Recovery

Happy One Month

I have been in Oklahoma City a little over a month. It is crazy how quickly time flies. It feels just like yesterday that we were living in hotel rooms and waiting for our furniture to arrive. It feels just like yesterday that I experienced my first hail storm. I am halfway through tornado season and I might just make it…maybe, that is if I don’t get bulldozed and blown away by OKC’s sixty mph winds.

Being here the past month I have learned so much. It is just like the quote we see on all those reclaimed wood pieces, you never know how strong you are until you have to be. While I have moved a lot during my life, it is one reason why I developed my eating disorder, I never did it as an adult. I was always with my family. With this move I only had my husband and my dog. Even the feel of the move is different when you are an adult. As an adult you actually comprehend what is happening and it is harder to say goodbye, especially when you have roots. While I enjoy being nomadic (growing up I wanted nothing more than to travel the world, not staying in one place for to long, experiencing new things–which I still do) it is different when you have roots. People you care about it. Emotional ties. Family. Being uprooted is almost death, but like vegetables that you can replant from roots-avocados, celery-you can be brought back to life, sometimes even stronger than before.

 

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One of My Favorite Bronze Sculptures in Downtown Edmond

 

As I mentioned in my previous post, this move has been triggering. With each passing day I am getting acclimated to this region (even though all this wind is aggravating my dosha! #vataproblems) and I’m working on managing my eating disorder/anxiety. I am becoming more grounded and setting up a routine that I desperately need to keep my ED and anxiety at bay ( I’m even starting therapy again-beginning today). While I am making a daily schedule I am learning to block time for fun and exploration. This move is teaching me to find balance and resiliency, a quality I don’t have that I hope I can learn.

On a spiritual note, this move helped me get back to praying. From the moment Jere told me the good news fear and anxiety set in. I knew this was a big shift and needed support. So I began to pray. I prayed that we would be safe, find a place where we would fit in/community. I also began to pray that He would open doors for me that weren’t available where I was. I began to grow weary of the freelance life and longed for something more stable. I prayed that He would help bring the right yoga studio and opportunities my way. He moved a lot sooner than I expected and within two weeks I was working in a studio that reminded me of my home studio. I began to volunteer with Yoga in the Park and meet people. I’m still praying and jumping on opportunities that present themselves. some workout, some don’t, and that’s OK. At the end of the day I’m thankful for His guidance and the discernment He has given me.

 

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This Fun Mural is in Downtown Edmond Outside the Shoppe, Summit, a Wilderness Store.

 

Each day I wake up in OKC, look at the beautiful sunrise as I take Winston out for a walk and I can’t believe I am here. Each Wednesday when I drive into the city (Midtown) with the skyline and skyscrapers in my eyesight, I get excited. I can’t believe that I’m finally living the Metro life. Everything I have ever wanted is ten to twenty minutes away. Any experience I have missed out on is here. The people that I meet daily and/or work with are unlike anyone I’ve met. Opportunities abound and I can’t help but dance in my heart.

If this first month in OKC has been this eventful I can’t imagine what will happen next month, the third month, or the month after that. Where will I be by Christmas? How about this time next year? I can’t wait.

 

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An Oklahoma Sunrise

 

 

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Life has been a whirlwind since I last blogged. Lots of life has happened. Since my last post, my husband and I go had three weeks to move from TN to OK. I have been in OK a little over a month and I have been busy! My goal to work in a yoga studio has happened. I am slowly meeting people and still trying to find a way to dance. I have been to the ballet, sipped coffee in new coffee shops, and tried some new things. While life has been good-I am thriving professionally and loving the city life-I have also been relapsing.

This relapse has been slightly different than previous ones throughout my years of recovery. As one continues in recovery, relapses take different shapes and forms (see my other post Rabbit Hole Relapse). This little set back has been triggered by the move. Which makes sense because I am not in control, I am new to a foreign place (even though OK isn’t too different from TN, the parallels are quite spot on), trying to get my ducks in a row, and my workout schedule has changed quite a bit–more on this next week. On top of all of this my GI Phantom has reappeared and we all know how that goes…

 

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Obviously one must restrict calories and find the control through food manipulation when one is going through an uprising. However, I cannot restrict food because it makes me even crankier, so I just obsess about every piece of food that goes into my mouth. I secretly count calories, have marathon worry sessions (to bad these marathons don’t burn calories!!!!), eat lots of fruit,  and the worst part of all: I become selfish.

