Eating Disorders · Mental Health

What an Eating Disorder Looks Like


There’s a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation out there concerning eating disorders. Additionally, there is a lot of ignorance, insensitivity, and disrespect in the way people talk about eating disorders and devalue the seriousness of this mental illness. I may be hypersensitive to this issue given that I struggled with an eating disorder for many years and now work as an eating disorder counselor; however, I don’t think I am in the wrong for this. In fact, I think more people should be (and need to be) hypersensitive to this issue.

For starter, here are some basic statistics on eating disorders from The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, which I think pretty adequately portrays the seriousness of this illness:

  • At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
  • Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
  • 13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behaviors.
  • In a large national study of college students, 3.5% sexual minority women and 2.1% of sexual minority men reported having an eating disorder.
  • 16% of transgender college students reported having an eating disorder.
  • In a study following active duty military personnel over time, 5.5% of women and 4% of men had an eating disorder at the beginning of the study, and within just a few years of continued service, 3.3% more women and 2.6% more men developed an eating disorder.
  • Eating disorders affect all races and ethnic groups.
  • Genetics, environmental factors, and personality traits all combine to create risk for an eating disorder.

Furthermore, eating disorder research consistently receives less funding than any other mental illness while at the same time having the highest mortality rate. I think the table below (from NEDA) adequately illustrates the craziness of all this:

Illness                                                  Prevalence                    NIH Research Funds (2011)
Alzheimer’s Disease                       5.1 million                     $450,000,000
Autism                                                    3.6 million                     $160,000,000
Schizophrenia                                    3.4 million                     $276,000,000
Eating disorders                                30 million                      $28,000,000

“Research dollars spent on Alzheimer’s Disease averaged $88 per affected individual in 2011. For Schizophrenia the amount was $81. For Autism $44. For eating disorders, the average amount of research dollars per affected individual was just $0.93 (National Institutes of Health, 2011).”

So uhhh, yeah, eating disorders are kind of important to address yet fairly neglected in our society despite significant evidence demonstrating the seriousness and prevalence of this illness. I hope this helps explain why I have a problem with the lack of information and misinformation provided regarding eating disorders.

This struck me hard earlier this week during one of my intakes. I sat in session with a mother and her daughter who was seeking help for her eating disorder for the first time ever despite demonstrating symptoms for years. As the daughter described her relationship with food to me, it was clear that she had an eating disorder. She was deeply stuck in the restrict/binge cycle and overwhelmed with concerns about her body weight, size, and shape. She expressed feeling out of control around food and constantly anxious about the effects her eating would have on her body. She expressed how her eating negatively impacted her life, her relationships, and her overall wellbeing. From my perspective, it was a pretty clear representation of an eating disorder.

During this session, I soon began referring to my client’s relationship with food as an eating disorder as she met full criteria for an ED diagnosis. I feel that it is critical to name the illness for what it is given its seriousness and the urgency of treatment to prevent further damage and poorer prognosis. Near the end of the session, my client’s mother interrupted me to ask why I kept referring to “this thing” as an eating disorder. The mother was a physician. I put on my best poker face and calmly explained the disordered qualities of her daughter’s relationship with food and body, highlighting her daughter’s personal distress. As I continued sharing this information, my client’s mother interrupted me once more stating that she thought we didn’t need to diagnose “this thing” because her daughter was not throwing up.

While I have a lot of compassion for what it must be like to hear that a loved one is struggling and has an illness, my ability to empathize stops when I hear invalidation and neglect, especially coming from another helping professional.

During the remainder of the session, I did my best to simply stress the seriousness of the issue and the importance of receiving adequate treatment from an eating disorder professional, whether at our clinic or elsewhere. I do not know if this client will return, but I hope more than anything that she receives the help she deserves.

For the remainder of the week, the mother’s words, “It’s not like she’s throwing up,” rang through my head. I thought this is why people don’t get help, this is why people’s struggles go on for years, this is why so many people with eating disorders die, this is why prognosis is so poor. I do not entirely blame my client’s mother for her ignorance, despite her education and training. Rather, I blame the impact of society and education systems for the misinformation my client’s mother possesses with regard to eating disorders.

Today, most people believe that eating disorders either look like a skeletal white woman or someone who throws up after eating. Binge Eating Disorder only became an official diagnosis in 2013 and the DSM continues to prove imperfect. Furthermore, the large majority of eating disorder diagnoses fall under the “unspecified” and “not otherwise specified” categories, meaning that they do not meet full criteria for any of the three diagnosed eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. In fact, true Anorexia Nervosa has the lowest prevalence of all eating disorders, yet the anorexic’s body continues to function as the default for what an eating disorder should look like.

