A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation – Salty Hair, Tanned Skin, Sandy Bottoms, Soft Bellies and Smiles!

Oh Vacation….what an amazing and delightful concept! Some say that vacation is a state of mind, some say it’s important to make life your vacation, but I have a whole different outlook on this holiday from life. When I used to think of vacation, I would picture perfection…perfection in every way. The perfect views, the perfect food, the perfect swimsuits on perfectly tanned bodies, perfect memories to laugh perfectly at in the future. Picture perfect everything, a vacation from the imperfection that we call life, a vacation from busyness, ugliness, messiness, stress, hatred, and self loathing, a vacation from the shackles of my Eating Disorder. But in reality, these perfect expectations only tightened those shackles even more.

A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation
White sand, and blue water!

But isn’t this how so many of us look at vacations, or holidays? We expect perfection, and once this ideal implodes so does our ability to adapt. The bathing suits, sandals and sarongs that we pack unfold into unrealistic expectations, stress, worry and imperfection, when in reality, a perfect vacation is imperfect….just like life! This past week was the first vacation that I have taken away from those perfection ridden expectations, it was the first vacation I took in the absence of my Eating Disorder and in the presence of self-compassion, self-forgiveness and imperfection….perfectly imperfect!

You may be wondering what I mean by a vacation free from my Eating Disorder…..and what I mean is this…

I wore a bikini on the beach with confidence and pride

I stood tall on my paddle board proud of my softer belly and stretch marks and cellulite

I didn’t work out, because I simply did not want to

I ate when I was hungry, and drank when I was “thirsty”

I stayed up late and laughed until I cried

I hopped on a paddle board and giggled every time I fell off…which was a lot

I made mistakes and held too high of expectations, and it was OKAY….my vacation did not implode

I cried until I laughed

I let go

AND….

When I returned home I did not kill myself at the gym, instead I went for a walk on the beach and nourished my body with food. I was gentle with myself…I eased myself into the reality of life.

A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation
Shrimp all day every day!

The Trip

My parents took my two sisters and all of our significant others on a beautiful and luxurious trip to the Emerald Coast. This was one of the most special vacations I have ever been on. It was the first time our family has taken a trip together in about six years, with no agenda, no holidays, no weddings, just us. We played in the water, walked on the beach, drank lots of pina colodas, chardonnay and mojitos and ate amazing sea food, fried treats and fresh sweets, we laughed until we cried and we cried until we laughed….it was perfectly imperfect….!

I thought I was taking vacations the past twenty six years of my life….but it was never vacant from my Eating Disorder. Every vacation or trip I took was ridden with expectations, harsh judgement on how I looked and felt. My Eating Disorder put restrictions on not only what I could eat, and what my body could do, but also, what I could and could not wear, when, where and how I laughed, it consumed my every move, and nothing was ever perfect enough, imperfection was not an option, and therefore expectations were never met. Vacations were not vacant from stress instead they were filled with triggers and shame.

A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation
So much laughter this trip!

What Was Different This Time?

This past week, on the white beaches of the emerald coast, I was free from those shackles, I was free from my Eating Disorder, because I chose freedom, I chose recovery. Full recovery is possible, it is hard, it seems impossible, at times, it does not seem like a choice….but it is! With hard work, a treatment team, support and determination I chose to be free and to let go! I can now go on vacation, and wear a bikini, have a soft belly, eat and drink whatever I want and have no shame when I return home! I eat when I’m hungry, work out when I feel like moving, drink when I’m thirsty, sleep when I am tired, cry when I am sad, and laugh when I am happy! I have a bikini body by simply putting a bikini on my body! I have a beach body by simply having a body and going to the beach! I went on vacation by vacating my expectations, and perfections! I had a perfectly imperfect vacation…and it was imperfectly wonderful! I dare you to try approaching your next vacation or holiday with imperfection!

Read more about my tips and tricks while on the go here! 

And, as always, #SelfCareItOut!

Tips and Tricks to Conquer Re-Entry!

It’s already August 8th! Children, teenagers, and families are gearing up for back to school, football season is in the air, and before you know it we will be singing christmas carols! Okay…I may be getting ahead of myself, but you get it! With back to school, moving into dorms, end of summer vacations, upcoming long weekends and fall holidays comes so many wonderful things… new friends, cooler and crisper weather, giving love and thanks, and celebrating your loved ones! The onset of back to school, and fall bring about so many amazing things, joy, happiness, laughter, new memories….but certain anxieties, stressors and triggers are brought upon as well. Does this ring any bells?

Pphoto by Aneris Photography
Life is worth smiling for, licking your fingers for, life is worth it! So lets prepare to be prepared!

Whether you are heading back to college, grabbing a meal with an old friend, going to a weekend on the lake, seeing your long distance significant other, or just going to a family party, the realities of re-entry will always be there. Re-entry is incredibly anxiety provoking, and therefore quite triggering for anyone , especially those within ED Recovery. These get togethers are usually centered around food and conversation surrounding high stakes and anxiety provoking questions.(Therefore, incredibly triggering with Eating Disorder Recovery, or really, for anyone)! “What are you majoring in?” “Have you landed a job yet?” “Where are the kids going to school?” or sometimes the loaded and fabricated question of just, “How are things?”….because we all know, that most people don’t REALLY want to know how things are. This is completely in the absence of cynicism and negativity, instead it is in the presence of the realities behind re-entry.

Let’s pack our bags and manage our expectations within these triggering times! YOU can do it!

For instance, think about that time you came home from college, or visited your family from across the country…. there is this pressure to be the “adult you”, to be “the new professional you”, but there is also the expectation to fall into that old role of the daughter, sister, brother, son….not to mention the expectation to have “the best family weekend ever,” to “make amends with someone”, to “have it be like old times”….but in reality you are somewhat of a changed person. The “old you” is great, and beautiful, but also riddled with memories of living with your eating disorder, and using unhealthy behaviors. Therefore, this “simple” re-entry quickly turns into an overwhelming situation filled with toxic memories and unrealistic expectations…. because no matter how hard you try, you will not be the “old you,” and that’s how life is meant to work! It goes the same for going back to school or leaving home, in that re-entry is riddled with expectations and loaded questions.

One thing that is learned within recovery, is that recovery is sacred….health comes first….because without health there is no opportunity for life, for friends, for family, for fun! This is incredibly difficult for family members, and loved ones to understand…. because once you are away and gone, and once you “look” like you are “recovered” from you Eating Disorder, they EXPECT you to be “the old you,” have fun, without any worries or second thoughts! But when in recovery, especially during times of stress and vulnerability, your recovery comes first, your health comes first…because again, what do you have if you don’t have your health….if you don’t have a sense of care for yourself? Again, this is in the absence of cynicism, and negativity, there is no blame, fault or shame put on those that may struggle to understand! Instead, this is to shed light on the truths within recovery.

