Remember Why

Do you remember 9/11?

Many of you reading this may be too young to remember. Which, side note: is freaking insane and makes me feel ancient (which I’m not). 🙂

But 9/11 happened when I was a kid. So I do remember.

I don’t need to go into a history lesson about that fateful day. But after 9/11 happened, our country adopted the slogan, “We will never forget.”

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For months after that day, there was not an American flag left on any store shelf across the nation. People were literally buying them like they were going out of style. People hung the flag from their houses, mailboxes, put them on their cars, in their yards. American flags literally were all over the place. Why? Because our country was never going to forget the attack it endured, and we were going to celebrate the fact that we rose up from that attack and triumphed. It became a sign of our resilience. And it was a reminder of what we were fighting for: freedom.

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Sometimes in our recovery, we need to hang a metaphorical flag in our own window. We need to remember why we’re fighting ED. Why we’ve chosen recovery.

So you’ve just had a slip up. Maybe you gave into an “ED thought” or believed an “ED lie.” Whatever it is, you find yourself spiraling down the rabbit hole, back to ED’s dungeon. You feel the fight is too great, and you’re ready to throw in the towel. You’re tired of resisting ED. You’re tired of facing fear foods, and seeing your therapist, and following your meal plan, and tracking your intake, and blah blah blah blah blah. 

You’ve had enough.

Right now is when you need a flag in your life. You need to remember why you’re fighting.

Why? Why are you recovering?

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I mean, seriously? I have to ask myself this question all the time.

Because I’ll tell you what, ED is comfortable. Recovery is hard.

So why do it?

There are a lot of hashtags floating around out there. Many have to do with recovering for the boobs or recovering for the booty. Which is great. Maybe you’re recovering to get healthy. To get a better body. For a boyfriend. For your parents or loved ones. To go to college. To avoid being admitted to a hospital. To be able to play sports again.

Okay. Those things are fine. Whatever is getting you through this fight, more power to ya.

But I invite you to think about this:

Recover for YOU.

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Recover because you love yourself.

Recover because you’re worth it.

The reason I relapsed after inpatient was because I wasn’t recovering for myself. I was doing it because I was forced. My true recovery happened when I began to truly love myself, and when I allowed myself to receive God’s love.

Why do I recover?

Yeah, okay maybe getting boobs would be nice. And sure, a boyfriend wouldn’t be so bad either. But I’m recovering because I love myself too much to let my life be destroyed.

I’m recovering because I have something to offer this world, and I’ll be damned if I let ED say or do otherwise.

I’m recovering because I deserve more than this.

It’s during the dark times, when ED is throwing his flaming arrows at me in full attack, that I have to take an inventory of all the reasons why I’m fighting him in the first place.

And here’s what I remember: Anorexia ruins lives. Literally. If it doesn’t kill you, which — reality check: is a very real possibility — it will, without fail, ruin your life. Steal your future. Destroy your body and mind. Anorexia — ED — is a dirty bastard that deserves to burn in hell where he belongs. ((Dramatic much? Nope — only accurate.)) But I think about that. And then I remember, I am recovering because I am worth more than that.

Yes, it is hard for me to believe sometimes. Sometimes I just have to say, Screw it, I’m just going to respect myself enough to recover. But the bottom line is this: I refuse to allow my life to be destroyed by ED. I want to set myself up to fly. I want to give myself a chance in this world. Recovery is that chance. And the alternative is literally destined for disaster — in every aspect.

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So I’ve found it helpful to keep a “flag” of sorts in my apartment, to remind me, daily, why I’m fighting — Something to look at when times get difficult. One weekend when my father was visiting me at inpatient, we went to this little shop and he got a small quartz figurine of an eagle taking flight. And when he gave it to me, he said, “I believe you will fly.

That’s my flag. Only now, I believe it, too.

I invite you to take an inventory of why you’re recovering. And I invite you to just think about the possibility of recovering for you.

Maybe that seems impossible: ‘I’m not really worth recovery. I don’t deserve a life of freedom. I deserve to be enslaved to ED. This is it for me.’ Believe me, I’ve been there.

But when you decide that you’re ditching ED because you deserve it, I kid you not, things change. A new motivation comes over you, because now, you are the beneficiary of your recovery efforts. Not your parents. Not your doctor. You.

Recovering for boobs is fine. “DoItForTheBooty” — sure, go for it. But what about you?

I’m recovering because I will not succumb to this disease. With Jesus’ help, I will rise up from this hell and be triumphant.

I’m recovering for me. For my life. Because I am worth more than this.

What about you?

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Burn the Labels

Who are you?

Ask anyone that question, and most likely, you’ll get one of a handful of answers:

Most people will list their profession, or what they do. I’m a doctor, lawyer, teacher, actor, student, etc.

Others will list something they’re known for: I’m a volleyball player. I’m violinist.

They’ll spit you their label. As a society, we’re obsessed with them. (Hello…hashtags, anyone?) But they’re attached to us. And many times, we can become attached to them. We can link our identity to them.

And here’s some #RealTalk for ya: You know what else is a label? Anorexic

When you’re recovering from anorexia, or an eating disorder, let’s be honest here: from a “labels standpoint,” you’ve got the deck stacked against you. Why? Because we’ve been wearing our disease on our bodies – our skeletal frame was a walking advertisement – a billboard – a label in itself – of the interior battles we were fighting. And so, naturally, we’ve been labeled by others as “that anorexic girl.” “That girl who doesn’t eat.” “That freakshow.”

Hear me when I say this: You are NOT who other people say you are.

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Their words don’t have power over you. You don’t have to let those things define you.

You are so much more than that,

And YOU decide who you are.

So, who are you?

The answer to that question is entirely up to you. And choose your words wisely, because your brain listens to how you answer it – and believes it.

If you listen to those destructive labels, don’t be surprised if you start believing them. It’s the power of suggestion, folks. How many times have you thought,

Of course I’m going to fail at recovery – because that’s who I am. I’m “that anorexic girl.”

