Love It…Love All of It.

This is printed in the back of my book and I wanted to share it tonight, due to the nature of some of the emails I have receivied this week.

Loving the Body God Gave You

1. Look at yourself as a whole person, don’t just focus on bodies parts you don’t like.

2. Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it to enhance your body’s health and function, not to burn as many calories as you possibly can.

3. Make a list of 5 positive things about yourself, excluding appearance and keep the list in a visible location – example: bulletin board, desk, locker, gym bag, Bible or refrigerator.

4. Wear comfortable modesty clothes that fit your body, work with your body, not against it.

5. Make the choice to see beauty in your body (temple of the Holy Spirit).

6. Don’t restrict, eat when you are hungry and learn to recognize your hunger cues, so as to avoid binging.

7. Don’t over exercise, learn to give your muscles and body rest when you are tired.

8. Surround yourself with positivity and friends that will support you in your journey of recovery.

9. Put a Post-it/index card on the mirror in your bathroom that reads, “I’m beautiful because I’m a daughter of God, created in His image and likeness.”

10. Have a role model and learn from them.

11. When you see a ninety-five pound model on the front of a magazine, remind yourself that they aren’t happy and that their appearance doesn’t radiate true beauty.

12. Protest things that you see in the media that fuel poor body image.

13. Take time everyday to thank God for your cross and all that He has blessed you with.

14. Every morning when you wake up, look in the mirror and say, “Father, I’m beautiful because I’m your daughter. Please show me the beauty You see, show me how precious I am – I long to see it.” Even if you don’t “feel” like saying this, do it anyway.

15. Be patient and kind to yourself. Remember, sometimes you are your own worst enemy.

10 “Will-Powers” for Improving Body Image

By: Michael Levine, Ph.D. and Linda Smolak, Ph.D.

1. Twice a day, everyday, I WILL ask myself: “Am I benefiting from focusing on what I believe are the flaws in my body weight or shape?”

2. I WILL think of three reasons why it is ridiculous for me to believe that thinner people are happier or “better.” I will repeat these reasons to myself whenever I feel the urge to compare my body shape to someone.

3. I WILL spend less and less time in front of mirrors – especially when they are making me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious about my body.

4. I WILL exercise for the joy of feeling my body move and grow stronger. I will not exercise simply to lose weight, purge fat from my body, or to “make- up” for calories I have eaten.

5. I WILL participate in activities that I enjoy, even if they call attention to my weight and shape. I will constantly remind myself that I deserve to do things I enjoy, like dancing, swimming, etc., no matter what my shape or size is!

6. I WILL refuse to wear clothes that are uncomfortable or that I do not like but wear simply because they divert attention from my weight or shape. I will wear clothes that are comfortable and that make me feel comfortable in my body.

7. I WILL list 5-10 good qualities that I have, such as understanding, intelligence, or creativity. I will repeat these to myself whenever I start to feel bad about my body.

8. I WILL practice taking people seriously for what they say, feel, and do. Not for how slender, or “well put together” they appear.

9. I WILL surround myself with people and things that make me feel good about myself and my abilities. When I am around people and things that support me and make me feel good, I will be less likely to base my self-esteem on the way my body looks.

10. I WILL treat my body with respect and kindness. I will feed it, keep it active, and listen to its needs. I will remember that my body is the vehicle that will carry me to my dreams!

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The Big FAQs

This past week I received several questions via email. Since they are recurring questions, I’m going to post my responses here. I originally published this post in October, but since there have been many new readers since then, I wanted to repost it because these questions emerge frequently.

I would like to preface this post by stating that I do not have a degree in psychology. Please do not take anything I say as medical advice. Please understand that when someone asks me a question, I respond from my own experiences. While I am not a psychologist, I have attempted to glean wisdom from past doctors through my recovery and will often refer to what they taught me. With that being said, if you need medical assistance, I highly recommend you getting it.

1. What will I look and feel like after my recovery from an eating disorder? 

That is an incredibly multi faceted question, but I will share with you what I know. First off, I would focus on recovery, which in it of itself will be uncomfortable because you are stretching yourself. You are growing in virtue and character and God is molding you into the daughter He destined you to be. Always remember that nothing worth while is easily attended, you may take two steps forward one day, and a step back the next and this is okay. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged, hope is essential. You fall down and you get right back up, you fall down again the next day after promising yourself you wouldn’t and then you get back up again and again and again. You must fight for freedom. God’s grace will be with you.