When in recovery, re-entry is all about managing these expectations, vulnerabilities and triggers first by acknowledgement, then by setting up a safe plan when in times of a triggering state. Therefore when you “re-enter” into any possible vulnerable situation it is important to have a few tips and tricks on hand to protect your recovery and maintain self-care…

Photo by Aneris Photography
YOU deserve to be free of these triggers and anxieties, and that can be done through managing your expectations and taking care of YOU!

This upcoming week my family will be taking one big lovely vacation! This is the first time EVER, that all five of us Mattingly’s will be together on a vacation with all of our significant others! This will be a wonderful, relaxing and MUCH needed trip  but no matter what, re-entry is somewhat anxiety provoking…therefore, these tips and tricks always come in handy!

Five Steps For Re-entry! 

  1. Be aware and Realistic: With re-entry comes so many false and unrealistic expectations, so be honest with yourself…. ask yourself a few questions…

Q: What are your personal expectations of this situation and re-entry as a whole?

Q: Are you worried about other people’s expectations?

Q: What are the reasons behind your personal expectations, as well as, the assumed expectations of others?

Q: Are any of those expectations unrealistic?

Q: What will happen if you do not meet any of those expectations?

Q: Are any of those expectations harmful to your recovery?

Once you answer these questions, I ask you to bring some light to your newfound reality, take some breaths and give yourself sometime to manage these expectations.

  1. Manage your expectations: Once you bring some reality and awareness to your expectations take some time to create some realistic, healthy and recovery safe expectations. Again you can ask yourself a few questions…

Q: How much reality can you bring to this re-entry?

Q: What expectations can you create for myself that are safe for my recovery?

Q: What anxieties arise when you create these expectations?

Q: What can you do to make these expectations safe and realistic?

  1. Have a support system on hand: This is incredibly important, especially when in the beginning stages of recovery. Many people will not understand the delicate nature of your recovery, therefore it is crucial to have someone to go to, lean on, and talk to, within re-entry/a vulnerable situation. This can be someone in person, or on the phone.
  1. Pack a travel sized comfort box: I have touched on the miracles of the “comfort box” within my self-care pages and posts. This is something that you go to whenever you feel vulnerable, after using behaviors, in place of using behaviors, and finding safety within your recovery. Therefore when in re-entry, bring along a travel comfort box. For instance, I used to bring nail polish, a travel journal, and headphones to listen to my music, and bath salts for stressful times. Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care!!!
  1. Be kind and gentle with yourself: It is only possible to manage your own personal expectations…. therefore, if for some reason you do not meet other people’s expectations IT IS OK!!! Remember, your recovery and health comes first…. and this may mean that you disappoint others; this may mean that you let others down, and that is okay! You have to be kind to yourself, and be okay with disappointing others, you have to be okay with failing other’s expectations, because in then end…. your recovery comes first! So be gentle with yourself, it will be okay!

So as we move into this season filled with cheer, vacations, and holiday breaks….bring some reality into the situation to control and manage your expectations, and care for yourself during re-entry by practicing self care!

For more posts like this click here, here and here!

And as always, #SelfCareItOut!

Recovery Love and Care Launch Week Recap!

This post may contain affiliate links. Purchasing through them will help support this website.

What a crazy couple of weeks it has been! I am feeling so many emotions! I feel grateful, humbled, empowered, inspired, driven, excited, enthusiastic, happy, thrilled, hopeful, tired, scared AND ready! (Remember, we MUST embrace those AND emotions, and I am certainly feeling a lot of them right now)!

It was a week filled with work, dedication, celebration and spreading awareness, and it was a major success! Together, we raised hundreds of dollars for Project HEAL, awareness on the truths and myths surrounding Eating Disorders, and body image, and had the best of times sipping on Onehope wine and enjoying delicious food with even better company! I cannot begin to thank my charitable partners, doners, family, friends, “crew” and all of the attendees who supported these events…it would not have been the same without YOU!

Recovery Love and Care
Onehope Wine towards Project HEAL!

Recovery Love and Care

Onehope wine was a smash!! If you don’t know already, Onehope Wine creates delightful wine that inspires others to indulge and do good! My two events were hosted by Onehope Wine, and within the next two weeks YOU can purchase this wine through this link, and 15% of the proceeds go directly to Project HEAL! Click here to check it out! 

At the Chicago event, over 50 people attended to learn a bit about Eating Disorders within our weight-loss and diet crazed culture, my personal story of recovery, as well as, support an AMAZING cause! It was incredibly fitting to have the launch party for Recovery Love and Care, LLC in the newly renovated backyard where I was raised! My family have been my support in so many ways, and I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful night!

Recovery Love and Care
Recovery Love and Care Balloons!
So much to be excited for!
Recovery Love and Care
Sharing my Eating Disorder and recovery story!

The raffle prizes were all donated from local vendors in support of Eating Disorder Awareness…check a few of them out below!

Kendra Scott

Onehope Wine

 JAYNE Boutique (How fitting right)?!

The Tiny Tassel

The food was provided by the AMAZING Italian Restaurant in Western Springs, Devanti Enoteca!

 

The Charleston Grand Opening Event for Recovery Love and Care was also a major success! We had a more intimate setting of about 35 people! The space was provided by the one and only Studio Barre James Island, and let me tell you…did we have a blast! We sipped on Onehope Wine, ate Callie’s Biscuits, and charcuterie from Napa Mt. Pleasant, and shook the night away at the barre! The amazing Shannon was kind enough to donate her services and teach an amazing 6 minutes of thighs at the barre for the grand raffle prizes! Don’t forget, we shake and burn for the fun and joy of practicing barre! In no way was this a punishment, as it is crucial we are always honest and intentional with our motivations behind exercise! 

Recovery Love and Care
Shaking for charity!

Recovery Love and Care

Recovery Love and Care

 

 For the Charleston event, we also had a phenomenal line up for the raffle! Check some of the vendors out below!

The Tiny Tassel

Onehope Wine

Trish Mcevoy

Beauty Counter

Park and Madison

Katie Ashley – Living Life on Purpose

Katie Ashley – 75 minute coaching session

Napa Mt. Pleasant gift cards

Mylk Bar Nail Polish Trio

Silk Flower Crown From Fetes de Fleurs

Recovery Love and Care
My Crew minus a few!
Wearing my Oysters All Around necklace as a bracelet!
Recovery Love and Care
Flower Crown Winner!

And of course one of the coolest parts of the night was the hashtag table! Everyone made a personalized hashtag describing what they love most about themselves! It was empowering, challenging, and incredibly enlightening! Recovery Love and Care will be sending these hashtags over to Project HEAL along with the funds raised, to encourage hope and self-compassion for those in treatment and recovery!

Recovery Love and Care
#ILoveMy

Recovery Love and Care

Recovery Love and Care

Recovery Love and Care

Thanks for the balloons Cannonborough Collective! 

