National Eating Disorders Association
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Recovery

Star Wars, one of the most epic stories of all time, debuted 40 years ago today. A classic example of the hero’s journey, Star Wars has become a staple in our cinematic culture, but the lessons have always gone beyond the screen. Even if you have never seen the film, everyone knows about “the Force” and “the dark side.” Most of us have had to find the Force within us to fight off our own version of the dark side. For some, eating disorders are the dark side.

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It was a hot May afternoon in Florida when my mom told me I was no longer allowed to exercise until I reached a healthy weight. She had already asked that I not post pictures of myself on Facebook, for fear that future employers might see what I was going through. I was stressed out, depressed, and losing weight fast.

My mom had another word for it.

Relapse.

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How many of us who struggle with binge eating and/or weight management have been given the guidance to simply eat less and exercise more? Well, if you’re anything like me and my clients, this is not the solution; rather, it is a setup for a cycle of deprivation and demoralization. 

A diet and exercise plan alone will not suffice for someone who binge eats. Those who are struggling are typically best served by a treatment plan that addresses the complexity of the behaviors, thinking patterns, and relationship with food.

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I remember being really young when I first became conscious of my unhealthy relationship with body image. It was the classic "being in elementary school" kind of thing; I was bullied for being a little chubby, having to take my shirt off in locker rooms, and being profoundly uncomfortable with day-to-day pressures. I quickly developed this false narrative that my self-worth was directly related to how skinny I was or how I looked. I couldn't imagine anyone else felt this way and didn't even think to be open about it as a teenager. 

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A few years back, I read The Paris Wife, a fictionalized account of Hadley Richardson’s marriage to the famous American author Ernest Hemingway, by Paula McClain. I’ve been in love with Paris ever since visiting that magical city for the first and only time (so far) in 2010. Admittedly, I was much more interested in reading about Paris than Hadley or Hemingway. This book offered me an escape to the beauty, charm, and poetic existence I imagine of Paris. Never did I expect, however, to find the essence of what would become my personal “Recovery Call to Action.”

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I grew up in a very athletic family. Every morning, the first thing we did was go for a run and lift weights. After that, we typically took walks and went water skiing. We were always busy working out and being active. 

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I’ve struggled with Binge Eating Disorder (BED) since I was nine years old. Or, at least, that was the first time I remember using food to push away what I was feeling. I would sit in the pantry while my parents fought. The chewing sound drowned out their screams. Most times, I didn’t turn on the lights, so they didn’t know I was there. 

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When I was younger, I knew I was different from other people. I never understood why, and this led me to try to amend myself to “fit in.” I mirrored appropriate reactions and behaviors and ended up trying to “look like” everybody else. I changed my appearance in ways involving weight and style, becoming obsessed to a level where I made myself sick, counted calories extensively, and exhibited restrictive behaviors. 

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Once a year, the grocery store checkout magazines come out with their “Half my Size!” issue, featuring people who have dropped a significant amount of weight. They stand in one leg of their old jeans or flex in trendy athletic wear, smiling like “happily ever after” has finally arrived for them. 

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“Monthly Matters with Melody” is a monthly advice column by Dr. Melody Moore, a clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and the founder of the Embody Love Movement Foundation. Her foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to empower girls and women to celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness and contribute to meaningful change in the world. Dr. Moore is a social entrepreneur who trains facilitators on how to teach programs to prevent negative body image and remind girls and women of their inherent worth.

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