In terms of how you “will look and feel after recovery” – that is different for everyone. I am aware that this is a difficult thing to think about, so I commend you for your positivity. I am going to use myself as an example so as not to cause undue worry upon anyone. I began restricting food from myself in 9th grade. Negative self-image thoughts blew out of control when I was in 8th grade. One day I overheard some girls criticizing a girl who was overweight. Uncontrollable thoughts raced through my head, Oh my goodness! What if they think that about me? What if I’m fat? I didn’t want anyone talking about me negatively, so I began to take matters into my own hands.

Now let’s back up for a moment, in 8th grade when this began, I was one of the skinniest and tallest girls in the class. I was very athletic and ate whatever I wanted without thinking about it. I mention that because when asking what it will look and feel like after an eating disorder one should take a look at themselves before their eating disorder began.

  1. I was not even close to being fat.
  2. I was a very competitive runner
  3. I had a very high metabolism
  4. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without even thinking about it.

I mention these facts because everyone’s body is different. And that is something you need to pray for the grace to accept. But don’t just accept that your body is different, embrace it and claim it as your own. When you do that, you will find freedom.

How does one do that?

By prayer, frequenting the sacraments and working with a doctor or counsellor who specializes in eating disorders.

To sum up the answer, everyone’s body is different and there is no generic response to life post eating disorder. I think it is very important to examine your body type prior to your eating disorder. More often than not, that is how God designed you and that is something you should be proud of, not ashamed of. And naturally as you began to eat more, or less if that be your case, your body will get use to you fueling it appropriately. But this takes time, so try not to get discouraged, take it a bit at a time. If you are an athlete, think of your recovery as training. When you first learned to run you didn’t go out and run ten miles, did you? No, you ran a mile. If you are a musician, the first time you sat down to play the piano you didn’t play Fur Elise did you? No, you probably played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Hot Cross Buns or something similar.

You must take it a step at a time.

2. Is a full recovery possible? 

Another great question!

I think it depends on what you mean by recovery. Here is my thought process.

The word recovery means restoration or return to health from sickness. What if you were in a car accident in which you broke your left leg? Your leg would be put in a cast and you would walk with crutches. When your leg healed, the doctor would remove the cast and you would proceed with various physical therapy exercises. At first, it would be painfully to apply pressure to your left leg and you would unconsciously use your right leg to support a majority of your body weight when walking. As you process in physically therapy and your bones heal, it will become easier to apply equal weight to both legs. Eventually, it will feel normal again. So does this mean you are fully recovered? In my opinion, no, and here is my logic behind it.

As your left leg heals, scar tissue will also form, which can easily prevent range of motion, among other variables. Even if you were to get the scar tissue surgically removed, it will still bedifferent from your right leg. So what does that all mean? It means that your leg is in remission, it is as normal as it can be. You might not be able to turn it a certain way or bend it as usual.

Life after an eating disorder is a life in remission. Yes, you can be recovered, but you could always slip again. Just the same way a patient with cancer can always get cancer again. No doctor can tell a cancer patient that they are not going to have cancer again. Now I don’t want this to discourage you, so please read on. I can tell you from experience that I have gone weeks and months without thinking about my past habits in regards to food. But, I still have my memory and sometimes I do think about where I have been and where I am today, which is only natural.

I want to clarify what I mean about being in remission in regards to eating disorders. Everyone has certain tendencies and ways in which they cope when stress, sadness, loneliness, grief and change. In relation to eating disorders, some people over eat and some under eat when these emotions arise, both are disordered. As you go through recovery you learn how to deal with stress in a proper manner, a manner that will not incapacitate you from carry out everyday tasks. Also, unlike cancer, you make the choice if you are going to relapse again or not. As you go through recovery, you will learn the correct way to act when stress occurs and you are left with the choice to either act upon what you learned or your impulses. To live in recovery requires on act of the will, but the more you make the right choice the less you will think about it. For example, I don’t give it a second thought to have dinner and then a bowl of ice cream. In the past, I would make a conscious effort to sit down and eat a bowl of ice cream after dinner, it was more like a chore than a treat. Of course if you are just starting out on your recovery process, focus just on eating dinner.

If you want to be free, if you want to be normal again, eat out with your friends without worrying or wondering if you will go home to over eat, than turn to God. He is the One who can help you control your tendencies and habits. Surrender to Him and I guarantee you it will be okay. It takes courage and strength to do this and if you don’t feel as if you have the courage, then ask for it, because it’s yours for the asking.

“To live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often.” – John Henry Newman

If anything I have said is unclear to you please don’t hesitate to email me at ifightHimwithlove@gmail.com. I am praying for you daily through the intercession of the Blessed Mother through the power of the most holy Rosary.