As Recovery Love and Care blossoms I look forward to connecting with new individuals, educating teachers, classrooms, fellow colleagues, helping professionals and families on the myths and truths behind Eating Disorders! We must start to peel away those blindfolds and look at Eating Disorders for what they really are! Partial proceeds from ALL of my events go towards Project HEAL, make sure to check out Recovery Love and Care’s partnership with the here!

I cannot wait to take you on this amazing journey with me! Recovery Love and Care is here for YOU, your loved one, your classroom, colleagues, family and friends, to help work through the sticky topics of Eating Disorders, body image, and just health in general! EVERYONE is worthy of loving themselves, and that is why Recovery Love and Care’s mission is to help women find self-compassion, self-love and body appreciation through the practice of self-care and Eating Disorder awareness!

In a few short weeks, I will be announcing some upcoming events…so stay tuned! And in the mean time make your own hashtag, what do YOU love about yourself?! Remember, self-compassion is for ALL! #SelfCareitOut! #ILoveMy

Netflix Feature Film To The Bone – A Safe Viewing Guide!

I am providing my unique and educated perspectives and opinions on the Netflix feature film To The Bone. This is an incredibly controversial topic that I feel must be addressed, and I would like to preface this with this simple statement…. I, in no way recommend an individual within their Eating Disorder, or within the beginning and/or fragile stages of recovery to watch this film, just as much as I would not condone an individual who experienced trauma and has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), serving our country overseas to watch American Sniper, as these Hollywood depictions of mental illnesses can be incredibly triggering to those experiencing just that!

To The Bone - A Safe Viewing Guide

My Opinion on To The Bone

I most likely will dissatisfy and possibly upset many within this post, as my opinions regarding this film do not necessarily coincide with the majority opinions within the Eating Disorder community. I actually liked this film, although I found several triggering and falsifications within the film….granted each and every story is different and we must start somewhere! If this is where we start talking about Eating Disorders….then I am in support! FYI: the Eating Disorder community is not necessarily  pleased with this film, in that Instagram gurus and fellow #EDWarriors have written several posts about the dangers, dislikes and falsities of the film….and to be clear, I do not necessarily disagree with these opinions! I absolutely believe that Hollywood has a knack for glamorizing mental illnesses, falsifying symptoms and fabricating truths, but that unfortunately is the definition of hollywood, people want an escape, people want to feel taken away by a film! Therefore, I will say this again, I DO NOT recommend or condone any individuals who feel vulnerable within the topic of Eating Disorders to watch this film, as it may be triggering! With that being said, here are my thoughts and tips in regards to viewing this film

The Film

The film focuses on a story of a twenty year old, heterosexual white female who has Anorexia Nervosa (AN). Ellen, the main character, depicts the stereotypical image and description of what an individual with an Eating Disorder “looks like”, emaciated, female, and white. This is absolutely a valid depiction of many individuals within their Eating Disorder (ED), although this exact stereotype is why so many cases go unnoticed; that is 50% of ED’s go unnoticed within primary care! With that being said, the film does depict other body types, ages, sexes, genders, and races, as ED’s do not discriminate!

Let’s Talk About it! 

The film focuses on one small aspect of Eating Disorders, in that the all encompassing process of Eating Disorders spans over years, sometimes decades! The plot focuses on a specific moment within the character’s treatment. Ellen, played by Lilly Collins, is admitted into an exclusive, and “radical” inpatient treatment center ran by a doctor, played by Keanu reeves. This treatment center is drastically different than that of a typical inpatient setting, in many ways, although that is not necessarily what this post is about! I am not writing this to review the movie, nor to shed light on the falsities and fabrications within the script, rather I want to talk about safe ways to watch and talk about this film!

Not a Film Review

This film is on Netflix, therefore it is accessible to many! Hence, seeing that I am not a film critic, and instead an advocate for Eating Disorder Awareness and healthy and safe practices of self-care, I have laid out some viewing and talking points for you! With that being said, whether you are a mother, a grandmother, a father, a son, a brother, a sister or a friend, I highly recommend reading these tips, as this movie can cause for triggering thoughts and emotions surrounding Eating Disorders, body image and mental health.

Safely View This Film With Six Steps

***I will say this again, I do not encourage individuals within their Eating Disorder or in the beginning stages of recovery to watch this film, as it may be triggering….just because it may be “relevant” does not mean you have to watch it!

To The Bone

1.Make sure that you are viewing this film in a safe space. Are you surrounded by people that care for you, or that you care for? Are you around friends, family or loved ones? Are you mentally and emotionally prepared for severe visual depictions of Eating Disorders? Ensure that you are feeling safe, whether that means you are surrounded by people that you trust, or maybe you are providing that support for someone else!

2.Have the remote in hand. Pause, rewind or maybe even fast forward the movie when you feel you need to process or absorb something! If you are watching this with your daughter, pause the movie at times where she may show discomfort or confusion and start a dialogue surrounding the feelings and emotions brought upon by the film. This film can cause for people to notice behaviors that they never realized they were practicing, such as body checking and food rituals, therefore if your loved one asks questions regarding these behaviors lend an ear and listen to their concerns. Afterwards, reach out to Recovery Love and Care or a clinician for professional advice!

3.Fact check and perception check! If you are watching this with a loved one or younger person, make sure to provide proper information and education regarding behaviors and symptoms surrounding Eating Disorders. Talk about the concept of body image, and process the feelings that may arise from the character’s depiction! Eating Disorders exist in ALL bodies, fat bodies, skinny bodies, “normal” looking bodies, black bodies, brown bodies, old bodies, young bodies, male bodies, female bodies, trans bodies, able bodies, rich bodies and poor bodies, therefore make sure to educate in a proper manner to supplement the images seen in this film!

4.Set aside time before and after viewing the film to process your thoughts, whether that is via a journal, text, phone call or face to face conversation! It is so important to give your thoughts and feelings a name, it will help foster a sense of understanding and safety surrounding this movie. This movie was meant to start a conversation, and there is not wrong one to have, because your feelings are your feelings! Process in a safe environment! I recommend either sitting down with a loved one and having a conversation, or journaling your thoughts!

5.Keep yourself and others accountable and encourage conversation! No, there is no wrong or right way to “feel” before, during or after viewing this film, although the conversation regarding the education surrounding Eating Disorders is crucial! Remember….people with Eating Disorder’s are not selfish, and they do not “choose” their disorder, Eating Disorder is a mental illness and serious addiction that requires clinical treatment and intense recovery, placing blame and fault is counterproductive and quite pointless – instead focus on help, and lastly, Eating Disorders exist in ALL bodies, all ages, sizes, races, ethnicities, socio-economic classes, genders, sexes and sizes…!