Those of us who suffer from ED’s have one thing in common-we are selfish. When we are in the depths of ED despair all we can think about is ourselves: what we look like, what the number on the scale says, if our food choices are healthy, asking our safe person five hundred times a day if we look fat/have our thighs turned dimply/do we look any different, all we can talk about is food-exercise-body image. We aren’t aware of those around us and how they feel, we can’t see how we are bringing them down, we aren’t content, we see the worst in everything, and most importantly we forget to look around and see the beauty in life.

 

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For the past month, everyday I have been negative about my body. Asking Jeremy every hour on the hour that he is home “how do I look?”, “are my thighs turning into cottage cheese?”, “I haven’t exercised today because my schedule is crazy, is that ok?”, “can you tell that I haven’t worked out?”, “am I still pretty?”. Everything is revolved around me, me, me. Even though he is stressed and could use some comfort I cannot see it or give it because all I care about is what I look like. These thoughts not only cloud our head and thought processes, they cloud our vision. We cannot see things for how they really are. We cannot see who we really are. It isn’t until someone calls you out on your selfishness that you can begin to make a change.

This is precisely what happened with me and Jeremy. One day this past week I spent over the half the day not talking about anything but food and my horrible body. I guess (I guess, hah, I know!) that Jeremy had had enough and he said to me, “I know that what you look like is all you care about but….” I can’t really remember the rest but that statement “all you care about” was enough to knock me back to Earth because I DO care about other things. I care about my family, my dog, my husband, being a good yoga teacher, art, helping those around me, spreading smiles and happiness to those who seem a little sad. That statement helped me to back off a little bit, instead of 500 questions a day about my body I’ll ask 490, and focus on my relationship with Jeremy–because my relationship with him will always overcome and be priority over my relationship with Melvin (my ED).

While I’m still coping with my body and not very happy with it, I am trying my best to be less self obsessED and more content(ED).

 

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Great Expectations

“All expectation creates disappointment”-Steve Ross, Happy Yoga

 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a book review of the Dickens classic. Honestly, I’ve never read the book. I’ve just watched the glorious 90s movie version with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke.But there are some similarities between the theme of that book and today’s blog topic. Each and everyone of us has expectations. There are expectations of ourselves and expectations of others. While there are merits to these expectations and they can be used as a guide to navigate relationships they can also ruin them. Both types of expectations can destroy relationships and can be set so high that they set us up for failure.

First lets talk about expectations of ourselves. From the time we are born expectations are placed on us. Who remembers what your parents expected of you? Were you expected to make all A’s, be in every extra curricular, play musical instruments, excel at a sport or two or three, be the best Christian in your youth group, never say a bad word, “act like a lady” (my favorite), be home by 10 pm, never let people see you struggle, be on top and in control of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g…you were expected to be the best. Maybe you were expected to be just “OK”. Not quite the over achiever but make decent grades, play one sport, “act like you have class” (another great one!). How about being the brunt of low expectations. You were expected to just get by without getting in trouble or ending up in juvenile detention, or “not being like your dad/mom” (parents have brilliant moments don’t they?).

 

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Where did those expectations come from? Who is responsible for telling us what is expected of us before they understand who we are, what are circumstances are, and where we are in the moment? Unfortunately, most people cannot answer this. Growing up I would ask my parents all the time why they believed in something or why we did certain things (most of the time it pertained to a religious aspect but sometimes it was about why they believed what they did) and all I could get was “that’s just what we do” or “that’s just how it’s always been”. I  never liked that answer. These expectations of “what is becoming of a young woman” (I got that at least 2-3 x/month) , “what love is like”, “only good girls who make all A’s get into college” or whatever else pertained to you growing up shapes how you view the world, view others, and view yourself.

