Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2019

It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW). And, as a result, a lot of emotions come up. I write because I want to make room for all of it. The pain, the sadness, the passion, the determination, the guilt, the shame, the excitement, the envy, the nervousness, the encouragement, the hope, the fear, the pride… Whatever the emotion, it’s all okay and there’s a place for it within (and outside of) this week. Why? Because, that’s a huge piece of what recovery is all about. Awareness and acceptance. Realizing you are where you are and you’re doing the best that you can (while also maybe being able to do better). That where you were last (EDAW) is not a testament of where you’ll be this year or where you’ll be in ten years. It’s just where you are now. Maybe you (or your loved one) is struggling this year whereas last year you were leading the fight. Maybe you’ve recently decided to give recovery a shot or maybe you’ve taken a break on the mountain of recovery. Wherever you are, you matter. Your life, your voice, your experience, it matters and it’s an important piece of this week. It’s all part of the recovery journey. And, it’s messy and raw. It’s filled with moments of incredibly joy while also moments of deep sorrow and grief. 

This year, I encourage everyone to take stalk of what their needs during the week and to act in a way that practices self-care and compassion. Perhaps, it means saying,“No” to an event here or there versus trying to catch them all (check out NEDIC or the WWEDC for EDAW events near you). Maybe it means practicing opposite action by going to an event, challenging the shame that says you “can’t” because you’re struggling. Reflect on the emotions that get invoked this week and talk about them, if you can, with a friend, with a therapist, with a nurse, with a co-patient, with a family member.  And, if you can’t, notice that. Register that there’s something that’s getting in the way of that versus ignoring it. Maybe, a time will come where you will want to reach out. And, if there’s one thing that is evident about this week, there is a lot of people (professionally and non-professionally) who want to journey along side you regardless of where you are in your recovery. To spread (and at times hold) the hope that there is life in recovery from an eating disorder. 

3rd Printing of wiTHIN

It's hard to believe... but it's true.  We just received our third printing of wiTHIN... and it comes with some interesting changes. 

We are now using a different printing company in Toronto (TLAC). This company is pretty rad, as they take a part of their printing proceeds and writes a cheque (monthly!) to SickKids Patient Care, in part of the Foundation of Hope and Hospitals in Toronto, ON. So, in a way, when you buy a copy of wiTHIN, not only do you get some amazing art and read, you are also helping those in need! Cool, eh!?

Some others changes we made was including an ISBN number (looking official now people!), changed its size, as well as added quotes from various magazine articles and bloggers on the back cover. It has been such a humbling experience to receive encouragement and support from various avenues. And you are included in this as we wouldn't have been able to get a third printing done if people weren't buying our book! Thank you!

Emily is now off to plant trees, but don't you worry... Part 2 is in the illustrative works! If you have no idea what  wiTHIN is all about... check it out on my website or by clicking here.

Teaching About Body Image Through Games

A few weeks ago I went to an ugly sweater Christmas party (yup... in an elf onesie!) and the host introduced "Pictionary Telephone" to me.  It's an easy party game to play with a group of people. Everyone begins by writing a phrase on a piece of paper, then passes it to their right.  The person looks at the phrase, and then attempts to draw it (no words allowed) on a blank piece of paper. It gets passed to the right, where the person receiving it writes what they think was drawn. The stacks of paper makes its way around the room until you get back the phrase you wrote at the beginning of the game. So, if you're playing with 10 people, there will be 10 stacks of paper (10 sheets each) that are simultaneously getting passed to the right each time. At the end of the game, each participant goes through the stack of paper, trying to make sense of the sequence of words and drawings. Ultimately, the goal is for the last drawing to be as accurate as the first saying. 

Here's an example, all on one sheet of paper. 

Last week, I was reinvented to speak to a class of high school students in Guelph, ON. I thought it would be fun to play this game, with a twist. I had all the students start with a phrase that included something cool, or something they liked, or something positive about bodies (their own or just in general). Sidenote...the poor girl who got my initial phrase. I had written, "Eyes are the window to your". Yup... totally forgot to write the word "soul". Anyways... eventually, after many many laughs, giggles and "how the heck am I supposed to draw that" comments, we all got our phrases back. And, you guessed it... they all came back twisted and not on par with what was originally written. I asked the class whether or not what they had written on the first piece of paper was true. They all nodded. I then asked them if even though the message got distorted along the way, did it somehow make the original phrase false. They shake their heads.  I then broadly asked them what they thought I was trying to get them to think about regarding body-image. Here's what I got: 

- people might judge or talk negatively about your body, but that doesn't mean it is true. Nor should you doubt what you initially wrote, even though the message came back distorted.

- you might say negative things about your body over the years, but that doesn't take away from the fact there are many positive things about it

There are so many influences that affect how we think and feel about our bodies. Somewhere along the way, for many, the message gets twisted, distorted and negatively interpreted. At the beginning of the talk, I had the class think of their baby picture. I had them think about if that baby deserved to hear all the negative things they were saying to themselves now. It wasn't a cruel guilt trip... l just wanted them to think about what changed from that picture and all the positive things they felt toward it, versus now. Did that baby not have worth because their arms were chubby, or maybe, underweight? Did that baby not deserve to have people love it because it's feet were large, or because it was bald? Had they messed up too many times in life since that picture was taken to feel that way again? Had too much 'life' happened to feel worth a second time?

It takes work, forgiveness and a desire to try... but I believe healing and a healthy sense of body image is possible. Start by saying positive things to yourself and your body, despite what everyone else is saying. Give your  body the benefit of the doubt and trust it knows what it is doing. Recognize its worth, even if you've gone a long time believing the opposite. Take a step back to think critically as to why you feel so negatively about your body, challenging whatever you uncover (such as speaking up again fat talk at the office/locker room/class and the latest diet fad).  

Talk with a therapist to help you get back to what you first initially wrote about your body. Maybe, it's been so long that you can't fully remember what it was that you liked or felt. That's okay!  Talking with someone can help! It's okay to start liking what your body does, even if you can't fully accept how it looks. It's a start! For example, one may not like the size of their feet, but can appreciate that it helps them get around. One might feel frustrated with the shape of the buttocks, but can appreciate that it provides a soft cushion to sit on. The important thing is to start saying something positive and build from there!