Or

Why should I even try to recover? No one is ever going to see me as anyone other than “that sick girl.”

I know I’ve thought that once or 20 times twice.

You’ve gotta just feed those lies to the dogs. Rid them of your vocabulary. Because they’re toxic thoughts.

I hate the term, “anorexic.” It actually infuriates me, because it’s such a definitive label. It’s like, once you get labeled with it, you’ve got it branded on your forehead forever.

“She’s that anorexic girl.” WRONG.

I am a person who suffered from anorexia. I am NOT an anorexic. You are NOT your illness. And neither am I.

Yes, I had that illness, but it is not who I am. It is not who you are.

I refuse to be labeled. I am whoever the hell I want to be.

Who am I?

I am a friend. I am a daughter. A sister. I am an adventurer. I am a master of silly accents and spontaneous dance parties to old school N’Sync. I am an outdoor enthusiast. I am I am a lover of banana soft serve ice cream. I am a witty banterer. I am who I say I am.

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I am me.

I cannot begin to describe the amount of freedom there is from casting off all the former labels in my life — All the negative shadows that had been following me around. They do not define me. They do not have power over me. Not anymore.

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And maybe you’re not in a place where that seems possible yet. Perhaps you’ve been listening to the hurtful things other people have labeled you with, and you’ve believed them for so long, that they hold you in bondage. I know I did.

So how did I burn the labels that were keeping me from knowing who I truly am?

I had to listen to who God says I am.

I know, I know. I’m “going there.” But I’ll keep this short.

God has the ultimate say in who I am. Why? Because He made me. And He made you, too.

And spoiler alert: He doesn’t make mistakes.

God tells me who I am.

He tells me, ‘You are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.’ (2 Cor. 5:17)

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The labels of my past – shoot, guys. I’ve done burned the crap out of those things. Thrown those ashes to sea. They’re long gone.

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I am now the one to define who I am. Not anyone else. Only me. Only God.

Who am I?

I am a daughter of God.

The question is, who are you?

The Truth About Exercise in Recovery

Alright, beautiful Warriors. Time for a little bit of Wednesday night #RealTalk.

And I’m gonna be straight up – Just like I like my tequila. 🙂

Exercise.

What comes to mind when you hear that word?

Do you feel anxious, maybe because you wish you could be doing it right now? Do you feel guilty, maybe because you know you’re pushing your body beyond the extreme as a way to purge calories? Do you have a pit in your stomach because you use exercise as a form of self-punishment? Do you feel obligated in order to earn the right to consume food?

Any of that striking a chord?

#RealTalk: Your gut reaction to that word says a lot about your relationship with it.

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First things first (let me just get this disclaimer out of the way) :exercising when you’re at a dangerously low weight is recipe for disaster, and I definitely do NOT condone that. At all. Get your doctor’s “go ahead” before doing anything physical in recovery.

Ok back to the #RealTalk

There will come a point in your recovery where you’ll be given the “all clear” by your doctor to begin physical activity or exercise.

But the real question, is should you?

ED is a stealthy bastard. And one of the things he’s best at is morphing your eating disorder. OK, so you started out with one eating disorder, but maybe now you can see aspects of another sneaking into your life.

#RealTalk: ED CAN “GET’CHA” WITH EXERCISE

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I’m going to be honest with you guys – as clearly, I always am – but exercise addiction was something that I definitely struggled with through the early stages much of my recovery. Boom. I said it. It’s out there. But for — literally years — after “recovering,” I was enslaved to exercise. For me, it was a way that made me feel as though I “deserved” to eat. That I “earned” the right to consume calories. And if I’m being really 100% honest with myself, it was actually a physical way to withhold gentleness and self-love from myself, because that’s what I thought I deserved.

Obsessive exercise was a way that ED maintained a foothold in my life, even after I had given up the anorexia itself.

And I have a feeling that this may be ringing true for some of you beautiful loves, as well.

And it was only a few years ago that I literally became free from that demon in my life. Free. That’s the only way to describe it. No more obsession. No more exhaustion. No more anxiety. No more pressure about going farther, running longer – One more class. Five more minutes. Two more laps. — Freedom.

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So how did I do it? How did I break the chains that kept me in bondage to grueling workouts and marathon-esq runs day after day after day?

I GAVE IT UP COLD TURKEY

*Gasp* Whaaaat? Howwww the heck does one just give it up? That may seem preposterous.

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So I’m gonna give you the short version: As you already know, I have Ulcerative Colitis. And during a flare several years ago, I was literally on bed rest for almost a year. The flare was horrible. I had to move home. Go on an obscene amount of medications. They almost had to remove my intestines, but I’ll spare you the details. The point is, before the flare, I would mistreat my body, day in and day out, with olympian-caliber workouts. And then — BAM — I was put on bed rest for ten months

I was so scared. I thought, surely I was going to just balloon up to the size of a whale and have to be carted out of there on a fork lift when all was said and done.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t.

You see, this period of what could have been seen as a devastating turn of events — where my life was thrown on its head and all my plans derailed — was actually a major blessing in disguise. Yes, it flipped my life upside-down…but in a good way. Because it was during this time — when my body literally forced me to — that I began eating three meals a day and two snacks, rather than just one large meal at the end of the day, like I had been doing. And if that wasn’t already a big enough deal, I gave up exercise. I mean, we’re talking: I couldn’t even walk to the mailbox. I was on bed rest.

And let me tell you something remarkable, friends: I didn’t gain weight. In fact, (and I hate to put this on here as it may be triggering) I actually lost weight. You see, by eating only one big meal at night, my body had grown accustomed to just “holding onto” every calorie I’d eat in that one gigantic meal, because it knew I was going to put it through hell the next day during my insane workout, and I wasn’t going to eat again until dinnertime the next day. It was when I nourished it throughout the day that my metabolism started to pick up and my body started trusting me. And I started trusting my body.

You guys, it is crazy how much we can eat without gaining weight. Seriously. You don’t have to kill yourself on the treadmill just because you had an extra helping of dinner. Trust your body.