6.Question WHY you or your loved ones are watching this film. This statement is in the absence of shame, and instead to challenge your motivations behind this viewing. Is it to educate yourself? Is it to form an educated opinion on the reliability of the script? Is it for entertainment? Or is it another voice telling you to watch it….maybe it is your “diet” voice, that “Eating Disorder” voice, or another toxic and sneaky reason why you “want” to view this film. That is all OKAY….but if it IS your ED voice, or you are watching the film to pick up new habits and indulge yourself in toxic thoughts, I challenge you to combat that voice. You are bigger, better and stronger that that voice! This film is not a “funny” movie, it is not a “feel good” movie, therefore, again, I ask you to question your motivations behind viewing this film! Make sure you are staying safe and true to your own voice!

 For more posts like this click here, here and here!

Project HEAL – A New Partner!

Project HEAL

Project HEAL is a phenomenal organization that funds Eating Disorder Treatment for individuals who cannot afford to do so themselves. This organization, Project HEAL, was founded by two amazing young 15 year old women who met in treatment and chose to help others reach full recovery as well!

A New Partner

Liana Rosenman and Kristina Saffran are two Eating Disorder Warriors and now foundation founders who have spread Project HEAL across the country and around the globe! Project HEAL sponsored the controversial film To The Bone, and is all about spreading the much needed awareness and education about Eating Disorders and diet culture. I am pleased to officially be partnering with Project Heal! Partial proceeds of all ticket proceeds and One Hope Wine sales at my events and speaking engagements will go towards Project HEAL

As I launch my business I cannot wait to promote Project HEAL, as well as, spread awareness and education about the truths behind Eating Disorders. Time and time again, I run into medical professionals, counselors and helping professionals who have very little, to no knowledge about Eating Disorders, and that is exactly why 50% of Eating Disorders go unnoticed within primary care! Through my own Eating Disorder and Recovery story, as well as, my growing clinical knowledge, and current partnerships, I hope to help medical professionals, helping professionals and parents understand the concept of Eating Disorders, and this skewed depiction of health within our fat phobic, weight-loss and diet crazed society!

Full Recovery Is Possible

Project HEAL and Recovery Love and Care share the same belief, that full recovery from an Eating Disorder IS POSSIBLE!  Let me start off by saying that this statement in no way belittles or demeans the overall process of substance abuse and alcohol addictions, instead it sheds light on the truths behind Eating Disorders and the process of Eating Disorder recovery. Many individual’s within substance abuse and/or alcohol abuse recovery have “fought” me on the concept of full recovery and the chance of relapse within Eating Disorder recovery, because within substance abuse and alcohol recovery, full recovery is not considered possible, because one can possibly relapse at any given time. This is not the case within Eating Disorder recovery, because you NEED food to live, you NEED to go to the bathroom and eliminate to live, you WILL burn calories throughout your day no matter what, and that is why Eating Disorder recovery is so tricky, because Eating Disorders involve a relationship, albeit a negative one, with the body, food, exercise, and elimination. With that being said, the process of recovery is the hardest part about one’s entire journey within their Eating Disorder. That is not saying that recovery isn’t a healthier and happier choice, because IT IS, instead it is saying that recovery is hard as hell. But it is worth it….let me tell you why!

The beginning stages of my Eating Disorder recovery were by far 10 times worse than my actual Eating Disorder. My body started to change, it started to rebel against me, I had to retrain my brain to understand hunger queues, and fullness queues, I had to retrain my mind and body to accept food, love and care! Recovery was HARD….and if someone ever told me that full recovery was not possible, I probably wouldn’t have done it. If someone told me that I would never reach a state of full recovery, I probably would have given up, plain and simple. Why?…. Why would I put my mind and body through that confusion to never get better? Now that I am fully recovered from a life long Eating Disorder, I can confidently say that recovery is AMAZING! Recovery is BEAUTIFUL, EMPOWERING, AND JUST SO WORTH IT! Full recovery IS POSSIBLE! I was lucky enough to have a team of professionals guide me throughout my recovery, and tel me that reaching full recovery was possible, and I am so grateful they did! This is not to say that recovery is perfect, because it is certainly not! Recovery is NOT linear….it is wavy, bumpy and rocky, but once you move through that process, it is so serene!

 

As I always say, you don’t choose your Eating Disorder but you DO CHOOSE RECOVERY! If you are within your Eating Disorder/recovery, or you know someone within their Eating Disorder/recovery, I encourage you to live by Project HEAL and Recovery Love and Care’s philosophy, that FULL RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE, AND IT IS WORTH IT!

Stay tuned for more information about my partnership with the one and only Project HEAL! 

For more posts like this, click, here, here and here!  Oh and here!

For my events go to my Events page! 

Exercise and Social Media – Healthy Motivations and Honesty!

This is a blog post that I wrote for the amazing Julie Harris from The Healthful Peach, an beautiful blog that helps women find a healthy balance in life with food and fitness. Julie believes that showing up daily with intention, and feeling empowered to make healthful choices is truly living a healthy life! I could not agree more! Therefore, I wrote up this piece about the concept of exercise in the extremely skewed environment in which we live! I hope you enjoy!

  I truly believe that listening to your body, having a healthy and safe relationship with food, and practicing SAFE exercise in MODERATION is self-care at it’s finest! For individual’s who are within their Eating Disorder Recovery, exercise can be a slippery slope, it can become a compulsion, it can be used as a purging behavior, therefore developing a realistic and unique relationship with movement and exercise is crucial within recovery!

Studio Barre James Island

Social Media Exercise vs. Honest Exercise

Exercise classes were my saving grace within my own personal recovery, in that they allowed for a controlled form of physical activity, to avoid “relapse” into unhealthy behaviors and motivations, as well as, create a supportive space for physical exercise. Many people are unaware that exercise can be abused just like a drug, in that it can be used as a means to purge of calories, avoid emotions and/or substitute a natural dispersion of endorphines. Therefore, it is not only individuals within their Eating Disorder, or for individuals within recovery, it is important for all individuals to bring awareness towards their true motivations when it comes to exercise!

REAL exercise!
REAL exercise!

Barre and Yoga

My favorite forms of exercise are barre and yoga. These physical practices focus on the power of movement, the power of the body, and the importance of the mind, body connection!

I don’t know if I would necessarily consider myself a yogi, but I truly love and appreciate the practice of yoga.  I’ve been practicing yoga for almost six years now, and I love everything behind the art of yoga. Yoga, is truly a practice in that it teaches individuals how to find their inner peace, bring no judgment whatsoever to the mat, and in all truth PRACTICE yoga. There is no PERFECTION, there is only FORGIVENESS, UNDERSTANDING, EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL STRENGTH, and INTENTION, therefore there is no room for self-hate, stress, and shame. This is why I LOVE yoga, it trains the mind and the body to work in a genuine, positive and forgiving fashion, and with a lot of self love, support and hard work, you find yourself, completed with the class, conquering your fears, and emotionally cleansed….and THAT is now my motivation for exercise!