Even though eating disorders affect approximately 1 in 10 women (and 3 out of 4 women are likely to engage in disordered eating behaviors), doctors continue to underdiagnose, misdiagnose, and neglect the diagnosis of eating disorders. And I get it, there’s discomfort in breaching the subject with a patient or their family. I know. I have to do it daily in my job. However, many patients are waiting for someone to breach the subject and that just might be the one opportunity in their life to turn things around.

I remember going to a doctor in twelfth grade when my weight had already dropped significantly and my eating disorder was stronger ever. I went to the doctor because I hadn’t gotten my period in about half a year and even I was concerned at that point. Looking back on it now, I know that I was experiencing a classic symptom of eating disorder restriction: amenorrhea. My mom took me to who I believe was her OBGYN, but I’m not entirely sure who this lady was. She informed me that I had lost my period likely due to having low body fat and a low weight, yet she completely neglected to ask me about my eating habits or screen for any sign of an eating disorder. And here I was: an adolescent girl at a low weight for my height who had gone without my period for over half a year at this point. The doctor simply sent me home with some pills that were supposed to help bring my period back (and didn’t), and that was the end of that. I often wonder what would have happened if she had simply asked about my relationship with food and my body.

You see, even when a patient comes in with the classic signs and symptoms of an eating disorder, doctors often fail to address the topic. IT’S CRAZY TO ME!!! Seriously, 10 % of your female patients will likely meet criteria or at least demonstrate signs of a disordered relationship with food and body, yet this continues to go unaddressed?!

Again, I don’t entirely blame the individuals in these incidents, I blame their training (or lack thereof in the field of eating disorders) as well as the image of eating disorders that has been painted by the media and society at large. As I stated earlier, our society possesses a singular perception of eating disorders: a skeletal white woman. The fact is that eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, and forms.

Eating disorders have no set size, gender, age, ethnicity, race, or any other singular factor. Any person you see regardless of their appearance may be struggling with an eating disorder and their weight does not dictate the severity. We need to stop assuming that eating disorders come in one form with a single setlist of behaviors. Eating disorders do not discriminate and should be taken seriously in all cases regardless of the individual’s appearance.



Happiness · Mental Health · Recovery · Self-Worth

Those Damn Rhinestone Belts

While biking to work this morning, I was thinking about the origins of the many beliefs and patterns that fueled the development of my eating disorder. Previously I thought everything had set in around seventh grade when I decided that dieting and losing weight would drastically improve my life. However, after further reflection, I realized that many of the ways of thinking that eventually lead to my eating disorder began much earlier than that.

For instance, I remember a specific moment in sixth grade when I sat down one afternoon to make a list of all the things I needed to achieve in order to become popular. In my sixth-grade-mind being popular was pretty much the ultimate conquest and goal of life. I like to think I wasn’t alone in this struggle, which is simultaneously comforting and sad. While this list was probably a couple dozen items long, to this day I still remember about four of the tasks I scribbled on my to-do list for popularity:

  1. Start shaving my armpits and legs (even though my hair was hardly visible and I still think I was too young to be concerned with this. Plus, who even says women should be required to do this shave at all?!- That’s a whole other blog post for later).
  2. Start wearing deodorant (not because I smelled bad but because all the cool girls in school wore Secret Va Va Vanilla deodorant and I didn’t).
  3.  Get new low rise pants (because I didn’t know the “rise” of my pants was an important factor before the first day of middle school when I entered homeroom strutting khakis pulled up higher than Steve Urkel’s).
  4. Get this belt:

    I have no why this belt style was so popular at my school, but I distinctly remember walking into this girls’ locker room on the first day only to be blinded by dozens of these rhinestone encrusted belt buckles. Obviously, it instantly became something I needed if I were to ever become popular.

You see, in sixth grade while I had already received the “women should be small and thin message”, this wasn’t something necessarily on my radar at this point. The pressure to lose weight didn’t gain momentum in my life until around seventh grade; however, that didn’t stop me from coming up with countless other obstacles that I needed to overcome in order to be popular/cool/worthy/etc. The tasks on my Popularity To-Do List seemed so significant in my life at the time, and very few other things mattered to me. It’s crazy to me just how profoundly that damn belt still sticks out in my mind today as something associated with my self-worth because in sixth grade my popularity, or lack thereof, determined my worthiness as a person. And being someone who was never popular in school, I consistently regarded myself with little to no self-worth.