So where am I now in my relationship with exercise?

Well, I can honestly say that since my flare, and giving up exercise cold turkey, I haven’t run since. I don’t even belong to a gym. I have learned how to exercise for enjoyment. I now take a 45 minute walk in Central Park for enjoyment — To soak up the sun. To move the beautiful body that God has given me and enjoy the endorphins released from light physical activity. It’s not an obligation. It’s not a form of self punishment. It’s a form of love.

There’s nothing wrong with exercise. Let’s be clear about that. Exercise is a beautiful and wonderful and healthy thing! There are SO MANY benefits. Exercise is not a demon. But there’s a difference between taking a “Tone and Chisel” aerobics class, and abusing your body to the point of collapse.

And here’s the realest #RealTalk of them all: If you are “working out” for more than 90 minutes everyday, you need to check your motives. 

Friends, you can stop. You can press that big old, red “Emergency Stop Button” on the treadmill – figuratively and literally speaking.

Your body isn’t going to blow up overnight if you don’t workout. Your thighs aren’t going to automatically become massive if you don’t run for two hours everyday. Believe me. That’s what I believed. And after spending ten months literally in bedeating more than I had ever eaten, and actually having the opposite happen, I am living proof that you won’t balloon up.

I have adopted a spirit of gentleness with myself. I’m learning to love myself more and more, and one of the ways I show myself that love, is by not punishing myself and torturing myself with exercise. And it is so incredible. I have time for hobbies now that I’m not spending every free moment at the gym or working out. The condition of my feet has improved dramatically — I can now wear sandals without being self-conscious about the amount of callouses and blisters from all the pounding. I’m not exhausted all the time. My life isn’t ruled by the gym, or fitness class schedules. I can be spontaneous. I can be me

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But I had to trust myself first. Take that leap. I promise, it will be the greatest thing you’ve ever done.

It’ll be…”grool.” 🙂

For the Girls Whose Lives aren’t Rainbows and Butterflies

Recovering from an eating disorder is tough stuff. It’s scary. Mentally, emotionally and physically painful. You have extreme mood swings. Crippling self-doubt and hatred. You have to resist urges to exercise, purge, self-harm, what-have-you. There’s a constant inner battle of whether or not you should really surrender your eating disorder. Not to mention all the food and planning and calorie counting and meal plans and doctors appointments and EKGs and blood work and insomnia.

But you already knew that.

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It’s hard enough to recover when you have a loving, supporting, and encouraging environment with loved ones cheering you on every step of the way, like I did.

It’s a whole different ball game when your home life is…not so “rosy.” Where, for whatever reason, you don’t feel like you’ve got loved ones behind you, rooting for you, being helpful or encouraging. And, sadly, this is a reality for a lot of #EDWarriors out there.

This is for those girls, whose home life isn’t rainbows and butterflies.

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When you think about “home,” usually people think about their childhood: their bedroom, the kitchen where you celebrated birthdays, playing outside with siblings, having your mom or dad tuck you in at night. Home is typically thought of in a fond and loving way.

Sometimes, though, that’s not the case. Sometimes, thinking about “home” brings up pain. Brings up feelings of hurt. Or anger. Or abandonment. Or disgust. Sometimes “home” seems more broken and desolate, rather than a place of comfort.

When things are bad, it’s hard to believe that there’s any good in the world. Well, this is what I’ve been dealt. This is what I’m worth. If there is a God, he sure does hate me, ’cause look at the life he’s given me. 

Or maybe, we’ve been hurt. Abused. Abandoned. Shuffled from house to house. Maybe we’ve never actually felt like we truly have a loved one to our name? Or a person who cares about us. That we’ve just been lost in the system. Overlooked. Forgotten.

How could there actually be a God? A loving God wouldn’t put me through this.

I don’t know why horrible things happen. I just don’t. I don’t know why some people get dealt difficult hands in life. I don’t know why some people are born into loving families, while others are not. I don’t know why some people are born into financially stable homes, while others are born into poverty. I don’t know why people get cancer. Why parents leave their children. Why parents get divorced. Why children get abused. Why people get taken from us too early.

I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense.

I have my hypothesis about ED, but when it comes to family, I just don’t know.

But here’s what I do know:

You are not alone.

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This might be really hard to believe, but there is a God who loves you. Who loves you so incredibly much. Who hears you crying. Who knows you’re scared. And discouraged. And who knows the fears and anxieties and doubts in your heart.

I don’t want to get “preachy.” So I’m going to keep this short.

#RealTalk: There’s a lot of shit in the world. Excuse my french. There’s a lot of really crappy situations out there.

But no matter what you find yourself in, know that God has never and will never abandon you. Maybe a loved one has. Maybe a loved one has hurt you. Your Father in Heaven is not like your earthly father. Your Father – God – loves you unconditionally. Meaning: there is nothing you can do to make Him love you more, and nothing you could ever do to make Him love you less. There are no strings attached. No stipulations. Just God. Loving you. No matter what.

And you are never alone, because He is with always you.

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If you don’t have people supporting your recovery – If your home life is broken – If you feel as though it’s you against the world — know that you are always in God’s sight. He cares what happens to you. You matter to Him. And He wants you to be free from ED. And He will be that person “in your corner,” cheering for you every difficult step of the way, even if no one else is.

He wants to love you. You just have to let Him in.

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Overcoming Insomnia

It’s 4:21am. You’ve been literally tossing and turning for five hours. Willing yourself to sleep. Begging your brain to just shut down for the day. Pleading your mind to just let you fall asleep. You’ve tried praying. Counting sheep. Listening to music. Counting backwards. But to no avail.

You have insomnia.

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It was the bane of my existence during my anorexia. And it’s a universal monkey on everyone’s back that is dealing with/overcoming ED.

There were so many factors as to why I couldn’t sleep. And for me, it was helpful to figure out what the underlying cause was, so as to help me fix it. And sleep.

