Wednesday, March 26, 2014

There's no gift like recovery. And spreading some hope.

Monday was my birthday, celebrated with my favorite buttercream cake (which I'm still enjoying), lovely get togethers with friends and family, and a gift to myself of a new bike.

But the best gift is one I must share with you. It was one sent unknowingly--she had no idea it was my birthday-- and I share it with Dana's approval. It was, coincidently, one of a couple of emails I received that day, updates on progress from patients I no longer see. I'm posting Dana's letter because I think many of you need to see it. Because I could not have crafted such a beautiful and inspiring myself.

Perhaps you recall reading about her before? In summary, she had anorexia from her early teens and first presented for treatment in her late 30s. She survived too many traumas to count, and in spite of having many close friends and family members around, did not utilize them for eating disorder support. She had a family history of anorexia, and struggled later with bulimia and depression as well. Statistically, Dana had little promise of recovery. But you know I don't always care much for statistics (I am the 1 in 1000 to get MS, and I am perhaps more fortunate than most with this disease. So I believe that we shouldn't get bogged down with recovery rates!)

I post this for you who believe there is no hope. I share this because recovery truly is possible, not just for those early in their disease, or with fabulous supports, but for all. But it doesn't come easy, nor does it happen fast. And as I've written before, it's not without discomfort--emotional and physical--along the way.

My birthday greeting from Dana

So Lori, I thought this was an important email to send to you.

Why? Bc it's officially been one year since I last engaged in an eating disorder behavior!  I have not purged in one year!  This was my last behavior to "let go of" and I did it!

Happy One Year to me!

I think of you at this one year mark.  We endured quite the journey, didn't we?!
I truly wanted you to know this important milestone bc I could not have done it without all the help and patience you provided. I wanted to share it with you bc of all the work we did together... all the frustrations, setbacks, etc paid off and got me to this point.

I thought I was a lost cause.  I thought why bother so often.  Why try.  I thought I'll always need this ed bc it's helped me survive and cope and without it, I won't be able to live.

I thought I was going to be the case where you work so hard for so long and I STILL fall through the cracks and will die from this.  I felt too broken and damaged and I got tired of flailing and struggling. All too often I just wanted to give in/give up. I was going to be your patient that would not survive this eating disorder.  Me!

Hardly ever did I imagine I could push through and see it to the other side.  Especially being fully aware that I'd been suffering for so many years and it was just, simply, part of me.

I did it though, Lori - I'm one of your "success stories"!
Not sure just how many kick and scream their way out of their ed, but I succeeded!  Rough and very bumpy ride, but I buckled up and made it.
And maybe it's not really too big a deal to anyone else - maybe even you, but inside I feel like it's a really big deal.  A victory I could never have seen myself achieving.  But here we are!

I think you deserve acknowledgement as well.  And maybe I just wanted someone to cheer with.  But we were partners in this lengthy, anything but linear recovery process, so I wanted to share and allow you some recognition at this one year mark as well, and I hope you don't mind  :)

Silly, huh? I'm doing all right.  I am back working and I have also begun taking violin lessons, which is interesting.

Anyhow... thank you for your huge role in my healing and recovering so I could celebrate this one year completely eating disorder free. Thank you for letting me quietly share.  I really wanted to share with you.

One whole year.  Can you ever imagine?!
I guess people CAN recover?!!


Please don't tell me that you are different. You too can recover. Really.
PS: pictures to be added soon! I am enroute to an eating disorder conference and simply couldn't wait to post! Please share with anyone who needs a bit of hope. Thanks.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How yogurts and ‘milks’ mess with your head.

The big news in Olympic history before the games even started was the yogurt embargo. Yogurt, specifically US shipments of Chobani Greek (style) yogurt, was banned from Russia because of paperwork issues. If Americans were outraged about the politics of this ban on yogurt-eating liberty, fair enough. But trust me, the impact on athletes’ nutritional status and performance was non-existent. Did Gold miss medaling for figure skating due to it? Hardly. Did Ligety capture two golds in spite of his yogurt free diet? Absolutely.