This is what Baby Jesus can do!

I am currently enrolled in a free online course called In His Image: Freedom from Anorexia and Bulimia. I have completed 16 of the 60 lesson days. I have been provided with a mentor and had the option of having my lesson responses sent to a close friend or family member. Maura Byrne, director of Made in His Image, has been my accountability partner. It has been extremely helpful to have someone else provide insight. Maura is actually working on her own online course so be on the lookout for that. Anyways, I just wanted to share this with everyone because I used something that I learned yesterday to make my Christmas the best it could be. The lesson I learned was that I can only truly rid myself of my destructive behaviors if I am also replacing them with positive behaviors.

Today, I had just finished Christmas dinner with my family and felt comfortable eating my healthy salad in front of everyone. Normally I feel uncomfortable eating differently than everyone else but I replaced my destructive behavior, eating alone, with eating with my family and celebrating the birth of our savior. I ate healthy all day but was tempted to eat all the sweets and cookies I could find in my house. I made the decision to wait until after dinner and not to deprive myself. If I don’t deprive myself, I am less likely to binge. I could allow myself a modest slice of apple pie and one small chocolate chip cookie. I initially decided against the cookie but I made the cookies from scratch. I am allowed to enjoy my own creation modestly. I was also tempted to weigh myself more than the one time I did this morning but instead, I decided to do some writing and to surround myself by my loved ones to watch some television. There is no need to isolate myself.

Overall, I think Christmas went smoother than I had anticipated. The only thing that is troubling me is the fact that I haven’t exercised for 3 days in a row. I haven’t gained weight, which is something I fear will happen if I don’t work out. Lack of exercise has motivated me to eat modestly but I know I should always be motivated to eat in this manner. I am going to go for a nice long run tomorrow, not to make up for lost days, but because I enjoy it. God has truly filled my home with love and Jesus strengthens me more and more everyday. – written by Christine Saah (one of the young women I have the honor to help hold accountable). Visit her blog here.

Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!! Thank you for coming into this world of darkness so we can bask in Your sunlight. Thank you for setting us free! On behalf of Made in His Image, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

It’s Coming On Christmas

So it’s Christmas Eve and the stockings are hung, Christmas tree is decorated, cookies are baked, presents are wrapped, house is clean, Christmas Eve dinner is being cooked and all of the little cuties (children) are eagerly and anxiously awaiting Santa’s arrival in the morning as they contemplate the age old question: Does Santa like regular milk or chocolate milk – sugar or chocolate chip cookies? What if he is lactose in tolerate? 

Let’s take a moment despite the hustle and bustle of the day to prepare our hearts and minds for the King’s birth. The birth of the One who was born into humanity so that He could then be ridiculed, spat upon, crowned with thorns, scourged, nailed to a cross and killed for our salvation.

Neither Advent nor the tomb is Christ’s final rest in the world. He rests in the midst of the world now, in the Host.

He is as silent, as secret and hidden, in the Host as He was in Advent or in the tomb. He trusts Himself to His creatures in the Host as He trusted Himself to Our Lady in Advent; only then He gave Himself into the keeping of the one human creature who was sinless and in whom He could have His will, and now He gives Himself into the keeping of sinners.

In the Host He is immobile, dependent. He rests in the priest’s hands, on the paten, in the tabernacle. He remains with us, resting in all the cities and all the lonely and unexpected places of the world, in little tin churches as well as the great cathedrals, in schools and hospitals and prisons and asylums, in concentration camps. Wherever human creatures are, He rests in their midst.

Just as His sleep in the boat that was threatened by the storm made His Apostles ask Him, “Master, art Thou unconcerned?” so there are those who are puzzled today by what looks like unconcern.  It seems to them that once again Christ sleeps unconcerned in Peter’s boat, which is threatened with the danger of sinking; but again the same answer comes to us across two thousand years: “Why are you faint-hearted?  Have you still no faith?”

Christ could show His power and glory; He could show that the Host is God; He could break down the pride of those who have no fear of God. He does not. While injustice and arrogance prevail, He remains silent and helpless, and seems to do nothing at all.

It has always been Christ’s way to come first in secret, to come in a hidden way, to be secret even in those in whom He abides, whose life He is, to be known first by His love, gradually becoming known by the quickening of His life within them and only afterwards by His face or by His power, by the word that commands the wind and the water.  The Host is resting among us in order that Christ may work the miracle of His love in us, changing us almost imperceptibly into Himself, in order that through us His love may overcome the world. -From spiritual writer & mystic, Caryll Houselander: “Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross”

Leaves you with a lot to ponder eh?