In addition to familial, cultural, and societal expectations placed upon us we begin to generate our own expectations. I’ll share with you one of my expectations. I treat everyone fairly and with kindness (As much as I can I am only human). I expect for people to do the same for me. I’m a firm believer in the golden rule and the whole concept of karma (law of action). We all have expectations and place them on others whether we want to admit it or not. When someone fails my expectations and doesn’t reciprocate kindness for kindness *insert your expectation* I am hurt, disappointed, and angry.  I constantly find myself saying to my husband, “I just don’t understand how people aren’t nice”, “I don’t understand why people can’t be kind”, “I’ve been nothing but nice, considerate, and giving. What do I get in return? Nothing! Not even a thank you note!”.  I recently experienced this first hand. I was very upset that all my  hard and free work, my life, my soul was given to an institution. When it was all said and done, I gave my thank you notes, kinds words and nothing was reciprocated. I immediately lost all control and wanted to drop all contact with the institution and individual. I expected them to see my hard work and give me what I was seeking for-kindness and appreciation.After some long venting sessions with the husband I realized that they didn’t know my expectations. That not everyone shares my same opinions on how to treat people. It isn’t their problem, but mine for projecting and expecting them to be how I want them to be.   These failed expectations also lead us to judgemental behavior, “if only they were raised better they would know that is how you do x-y-z etc…”. And judging gets you no where! No one likes to be judged…

 

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So where do these expectations truly come from? Everything we know and believe is a construct of society.  For example, if you grow up in upper middle class America you are per-dispositioned to one kind of expectations–need I say more? If you are like me and grow up in the South there are plenty of expectations set upon both sexes–that’s a whole different post.  When we dive deep into finding where the construct was originated you again find a muddled mess.I never thought much about constructs and where we get our mindset till I read the book Happy Yoga by Steve Ross. Ross defines social concepts as, “a mental construct unverifiable in the moment by experience. It is a framework of thoughts and beliefs in the mind as opposed to an actual experience in awareness” (17). He goes on to say, “Concepts are in the mind. They are inferred and often useless and illusory. Experience is the real thing; it occurs in the present moment. Concepts are labels that keep us thinking about the world”(18).

It is up to us to challenge our expectations and constructs. Explore where they come from and what good do they do us. Upon examining them maybe you will find that they keep you from seeing the best in people and developing relationships with others. That they do more harm than good. They actually don’t guide you but destroy you. Maybe your expectations don’t do that this going within leads you somewhere else. I’d love to know what you find.

 

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Rabbit Hole Relapse

I’ve written about relapse before but this topic is always worth coming back to. Especially when you write about your experiences, need something to write about, and just had your first relapse in quite some time. Relapse isn’t scary for me anymore. When you first start recovery you are scared of relapsing. You are scared that you will loose the progress you made or that you are…what your ED tells you…”a failure”,”worthless” or my favorite, “you really are fat”.  I have been in recovery for almost six years and I will say relapses doesn’t happen that often. After you’ve been around the block a few times you  begin to notice when a relapse is happening or when you approach food or exercise the wrong way. I pull the yoga approach and just acknowledge it. Recognize that it’s there but go on my merry way. I do not sit down with it and have a cappuccino, or better yet a binge induced vegan affogato with the new Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream.

When I relapsed recently I actually found it intriguing. Why? Because I went through a dance concert a few months ago, where I was in multiple numbers and didn’t restrict food. I for once ate a lot, kept myself healthy and sane. I use to do the opposite. So obviously you would see why I was confused with this relapse. I didn’t do my yoga techniques or recovery techniques, I instead sat down and had 2 TBSP pistachios, 1 cup of soymilk, blueberries, and fiber pills. Or I would have measured out cereal, measured out oven fries, measured out everything. I was angry, I was hungry (I think it’s called hangry), I was checking for cellulite, I was hating my body (more so than usual), everything sucked. I think I said “I hate everything” with a few expletives more than once.

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That’s what a relapse does. It makes you angry because 1) you gave in 2) you fall back into old habits that were coping mechanisms for your insecurities/control that exacerbated the problem. Relapse is also a “rabbit hole”, just like Alice in Wonderland. You go follow the white rabbit, usually it is a thought put in your head like “I’m not the skinniest girl in the room anymore, I’m fat”, “My muscles are different”, “Why doesn’t my top quad stick out as much anymore?”. You take the bait, or should I say pill to stay with the Alice theme, and BAM! you are in a hole that you can’t get out of-only if you want to.