First of all: FOOD

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How many times, during your disease, (and sometimes during recovery) were you not able to sleep because you were thinking about food? Try, all the time. It was obsessive. I would be thinking about food combinations that sounded delicious. I would be planning out the next week’s-worth of meals and snacks. I would dream about going to different restaurants and what I would order. I’d close my eyes, and there would literally be visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. And this happened sometimes in recovery too!

Here’s the thing. When you’re suffering from anorexia or an eating disorder, your body is in starvation mode. When you’re in starvation mode, you body reverts to its primal roots, and all it can focus on is finding the next meal — finding food to keep itself alive. Therefore, your brain can never truly “shut off” because it’s frantically sending your body “Mayday” messages that it needs to FIND FOOD! SOS

Further, when you try to sleep and shut down, your nerves are all out of whack. Your body is still going off of adrenaline since it isn’t adequately nourished. So a) the adrenaline prevents you from sleeping, and b) your brain, in an effort to survive, makes you desire and think about food since you’re starving.

OK, but I’m in recovery now. I’m eating. So why the #@!K am I still obsessing over food when I should be sleeping?!?!?

Well, that’s the tricky part. During recovery, your body is literally rebuilding itself. We’re talking organs, muscles, tissues, bones, blood cells, hair, fingernails — your entire body is screaming for nutrients to repair itself from the months or years of surviving in starvation mode. Spoiler alert: that requires an astronomical amount of calories. So even though I was eating my meal plan and restoring my weight, my body was like “OMG fooooood! Give me more so I can heal!” My body was just “eating it up” for lack of a better phrase. But anyway, it was hard to keep up with the demand my body needed to heal. So my brain would make me continue to think about food.

So there’s that.

Another reason I couldn’t sleep was due to the anxiety from the weight restoration. I was so completely terrified of putting on the weight, that I couldn’t sleep. I would go over the day’s caloric intake. I’d imagine my body changing. I’d dream of what it could be — both good and bad. All these things caused tremendous anxiety that kept me from sleeping.

It was when I slowly began to accept my body that those thoughts haunted me less and less.

But the biggest reason I couldn’t sleep, was due to my guilt. My anorexia involved so much deceit and deception: lying to my loved ones about my eating disorder, lying about my intake, lying about being in pain and blaming it on my Ulcerative Colitis.  And until I came clean and told them the truth, I couldn’t sleep. I wrote an entire post on coming clean, because it was so instrumental in truly adopting recovery.

But literally, the first full night of sleep that I got, where I slept the entire night through, happened on the day that I called my parents from inpatient and admitted to actually having an eating disorder, and telling the truth about all the lies and deceit. Coincidence? I think not. The lying I was doing was literally eating away at my insides – making my soul decay — and making sleep impossible.

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Not being able to sleep is hands down one of the most frustrating things ever.

By understanding the cause of my insomnia, I could work on getting to the root of the issue.

Maybe it’s that I needed to beef up my intake so my body wouldn’t make me think about food all the time. Maybe I needed to work on self-acceptance, and meditate on how Jesus sees me, instead of how my thighs look that day. But the main thing, was that I needed to come clean to my parents and loved ones with the truth. I needed to let someone else in — Open my heart and be vulnerable and share the anxieties and struggles I was having. That’s when the sleep came. That’s when I could finally turn my brain off and be at peace. 

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When Looking Back Hurts

Looking back at painful times can be…well…painful.

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Reflecting on times where you were put through trials and suffering can make you feel numb or depressed, and it can open up wounds that you thought had healed.

Being in recovery, looking back on the harrowing time when I was in my disease could be very desolate. Looking back and reflecting on the darkness and deception and agony that was my life for so long could be a one way ticket to depression. Thinking about all the missed opportunities and experiences and all the time that I can no longer get back could be enough to make me not want to get out of bed in the morning.

But here’s the thing. I could reflect on my past like that. I could dwell on all the negatives. I could wallow in self-pity at what could have been had it not been for my anorexia. I could do all those things.

But I have to choose not to.

My past — yes, it is dark. Yes, it is painful. Yes, it is not something that I am proud of. But it is part of who I am. It has shaped me into who I am today.

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My anorexia is a wound. It wounded my body and left a scar. Maybe not a physical scar that you can see — although, there are many of those too — no boobs, no period, dry skin, weakened bones, etc. But the greatest scar that it left was on my heart.

And scars are funny things, because you can look at them in one of two ways: You can look at them and remember the pain that made that scar. Or, you can look at the scar, and see the healing that took place where that wound once was. It can be a reminder of suffering, or it can be a sign of triumph: of strength.

My loved ones, when talking with me about the book I’m writing, often ask me how I am able to go back to that period of darkness and write about it without becoming one big bundle of depression? Are you just torturing yourself? What’s going on here?

And that’s how. I look back at the scars left by my anorexia, and I have chosen not to see them as a reminder of the darkness, or of the pain. I’ve chosen to look at the scars as a reminder of the healing — of how far I’ve come. A reminder of overcoming this disease. As a reminder of rising up from the pit of hell and reclaiming my life, and claiming victory over ED.

And let me just pause for a second here. That sounds like I’m just sitting here tooting my own horn. Oh look at how strong I am. Look what I did. 

Nope. The reason I can say those things is because it wasn’t me.

I can 100% say that those things — that victory over ED — had nothing to do with me or my personal strength. It had everything to do with JesusHe was the one who did all those things. He is why I can claim all those things and claim victory. All because of His love for me and His forgiveness and strength.

While we’re on the topic of Jesus, think about His scars.

Jesus underwent one of the most horrific deaths ever. Scratch that. It was the most horrific death ever. He was beaten. Scourged. Whipped. Humiliated. And crucified. #RealTalk: They drove nails through His hands and feet and then hung Him from those nails. Spoiler alert: Those wounds left scars — holes — where the nails were. You think gauging your earlobe is dramatic? — Think of the hole left through a hand or foot by a huge metal nail.