Yogurt's impact on you.

Did you know? That individual yogurt you’ve been buying isn’t what you thought it was. Yes, you too have had limitations placed on your yogurt.  Same price, with even greater costs, as you’ll see, so keep reading.

I was rushing down the aisles of Stop and Shop last week, hitting the perimeter for the essentials. Produce, bread, eggs and yogurt, to name a few— were on the list. Not a regular ‘Stop and Shop shopper’, I was struck by the relatively low prices on the yogurt, the Greek yogurt, the Chobani Greek yogurt, specifically. So I grabbed some arms’ full and dropped them into my cart. But before moving on, I took a double take. The packaging was subtly different, though not strikingly so. Same shape, ever so slightly different label design. They were slightly cuter, even.

And then I realized. The container was once again downsized, this time from 6 ounces to 5.3. And the calories were similarly reduced. Yes, yogurt has slimmed down once again. The tag line should read “now with less calcium (only 15%!), fewer calories, and other nutrients you were expecting—all for the same price!”

What yogurts used to be.

When I was an elementary school kid, I remember buying individual containers of yogurt—Dannon at that time. They were 8 ounces, and they certainly weren’t lite—these were the olden days, where the only diet product with artificial sweeteners was an awful tasting cola called Tab. It’s possible they were low fat, but not fat free—that also didn’t exist back then, to my knowledge. And they were in the mid to upper 200 calorie range. At that time, it wasn’t odd to have a yogurt—along with a fruit or a muffin, let’s say, for a quick lunch or breakfast. And that might have been just fine.

That was then. But now?

While I hate to talk calories, I think it’s important here: prepackaged yogurts these days are the caloric equivalent of an 8 old glass of skim or low fat milk. That’s right. We're talking a standard paper cup size,  the equivalent of 2/3 of a 12 oz soda can portion. Would you expect a small glass of low fat milk, by itself, to be an adequate meal? How about for someone you really care about? Do you have a double standard here—okay for you, not for them? I consistently see patients consuming it with the expectation that it ought to be enough.

You and the Olympians.

The consequence on the yogurt-deprived American athletes may have been on their psyche—they may be accustomed to doing things the same way perceiving that if they change, they won’t get the same results. But truly, unless they are vegetarians dependent on the high protein content of Greek-style yogurts, protein malnutrition would not threaten a medal.

This one's 8 oz still!
But the impact of the manufactures’ sneakily shrinking serving size is much greater for you. You eat one and expect it to satisfy like it used to. Or if you, like me, grew up in the era of fuller fat yogurts, you may still be in the mode of considering a yogurt a meal or a significant part of one. No, we simply can’t rely on portion sizes to dictate our needs! (Read more on this topic: and

Milking it

While we’re on the subject of dairy, let’s talk about milk, or rather, beverages mistakenly referred to as milk. Think rice, coconut, hemp, and almond beverages. Beverages, because referring to them as milk misleads us. There is nothing milk like about them, except, perhaps, the shade of grey/off white. Sure, they may be fortified with calcium or vitamin D (although not all are, in fact), but when you pour a glass of milk-beverage you expect that it’s going to satisfy like a glass of milk. Yet many of these beverages are little more than fortified water or fail to match milk nutritionally.

You’ve already heard my rant about almond beverage.

Some almond milks have as few as 30 calories--I'm not recommended these, and all have only about 1 gram of protein—that’s 7 grams less than a glass of cow’s milk. Soy milk is consistently better matched with cow’s milk for protein (usually at 6 or 7 grams) but may be much lower calorie as well. Coconut water is neither high in protein nor calcium or D, but at least they call if ‘water!’. Hemp milk (yes, really) comes in at 2-3 grams of protein and calorically is a match for 2% or whole milk. Rice milk also matches calorically, but has only 1 gram of protein.

Who cares?

Why address this topic? Because I want you to not be fooled into thinking that these yogurts and milk beverages are adequate. When you get hungry after a pseudo milk drink, I don’t want you to blame yourself. When you are feeling less than satisfied with what you thought was your usual yogurt, think again.