Barre is similar in this fashion, it that it focuses on the small muscles within the body, and with small/tight movements these small muscles are isolated and worked to exhaustion. This movement requires an intense amount of concentration, self-forgiveness and a true mind, body connection! When you crawl and/or rise into these contorted positions your mind is forced to focus on the muscle working, and that muscle only. This intense connection with the body is paramount to mental clarity and appreciation for what the body can do!

Studio Barre James Island
Studio Barre James Island is where it is at!

Intention

Yoga and barre, when practiced with intention and self care, truly works and strengthens the entire body and makes you sweat! Well I sure sweat! That true mind body connection, forgiveness and isolation forces you to contemplate upon your motivations behind the physical practice.

Physical exercise is a major part of my self-care, in that I now find peace, and emotional cleansing within my physical practice! AND, lets just be real….most of us DO NOT LOOK LIKE SUPERMODELS WHILE WE EXERCISE, so lets enjoy physical exercise and self-care for what it truly is…..SELF-CARE! Look, I have said it before, and I will say it again, recovery is a beautiful disaster…. and you know what?… so is exercise! I do not think I have EVER been that girl at the barre, or that girl in the yoga class, or that girl on top of the mountain in a sports bra with six pack abs, glistening with joy….no, I have been that girl making those uncomfortable faces in the mirror, breathing heavily, smiling as my belly rolls fold while ding ab exercises, and dripping with sweat!

Backyard Yoga
Backyard Yoga!

Social Media Exercise vs. Honest Exercise!

Exercise looks different, feels different and means something different to everyone! Our motivations behind exercise vary drastically, not only by the person, but by the day! There are some days I want to work out to clear my mind, some days I just need that mind-body connection, sometimes I crave motion, and sometimes I just want that good sweat! It is when we start exercising for others, and when we start exercising because we need to EARN something that it becomes dangerous and unhealthy! Your exercise is just that, YOURS! It is so easy to get sucked into this mentality that we need to look a certain way when exercising, and that we need to exercise for certain reasons….to earn that pizza, to deserve that drink….but let me be the one to tell you, your validation comes from within! You are always deserving of food, and you never, ever, need to EARN your food!

There is the Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook or social media version of physical exercise, and then there is the HONEST VERSION of physical exercise. The social media version is all about proving yourself to others, about how you LOOK, about how hard you worked, as opposed to the honest version. The honest version is about your true motivations behind exercise, mental and emotional empowerment, and self care! Now, let me be clear, I have absolutely fallen into this social media version of physical exercise, in that I have felt somewhat compelled to prove to others that I can be that girl on top of that mountain doing a yoga pose, granted I have never really been able to do that, so I implemented my own version, but in any case I am guilty of practicing physical exercise with unhealthy motivations!

What I am truly trying to convey is that for most individuals physical exercise is best practiced with empowering, healthy and strong motivations such as cleansing the mind, building physical health and strength, and improving your emotional health; especially for those within a state of recovery. Therefore, I challenge you to find your true motivations behind physical exercise, and dig deep to unveil your own healthy motivations and empowerment within your personal practice of exercise.

And please remember…..you do not need to “earn” or “work for” that delicious pastry! You know I cannot, and most likely will not pass up a good croissant!! And goodness knows….I will never need to “earn” that deliciousness!

you never need to earn your food!
You never need to earn your food!

As Always #SelfCareItOut!

-Jayne Mattingly with Recovery Love and Care!

For similar posts like this click here , here and here!!

Interview With Dana Suchow From DoTheHotPants!

Okay everyone, I am thrilled and giddy with excitement to share this post with you! I had the privilege to meet with and interview Dana Suchow of “DoTheHotpants” via Skype this past month, and let me just say it was so enlightening and empowering! Dana is a fellow ED warrior, fellow feminist, and advocate for ALL women, and I am 100% confident you will gain some knowledge about body image, self-love and womanhood within this post! Dana now lives in New York City, has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and has appeared on Good Morning America and The T.D. Jakes Show, and she’s been featured in The Huffington Post, Vogue, Marie Claire, Seventeen Magazine, ABC News, and Yahoo!

Dana Suchow from Do The Hot Pants!

I have participated within the body positive and Eating Disorder Recovery “world” on Instagram for about a year now, and since, I have grown so much appreciation for certain accounts, one of my favorite being @DoTheHotpants!

DoTheHotpants was started by Dana Suchow, a fashion blogger turned speaker, activist and event producer. Dana came to the realization that the fashion industry was fueling her eating disorder, and that the unattainable, unrealistic, and unhealthy beauty standards she was surrounded by were toxic to her wellbeing. Dana touches on the hard and sometimes “sticky” topics within our society, and she does it with so much grace and power! Over the years, she transformed her blog into a safe space for ALL women to talk about the underlying feminist issues that ignite body image issues, Eating Disorders, and various forms of prejudice within the world of women! Dana now also leads workshops, and feminist events that support all self identifying women in need of spaces to talk about tough topics like body image. Dana’s most recent endeavor is her Makeup Removal parties, where she empowers women to learn about why we wear makeup and to ask difficult questions about whether or not our “self love” beauty regimens are truly a manifestation of our misogynistic society.

When I asked Dana about the beginning of her body positivity and feminist “journey” she shared the personal struggles she experienced as a female.

Dana Suchow from Do The Hot Pants!

“I struggled with body image for a long time, not exactly with just my weight and Eating Disorders but with beauty! When I started getting zits I was immediately sent to the dermatologist, and I began living under this microscope. I developed this hyper awareness of my body, my existence, and how people viewed me and interacted with me based on my looks.”

Dana then went on to explain that she started Do The Hotpants as a fashion blog. “I was already deep in  my Eating Disorder when I started Do The Hotpants. I had Bulimia and before a photoshoot for the blog, I wouldn’t eat, and I would exercise… I mean I would run for two days before we would do the photoshoots, and then when I’d edit the photos I was seriously photoshopping them! Covering up all of my acne. I was terrified of being seen! I was terrified to do photoshoots, and I noticed that the pressure and stress of having the fashion blog was exacerbating my Bulimia and my hate for myself. It wasn’t creating any self love and I was constantly comparing my body to thinner and prettier bloggers, because the fashion industry is focused on thinness and youth and clear skin and height. I had privilege, but I didn’t have all these things.”

Dana then discussed that she knew her privilege: her thin privilege, her white privilege, her financial privilege to start a fashion blog in the first place, and the fact that she fits many of society’s beauty standards. But with all of that being said she still struggled with her battles of body image and her Eating Disorder recovery.

“Fashion was triggering me, rather than helping me, so I started to talk about what I was going through with my readers and followers. I started to discuss my insecurities, and I began slowly showing cracks in my hyper polished exterior. People started to really resonate with me and my vulnerability. And after a while, I did this post called Photos I Wish I Didn’t Photoshop, and it went completely viral! That truly catapulted me into body positivity and helped get me out of fashion. It made me focus on what would end up being a much healthier direction for me in the long run.”

