My Recovery Journey: Four Years Later

Four years ago today I was returning home following my second stay in residential treatment.  Today I am at the ICED conference preparing to network, learn, and figure out a next step in my life as I navigate working as a professional in this field.  It is incredible to look back each and every year and realize the changes that I have made and the hurdles I have overcome.  None of it was easy, some of it was incredibly painful and hard, but it has all been worth it to get to this point.  If I have made it this far in four years, I can only imagine where I will be in four more.

I hope that you, too, celebrate each and every accomplishment.  You are worth it.

15 Goals for 2015

Hello again, readers.  It has been a while.

This past year was a difficult one for me. I went through a lot of change and transition and had just a generally rough time.

It is now a bit into 2015 and I have been thinking hard about the prior and upcoming years. What can I do differently this year that will make an impact so that this can be a better year than the last? What kind of goals do I have that I would like to accomplish this year? I think I have come up with a few. Here are my 15 for 2015:

1. Write.
I have not been writing like I would like to and like I enjoy, so this year I will try to write as much as I wrote previously and maybe more. I will not hold myself to a certain number but simply have a goal to write more. I have plenty to write about so hopefully it will not be a problem.

2. Get a better work/life/etc. balance.
One of the other reasons I have been struggling to write is finding some time in between everything else. I would like to set a goal of making a plan to strike a balance between my activities.

3. Figuring out a “next step”.
In my recovery, it has been a series of steps from one stage to the next. I have been stuck in the same place for a while and I think and feel it is time to move on to the next whatever. I really hope to figure out what that is. And this does not simply encompass recovery but my life.

4. Finish reorganizing/redoing my space.
At the beginning of this new year, I completely tore apart my space and cleaned from top to bottom. Everything that needed to go that was not useful anymore, went. It was a hugely relieving experience. I still have a little bit to go and I know I can get it done!

5. Attend at least one conference this year.
I fell in love with conferences after I attended my first one in 2013. It was so awesome. I hope to at least make it to one this year!

6. Feel more comfortable in my own body.
I am still working very hard on my body image and feeling comfortable with my body. I hope to continue on this path through this year and make strides towards finally being okay with the way I look because in the end I am okay, enough, and lovable at any size.

7. Work through the “deep stuff”.
There are a few big items on my list of things to work through and overcome. I hope to make that list just a bit shorter this year and every year.

8. Get active!
I love being active whether it is hiking, soccer, dance, etc. I have not been as active lately and I miss it terribly. This year I will strive to add more activity and have some more fun!

9. Keep pursuing what I love.
Never give up on my goals, hopes, and dreams just because I may not reach them right now or fail here and there. I am a worthwhile pursuit.

10. Celebrate!
When I get into a down mood, I tend to forget to celebrate the small wins and myself. This year I am going to work on continuing to celebrate every accomplishment, big and small. Also, I am going to celebrate my birthday meaningfully.

11. Be grateful.
One of the things I struggle with quite a bit when I am really down is being grateful for what I do have or in general showing gratitude to those who deserve it in my life. I am going to really try to insert more gratitude in my life.

12. Have fun!
I am generally pretty good at having fun and keeping fun going in my life, but I would like to strive to have more diverse fun in my life and have a more balanced fun. Instead of the same video game over and over, play a new one once in a while. Also, in keeping with having fun in my life, I want to work on still going out or still having fun even when I am done. I tend to cancel plans or be a downer during whatever activity it is because I am not in the best mood and/or think I will not have fun. I want to work on that this year.

13. “Always look on the bright side of life!”
I am a pretty positive person, especially so in public. In private, I can be more of a downer when I am depressed. I want to work on continuing to have that more positive outlook regardless of my emotional state.

14. Re-connect and connect with others.
This one is huge for me. I had a lot of connections in college and afterwards I have not been able to have that again. I am working hard on connecting to new people and continuing to connect with those that I have known. I need to keep up with this and make it a priority. It is very important to me.

15. Keep learning and growing.
I never want to stay static. This year is a year of growth and I look. Forward to what is to come.

What are your goals, hopes, and dreams for 2015?

My Recovery Journey: From Self-Hate to Self-Love

When I was younger, I was bullied for my weight and mental health issues.  My peers poked fun at my body and openly harassed me during some of my classes.  It almost felt acceptable because no one ever really got into any real trouble for any of it.  That feeling of acceptability that was relayed to me through a lack of concern and action and a frequency of attacks, lead me to internalize all of it and turn it into a narrative about myself that still defines who I am.