Maybe there's a reason you're scavenging for food!
Start looking around, because these aren’t the only items shrinking. Did you think you plowed through the whole 1/2 gallon of ice cream? Well for the record, most brands (at least here in the US) have shrunk, too. Breyer’s, one of my favorites, now has 6 not 8 cups per container. In fact, it has fewer calories per cup, too—but interestingly, they’ve not advertised that! They have substituted guar or tara gum as a filler, displacing some of the cream and whole milk.

I realize that we all don’t need more saturated fat from cream, and some might benefit from an adjustment in portions. But if you’re noticing you’re hungrier these days with your same products, take a second look. You just may not be getting what you thought. Maybe your body is just trying to tell you something. Perhaps it’s time to start trusting your signals—and taking a second look at the package sizes.

Have you had this experience? Wondering why you’ve been hungrier? Seen other products that have shrunk without telling us? Please share!

Thanks for reading and passing this on!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Do you ASPIRE to recover from your eating disorder?

Is your eating disorder your own little secret? Do you hesitate to confide in others, fearing they just wouldn't get it? Do you wish you had support from someone knowledgable about the struggle to recover, yet safe to share with?

Introducing the desperately needed ASPIRE, created by Cate Sangster, who knows a lot about these struggles, as you'll read. We connected through this blog as she embarked on her journey to recover, created a book together and are now dear friends. So read on and then visit ASPIRE!

"Ask someone off the street about eating disorders and they’ll probably tell you about skinny young girls with too much vanity and not enough substance to their lives. But those of us in the know, understand that the true landscape of eating disorders looks very different to this. 

Firstly we understand that eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice. They are not about vanity or attention seeking, but rather they are a severe mental illness that cannot be cured by guilt and ridicule. 

Secondly eating disorders are not just about anorexia. Bulimia and BED are far more prevalent and equally as devastating to the sufferer, both in terms of mental and physical health. 

And thirdly, we also recognise that this is not an illness that strikes only young girls. Increasingly it is being seen in older women as well as men. However little exists in the way of exclusive treatment centres or support networks for older adults.

ASPIRE, or Adults Supporting Peers In Recovery from Eating Disorders is group I started recently to fill the gap I felt existed for adults with an eating disorder. During my own recovery from anorexia I found that one of the places I felt most at home was on the FEAST facebook page, and Laura’s Soap Box (the FEAST founder’s personal blog) as the people on these sites were not only adults, but also parents like me. However these sites were set up to support carers – the parents of young ED sufferers – so was not really my place. As much as I enjoy Laura’s perspective on things, as well as the information shared by the parents, it is not set up to support sufferers.

This is where ASPIRE fits. Adults need information and support – we are often in the treacherous position of being in charge of our own recovery, as well as, in some cases, needing to raise a family at the same time. We have unique problems, but also unique skills and insights that we can use to help each other through the minefield of recovery. Being in charge of our own recovery means we have to make the decision to attend appointments, make and eat appropriate meals, take medication, hold down jobs, pay bills etc, all while our eating disorder is in control of our minds. Not impossible, but very difficult, especially when you are not accountable to anyone but yourself (and your eating disorder).

So where can you find ASPIRE?

-        blog – adult recovery tips and answers to questions from readers
-        facebookgroup - *new* a space for members to ask questions, reach out for support and provide advice to other adults sufferers
-        twitter – random thoughts on recovery, RTs from other ED tweeters and respected researchers, as well as inspirational quotes to get you through the week
-        pinterest – boards for recovery motivation

How can ASPIRE help me?

  •        providing you with information about recent ED research
  •        providing you with motivational advice and information
  •       providing you with support  - talk to other adults in recovery, ask questions about the things that are on your mind
  •        and you can provide others with support when you are in a good place – helping others gives great purpose to our lives. We have a wealth of experience we can use to help others just starting out on the recovery journey.

The value of ASPIRE will increase with every member that joins. The more members we have to support each other and provide advice on the myriad of complicated situations that arise during recovery, the better!! Start by visiting the blog to find out more.

Look forward to meeting you soon."