If you want to…If you want to…If you want to. Relapse is a peculiar thing, it’s comfy and constricting. You can easily get out of it-work your steps, call a sponsor, do some yoga-but it is comfy, like your favorite hoodie. The hoodie that is worn in, holds special memories, the perfect fit and smell. It keeps your warm and protects you from the rain. However, you still get wet from the rain. The hoodie has holes. The hoodie has its fair share of bad memories. Just like a relapse. Relapse has it’s good memories (remember when you ate only 1,000 calories and worked out for 5 hours) but it also has it’s bad (remember when you ate only 1,000 calories and worked out for 5 hours BUT couldn’t sleep because you were starving?). Relapse constricts you because you haven’t been in for awhile, so you’re a little bigger and it has to work harder to tighten you up, makes you pull the hood over your head and pull the string…tighter, tighter, tighter, tighter, tighter.

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After a few more rabbit hole trips and not being able to  breath due to the hood over your head there are two options. 1) stay in and go back to your old ways or 2) make the decision to stop the relapse. Option one is definitely easier but it sucks because your anger is making life difficult. Option two is more difficult but makes life easier. Which one do you think I chose?

Two. I definitely like to be comfy and cozy, but my ED doesn’t make me comfy and cozy anymore. My dog and husband make me comfy and cozy. I do like rabbit holes, but only when I watch Alice and Wonderland or am on a Parks and Recreation Netflix binge. I am trying to choose two every day. I haven’t been perfect, but as yoga teaches us, there is no such thing as perfection and just be OK with the process.

 

Battle of the Food Allergies & Eating Disorder

A few weeks ago I wrote one of my favorite entries, Can I be Allergic to my Eating Disorder?. I had always wanted to share with my readers how food allergies changed my eating disorder recovery in a myriad of ways.  Even though food allergies make recovery more difficult, they have helped me overcome and stay on top of my eating disorder (for the most part). I stay on top of my ED with a few simple tools: learning a new way to eat, inventive ways to prepare/cook food, meal planning-my ultra super secret weapon.

I grew up eating, enjoying, and cooking good ole Southern food. You name it I can make it. Chicken and Dumplin’s, beef stew, biscuits and white gravy, pound cake, layer cakes of all kinds, buttercream frosting, casseroles, apple butter, canned green beans, etc. If it was a cheese dish, you added extra cheese. If it was a cake, more frosting!  And like all Southern kids, I spent quite some time stirring the jelly in the copper pot while complaining my arms are getting tired. It took many years to master the subtle art of Southern-Appalachian cooking however, when I was diagnosed with food allergies I had to adapt to this new world of food. Gluten free cooking/baking a horse of a different color. I had to learn about flours and how they interact, how to make blends, how to decrease contamination. When it came to dairy free cooking/baking I learned how to make my own buttermilk, how to create dairy free cheeses out of tofu and nuts. I even learned to make my own nut butter since I was allergic to peanuts. It was, and still is an ongoing and fun process! I enjoy learning new ways of approaching food and the challenge of making gluten-dairy-nut-free food taste good.

Lets take that a step further and add eating a mostly vegetarian, sometimes vegan diet. It definitely makes things more difficult, maybe I am a glutton for punishment or I just like my tummy to feel good, possibly both. When you cook vegetarian or vegan fare it takes finesse, skill, and an understanding of spices/herbs, how you can make non-meat (tofu, mushrooms, beans, lentils, I don’t eat “fake meat”) taste like meat and manipulate the textures to make it tasty. When you have a meat loving husband you try even hard to make your allergen free, meat free, food taste better than their gluten and meat filled counterparts. It is fun to read cookbooks, find pins on Pinterest, and go on your whim-take what you already know and play with what you are learning or what you think would work. In other words: YOU COOK! I have had epic fails and amazing successes. All in all when I rely on good food I know I am nourishing myself which is exactly what Melvin (my ED) doesn’t want. Cooking is a way to shut him up and feed him yummy, tasty, delicious allergen free, meat free fare.

