kid). It’s that kind of freedom I want to get back. Not just freedom from food patterns, but freedom in my mind. I can definitely relate to your quest to find out the reason for this. I’ve gotten so frustrated because while the books and articles all make sense to me, I just can’t seem to put those things into practice.

I’m loving this discussion. Thank you, Gena, for highlighting another great Green Recovery post.

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Rose February 28, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Really smart, Audrey. Mental freedom drives everything, and I think you’re totally right on.

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Rose February 28, 2013 at 10:55 pm

I’ve been in that research/analysis/comparison phase… the comparing is probably the worst part. Blogs that celebrated individuality and finding one’s own way outside of his/her ED helped me out… blogs where writers recorded every morsel that passed their lips did not. Know that you’ll overeat some days – expect it. But also know that you’ll wake up the next morning; love yourself and continue to nourish yourself anyway. You’ll get there! Thank you for reading this… we dramatic divas have to stick together :)

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kristine March 1, 2013 at 5:44 am

Thank you and blessings to you both.

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Sarah September 27, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Rosie. Rosierosierosierosie. Ugh. I can’t even. I’m tearing up here. That was just. So damn good. Okay, now I’m crying. You’re something else. Thank you.

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Rose! November 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I just saw this :) You’re lovely.

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