To me, popularity determined my likeability, my approval rating, my peer acceptance, and, consequently, whether or not I was okay. It’s so hard not to let this effect take place, especially as a sixth grader. Even now, at the age of twenty-seven, I often feel bombarded by messages from TV, magazines, movies, coworkers, and peers telling me what things I need in my life, how I should look, or who I need to be in order to be cool/popular/successful/happy/worthy/okay.

Knowing how hard it is for me to ignore and rebel against these messages as an adult, I have so much empathy for the eleven-year-old me who just wanted to shave and wear a rhinestone belt to fit in. However, I know now that what she really wanted was to feel worthy and okay for who she was. Instead, she felt the need to become someone else.

As I continue to think back on my life, I notice times when this pattern popped up at even younger ages. I remember “needing” to have particular school supplies and a Jansport rolling backpack before starting fourth grade or else I would miss my potential opportunity to finally become the “cool girl” (which didn’t happen anyway). I can recall so many moments spent creating mental to-do lists of things I needed to do or gain in order to be okay with who I was.

I now recognize this thought pattern as one of the main driving factors of my eating disorder and I’ve worked hard to fight it over the past many years of my recovery. However, even today I catch myself in it. I notice the passing hopes and wishes for achievement, status, and success in life, which is perfectly okay as long as they’re not tied to my self-worth and happiness.

Since recovery, these sorts of thoughts have fallen along the lines of “I’ll be okay when I am in a loving relationship” or “I’ll finally be happy when I am settled in my career”. While these may seem healthier than the I’ll -be-okay-when-I-lose-‘X’-pounds type thoughts, they still tie my self-worth up with some external achievement or occurrence.

I’ve heard this pattern of thinking described as “The Cinderella Complex”. It’s the idea that some distant, magical, happy ending will be the solution to all of life’s suffering and suddenly fix everything that feels not good enough in life. It sounds great to me, and I’ve bought this notion time and time again. However, what I usually found was that every time a reached some achievement or crossed off all the items on my Popular/Success/Happiness To-Do List, I usually felt the exact same as I did beforehand. Nothing magically changed in my life or felt different. In fact, I noticed that I usually created some new far-off task or occurrence that needed to happen next in order for me to be okay and truly good enough.

That’s just the nature of the Cinderella Complex- it’s a never-ending trap. There’s constantly something we could be doing better or more of– more to achieve, more weight to lose, more money to earn. It just never seems to feel like enough. And there lies the paradoxical solution to this never-ending cycle! The answer is simply realizing that no external source of validation makes us actually feel good enough.

Self-worth starts with the word “self” for a reason. It comes from within us, not some external source or achievement. It’s a felt sense of worth, acceptance, and compassion for who we authentically are no matter how cool, popular, thin, rich, smart, talented, or successful we might be. Trust me, I’ve searched for self-worth in many things/people/accomplishments, and I’ve never found it outside myself.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes that really resonates with me at this current stage in my life.

If you persistently seek validation from others, you will inadvertently invalidate your own self worth.





Body Image · Holistic Health · Mental Health · Recovery

How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 6.40.08 PM
I made this cake for my birthday a couple years ago, and you better believe I ate it.

I’ve thought a lot recently about the period of my recovery in which I attempted to heal my relationship with food while simultaneously fighting my body’s natural push to gain weight. I refer to this time as my pseudo-recovery and a place of limbo between my eating disorder and true recovery. I had one foot in the door of the eating disorder while the rest of me wanted so badly to leave it all in the past.

I stayed in this place for a long time and consequently struggled to fully heal my relationship with food for many years. I was committed to my recovery as long as I didn’t have to gain weight. While I attempted to intuitively eat during this period, I was very much on the “intuitive eating diet” in which I only allowed myself to eat if I was absolutely certain I was hungry. Eating from a place of pleasure and craving was still labeled as “bad” in my mind, and was something I associated with so much guilt and shame. During the first few years of my recovery, I was still very much a prisoner to the diet mentality and constant bad body thoughts.