But here’s the thing about the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet: they’re beautiful. They’re a reminder of how much He loves us. They remind us that He loves each of us so much that He would literally die for us. That He would take the nails so that our sins are forgiven — so that all the shit we’ve done in the past and will do in the future is forgiven: our lying, manipulating, gossiping, vanity, anger — our eating disorder — all of those things were forgiven the minute He was nailed to that Cross. His scars are beautiful. And they’re a sign of victory. Of forgiveness. Of love. They’re a sign that He overcame death and rose from the dead.

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After the resurrection, when Jesus came back on the third day, He went around and showed people the holes in His hands. That’s why He came back and walked around. They were His “proof” that it really was Him, and that He really did die and rise from the dead. He showed them to people. He had people touch the holes so that they could come to believe.

His scars are a “both/and.” They both remind us of the pain: of His crucifixion and tragic death. But they also remind us of what the scars signify: that He triumphed. That He was victorious.

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So, using Him as an example, I try to look back at my past in a “both/and” kind of way. That, yes, my history is painful, with all of my deception and darkness, and all the shit that accompanies anorexia. But my past also reminds me of how I am not in that darkness anymore. It reminds me how far I’ve come and how Jesus and I, together, triumphed over ED.

And here’s the last thing: the holes in Jesus’ hands emitted glory. They were tangible evidence of the glory and greatness of God. They were proof that Jesus rose from the dead. Physical evidence of His love for us. Light and glory shined out of those holes. And that’s why He went around and showed people His wounds. Because they spoke of His love and the greatness of God.

And that’s the long and short of it: I am sharing my wounds – my past and all the darkness that accompanies it – so that I can speak to the immense love that Jesus has for me. And for you.

You see, I’m not special. I didn’t find the golden ticket in a Wonka Bar, and all of a sudden I’m the “special one” that gets to receive God’s love and forgiveness. Nope.

And I didn’t do anything extra special to earn that love either. Nope. I didn’t get that love by going to church 24 hours a day, or rescuing stray, blind dogs, or cleaning up graffiti, or housing homeless people. Nope. I’m just a regular girl that has a lot of “dirt on my hands.” There was nothing I did that made me earn or deserve that love. I didn’t do anything.

And also, nothing I’ve done in my past can disqualify me from that love. It’s not like, “Oh, she did that? Ohhhh, well, sorry. The people who did that horrible thing are actually exempt from my love. Tough luck.” Nope. Not that either. And believe me, I’ve got quite the “checkered past.” If I can be loved, then they’re letting the riffraff in. 🙂

He loves us no matter what. No matter what we’ve done or said, or didn’t do or didn’t say. He just is freaking crazy about us. Enough to die on a cross for you and me.

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That’s how I look at my past. I have to choose to not look back and see the pain, but rather, I have to look back and see that, with Jesus, we’ve claimed victory over that darkness. Look back and see that His love for me is so great that He rescued me from that pit of hell. See that He has forgiven me of that and loves me anyway. 

My scars are beautiful. Because they signify God’s glory. And I want to share that. He delivered me from my anorexia. And He wants to deliver you too. All you have to do is ask. 

What I Learned from Losing My Hair

I had a haircut today.

And sitting in that chair, as my hair dresser exclaims, “You’ve got so much hair!” I remember the long journey that has brought me here.

You see, during my anorexia, my hair fell out. I mean, literally all of it. Not just like, “Oh my hair’s thinning!” No. We’re talking…I lost about 90% of my hair, and was left with about two inches of peach fuzz.

It’s no secret that anorexia ravages the body, mind, and spirit. Muscles deteriorate, the reproductive system shuts down, digestion and metabolism slows to a halt as the body enters starvation mode, the circulatory system limps along – making the body as cold as ice. But when you’re so dangerously malnourished and depleted, everything that’s non-essential gets left behind as your body literally does everything it can to keep your heart beating. Everything it can to keep you alive.

So, I lost my hair.

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Now you’ve got to understand, my hair has always been my trademark. I’m just going to be honest here — a little #RealTalk: — I’ve always had a great head of hair. It’s always been thick, long, and really curly — big flowing ringlets. Not to sound like I’m bragging — but it’s distinctive — memorable. And it’s kind of a parallel of who I am: it matches my goofy, crazy, spontaneous personality. 🙂

So needless to say, it was devastating to lose my hair.

There’s nothing more feminine or more attractive than female hair. It shows grace and gentleness. It’s touchable, making a woman inviting and alluring. In a word: it is beautiful.

So in losing my hair, ED made me believe that I deserved to be hideous. I felt that my outside finally matched my insides. That it was fitting that I look so ghastly and without hair, because my insides were black with ugliness of soul and spirit.

To be completely honest, I had never felt so low in my life. And it took a long time to grow out. Probably about 5-6 months when it was all said and done.

So what did I learn from it? What did I learn from that incredibly humbling and devastating experience?

I learned where my beauty came from.

You see, my hair fell out during my relapse. It had thinned dramatically during the onset of my anorexia, but managed to “hang on” for dear life.  It was when I relapsed that it truly all fell out.

So during the “peach fuzz” — or, growing out phase — I was at home, where I would truly recover once and for all. So during the emotionally painful time where I was mourning the loss of what I thought was my most feminine, beautiful possession, I was surrounded by a tremendous support system: my family.

And it was during this time that I really truly clung to Jesus, and chose life.

You see, losing my hair was really the nail in the coffin. I had already thought I lost everything: my friends, my college plans, the trust of my loved ones, my relationship with God, my body, my health, my confidence, my personality. But my hair was the final straw. Standing in front of the mirror — gaunt, lifeless, without passion, and without hair — I truly had nothing left. I had actually found the bottom of rock bottom.

And so I had nowhere to turn but to Jesus.

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And so I clung to Him. I clung to His word. I clung to the Truth, and that’s what began to heal my heart and my spirit – which led to the healing of my body. It was nothing that did or didn’t do. It was Jesus doing the work for me. I just had to let Him. I just had to allow Him to love me and accept it.

But back to the hair.

I’m not going to lie: believing what I’m about to tell you didn’t happen overnight. I’m not going to tell you that 3 days after losing my hair and having to chop it off at the ears, I was gung ho in believing these things. No. It took time. And persistence. And finally, surrendering.

