National Eating Disorders Association
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Recovery

At the age of thirteen, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Without proper support, understanding, or resources it took me ten years to receive the appropriate treatment I needed to recover. A year into recovery, I began my journey pursuing my master’s degree in occupational therapy. Having personal experiences with mental illness, I was interested in focusing my learning on occupational therapy and mental health (specifically eating disorders).

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While reflecting on this past World Eating Disorders Action Day (June 2, 2018), I realized how much I love the word “action.” It’s about doing what we can to make a difference. On a personal level, when I think about action against eating disorders, I think about self-care. 

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Self-care is a practice of sitting with discomfort. It is more than a manicure, a massage, or even therapy and meditation. What lies behind all these acts of self-care that we deem so estimable? Why are these acts so difficult, and at times painful to practice, for some of us? 

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My anxiety started with dress shopping. I secretly hoped for a fantasy moment of bridal beauty, to pull on something slinky and white and glow. Instead, the saleslady shook her head at the sample size dress and my, well, non-sample-size body. “I think we might be able to get this on you,” she said, which sounded like a threat. It took her all her might to wrestle the dress around me, and the result wasn’t pretty.

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It's easy to feel like you’re in disarray when your space feels cluttered. Do a quick tidy-up. Throw all clothes in a hamper, wash the dishes in the sink, and make sure everything is in its place! Even if you just take the time to straighten the piles of paper mounting on your desk, it's a start, and will make you feel so much more at peace. 

Set a timer. 

When you set timers, you have dedicated a certain amount of time to solely focus on the task at hand. It's amazing how much you can get done in 20 minutes!

Make your space cozy. 

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National Minority Mental Health Month may be winding down, but the conversation about mental health in marginalized communities doesn’t — and shouldn’t — stop. Mental health issues don’t discriminate. Although eating disorders have historically been associated with young, cisgender, straight, white, upper-class females, they can affect anyone. They don’t choose any one race, ethnicity, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or any other classification. While anyone can have an eating disorder, minorities tend to face unique obstacles when dealing with mental health issues.

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Recovery doesn’t just happen. It’s also not some cliché buzzword tossed around to “inspire” you. Recovery is real. It’s not a luck-of-the-draw deal where you put your name in a hat and hope to be chosen. It’s a grueling, relentless, personal process that will push you beyond your limits over and over and over. Will you choose it?

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If you ask my friends in NYC to describe me, you’ll be painted a picture of a boss lady taking on the city as a full-time professor, writer, and consultant, in addition to being a fitness influencer. They’ll also tell you I’m a people person, excitable, and will always make time to help you move apartments and celebrate your birthday.   

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The focus in the eating disorders field is usually on diagnoses, symptoms, and related impairment. There has been little research, or even discussion, about negative traits that were present during the illness, which can be positive during and after eating disorder recovery. This is particularly important because, for most people, these traits will persist throughout their lives. In addition, Walter Kaye, MD, has noted that these traits may confer advantages in professions.

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For so long, I existed in what I thought was a gray area. The entity I can now recognize as diet culture was guiding me for my whole life, or at least beginning from the moment I understood that hating my body was commonplace. As a child, I considered the images and perspectives from TV, movies, magazines, and real-life conversations and decided that diets were good. Being on a diet would make me good. Exercising would make me good, and it would all make me smaller.

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