As a therapist who works largely in the realm of eating disorder treatment, I see this pattern often in my clients. The desire to recover and heal may be strong, but the fear of weight gain is even stronger. There’s this thought that maybe, just maybe, I can recover without my body needing to change– that I can heal and eat “normally” while also staying a size ‘X’ or staying under ‘X’ many pounds. Many individuals struggling with disordered eating hold tightly to the hope of being the first to disprove the old proverb: “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

After many years of being stuck in this trap of pseudo-recovery, I learned a valuable lesson: true recovery requires letting go of the need to conform to body and weight ideals. As long as we hold on to the need to abide by society’s standards of beauty and manipulate our weight, it is impossible to truly heal from disordered eating. Real recovery requires surrendering to the unknown of how our body may change as we heal our relationship with food. In this regard, healing our relationship with food first requires that we heal our relationship with our body. Eating from a place of freedom and peace requires that we grant our body permission to change as it needs to during the process of recovery.

At some point in my recovery, something shifted in me that made the body acceptance piece finally click. One day, I finally sat down to really think about what was so alluring about society’s ideal body. I wanted to figure out how losing weight and getting fit would change my life.

And you know what? I realized it wouldn’t. I realized that my life would look exactly the same as it did at that moment in time even if I weighed ‘X’ amount of pounds fewer or suddenly gained a six pack. I realized that I would have the same quirks and characteristics, the same family and friends, the same career path, the same hobbies and interests, and pretty much the exact same life I currently had even if my body were fit society’s ideal image.

Then I thought, “but my friends, family, and partner would probably like me more if I had a thinner and more fit body”. I quickly realized that was a bold lie as the appearances of my friends, family, and partner have no influence on how much I like them. Furthermore, I know for a fact that I always become an uptight, irritable bitch whenever I’m obsessing about food, exercise, and my body. And that’s definitely not the type of person anyone wants to be around.

So there you have it, I literally couldn’t think of one single way in which achieving an ideal body would positively affect my life. I could, on the other hand, think of countless ways that the process of working to gain an ideal body would make my life miserable. I thought of the countless hours I had previously spent during my eating disorder in the gym punishing my body, the crazy obsessive feeling of counting calories to the decimal point, the constant insecurity about my appearance, the incessant thoughts about food, the hours spent planning and cooking meals I wouldn’t even enjoy, the deprivation of eating “clean”, the constant moodiness and feelings of shame, the guilt over eating one tiny piece of a forbidden food, the fear of going to restaurants with friends, the embarrassment of wearing a bathing suit, and the constant beratement of my self-worth.

After sitting with this drastically unbalanced pro/con list of working towards the body ideal, I suddenly realized that it just wasn’t worth it. It hit me like a bus and dawned on me that I didn’t have to fight anymore. My body was allowed to be okay at whatever shape, size, and weight it needed to be at. In a way I did beat the system proverb: I was allowed to have my cake AND eat it too, as long as I shifted what it meant to have my cake. I surrendered from the war on my body and the fight to keep my body a particular size. Instead, I decided that I was better off shifting my belief of what it meant for me and my body to be okay.

For me now, being okay has so much more to do with my health than my appearance. It includes not only my physical health but also my mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational health. Addressing my health at this holistic level was the piece that finally allowed me to feel okay and make peace with not just my body but also with food.

I’ve slowly learned that being okay is a feeling and a state of consciousness– not a particular size or weight. It’s an experience within my essential self that I have the choice to tap into whenever I want; and, it’s definitely not something that I can determine through looking in the mirror or at the number on the scale.

Holistic Health · Intention · Mental Health · Recovery

What Is Recovery?


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what recovery means to me. There are certain concepts that I associate with my recovery such as intuitive eating, body positivity, joyful movement, health at every size, self-care, emotional health, spiritual practice, wellbeing, and so on. While these elements are all fundamental to my recovery, none of them encompass the meaning of recovery as a whole to me. Rather, they have functioned as the stepping blocks of my recovery and items I know to focus on in order to remain holistically well and balanced.

On the other hand, when I reflect on my recovery as a whole, I usually arrive at a deep feeling of trust. You see, in order to stay on the path of recovery, I must constantly surrender to the unknown and accept that many aspects of life are outside of my control. For me, recovery has involved surrendering to so much– surrendering to weight gain, to my shifting identity and concept of self, to unexpected bumps and forks in my life path, to recognition of my mistakes and BS, to feeling uncomfortable and a whole slew of unpleasant emotions, and to the unknown of life after an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are largely about control, and my eating disorder provided me a way to avoid many unknowns in my life. When life felt scary and uncomfortable, I knew that I could grasp an element of control through manipulating my food intake and body size. I could restrict calories, exercise, and perfect my way through pain and crises.