Dana Suchow from Do The Hot Pants!

“In the body positive movement, I learned that body positivity and fat activism is a feminist issue. And through my eating disorder recovery, I learned how society hates women and women’s bodies. And once I discovered feminism I learned about all the intersectional layers of hate that different marginalized women experience. Things my white, thin, cis, or able-bodied privilege allowed me to remain blind to for so long. I began seeing violence against women and control of women’s bodies everywhere I looked, and that is why I always say that if you truly want to get over your Eating Disorder you have to understand feminism and fat activism. Self-love will only get you so far, but you have to fight against the miseducation and fear of fat and that our sexist and capitalist society have created. Because you can love yourself, but once you turn on the TV or see an advertisement, all the things you’ve worked so hard on can go out the window in a moment.”

When I asked Dana about the concept of self-love in relation to these unattainable beauty standards within our society, she touched on her experience as a “junior feminist.” As a side note, Dana recently stopped shaving her legs, and has received mixed reviews via social media from fellow women.

“I get a ton of love, but I’ve also received some flack for not shaving. For instance, when I first stopped shaving I believed that all women shave because of the patriarchy, and you know what, I still question people who say they shave because they like smooth legs. I still question people who say they put on makeup for the gym out of self love. And I’m not talking about make-up as an art form, I’m talking about the daily pressures women feel to be beautiful without looking like we’re trying. If you lived in the woods sequestered from society would you shave your legs, would you wear makeup, would you be working out…? Those are the questions I’m asking.”

Do The Hotpants

“And I’m the first person to admit that I wear makeup, I take kickboxing classes, I even got my armpits lasered, but I’ve never truly done any of these things for self-love. I can say that I got my nipple hair lasered off for self-love, but when you look at the root causes, it’s about marketing, it’s about porn, it’s about internalized misogyny, it’s about classism and racism and unattainable beauty standards for all women regardless of who she is. But I will say this over and over again, that until we live in a world where a woman without makeup and woman wearing a full face of makeup are both treated the equally, I 100% support women wearing makeup, and I myself will continue to wear it also. Not wearing makeup and not shaving isn’t my message. My message is: Why are you doing it? I want women to question why we do things, that’s all.”

Dana made a beautiful point that feminism and feminist causes are not meant to shame women for falling into beauty standards, instead she is calling women to delve deeper into WHY we are following rules we didn’t make about how to live and function in this society.

“Do what you need to do to feel safe and valued and loved and sexy, because this society has already defined what sexy is. But don’t lie and say that it’s because of self-love when it might isn’t. It’s OK to adhere to something because it’s a societal standard and we want to fit in! Because at the end of the day, not everything has to be for feminism and self love. We can also be playing by shitty rules simply to survive, because we didn’t make the rules but we have to play the game.”

I asked Dana how she practices self-care within a society that tries to define self care and self love as adhering to society’s beauty standards like getting facials or shaving or painting our nails.

Dana Suchow from Do The Hot Pants!

“It is so hard as an influencer to feel bad about my body, especially as a privileged body, but I still get those feelings, and they are valid and very real. But at the same time, I can’t give them too much power! I can’t let these feelings take up all of of my mental space! So a lot of times self care for me means sharing what I’m experiencing with a friend or family member that I feel safe with. Even with an online community if that feels comfortable. Sharing is a great form of self-care, because when we share our struggles and find community, we realize we are not alone, and that allows us to take our power back from those internal voices that tell us we’re unlovable or different. Sharing is a non classist way to practice self-care, because many people can’t afford manicures or facials or new clothes, but there’s always someone who will listen to us.”

“Self-care for me used to be going to the gym to get my stress out and over the years it’s evolved to taking naps, or going out for a cup of coffee with a friend, or sharing on social media! I am not saying that going to the gym can’t be self-care but I do think that is a slippery slope and I don’t believe we need that type of exercise in our lives to love our bodies.”

Dana made it clear that she has knows she has the privilege of being a spokesperson for body positivity and feminist issues, because while she is a disenfranchised women, not all disenfranchisement is equal, and she still has financial privilege, white privilege, thin privilege, and a cis body. But speaking about her experience with Bulimia and as a woman in a sexist world that wants all women to hate their bodies, she has connected with so many women going through the same struggles who felt completely alone before connecting online. Dana also makes sure her messages are always intersectional and that her platform discusses the disenfranchisement of all women.

“We have been trained to think about our bodies, and not our status in the world! I always say we need to focus on our wage gap not our thigh gap!”

And with that, I challenge you to dig a bit deeper today, ask yourself if the things you believe are self-care, are truly self care. Ask yourself WHY you think one body type is more beautiful than another. And today I challenge you to learn about body positivity, fat activism, and feminism, because we need all of you on board to change the world.

Dana Suchow From Do The Hot Pants!

#selfcareitout!

Learning How To Love Your Body

Learning how to love yourself, learning how to love your body, loving your body more, love your body, love your body love your body…..I could say it over and over and over again, but it will not happen unless you WANT it, unless you WORK for it, unless you want to make the sacrifices to truly love yourself! No, I am not talking about dieting, going to the gym, and transforming yourself in order to love yourself, I am talking about truly loving yourself down to the core! Loving your body for what it is NOW, because in the end that is all you have. You have you. You have your mind, your body and your love for yourself. This takes desire, will power and a level of discomfort! But I am going to tell you, lean into that discomfort, embrace this feeling of uncomfortable and dive into a life of loving yourself!

Encourage Self Awareness to love your self and love your body

Self Awareness, this is a concept that I touch on a lot within this blog, because self-awareness is an underlying theme within all recovery processes. Bringing a sense of immediacy and honesty towards your current, and past emotions, thoughts, and behaviors is a not only a beneficial, but crucial step towards living a healthy happy life within recovery and just in general.

When you are in a safe space, take a brief moment to reflect on your present state. What are you feeling right now? Why are you feeling this way? Is this a constant feeling, or a new feeling? How are these feelings, emotions and behaviors affecting your overall process towards reaching body positivity? Take all of the time that you have and need for this step, this could be a simple process in the morning, or a continuous process throughout your day, it can be an inward conversation with yourself, or a written note in a journal, there is no right or wrong way of practicing this step, as long as you are honest and true to the process of self awareness.

  • Sometimes it is just asking yourself if you love yourself, and if so, what do you love about yourself? Whether it is your smile, your positive demeanor, your hair, your sensitivity, whatever it may be….sit with it for a while! Enjoy that part of you that you love!
  • Once you can identify one aspect of yourself that you love, identify one physical attribute and one personality attribute about yourself that you love, that you adore! It is OKAY if this takes you a while, because it takes time to love yourself in a world that doesn’t allow us to do so.
  • Once you identify both a physical and non physical attribute that you love about yourself, try and pull them apart, how are these attributes totally dependent of one another? Does your smile have anything to do with your success? Does your hair have anything to do with your sensitivity? The answer is most likely no, your physical attributes are completely separate from your non physical attributes, your worth is not defined by your body!
  • This level of awareness takes time, it takes WORK and it takes WHILL! You can do it, you are deserving!
  • You CAN and WILL learn to love your body, learn to love yourself! YOU ARE WORTHY AND DESERVING OF SELF-LOVE!