I have also started to incorporate mindful eating and a more yogic perspective on eating. The book Yoga of Eating inspired me so much.  When I eat more mindfully, as in I eat slowly and listen for hunger cues, I can stop myself from binging. I can also stop myself from getting sick and irritating my GI issues. I also try to eat smaller portions slowly so I can fully fill my stomach get full and go back for more if I  need it. I also try not to pigeon hold myself into traditional dinner rules or other eating rules. I may not have any grains in a day and that is ok because my body may not be able to digest it. I may have more grains than fruit. I  may have more vegetables that anything else. Whatever it is, I make sure I get enough nutrients and listen to what my  body wants. When I eat what my body wants and not what I want I again have set myself up for success against Melvin.

Lastly, my biggest tool against my eating disorder that I have learned in my fiveish years of this lifestyle, is to meal plan. I never really understood meal planning till I got married. I had to plan our meals and maximize our budget. Then that changed once I stopped eating meat. I had to plan my own meals, his meals, maximize our budget, and make sure I have enough food for snacks (which I have a hard time doing because I just think of three meals). I sit down each Monday and meal plan for at least two weeks, sometimes I get through one. I peruse Pinterest, cookbooks, and my recipe collection, pick similar recipes or recipes that use similar ingredients. I also look at my pantry staples and see what I can already  make out of them. I write down my recipe ideas, usually three to five dinners/lunches (it’s just me and I LOVE leftovers), three snacks that make multiple portions (raw bites or smoothies), and then I pick up some go to prepared but whole food snacks that I can supplement as well (bean chips, whole grain corn chips from Aldi’s, with their peach mango salsa is a must!).  I have noticed that when I don’t plan I go to the grocery store more I rely more on packaged, processed foods like Amy’s Meals, while great on occasion, aren’t the best all the time. Or drive thru Bo-rounds and their Cajun Pintos.  I also notice that Melvin is more rampant. I tend to refuse to eat because “I have no food” or I binge on junk food (vegan ice cream anyone?), I also feel hungry. My body isn’t properly fueled and can’t sustain itself with my busy and active lifestyle. Ages ago I could go on hours of exercise on little to no food. But now as I am older and more aware this yogic dancer needs her food or else I am not pirouetting or down-dogging!

All of these tools I learned or honed because of my food allergies. Without being diagnosed with food allergies I would not have learned how to use these tools to manage my ED. I am continuing to develop these tools and adding new ones to my arsenal. How do you use food to manage your ED or other food plagues? For my fellow allergen followers what have you learned from your food allergies? I would love to hear what you have to say in the comment section!

 

Why I Drink Diet Coke

Yes, I am a yoga teacher and I drink coke. Not just coke, but Diet Coke or Coke Zero. And I don’t mean Pepsi. Pepsi is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. Call the yoga police, call the vegetarian sheriff, Lord forbid I ingest aspartame. Lock me up and make me do hundreds of chatarunga’s, I don’t care. I drink Diet Coke in my Jack and Cokes. Bartender’s look at me weird but I don’t care, just make me my darn drink that will take eight dollars out of my pocket. Just make sure it is a double.

You may ask, “Why does she drink Diet Coke? Obviously she knows the horrible things it does to you. I mean just look at what it does to a toilet basin” or “She is gonna get cancer because it has aspartame in it. Doesn’t she know what it did to those rats?”. I have one thing to say, I don’t care. Want to know why I drink Diet Coke? Want to know why I drink Coke Zero?

It is because for many, many, many years I deprived myself. I had no form of carbonated soda drink. Soda was the devil (and please read that in a Southern accent). Growing up soft drinks were the occasional drink, and were viewed as treats or special occasions, like they should. At birthday parties or get together’s they were ok. But they were not to replace water and enjoyed in moderation. As I grew older and grew into my eating disorder, the less and less I consumed them. They were no longer a treat or a special occasion beverage. Melvin said no and what Melvin says goes. For years I deprived myself. I would sometimes want a Diet Coke, or even a REAL Coke. But Melvin said NO! I would be at a party and want a drink, but no I had to have water. Water, coffee, and green tea was all I could have. No enjoyment there. I couldn’t even have a fun coffee drink (different story, next time).