So without further ado:

I learned that my beauty comes from Jesus.

My beauty comes from the fact that Jesus is living inside of my heart and shines out through me.

Now, that could sound incredibly conceited, if it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t deserve for Him to live inside of me. Seriously. I mean, I have F’d up so many times in my life, that Jesus should be running the other way in sheer horror. But He doesn’t. He’s not afraid of what I’ve done. He still loves me. And He still loves you.

And the fact that you and I are so incredibly loved and are so incredibly precious to Him, is what makes us beautiful. It’s not the clothes that we wear. It’s not the way we wear our make up or paint our nails. It’s not dependent upon the numbers on the scale, our BMI or a thigh gap. It’s not even dependent upon our hair. Our beauty comes from Christ.

When I allowed Jesus into my heart, He began to change things. He began to change me. I forgave myself of all the horrible things I did and said and lied about during my disease. He began to help me adopt full recovery. He began to feed the spirit that was dead inside of me. And in doing so, His light began to shine through me.

I mean, we’ve heard it 1000 times: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” I mean, that song is up there with the Oompa Loompa song in level of annoyingness. But it’s been repeated because it is the truth.

I learned that my beauty and my value does not come from my hair. When it’s gone, folks, it’s gone. And I had to figure out a way to go on. So Jesus helped me. Everyday. He would whisper the Truth to me: That I am Loved. That I am precious because I am His daughter. That He died for me because He is so crazy in love with me. And I am beautiful because I am His. And guess what: that truth that Jesus was telling me was the exact contradiction to all the lies and bullshit that ED tries to feed me. And so by listening to Jesus’ Truth, there was no room in my head for ED’s lies. And that’s when the true healing — the real recovery — took place.

Jesus said in John 15:4, “Remain in me and I will remain in you.”

Every day – every moment – I have to stay focused on Jesus and His truth. I have to remain in Him. And in doing so, He remains in me. He dwells in my heart. And that’s where my beauty and my worth comes from.

So I guess, at the end of the day, I’m kinda glad my hair fell out. Because it was only when I had actually lost everything — hair included — that I finally said to myself, “OK, I guess there really is only one place to go from here.” And that was into Jesus’ arms.

So now, as my hair dresser complains about how cutting my hair takes twice as long as her other clients due to the volume and sheer amount of hair I have, I just smile and think about how it has come full circle.

My hair is a sign of victory. A sign of victory over the bodily devastation from anorexia, yes. But even more so than that, it’s a victory in learning where my beauty comes from. Where my worth comes from. A victory in knowing who I am in Christ.

My hair is not my most prized possession: it’s my heart.

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Missing Out On Love

Have you ever had one of those moments of clarity where you actually see things the way the are, or rather, the way they could have been?

Well I had one of those moments tonight.

This evening, I had to say goodbye to a good guy friend in the city who is moving out of state for another job. And when I say a good guy friend, I mean, we went out on a couple dates.

I mean, this guy had the entire package: he’s handsome, funny, kind as can be, smart, and a good Catholic boy. And he liked me. He really liked me and wanted to be in a serious relationship.

But after those couple dates, I ended things. I told him that I wasn’t at a point in my life where I was looking for a boyfriend: my career was too central in my life to be able to devote the time he would deserve as a boyfriend.

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And it sucked. Because I knew that he had it all. #RealTalk he was definitely boyfriend material. Hell, he was husband material!

But here’s the thing that I realized this evening: As I was walking home tonight, after having actually cried during our goodbye, I realized why I resisted being in a relationship with him: it wasn’t that I was too busy. It wasn’t that I wanted to focus on my career. It wasn’t that I was “enjoying the single life” in NYC. No. Those are such cop outs. Such bullshit that I’ve trained myself to believe and pass off as truth to others.

The fact of the matter is that I pushed him away because I couldn’t accept the love that he was trying to give me. I didn’t love myself enough to allow someone else to love me.

I wouldn’t let myself be loved by this amazing guy because I felt like I didn’t deserve it. There’s that damn bastard, ED, popping up in other places of my life, spreading his Lies and impacting other parts of my life!

And I was really sad when I was walking home. I was actually crying. It was like a scene out of a freaking movie. I was walking along the streets of NYC at night while the street musicians played jazz music on a saxophone, and I was just crying like a baby. Because I realized that I had missed, quite possibly, the love of my life, all because I was listening to ED’s lies. I missed out on a great relationship, all because I didn’t allow myself to receive the love that this great guy wanted to give me. And now he’s moving away. Has a girlfriend. And will not be the guy for me.

So why am I saying this?

It’s not to whine. It’s not to say, “Oh, woah is me. Wah, wah, wah.” No, that’s not it at all.

Tonight was a wake up call.

Tonight was a moment of clarity for me where I was seeing things for how they actually were.

Walking home, (after my good cry), I got angry. I got angry at ED that he added another item to the long list of things that he STOLE from me. He made me miss out on what could have been an incredible relationship, all because he made me believe that I wasn’t worthy of receiving love. My brokenness caused me to push away a great guy that just wanted to love me.

And so it empowered me. Just like Jesus uses our pain to empower us, I used this wake up call to empower me. I don’t want to look back in five years and be in tears again because I pushed away relationships and pushed away people who only want to love me. I don’t want to look back and think, “Wow, he could have been The One if I had only allowed myself to receive his love and care.”

I’m done. I’m done with barricading my heart. I’m done making excuses for why I can’t date. Because, dammit, I deserve to be loved. I have a beautiful heart that deserves, not only to accept love, but to give love as well.

I invite you to do the same. Get angry that ED has caused you to put a barrier between you and people that love you.

The feeling I had tonight, where I was looking back to a year ago when I told this guy that I didn’t want to be in a relationship, was one of the worst feelings ever. When I realized the true reason why I pushed him away — not because of schedules or careers, but because of my inability to receive love — it was like the wind was knocked out of me. I missed out because of ED. I missed out because I believed his Lies.