Out of the bullying built the narrative that I am only defined by two things–my body and my mental illnesses.  I wholeheartedly believed that I was not good enough, unlovable, disgusting, fat, and crazy among other things.  I thought that this would be how my life would be for the rest of my life.  Things, however, changed when all the self-hatred, other issues, and a seemingly innocent diet collided.

It was in college that I decided that I was going to lose weight.  I no longer wanted to be all those horrible things that I defined myself by and I figured that losing weight would fix it for me.  Of course I was completely wrong and losing weight would not fix how I felt about myself, but I started to lose the weight regardless.

The changes I made were small, gradual, and healthy at first.  It was after losing enough weight that people started to notice my weight loss that I started to take notice myself of the progressive increase in compliments, friends, and life experiences I enjoyed.  With each pound I lost, a new narrative started in my mind that I was actually good enough, lovable, etc. if I was thin enough.  This change in my narrative shifted my behavioral changes from healthy to disordered and soon into a full-blown eating disorder.

I have spent years recovering from my eating disorder and it has only been within the last two that I have finally been able to stay behavior free.  But what about that narrative I had about myself that I was only good enough, lovable, etc. if I was thin?  I am still fighting it.  Nearly every day.  It is probably one of the most ingrained thoughts in my head, more-so than the eating disorder behaviors themselves.

I think about why I am still so stuck on believing I am only good enough if I am thin and it makes me reflect on how as a culture we have made fat shameful, unacceptable, disgusting, and something to avoid at all costs.  We have taught children to start hating themselves at younger and younger ages and believing that they have to diet and be thin.  It makes me so incredibly sad to hear children start believing what I believe about myself knowing what I did to myself to try to achieve an ideal that was never achievable.

But it also inspires me to fight.  It inspires me to fight against the self-hatred for my body that I have had nearly all of my life.  It inspires me to love my recovery body that I fought so hard for.  It inspires me to get involved and let people know that diets, disordered eating, and eating disorders do not fix your problems or change how you feel about yourself for the positive.

My journey has inspired to become involved in organizations such as the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), and the Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness Campaign (PEDAW).  I believe wholeheartedly in loving the person you are and being able to recover from an eating disorder is absolutely possible.  I am incredibly fortunate to work/have worked with these organizations and spread that message.

The next step in my journey and involvement is next week when I attend the BEDA Conference in Denver, CO.  I cannot express how excited I am to attend this conference with some of the greats in the field.  It is another step towards learning more self-love and acceptance and getting more involved.  I look forward to immersing myself in topics on self-care, self-acceptance, health at every size, and weight stigma.

I hope you will all join me next week as I live-tweet (@kristinseattle) from the BEDA Conference and blog on my experiences there.  I know that there will be lots to learn and grow from as I continue to learn how to love my recovery body and believe for myself that my worth, goodness, lovableness, etc. is not tied to my weight.

My Life of Recovery

My life feels like a hurricane with mostly controlled chaos.  There is a lot to get done at the moment, but I am not shying away from what I have to get done.  Everything I am working on is dedicated to recovery and advocacy and it is the most fulfilling work of my life.  It is worth some of the extra chaos of figuring out how to get it all done!

If someone would have told me several years ago that my life would be the way it is today, I would have never believed them.  Throughout my childhood and in the early stages of recovery, I believed that I was simply not good enough, would not amount to anything, and that I would never be able to do what I truly wanted to do.  It is incredible the power of recovery and the drive that it gives you to persevere and work towards the things in life that truly matter to you.  Recovery allows you to discover that true part of yourself that you have denied or forgotten and believe in yourself again in order to achieve the things you want in life.

I am so grateful every day that I gave recovery a chance and I fought for it every minute, every hour, and every day.  Recovery has given me the ability to go to the NEDA Conference last October; go to the BEDA Conference this spring (April 24-26th); work on the Seattle NEDA Walk, which I promise will be so incredible; write in this blog; and finally have the chance to write for others including BEDA and PEDAW (so far…!).  Recovery has also given me the chance to heal, start to love myself, read and write again, have the ability to be active again (I love to dance!), and participate in my life!

If you are struggling, give recovery a chance because you never know what kind of things you can achieve with recovery.  Believe in yourself, fight for yourself, and know that recovery is possible.  You can recover.

——

To support me in the Seattle NEDA Walk and help me eliminate eating disorders, please follow this link: Kristin’s NEDA Walk Page.