Embrace The Grey in order to love yourself

As human beings, we often see in black and white, in that the world is good and bad, dark and light, heavenly and hellish, right and wrong, but in reality nothing is black and white, everything is grey. Therefore simply understanding that life is all a personal process within that grey area can bring you one step closer towards living a body positive life. For instance, it is not bad that you have that extra squish on your tummy, it is not bad that you have those stretch-mark’s on your inner thigh, it is not bad that you ate that bagel or had that piece of cake.

Appearance is neither good or bad, it is all a part of who we are, it is all a part of the process we call recovery. My pouch below my bellybutton is no more or less beautiful than another woman’s six-pack; we are both within our own grey area, our own process. Therefore embrace the grey area, because the grey area is where all of the growth occurs! Remind yourself everyday that we are all in the grey. Once you embrace the grey you are that much closer to loving yourself, towards loving your body! For more on embracing the grey in a black and white world click here! 

Find Your Happy

Happiness is all relative right? Everyone has their own experiences with joy and the feeling of happy, although within recovery, happiness is usually focused around our health, our physical bodies, and food, because the first stage of recovery is usually stabilizing those aspects of our selves. Therefore, it is crucial to find at least one thing that you can find happiness through that does not involve food, or the physical body, such as, exercise. Finding a feeling of happy outside of food and the physical body gives your mind a break from the intensity of recovery, and also trains your mind to find ways to feel happy without food and exercise!

Yes, these two things are crucial to live, but true happiness is completely dependent of those two things, and once you find genuine happiness without those things, you can eventually find safety with them in your life. What makes you feel happy that doesn’t involve food or exercise? What can you do once a day that can bring that feeling of happiness into your life? For instance, reading a book before bed, starting your day off with an affirmation, listening to a podcast or your favorite radio station on the way to work, cuddling with a loved one, watching your favorite show, taking a bath, etc., will introduce happiness without the dependency of food or the body, as these two things run parallel to one another! Once you find that happy you will start to love yourself that much more! Your mind will have some compassion towards your body , and you will find self-love! For more on happiness within finding body love, click here!

When these three steps are implemented into your daily routine you will be that much closer towards living a body positive life, you will be that much closer to loving your body, to loving yourself as an entire human being! Remember this is a process, as is life. Recovery is all about the process, learning from the ups and the downs, understanding that it is not linear or easy, and it is hard work…. therefore, taking small steps like these will bring you closer towards a love your body, and loving yourself! As always #selfcareitout!

For more posts on self-love click here, and here!!! Oh and here!!

Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga – Being a Charleston Local, Facing Fears and Embracing Dreams!

A Day Out on Folly Beach, Tackling My Fears and Embracing My Dreams

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a yogi, but I am absolutely a lover of all things yoga! I am also an avid lover of all things beach! This past Monday I combined those two loves, I took a stand up paddle board yoga class at Charleston SUP Safari! This is something that I have always dreamed about doing, but my fears and insecurities got in the way, welp, I went for it, and oh my goodness was it worth it! Keep reading to hear about my experiences at Charleston SUP Safari, out on the water, and some great places to stop by after your stand up paddle board experience out on Folly Beach!

Starting The Day Off Right

I made sure to start my day right with confidence, courage and of course coffee at Black Magic Cafe. I had a delicious iced soy latte and pastry to compliment my workout out on the water! This cafe is a great local spot out on Folly and promises to use only wholesome and fresh ingredients!

This coffee sure is magic!

This menu is life!

Croissants all day everyday!

Becoming a Local

Ever since I moved to Charleston, I have made it my mission to start facing my fears, be more active and embrace everything local, as I truly believe in community over competition! Charleston SUP Safari is an all inclusive, incredibly laid back, locally owned, beach town wonder! For an incredibly reasonable price me and a group of friends paddled out on Folly creek and took a yoga class on our paddle boards!

Dolfriends for sure!

Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga

My worries and anxieties surrounding failure and incompetency were completely calmed once I spoke with the staff at Charleston SUP Safari. They answered all of my questions, made sure we were all safe, and guaranteed a good time! The paddle out from the dock was fun on its own, as the scenery was truly breathtaking! Once we anchored our boards we started the yoga class.

I couldn’t believe it, I was in a bikini, out on the ocean, floating on a paddle board, and doing yoga without a care in the world about my body or my ability to “succeed”. If I took this class a few years back, I would have been worried about how my body looked, stressed about falling and embarrassing myself, and looking ridiculous to others, I would have loathed the entire experience due to my own insecurities and fears. Now, because of the forgiveness and compassion that I hold near and dear to my heart, I can do a freaking back bend, on a stand up paddle board, in a bikini without a care in the world if my back fat is hanging out, or if I fall into the water! I was able to, not only conquer my fears, but fulfill a dream of mine and truly enjoy doing it!

SUP Yoga in Charleston, SC!

 

Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga

The class was challenging but not overwhelming, and within seconds I became one with my breath and the water. All of the awkward giggles subsided, and in unison, all of our bodies were flowing with the motion of the waves and slight breeze. This may sound woo woo to some people, but this stand up paddle board yoga experience changed me in a small way! It is proof that the power of movement, breath, forgiveness and courage is paramount when we feel insecure and fearful! AND I now have a new hobby!

Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga!

Don’t get me wrong, people were falling off of the paddle boards left and right, but you know what? The water caught them, and the waves embraced their “slip-up!” With one quick pull up to the board, they were back to their practice! We took a phenomenal private yoga class, from a local free-lance yoga instructor, and she was truly skilled and amazing within the entire process! I highly recommend checking out her page here!! 

I will absolutely be a returning customer to Charleston SUP Safari, as they offer their own Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga classes as well! Check out their website here!

Good Eats and Great Waves

After the class was over we went to the Lost Dog cafe, and oh my gosh, it was fabulous! It is a small, locally owned, and dog friendly restaurant, with quality and wholesome food and incredible service! I had the Grapefruit Mimosa and the Chicken Salad Sandwich on a croissant (If only everything could be on a croissant, I’m somewhat obsessed)!

Dog Friendly Beach Cafe!

The Lost Dog Cafe

After I was well worked out, and properly nourished I went to the beach and played in the waves until the sun went down, the waves were insane and the water was perfect!