Could this guy have been The One for me? Maybe. But I doubt it. Because I have to trust that God is in control and has a plan for me. Had I had a relationship with this guy, I wouldn’t have been in the place I am now, and I wouldn’t have been truly able to love him or let him love me. And I would have missed out on our truly great friendship.

It’s never too late to change. So I invite you to make the change with me. I’m deciding right now — right this very minute — that I am done sabotaging my life by believing the Lie that I am not worthy of receiving love. Right now is where it all begins.

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I’m changing my heart today.

And I invite you to do the same.

Jesus’ greatest commandment was Love your neighbor as yourself.

As yourself.

Bam. Right there. He could have just said, ‘love your neighbor.’ That would have been sufficient. But He said, love other people in the same way that you love yourself.

Jesus wants us to love ourselves.

It’s not vein or conceited or self-obsessed to love yourself. It’s healthy. It’s good. It’s from God, Himself.

Therefore, I am going to love myself enough to let someone else love me.

As I said before, the greatest act of self-love is allowing another person to love me.  

I didn’t let my guy friend love me. And I realized how sad that was tonight. I realized how truly tragic it was that I missed out on that relationship, all because I wouldn’t allow myself to receive love.

Not anymore. From now on, I am going to be open to love. I am going to love myself enough to let myself be loved. It’s what Jesus wanted.

Dealing with Discouragement

#HonestyHour

It’s been a rough week for me.

Why? One word: discouragement.

As many of you know, this week, my *former* Instagram account, @anorexiarevealed was falsely-reported as a “pro-Ana” account, and shut down by Instagram.

Yes, they can do that.

But it breaks my heart because, as you know, my #1 goal is to share hope, positivity and encouragement to #EDwarriors and girls (and boys) struggling with eating disorders. I’ve been through that darkness, and I want to be there for these strong souls. I was just absolutely devastated that my account, which had nearly 1000 followers, was just – *poof* – snatched away and shut down — all because of a FALSE ACCUSATION. I mean, I am 1,000% pro-RECOVERY! I poured my heart out into making my account meaningful by creating over 200 original pieces of “quote art” that have all since been lost. And what disappoints me even more than the fact that I lost all my original art, and all the followers, is that Instagram never even sent a reply email when I let them know that it was a false accusation.

And here’s what I think: Hurting people hurt people.

Some girl, who is in a dark place right now, wanted to thwart the positivity and encouragement and hope that I have been working so diligently to promote through my Instagram and my blog, so she lied to Instagram and reported me as a pro-Ana IG account.

And to be clear, I’m not disappointed that I “lost followers” as though it’s a popularity contest and I’m superficially sad that I don’t have good “numbers” anymore. What breaks my heart is that those followers were being exposed to the hope I’ve been trying to spread. Not that I think I’m going to save the world, or anything. But those were 1000 people that were getting a little soundbite about God’s love for them through my Instagram photos. So I’m not sad that I lost “notoriety” or lost “popularity” — I’m sad that those people that were being exposed to love are no longer receiving that message.

And all because a hurting person lied to Instagram that I was promoting eating disorders, and then they deleted my account without even checking to see if it was a factual accusation or not.

So I’ve literally had to start from square one again: Adopt a new name (@anorexiarevealed2), remake all my photo art, and start rebuilding a community from the ground up.

And to be completely honest, I was completely discouraged. Devastated. Defeated.

I had literally poured out my heart into spreading love and nurturing people through an outreach that got wrongly snatched away from me.

*Sigh*

So what do I do? Where do I go from here?

And I was praying about it and thinking about it. ‘And the more I did, I realized that this is a great example of a way for me to “practice what I preach.” Recovery is all about perseverance, endurance, fortitude and having the right attitude. Well, I need to take all those things and apply them to this situation. Just like any slip up or bump or obstacle in the road, I need to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going.

So I did that. But I still felt unsettled.

Okay, my body was moving forward, but my mind was still back in the rubble.

This just proves that you should just abandon this. Your book is going to be stupid. You’ve already failed. What’s the use in trying again? In one week, you’ve only regained 60-odd followers…see? The work you’ve been doing really doesn’t matter. What you’ve been doing really doesn’t mean anything to anybody. Nobody cares. You’re useless. Give up. What you’re doing is worthless. You’re worthless.

Dark, I know. But welcome to my mind sometimes.

That’s where my mind was going. And it’s interesting to see how, just from that one setback, my mindset went to that dark, ED-like place. Where my Lie found a way to take this situation and apply itself and stir up feelings of doubt and worthlessness and being unloved.

That just shows me that I still have a long way to go to total mental healing.

So after I took that mental inventory, I knew that I needed to do something about it.

So I prayed about it. And here’s what I got.

The opposite of discouragement is trust.

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Yes, a really shitty thing happened to me this week. No, it was not part of my “plan” for how things were supposed to play out.

But here’s what I needed to do: trust God.

Through all of this — through my feelings of anger and disappointment, annoyance, self-doubt, and heartbreak — I needed to remember that God is in control.

I need to remember that God has a plan for me, and it is good.

Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and  a future.

Maybe this was supposed to happen. Maybe it was allowed to happen because I am supposed to learn something from it. Maybe this is all part of His plan for me.

Why do bad things happen? Why did my eating disorder happen? Because I was supposed to learn something from it.

I was supposed to learn to fully depend on God.

So I think that’s the take away from all of this. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Hell, I don’t know if I’ll roll over in bed at 2am tonight to find my phone glowing and see that Instagram has deleted my account due to a false accusation. (Oh wait, that already happened).

But I do know that God has a plan for me.

And if it seems to be a setback or an obstacle in the moment, it just means that I’m going to learn something from it down the road.

And that’s a really hard thing to do. That’s a really hard mindset to have in the actual moment.

But it all boils down to one thing: Trust

I have to trust that God loves me. I have to trust that He is leading me and guiding me through everything. I have to trust that He is not going to let evil overcome me. I have to trust that things are going to work out for good.