Two Years of Recovery

Two years today.  That is how long it has been since I checked myself into treatment at Eating Recovery Center (ERC) in Denver, CO.  It is strange and also wonderful to think that it has been that long.  It makes me reflect on how far I have come in that span of time and all the improvement I have made.  It is incredible to think of just how far I have actually come and the accomplishments I have made considering even four years ago entering inpatient/residential treatment the first time around I believed that I had little to no hope and even at ERC I had days where still felt there were things that I did not believe I could overcome.

In two years I have changed my life for the better…

Today I am back to doing what I love, which is writing.  I am able to write and read, which is something I was worried that I had lost forever.  In the throes of my eating disorder, I was unable to do either because of my lack of concentration.

Today I am able to participate in life again and not miss out on the things that I love most.  I am able to go to football and soccer games, watch them at home, feel the joy of fanaticism that I have always had in my heart.  ercThere is nothing like finding that joy again and embracing that part of myself that I love.

Today I am able to have relationships with people.  I have the kind of friendships that I want and deserve and that my friends deserve.  I am not so caught up in my eating disorder that I am unable to have any other relationship but with my eating disorder.  I am not alone and isolated, losing relationships because I would rather have my eating disorder instead.

Today I am overcoming and have overcome many issues that have plagued me for many years.  My fear foods list is now down to a very small number of items when I used to have a huge list of fears and only a small list of safe foods.  My eating disorder is nearly faded away.  The thoughts linger, especially in tough times, and haunt me sometimes, but behaviors are nowhere to be found.  Slowly, but surely, I am working on my body image and it is always improving.  I constantly work on trauma and rape and I have gone from not even being able to really mention it four years ago, barely talking about it two years ago, still blaming myself a year ago, to today and within the last six months finally not blaming myself and working through what happened.  The OCD will be next on my list to tackle though I have worked through quite a bit already.

Next month I will be returning to Denver, CO.  I will return to the area where I truly began my recovery journey.  I will return as a professional, not a patient.  I will return to attend the Binge Eating Disorder Association’s 5th Annual Conference.  There are few words to express the joy that I feel at this moment.  My life has shifted from illness to wellness, from existing to living.  Two years from now, I can only imagine what I will have accomplished, what will have changed in my life.  I am only too excited to find out and to go on that journey!

Healthy Weight Week

Next week, 19-25 January 2014, is Healthy Weight Week sponsored by Green Mountain at Fox Run.  It is a week dedicated to healthy living free from diets and obsessing about weight.  It is dedicated instead to finding acceptance and love in our bodies at our healthy weight.  How amazing is that!  The week is highlighted by the Slim Chance awards, the Body Image awards, and the (new!) Healthy Weight blogger resources list, which features the top 35 blogging resources to follow for keeping health as a priority and not weight.  The rest of the week is filled with activities, discussions, and articles each day.  It is worth a serious look: Healthy Weight Week.

One of the reasons why I am so excited is that this message resonates with me so much…

Before my eating disorder, I spent a lot of time dieting and trying my hardest to lose weight.  One of the Slim Chance award winners, Special K, was one of the many things I tried during my many failed attempts.  I could never understand why I kept failing and only felt more miserable about myself and about my body.

Now in recovery from my eating disorder, I still struggle with my body image.  I have that dieting person I used to be in my head screaming along with my eating disorder.  Both scream and tell me that I will not be good enough or lovable or worth anything if I am fat or heavier than a certain amount of pounds or a certain size.  And you know what?  They are wrong!

What if this type of week existed back then?  What if someone told me that I was beautiful or taught me about positive body image?

That is why weeks like that are so important and why they mean so much to me.  I hope that you all check this week out and utilize the resources.  There are a lot of useful articles, links, and discussions during the week.

Don’t forget: You are beautiful.

On the Recovery Journey: Rough Patches and Body Hatred

The truth about recovery is that it is not pretty, perfect, or easy.  It is never a straight line or a sudden epiphany and then everything falls into place afterwards and there is no more work.  Truth is, recovery is sometimes painful, awful, and ugly.  Even so, it is better than being sick because the days when it is not that way, which grow with each day in recovery, are beautiful and wonderful and there is so much to life that was not there before.

In my recovery, I have come to a rough patch.  One of the biggest issues I face in my eating disorder and my recovery is my body image and right now it is at its absolute worst.  All day my mind seems to filter everything through a “I’m fat” lens and that is the only thing that matters.  It does not matter that something positive happened or that I am a good person because everything ends the same—I’m fat.  The sky is blue and I am fat.  I challenged myself today and I am proud of myself, but I am fat.  Needless to say, these endless conversations in my head lead no where positive.