Eventually as I began to recover I started to enjoy what foods I could have, ones that weren’t derailed by my long list of food allergies. Diet/Zero Coke was one of them. If I wanted one, I would have one. If I was out at a party and didn’t want an adult beverage and there was Coke by goodness I was having a Coke Zero. I enjoyed that Coke. I go to bars and order my  double Jack and Diet Coke with pride. I go to the drive through (gasp) and get a LARGE Coke, sometimes with a french fry! I even took a  Diet Coke into my yoga teacher training on multiple occasions, and I wasn’t kicked out or forced to do hundred’s of chatarunga’s. I have a Coke Zero/Diet a few times a month. Why? Having a Coke reminds me of how far I have come in my recovery.

Maybe one day I will actually drink a real, cane sugar filled Coke. Probably not, but who knows. Each dollar I spend on Coke is a dollar over Melvin. So excuse me as I go take a swig of my Coke Zero. Mmm…bubbles.

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In Response to: Teaching With An Eating Disorder

The other day I read this great article about a dance teacher Hannah Maria Hayes and her experience teaching while being under the influence of her eating disorder. It really touched me and made me think about how eating disorders can influence teaching. I wrote an entry on a similar topic a few years back when I was co-directing The Nutcracker. It was about how I viewed myself as a hypocrite because I tell my dancers one thing and think/do another. I recently came back to this when I noticed one of the girls check out her stomach in the mirror before ballet class.

Bam! It hit me, like how one hits the floor when they slip out of a pirouette. All the words my director said to me, “you know these girls look up to you”, made sense. I have never been a role model or in a position where young girls want to dance like me.  Sometimes these young dancers copy my dance style (clothes or movement quality) but it is so much  more than that! They can copy my attitude, mannerisms, and drive. Some specific dance mannerisms are, checking out their profile in the  mirror or standing in front of the skinny mirror. Ask any dancer and they know all about that one mirror that makes you look good, how to pick out the slimming leotards. Better yet, ask any dancer about how often they check themselves out in the mirror and criticize what they look like. I don’t want that for these girls. I don’t want them to fight each other for the skinny mirror. I don’t want them them to give into the pressure of “the dancer body”, to feel as if they must make themselves smaller to “make up for their lack of ability” or to “make themselves stand out”. I starved myself because I felt inferior to other dancers. I felt as if the skinnier I was, the more fit, the stronger I was, the more people would want to work with me/hire me.

I loved how in the article she wrote, “Thinking about stepping into a dance studio to teach ballet makes me panic, even though I have a dozen years of experience. Being trapped in a mirrored room and seeing how out of shape I am, compared to when I was a dancer myself, makes me feel claustrophobic. I assume my students will judge my figure”. I can relate. There is a panic, especially when you are in a relapse or feeling down about yourself. Lately, my self esteem/ED talk has been on the loose. My body has begun a dreaded change and my GI issues are rearing their ugly head and all I want is to cover up. But I am wearing a leotard (still as covered as I can get without being in modern dance attire) because these girls look up to me. I am trying not to profile check myself. I feel as if the more I do things that are positive for aspiring ballerinas/dancers it will help me separate from my ED.

Maybe dance teachers with eating disorders do need more attention, and more mental work. Hayes quotes a NYCB consultant,

” ‘Though most of us associate eating disorders with students and professionals, unresolved body issues and controlled eating patterns from pre-professional training can follow you into adulthood. “You are still the same person,’ says Hamilton. ‘And under extremely stressful situations, old habits come back…’Dance teachers need more attention than they get,’ says Hamilton. ‘You’re a role model, and if you are not able to approach eating in a healthy way or if you think you’re never thin enough, it’s going to come across to your students. We don’t need to pass this on from one generation to the next.'”

Which is so true! How can we as teachers, be a true role model if we cannot approach body image in a positive way? How can we demonstrate the love one needs for their own body when we hate ours? I try so hard to not pass on my disorder, my disgust, and everything that I did wrong in my heyday to these girls. I don’t want them to go through what I went through or what I am currently going through. How can I effectively do this? Maybe it is to get more help. To continue this things called recovery. Maybe it is to show these girls what an ED fueled life can do.

For my educators out there, dancer or other forms of athletics, how do you handle this? What has worked for you? How do you struggle? Is it even a trigger?