An eating disorder is definitely an obstacle to overcome. That maybe the understatement of the century. Let me try again: An eating disorder will definitely throw your life into a tailspin. You’ll lose everything and have to start from square one, just like with my Instagram fiasco. But instead of wallowing in the fact that it happened, I need to rise up and move on. Move forward.

Trials are given to us because they shape us. The refine us like fire. And going through trials absolutely sucks. But the most important thing to remember is that God is in control. I’ve got to trust that God’s got me in the palm of His hand, and that even though things may fall apart all around me, nothing will overtake me. Because He is in control. And His plan for me is good.

Let’s Go Shopping

Shopping.

Hearing that word may have ignited a sense of anxiety in you. Maybe you got excited. But I’m gonna gamble that the majority of you got a gut-wrenching wave of nausea at the thought of going clothes shopping.

I know I used to. (And to a degree, still do, to this day, if I’m being really honest).

When I was in my disease, my Lie was that I wasn’t worthy of love unless I was perfect. In other words, I felt worthless — Like a burden. This mindset not only manifested itself in my anorexia, but also in other areas of my life. A big area in particular was shopping and how I presented myself.

You see, ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved clothes. I went through an Abercrombie-only phase in my younger years. I grew out of it (thank the Good Lord!). And in the beginning of high school, Anthropologie was my store. My mother and I used to go there all the time to find cute outfits. It was a bonding experience, and she always made me feel so special and beautiful, and worth wearing nice clothes. I took pride in my appearance and loved being feminine and beautiful. I even won “Best Dressed” in the middle school yearbook.

But once the anorexia took over, and ED was ruling my life – dictating my thoughts with his liesI began to believe that I wasn’t worth nice clothes — That I didn’t deserve to even try and look beautiful, because I wasn’t. The blackness of my soul projected itself onto how I viewed my outer image.  And so as I became more entrenched in my disease, and as my weight began to drop and drop, so did my self worth. And so did the effort I put into presenting myself. I still wore makeup and did my hair, but I never felt worthy of wearing nice clothes.

Because here’s the sad but true thing: when you’re in your disease and dropping weight, you need to buy new clothes pretty often, because your wardrobe no longer fits – it gets to be too big. So I would go to Goodwill and buy second-hand clothes – a far cry from my fashionista wardrobe of previous years. Not that there’s anything wrong with Goodwill, but it just speaks to the level of worthlessness that I saw myself as having. I didn’t feel that I deserved to buy nice, new clothes. I didn’t feel worthy of wearing lovely garments that made me feel beautiful. I thought, “I deserve to wear used, old, and worthless junk – because that’s what I’m worth.” 

And to be completely honest, this mindset has been hard to shake. Most days it’s muffled, but I still to this day battle the Lie that I’m unworthy of buying nice things.

But here’s my invitation to you:

Go out and buy yourself something special. Go shopping.

And maybe you’re still weight-restoring and so you don’t want to buy anything nice yet because you’re going to bloom into a different (and lovely) figure soon. That’s okay. Buy yourself a nice necklace, or scarf, or pair of earrings — something that will “bloom with you.”

But just go shopping. Because you are worth something new. Something lovely. Something beautiful. You are worth it.

The work you are doing is hard. Weight restoration is tough. And it can be down right impossible to deal with poor body image. It can be painful to watch your body change. But that pain you feel is coming from ED, who is desperately trying to hold on to the eating disorder. He’s trying to manipulate your thoughts into believing that a skeletal, emaciated frame is beautiful. Don’t believe his lies! The best way to kick ED where it hurts, and combat those lies, is to go out and take pride in your blooming body. How? By going shopping.

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Say to yourself, “You know what? I love myself enough to treat myself to something that makes me feel beautiful and lovely. Because I love myself enough to allow myself to feel special.”

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that our worth is tied to our clothes. I’m not saying that outward appearance is the be-all-end-all. Not at all. I’m just saying that for me, personally, this has been an area that I had completely given up on due to feelings of worthlessness. So in shopping, I am claiming victory over ED’s lies, and claiming victory to loving myself.

Don’t be afraid of your blooming figure. It is lovely and feminine and beautiful. Think back in history about all the artwork and poetry that was written about the female form. Face it, ladies. We’ve got the goods. We’re beautiful. So celebrate the fact that you can now wear clothes the way they’re supposed to fit. Because, #RealTalk here: Clothes aren’t supposed to hang off of you. The butt of your jeans isn’t supposed to be concave and look as though there’s nothing in it. That’s tough to hear, but it’s the cold, hard, truth.

I remember my mom and I went shopping when I finally “bloomed” for good. We went to a little boutique and we picked out a few things to try on. I had such a hard time doing this. I walked around and around the little shop. I admired so many things, but I wouldn’t pick them up to try on because I didn’t think I deserved trying them on. “I caused my family too much suffering through my disease to merit owning such a beautiful piece of clothing. I’ve been the cause of so much agony, there’s no way I deserve to wear that. I’m not worth it.”

My mom helped me though that experience and gently encouraged me to try on some things. It was the first time I had tried on clothes since the onset of my anorexia several years earlier. We were in the changing room together, and I just remember breaking down and crying. I was sobbing because I was beautiful. I was deserving of wearing lovely things. Wearing a nice piece of clothing was a way for me to show myself love. It was a way for me to be gentle and loving and kind to myself. It was a way to prove that I had truly forgiven myself.

Believing you’re beautiful does not make you a vein person. It does not make you a stuck-up snob that carries an air of superiority. No. And here’s why:

I know that my beauty is not my own. It does not come from my own doing: It is from God. He made me. He formed me into the beautiful young woman that I am.

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And my beauty also comes from my brokenness. My beauty comes from the fact that I have overcome such darkness. I have triumphed over ED. And the only way I can claim those things is because Jesus has been doing them in me

Rejoice in the fact that you’ve chosen life. Rejoice in the fact that you’re blooming. Rejoice in your worth. Your beauty.

Celebrate it. Celebrate you.

Go shopping.