Throughout my life I have constantly worried about being enough: being pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, fun enough, cool enough, laidback enough, talented enough, kind enough…the list goes on. I had the idea that if I could just be good enough, I wouldn’t have to face the possibility of rejection, pain, fear, and sorrow. I could control my emotions and evade such hardships through perfecting my life and identity.

This worked temporarily and provided me relief in the short term. And I mean VERY short term because I never actually felt good enough despite all my efforts and accomplishments. As soon as I met one goal, up popped a dozen more. There seemed to be a never-ending list of things I had to accomplish in order be enough and successfully avoid any possibility of pain in life.

In a way, the habits and behaviors I turned to in order to gain control ended up controlled me, trapping me in a cycle of constant worthlessness and futile efforts that never seemed to be enough. I stayed here for a long time. Years actually. In fact, at times I still find myself lost in this cycle for brief periods. It’s hard not to when you live in a society that preaches these beliefs. We are sent messages that we just need to be thin enough, rich enough, successful enough, cool enough, smart enough, etc. in order to master life and experience joy and satisfaction. It becomes easy to view such “enoughness” as the antidote for eluding the suffering of life. But it just doesn’t seem to work out that way.

That’s where recovery came in for me. Recovery meant surrendering to not being enough (by society’s standards), which strangely finally allowed me to feel enough (by my standards). Recovery provided me the space to decide for myself what it means to be enough and what I want my life to look like. It has meant choosing peace, compassion, and vulnerability over perfection, rigidity, and control. And it’s been scary as heck.

I am no longer able fall back on being thin, smart, and talented as a means to feel enough, and I am no longer able to turn to others for approval. Rather, I must tune into a deep sense of trust that I am okay just the way that I am. My recovery has become a practice of faith in a sense as I commit to a journey of trusting that my authentic self is good enough. I must constantly surrender to the unknown of what this journey looks like, and I am learning that I cannot control many things along this path.

Yes, this has come with more discomfort and a greater exposure to unpleasant emotions, but it has also opened me up to a tremendous sense of freedom and peace. I now choose not to measure my self-worth through my weight, size, salary, and strength. In fact, I have chosen not to measure my self-worth at all. Instead, I have a self-worth that inherently exists just as I do. This can be difficult to believe at times, especially when I experience spikes in insecurity and moments of incredible discomfort.

My default for so many years was the identity of “not good enough”, and I consistently turned to overcontrol and perfection to get my fix of temporary okayness and approval. It’s still difficult for me to bypass my past habits of control and instead trust that I am okay just as I am. But regardless of how hard and scary this journey is, I know that it is worth it. I trust that this is the only way I can stay on the path of real recovery and experience a life of peace and freedom.

Body Image · Holistic Health · Mental Health · Recovery

Before & After

Before and after weight loss pictures have always irked me. And for multiple reasons.

First of all, whether on TV or social media, these pictures often portray a mostly nude person censored in such a way to hide their identity. Now I don’t have a problem with nudity, but it just feels strange to reduce another person to a headless body. This objectifying and dehumanising portrayal feels opposite to the celebration of health such pictures are attempting to depict. I’m all for celebrating a person’s journey towards health, but I don’t think these before & after pictures accurately honor such progress.

This brings me to my second point, which is that there is absolutely no possible way to determine the true health of a person through a picture of their body. Body size, shape, and weight are not accurate indicators of a person’s health, metabolic fitness, and wellbeing. Health is determined primarily by social factors as well as our genetics, actions, and behaviors- all things that are not apparent in a photograph of the body. Each person’s body is unique, and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

This is the principle behind the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement.

“Health at Every Size is the new peace movement. It supports people of all sizes in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors. It is an inclusive movement, recognizing that our social characteristics, such as our size, race, national origin, sexuality, gender, disability status, and other attributes, are assets, and acknowledges and challenges the structural and systemic forces that impinge on living well.”

Ultimately, the goal of HAES is to help all people regardless of size move towards a healthy lifestyle in their unique body. HAES aims to improve the quality of life for all individuals even if their weight does not fall within conventional height/weight guidelines. Therefore, HAES stresses the many behaviours and actions that a person can take to move towards whatever a healthy lifestyle looks like in their life, which includes a healthy relationship with food, movement, and body.