 

In one day I learned so much about myself, and the city in which I live! With a little bit of courage, and self-compassion I faced my fears and fulfilled a life long dream of mine! I cannot wait to get out to Folly Beach and Stand Up Paddle board my heart out! I challenge you to overcome one of your fears with the power of self-love and self-compassion, I promise you will thank me!! #selfcareitout my friends!

 

 

My Recovery Kitty – The Saga of Lilly!

Buckle in for a funny and plot twisting post, you’ll be shocked at what happens!

At the very beginning of my Eating Disorder (ED) Recovery, Sean and I moved in with one another. Maybe I should be clearer, I moved in with Sean and three of his friends, and yes, I know what you are thinking… Why would I ever do such a thing?!!

Yes, it was chaotic, extremely trying and oh so difficult, but it worked! But that is for another post, this post is about my first little fur baby!

When I moved into Sean’s place I decided that I needed something that I could call my own, something that I could love, hold onto, take care of, something that wasn’t connected to anyone else, and that wasn’t related to food, or my body.

The Animal Adoption Center in Jackson, WY, had just received a litter of kittens, and it just so happened that I was a crazy cat lady…so it was really meant to be! Sean was on board, after a bit of convincing…and it was decided! I was going to be a kitty mother! I specifically wanted a boy, that was my only requirement. I went to the adoption center and played with all of the tiny creatures, and picked out this little black kitten, he was PURRFECT (lol…too corny)? Sean made a separate visit to the adoption center, and unknowingly connected with the same kitten, and the deal was done! We named the adorable little man Liam, and counted down the days until we could take him home!

Liam’s first week home! Look at those saucer eyes!!

I took Liam home when he was about eight weeks, he wasn’t drinking his mother’s milk anymore, and they therefore allowed us to adopt him! Liam was about the size of a tennis ball, his fur was all-scraggly and his eyes were as big as saucers! I fell in love, and a small part of me started to heal with that newfound love and connection. My purges were less frequent, and I wasn’t constantly thinking about recovery, instead I was focused on this new little, but oh so big, love!

Only a few days went by and Liam got really sick, and I mean really sick. It turned out he had a parasite that is common in feral born cats, and most often ends in death. I was determined to keep my new little baby, nothing could take him away from me! I stayed up nights with him, cleaned him in the bath, spoon fed him and hydrated him to the best of my abilities. I took Liam to a different vet to get a second opinion, and they prescribed some intense antibiotics and fluids for my little 2-pound bundle of love. With a lot of patience, perseverance, fluids and love, Liam finally got better, and with every day so did a small piece of me.

Sweet little man! This was him at about nine weeks!

A couple of months went by, and Liam started to change. His attitude and overall demeanor completely shifted, in that he became protective of his food, he would hiss and bite every time we tried to pet him, and he never wanted to play. The anxiety started to weigh on me, this little kitty was getting in the way of my relationship, was causing me more stress than joy, was testing me! But I kept reminding myself that this was a sacrifice, this was the cost of being a kitty mother, unconditional love! Remember patience is so crucial within the most trying of times (Click on the link for more)!

I was counting down the days to Liam’s appointment to get “fixed”, the vet advised me that getting neutered usually helps the testosterone levels, therefore it might alleviate some of his behaviors, although it is best for male kittens to wait at least three months.

The day of Liam’s neuter appointment finally arrived! I brought Liam to the vet, they put him under a mild anesthetic, and began shaving his under belly. The vet advised me that I could stay in the room, as it would be a quick “snip, snip.” I sat there for a while, and the vet tech hesitantly asked me if Liam had been neutered already, I said no, as he was adopted at the young age of eight weeks. The professionals kept feeling around, and abruptly said…. “welp, um it’s a girl!” I paused, shook out my ear, and laughed “right!” thinking that they were joking, and after a few moments I quickly realized this was no joke! “Jayne, your cat is a girl, we are going to have to do this quickly, as a spade takes much more time, precision and need for anesthetic”

The vet tech pretty much pushed me out of the room, and told me to return in a few hours, they would call me if there were any complications. I, on the other hand, was a mess. This verdict tore me apart, my little baby boy, was not a boy, he was a girl! I was obviously not crying because of the social norm that gender is, instead my tears were coming from a place of uncertainty, in that I had put my heart and soul into something and now that something changed.

Those eyes!

Once I collected myself, I returned to the vet, and picked up Liam, it just so happened that poor little baby, girl, Liam had been in the middle of heat, and was in so much pain that she was coping the only way she knew how! The craziest thing was that two different vets had informed me that Liam was a boy; he apparently had two little fur toughs at the base of his under belly that shaved right off! The poor thing was hurting for the past couple of months! Liam was coping by biting, scratching and growling, he was hurting me because he was in pain. This behavior was synonymous of my ED, my behaviors were only manifestations of anxiety, stress, perfection, and pain….I was hurting my body because my perception of the world was hurting me, I was in pain. 

Happy brother and sister moment! Poor Gio had a little eye issue!

I brought Liam home, and quickly shed of my sociology background, rid of the notion that gender is a social norm, and got Liam a sparkly pink collar to go with her new name; Lilly…. for some reason this made me happy, probably a confirmation of the misogyny of society.

She thinks she is royalty!

Lilly started to recover, and her true personality started to shine through! She was a sweet, incredibly sassy, kitten with somewhat of an attitude problem! Lilly grew to LOVE her adopted Kitty dad, Sean, and rebel against me, her mother. She would scratch me, bite me, ATTACK me, and then go and cuddle with Sean, like the typical angsty teenager! For a brief period we allowed Lilly to be an outside cat, but when she came home one day all bloody and tore up from being hit by a car, Lilly quickly became an indoor cat again! I know…the drama!

She chose her Dad’s team over her moms Blackhawks….

The saga truly goes on an on, Lilly continued to test me, and with that I grew stronger. I was able to take care of something, watch a small being, MY small being almost die, come back to life again, change personality, and truly REJECT ME, and with that came so much pain, so much discomfort and so much growth.

Yes, we even tried walking her!!!

Lilly’s journey was symbolic of my Eating Disorder Recovery. It was tumultuous, painful, confusing, what seemed like a near death experience, challenging, forever evolving, uncomfortable, and beautiful! With pain, and discomfort came change and growth. Change cannot and do not exist within a state of comfort.

A game of “where is Lilly?”

Believe it or not, Lilly was a MAJOR part of my recovery. She tested me in so many ways, she pushed me to reevaluate what I believed was healthy, unhealthy, important, not important, life or death, Lilly taught me a new kind of love, one of constant challenge and testing, My recovery kitty reminds me everyday what unconditional love looks like, feels like, and let me tell you something, I have learned how to love myself, unconditionally…. and that is self-compassion at its finest! So thank you my little Recovery Kitty, I love you Lillykins!

This was when Lilly was an “outdoor” cat, she would go outside for about 15 minutes and come right back in! I miss this little bungalow we lived in!!
Lilly and Gio are the best of friends…their personalities shine through in this photo!