It feels as though these dark thoughts are suffocating me and there is no escape or air to breathe.  I cannot run away from the thoughts in my head nor can I avoid what I see in the mirror.  I am trapped from the inside and the outside, forced to face this and all the memories, pain, and despair that comes with it.

And am I ever terrified of myself and of the reflection staring at me when I look in the mirror.  Despite it being only my body, it instills great fear, hatred, and pain.  I put so much power into body image and what it holds for me since it is all I have ever known.  That power continues to drive so much hatred towards my body.

A part of recovery and maintaining it, especially during times such as this, is knowing in your heart that this is temporary.  However it works for you, reminding yourself as often as you need that it is only temporary.  I continue to tell myself that this shall pass and that I have worked too hard to fail now and that is the truth.  I may not be ready to embrace fully that I am beautiful or that I love my body, but at least I can say to myself that this shall pass and I can keep working on finding the beauty in myself.

Are you struggling with something in your recovery?  Remember: This too shall pass. ❤

A Letter to the First Lady

Dear First Lady Michelle Obama,

I heard that you will be appearing on the Biggest Loser to promote your Drink More Water campaign.  At first, I was shocked and frustrated.  I wondered why you would promote a campaign for healthy choices and behaviors on a show that only promotes unhealthiness, unattainable weight loss, and weight shaming and bullying.  But then I started to feel sad.  I felt sad because I know what it is to experience weight-based stigma and bullying and how for me that turned into a deadly eating disorder.

I used to watch the Biggest Loser when it first started.  Back then I was very overweight and hated my body.  I watched every week as these contestants lost incredible, impossible amounts of weight while being screamed at.  I thought, ‘Why can’t I lose that much weight?‘  I tried and tried and failed.  I could not understand why I could not “motivate” myself through the punishment/bullying model I watched on the Biggest Loser.

I had no idea at the time that it was not a way to lose weight.  I only knew that I was desperate and would do anything–anything–to lose weight.  I believed after experiencing weight-based stigma, shame, and bullying throughout my entire adolescence, only that would work to make weight loss permanent and that I had to lose the weight and be thin in order to be good enough and loved.  There was no other option.  It was out of this desperation and body-hate that my life took a disastrous turn.

It was only after I stopped watching the Biggest Loser that I started to really lose weight.  It was in a healthy way at first with small, doable, and mindful changes.  It was a slow but steady process.  However, it was not long before unhealthy behaviors took over.

I followed the Biggest Loser’s model for motivation and weight loss and bullied, shamed, and hated my body in order to lose more and more weight as fast as I could.  Combined with my obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), it developed into an eating disorder.  Due in part to sources such as this show, I overexercised, purged, and restricted all in the hopes of never feeling the pain and despair again and feeling instead that if I were thin, I would be lovable and good enough.  I chased that dream nearly to the grave because I never knew that loving yourself was possible if you were not thin or that you were good enough just as you are.  I thought that, like on the show, if I was fat, I deserved to be treated badly.

To this day, I fight back demons telling me I am not good enough, thin enough, lovable enough, tall enough, etc.  However, as I have discovered in my journey of recovery, it is of paramount importance to love and accept yourself and that neither health nor worth is determined by a number on a scale or the size of your clothes.  I make a conscious effort daily to remind myself of that.

First Lady Obama, shows like the Biggest Loser that promote body-hate and shame.  The trainers constantly yell and scream at their trainees and shame them into continuing to workout.  It is the stereotypical abusive relationship–they abuse, they come back, explain why it was in the best interest of the abused to be treated that way, and then they do it again.  Sadly, the media seems to believe this is the right way to get people to lose weight and that has influenced what so many of my peers believed would “work” too (or maybe they simply enjoyed poking fun at my body).  It is shameful.  What people do not realize and what I did not realize is that it does not “work”.

Instead of teaching the contestants to love and accept themselves and strive towards true health, these trainers shame them for being fat, “losing control” of their eating and weight, and set them on a series of unhealthy behaviors and unrealistic weight loss.  The participants are not taught that they are beautiful for who they are, just that they must to lose weight.  It is truly a flawed show.  Additionally, the Biggest Loser portrays each contestant in a grotesque manner.  For example, during every weigh-in, each wears nearly nothing as if to shame them even more because their bodies are on display for all to see.  Simply, the Biggest Loser ensures the contestants feel shame and hate towards their bodies.