Some additional information about HAES from the Association for Size Diversity and Health:

There is considerable scientific evidence supporting the HAES approach and establishing that “obesity” is not the health risk it has been reported to be.

  • Weight and BMI are poor predictors of disease and longevity. The bulk of epidemiological evidence suggests that five pounds “underweight” is more dangerous than 75 pounds “overweight”.
  • Multiple studies are suggesting that a focus on weight as a health criterion is often misdirected and harmful.

So back to my initial point, I do not believe that before & after photos depict an accurate portrayal of a person’s health and wellness. We cannot accurately decipher how a person eats, whether or not they exercise, if they have a medical condition, if they smoke cigarettes or do drugs, if they drink in excess, if they feel mentally well, or any other aspect of their health by looking at their body shape, size, and weight. Therefore, I propose movement away from such photos in order to celebrate true health and a person’s journey towards it.

When we speak of progress, why not speak of increased ability, vitality, or mobility? Why not talk about feeling more engaged in life and excited about movement and activity? Why not share experiences of decreased pain and symptoms of illness? This is the kind of information that I believe most accurately depicts a person’s unique journey towards a healthy lifestyle. And we don’t get this information from a before & after picture.

People often say that they set health goals to feel better, not look better. Well, why not reflect that in the way we illustrate progress toward these goals as well?

So back to the headless before & after pictures that spread the message that health is depicted through the appearance of our bodies.

Here’s my body transformation journey toward my eating disorder, I mean, healthy lifestyle:

Before: 2007                                                       After: 2008

Awwwww, don’t I look happy to be skinny in the picture on the right! Damn, I must have been so healthy in 2008.

But you know what’s more accurate?


Yup, no one told me that losing 30% of my body weight in one year would come with a whole slew of other problems. What started as an innocent attempt to “eat healthy” soon turned into an obsession with eating “clean”, which soon turned into orthorexia, then anorexia, then bulimia…and the cycle just went on and on.

In addition, I found myself in a deep depression and often wished that I could just not exist anymore so that I would no longer have to feel any of the emotional and physical pain that I experienced on a daily basis. My days mostly consisted of obsessing over calories and eating only the food I regarded as healthy enough. And I was eating all the good stuff: lentils, beans, colourful veggies, fruits, whole grains- you know the drill, the “clean” things. Plus it was all organic and mostly local so it was super healthy, ya know?

Anyways, each night, I would plan out my workout for the next day. I was super active and everyone applauded me for being in great shape. I biked and swam almost daily, and went rock climbing a couple nights a week. Little did people know that I would briefly black out almost anytime I stood up too quickly.

I don’t even think I need to say it, but my body was not in the least bit healthy at this time. I lost my period for about 2 years, which is a symptom of disordered eating known as amenorrhea.  I fainted once while hiking and casually blamed it on altitude sickness rather than the fact that I was just not eating enough to support my body’s basic functioning. And I was constantly trying to avoid having to actually sit in my mental distress and self-hatred. My focus on weight loss offered a nice distraction from the emotional pain I was experiencing.

I don’t want to get into my full eating disorder story here. Rather, I want to make the point that it would have been impossible for anyone to decipher the true state of not only my physical health but also my mental health by looking at my “after” picture. Actually, people looked at me for a whole 7 years before anyone caught on to the fact that I had a raging eating disorder.

And this is why I think it is so important to shift our view of health to a holistic one that includes not only physical health but also mental health. You see, I’d much rather be at my all-time heaviest weight (or even higher) if it brings stability and peace to my mental wellbeing. And for me, addressing my mental health has required weight gain. It also required not exercising for over a year to heal my relationship with exercise and discover what joyful movement meant. It required that I eat candy and donuts often until I no longer obsessed about the “empty” calories or experienced tremendous amounts of stress and anxiety when faced with these foods. And finally, it required about 7 years of really intense psychological treatment to work through all of the emotional baggage that fueled my eating disorder.

So I really urge that we boycott the photos and instead highlight the true marks of progress and victories towards health and wellness.

Let’s celebrate being able to do a pull-up, walk around the block, cook eggplant for the first time, be sober for a week, quit smoking, experience less chronic pain, stretch, be self-compassionate, run a marathon, run a mile, walk a mile, bike in the park, go to therapy, pick up a child or pet, take a break, read for pleasure, improve cholesterol, take prescribed medications, resist ED behaviors, and other actions that move us towards whatever improved health uniquely looks like in each of our lives.