It’s Christmas Eve shout out time!!! Can I get a drun roll please…Bum, bada bum, bada bum bum. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I would like to introduce you to a good friend, the incredible, talented and holy MATT FALEY! And the crowd goes wild!!

Matt works full-time in young adult ministry and uses this platform to share the gifts and talents he has been given to re-invigorate the Gospel for college students and young adults. Matt is an experienced speaker and worship leader who has brought his energy, humor and authenticity to college students and young adults all over the Midwest.

Check out Matt’s amazing blog: When Neccessary Use Words. Matt use to serve as a FOCUS Missionary and has a really awesome facebook page as well, Matt Faley – Catholic speaker.writer.singer. Go ahead and “like” his page and share Matt’s joy for Christ with all of your friends.

Questions Answered

Well, I’m back in Jersey. And I was most vividly reminded of this fact this afternoon on my way home from the mall. A woman driving a black BMW almost hit my mom’s car at an intercession. That is when I was reminded of the difference between New Jersey and Tennessee drivers. I admit that I have certainly toned it down when it comes to my driving since living in Nashville.

Today was an awesome day! I got up at 5 (that would be am, not pm). I thought I was going to take a few days off before Christmas, but obviously decided against it, as there is much to be done. I am looking forward to a few days off after Christmas though. After running, I went to Mass with my mom at 7am. One of the highlights of my day was baking gingerbread men with my little nephew Sean. He had never made gingerbread men before and as he lifted the cookie cutter from the dough he turned to me and said, Aunt Maura look, it’s a guy. I laughed at his adorable remark as he sprinkled the unbaked cookies with green and red sugar.

This evening my parents took me out to dinner to my favorite restaurant in New Jersey. They took me out to celebrate my birthday and the launching of Made in His Image. It was a wonderful evening.

For today’s post I wanted to address some recent questions. Over the past several weeks I have received numerous emails asking for advice about how to approach a friend or loved one about their eating disorder. As always, please remember that I’m not a medical doctor or psychologist. However, through my personal experience and from my years of research on the topic, I have gleaned the following.

If you are concerned about your friend or loved one’s eating habits and or attitude toward food it is essential that you mention your concerns in a loving and supportive manner. Your loved one may already perceive your inquiry as “noisy” and “unnecessary,” so again it is vital that you approach them in a non-treating manner. Here are some steps that may be helpful.

1) Set up a time to talk to your friend or loved one. Important components to remember when setting up a time and place to talk include the following. It is essential that your friend or loved one feel safe during this conversation. For example, don’t go to a busy coffee shop or restaurant to express your concerns. Choose a place that is relatively quiet and private, so anyone sitting close by will not hear the conversation. Your friend or loved one will be very reluctant to share if they know others can hear what they are saying. You could also let them choose the place that is most comfortable for them.

2) Share your concerns in a respectful manner and preface several times that you only desire what is best for your friend or loved one. Gently encourage them to seek professional help for the concerns you are mentioning. Offer to help your friend make an appointment as well as to accompany them on their first visit.

3) If your friend or loved one is in exhibiting signs of denial, gently restate your concern and offer to listen in the future if they would like to talk. Don’t force them to confront their eating disorder, it will not work. If someone is in denial, all you can do is be supportive. If at anytime you are worried for their immediate health and safety, consult a health care professional immediately.

4) It is critical to avoid placing blame or making accusatory “you” statements like, “You just need to eat.” Or, “If you would just stop binging you would feel better.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I’m concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.” These statements prove to be less intimating.

5) Express your continued support to your loved one. Remind them that you care for their well-being and desire their health and happiness. Be a supportive and gentle listener at all times.

Another question I have been asked on several occasions is, how do I prevent eating disorders? 

1) Learn all you can about anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Genuine awareness will help you avoid judgmental or mistaken attitudes about food, weight, body shape, and eating disorders.

2) Discourage the idea that a particular diet, weight, or body size will automatically lead to happiness and fulfillment.

3) Choose to challenge the false belief that thinness and weight loss are great, while body fat and weight gain are horrible or indicate laziness, worthlessness, or immorality.

4) Avoid categorizing foods as “good/safe” vs. “bad/dangerous.” Remember, we all need to eat a balanced variety of foods. Also, be mindful of your audience when talking about food/body issues. You never know who is listening and how vulnerable they are.

5) Decide to avoid judging others and yourself on the basis of body weight or shape. Turn off the voices in your head that tell you that a person’s body weight says anything about their character, personality, or value as a person.