I hope you reconsider appearing on the Biggest Loser because the nature of the show is so unhealthy and based in weight shame and bullying.  Promoting health and wellness deserves a national stage that includes body acceptance and love to facilitate healthy living, not a life based in fear or shame.  It is only then that we can start making a change so that individuals like me do not have to go through so much body hatred and shame and turn to eating disorders in order to attempt to no longer be “fat” and be subjected to the bullying we endure daily.

Please, First Lady Michelle Obama, do not appear on the Biggest Loser.

Thank you,

Kristin Bulzomi

Kristin Bulzomi

Scale Art Project

After weighing myself and feeling the consequences of that action, I decided that it was time for an art project and what better than to use my own scale.  I took to what magazines I had in the house and cut out what I could find to remind myself why weighing myself is not a good option, what I lose by starting that behavior again, what it cost me when I did weigh myself every few hours, etc.  My scale has never looked so beautiful.

In the throes of my eating disorder, weighing myself was one of the behaviors I would engage in.  A lot.  It would keep me in my disorder and fuel it.  It did not matter if the number on the scale was a loss, gain, or maintain.  It triggered and fueled my eating disorder.  It gave Ed more life with every number.

The question is: is this where I want to be?  In my eating disorder weighing myself?  Missing out on my life?  Living in fear of being discovered, the next number on the scale, or the ED behaviors weighing myself might provoke?  Living with the stress, sadness, mayhem, and problems that feel so unbearable while in an eating disorder?  I do not believe this is what I want or where I want to be.

Next time I look at my scale or am tempted to jump on it, I will be reminded of what I have fought for, what I continue to fight for, and that life where I weigh myself excessively is over.

What about others out there?  Do you still have your scale?  Is it time for you to turn it into a work of art like I did?  What kind of decoration would you put on yours?

Or maybe is it time to get rid of your scale?  Be mindful on the role of your scale in your life, whether or not it is a trigger for you, and how “safe” it is still being around.  Sometimes people are not ready to let go just yet and that is okay.  Know or think about where you are and decide what is comfortable for you.  I do, however, challenge you to challenge yourself.  You might be surprised.

—-

Another idea is smashing your scale.  This is a good idea if you are not into decorating, are getting rid of your scale, or simply want to destroy your scale in epic fashion.  Take pictures or a video if you feel it necessary.  Have others with you if that feels right.  Maybe even make an art project our of the remains.  Have fun with it because good riddance!

A Struggle in Recovery

It has been a while since my last post, especially since my last eating disorder- or recovery-related post.  At times I have felt it inauthentic to write a recovery post.  Though I am still in recovery and going strong, I have come across some struggles as of late after some ED-related medical issues have come up.  These medical issues have made it difficult to stay focused because my mind wants to constantly focus on how I have “failed” in recovery or focus on my body image.

Body image has always been a struggle for me.  According to my team, I do not possess accurate assessments on how I look (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) and it causes me great frustration and struggle.  Over time I have learned to trust in the assessment of my team through the removal and covering of mirrors, not weighing myself, and the minimal acceptance that my team may be correct.  Though it is not easy and, yes, I still question them all the time and come to periods where I bitch and moan about my body, it has helped and keeps me on track.

And then there are times like now where I break one of those “guidelines” I have for myself.  Last week after weeks of issues coming and going that were difficult that have made me focus my energy on my body because I refuse to engage in ED behaviors, I weighed myself.  Needless to say it was a bad idea.  It only amplified everything negative I was feeling.

Instead of turning to ED behaviors or other negative behaviors, I turned to what I know best to do in these situations: Basics of Recovery, doing one fun thing a day, and avoiding further triggers.  Knowing how sensitive I was, I made sure to take extra self-care of myself.  A few of the things I did were briefly avoided my scariest fear foods, which I am still working on even now; reached out to my friends though not always admitting what was going on; and avoided rumination as much as possible.  I also tried to keep myself busy but not too busy.  I went out and did things I enjoyed including the Farmer’s Markets, a fair/parade, and a movie.

In recovery, we all have these moments where we struggle.  It is about coping with it, learning from it, and overcoming it.  Simply because you struggle does not make you weak or a failure (as I have continued to learn through my recovery).  Keep fighting.  Always keep fighting.  You are worth it, recovery is worth it.  Recovery is possible.