6) Avoid conveying an attitude that says, “I will like you better if you lose weight, or don’t eat so much, etc.”

7) Become a critical viewer of the media and its messages about self-esteem and body image. Recognize the lies when you hear a comment or see an image that promotes thinness at all costs. Rip out (or better yet, write to the editor about) advertisements or articles in your magazines that make you feel bad about your body shape or size. Could you imaging how different our society would be if every woman who felt discussed with the media actually stood up?

8) If you think someone has an eating disorder, express your concerns in a forthright, caring manner. Gently but firmly encourage the person to seek trained professional help.

9) Be a model of healthy self-esteem and body image. Recognize that others pay attention and learn from the way you talk about yourself and your body. Choose to talk about yourself with respect and appreciation. Choose to value yourself based on your goals, accomplishments, talents, and character. Avoid letting the way you feel about your body weight and shape determine the course of your day. Embrace the natural diversity of human bodies and celebrate your body’s unique shape and size.

Behold the Beauty of Recovery

Hello my name is Sarah Elizabeth and I am currently a junior in college. I have had a very up and down upbringing including the usual high school experiences in the country lifestyle, but was always drawn to the city life and even had the fortunate opportunity to be named a Miss Teen Virginia. This is not a title that I like to make public seeing that it is not what makes me, “ME”. I find it important though to say how the experience really made me aware of truly being yourself underneath all of the makeup and flashing lights. The lights flash on and then turn off. You are with yourself forever.

This blog is dedicated to my recovery from an eating disorder. Through this process I hope to reach out to other women who are struggling with this disease as they journey with me through the joys and sorrows of recovery. For those who have no idea what it is like to have an eating disorder take a step into my shoes as well as the shoes of others who battle this unspoken enemy. 

The above mini autobiography was written by a young woman who I mentor and serve as an accountability partner through the course Setting Captives Free. I completed this course while I was recovering from an eating disorder and it helped me tremendously. I have been writing my own course and am going to post it on my blog in late winter/early spring 2012, after I work with a psychologist to help me finish it up. In the meantime, I highly encourage you to sign up for the Setting Captives Free course until mine is done.

You can follow Sarah’s blog by clicking here. And I strongly encourage you to do so.

Another young woman, who I have the honor of helping hold accountable with the same course wrote the following after completing ten of the sixty days in the course.

Freedom and control have been the objects of my desire.

I want to feel free to make wise decisions.

I want to control my impulses.

If I seek out these attributes on my own, they will be a contradiction to one another. 

The more I feel free to shape my own life, without God, the more I see a lack of control.

I have to acknowledge God as my maker. He is my source of life.

I’m not really free without Him.

Without Him, I bind myself to human control, which will never be satisfied.

Freedom and control will continue to be the objects of my desire, as long as the freedom I seek is through Jesus Christ and as long as I humble myself to being poor in spirit. 

God is alive and He is changing lives. Please join me in praying daily for these young women, for their continued healing on their journey to recovery, virtue and courage. If you have questions or concerns about the course, please don’t hesitate to ask me. I would also love to help you by serving as your accountability partner through the course. You can email me at IfightHimwithlove@gmail.com

Know one is meant to travel the road of recovery alone, reach out and ask for help, there is tremendous beauty found in receiving love.

“Honey are you married?”

Over the summer, when I worked as a baker, a customer approached me in my flour covered apron and pulled back hair, touched my arm and said, Honey are you married? I chuckled and said no. Well whoever you marry, he better like to exercise because you are going to make him fat with all of this good food. I almost dropped what I was holding, as we both laughed together.

As I was uploading these cookie pictures I thought of her funny remark. Well I don’t think I would ever marry anyone who doesn’t like to exercise and my cooking is good for you, so fear not wherever you are future husband.

The other evening I made some Christmas cookies. Baking is so therapeutic for me and I love to bring others joy through my baking and cooking. My favorite is to make dinner for my roommates and people I love.

This is just the beginning of my Christmas baking because I made these in Nashville.  And next week, I’m going home for Christmas and will definitely bake with my mom and little sister.

Do you want to hear something amazing? Made in His Image got its business debit card today! We are officially a business!! God the Father is breathtaking!! The card is royal blue to honor our Lady and my favorite part is the silver lettering at the bottom that reads “Made in His Image.” WOW!!! I can’t believe our name is on a business credit card. I had tears in my eyes when I held it in my hand. It’s really happening and we are almost an official 501 (c) 3 – non-profit organization!!! All the glory and honor to our Heavenly Father! I know He is going to use this ministry to save lives and show people His love and mercy.