Saturday, 17 February 2018

Changing Rooms, Belly Rolls and Body Acceptance // Eating Disorder Recovery #4

Hello lovely people,

Welcome to the fourth instalment in my Eating Disorder Recovery series (there will be a link at the end in case you missed the other 3). Recently, I had a changing room experience that I want to share with you. I was shopping for new clothes in TK Maxx (they've got some amazing bargains btw) and I picked up two cute printed dresses, in my usual size, to try on in the changing rooms (amongst other things), neither of which fitted. In fact, I couldn't even get them on without ripping the stitching, they were so tight.

And do you what I did?

I cursed myself and my body for growing into its present shape, for my big boobs and squishy tummy. For the acne that decorates my chest, neck, hips and back. For the hair that grows under my arms and on my legs and in between my legs. I cursed it all.

I looked into the mirrors and that's all I saw. I remembered distinctly being in the same situation when I was several sizes smaller (at the peak of my eating disorder), praying that my tummy would shrink to even tinier proportions. Contorting my body into all sorts of shapes, under the harsh changing-room lighting, to try and make it seem appealing to my ED. I remember the groan of hunger in my stomach and thinking of it as nothing but a consolation prize. I remember hearing the latest chart-
topper over the tannoy and having no urge to sing along because every droplet of happiness had been squeezed out of me and in its place was nothing but fear and disgust.

Standing in the changing room a few days ago, remembering that identical moment, I decided that this would not be a repeat of the past.

So I said fuck it, I'm going to take a long hard look in the mirror and say thank you. I am going to thank my body for keeping me alive. For being soft. For being real. For carrying me through every day. For enduring years of restriction and hatred. For being my home even when I want to do nothing but shrink it, change it and punish it. For allowing me to breathe, cry, laugh, write, love, touch, listen, speak, hug and sing. For bleeding every month and surviving it. For being my friend through thick and thin.

Then I sat down, in my mismatching underwear, mid meltdown and took photos. This was not a planned photo-shoot (clearly lol), just a spur of the moment burst of gratitude. I noticed how my belly rolled and creased and thought how bloody amazing and versatile it was. That we can literally fold ourselves like paper and our bodies are able keep our internal organs safe and well.I remembered how this time last year, and the year before that and the year before that, I was cold. But with my newfound softness, the fat around my belly keeps me warm. Newflash - all bellies roll when we sit down, fat bellies, thin bellies - it doesn't matter, and that's OK. You are not expected to have a flat stomach. It is not a prerequisite for feeling good about yourself. You do not have to hide your belly, it's softness or it's boney-ness from anyone or for anyone. You do not have to manipulate your body into the latest fashionable shape and size.


             


a love letter to my belly: a poem


darling,

i’m sorry we’ve not been getting along lately
it’s not you, it’s me
i just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you
i don’t tell you often enough but you are beautiful
your rounded shape is like knotted wood
your dappled skin a blanket of moss
your soft rolls cascade like a waterfall into a tranquil pond
your stretch marks are stripes of pure golden energy
your gurgling and giggling reminds me of your unquenchable spirit and your belly button is damn adorable


love always (even when I don't show it) xx



It's OK to struggle. Healing is not linear; it is not even sequential. It is OK to be triggered and to have negative thoughts, to even hate your body at times. But understand this: emotions are temporary. Energy cannot be created or destroyed only changed. So change it, slowly, softly, with plenty of tenderness. Next time you're in a changing room and something doesn't fit you, remember that just because that item of clothing is not worthy to hug your glorious form, doesn't mean that there won't be other items that will. And if you are a size 16 plus, and certain shops don't carry your size - THEIR LOSS. If their fashion isn't inclusive, they don't deserve your custom or their clothes on your rockin' body.

A final note...

I am aware of my privilege as I write this. I am a white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, medium-sized gal. I do not and will not face half the stigma that those with larger bodies, those with darker skin, those with queer bodies, or those with disabled bodies do. I have the privilege of seeing bodies like mine celebrated on social media, in plus size fashion and in the body positive movement. I have the privilege of being able to buy new clothes when I outgrow my old ones. I am privileged. My voice is important but it is not the only one that deserves to be heard.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, sharing it with you has been quite a vulnerable thing for me to do.

Click here for more Eating Disorder Recovery posts!

Remember to like the Facebook page and follow this blog on bloglovin to make sure you never miss out on new posts.

Until the next time,

Niamh xx

Monday, 12 February 2018

Creating a Self Love Mantra (ft. BROWNIES) ♡

Hello lovely people,

Since it's almost Valentine's Day (or more importantly, it's almost Pancake Tuesday..), I thought it would be fun to write a bit about self love. This time of year, it can be hard not to get caught up in the commercial frenzy of teddy bears, chocolates and roses (though I'm totally up for the chocolate part) and end up feeling bereft when unrealistic expectations are left unmet. This can be especially true when we compare our own lives to posts on social media, romantic novels/films and the bombardment of messages from TV ads, magazines and the media.

I want insert a quote here from Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey that I think is particularly relevant (fyi I want to EAT that book, it's so good)

'Who tricked you into believing that another person was meant to complete you when the most they can do is compliment'

Rereading that quote sends shivers down my spine. Isn't it just brilliant? It is so easy to believe that our lives will not be complete until we find that special someone. To forget that we are whole entire people, a beginning, middle and end, a self preserving, independent thinking bundle of cells. We do not need anybody else to save us, love us or desire us in order to be complete. Love from others is an added bonus but it cannot substitute the love we give ourselves.

This Valentine's Day, I invite you partake in some acts of self-love, whether you are single, in a relationship or otherwise engaged.

SELF LOVE PT 1: MANTRA

Creating your own self love mantra is an fun, nurturing activity which can also be a nice way of practising self care. A self love mantra is a select group of positive affirmations that personally empowers you.

In order to create your mantra pick approx. 4 (or how ever many you like) affirmations that you find comforting and uplifting.

Here's my list of suggestions to get you started:

 ♡ I am powerful                                                                ♡ I deserve love
 ♡ I am strong.                                                                    ♡ I deserve kindness
 ♡ I am perfectly imperfect                                              ♡ I accept myself.
 ♡ I am healing                                                                   ♡ I accept my emotions
 ♡ I am safe                                                                        ♡ I accept my past.
 ♡ I am beautiful                                                                ♡ I forgive myself.
 ♡ I am at peace                                                               ♡ I am grounded.
 ♡ I am magnificent                                                           ♡ I am one with the universe.
 ♡ I am precious                                                                 ♡ I have a voice that deserves to be heard
 ♡ I am sacred                                                  ♡ I am open 
 ♡ I am enough                                                                   ♡ I am loved
 ♡ I am soft
 ♡ I am worthy



Write your mantra down and stick it somewhere you can see it. Write it at the top of every journal entry. Text/Email it to yourself. Repeat it to yourself every morning and evening. Set a positive intention behind the words. Revisit this list and create new mantras for specific events (eg. a job interview or an exam) or chop and change your mantra as required.

It genuinely helps. This is just one way of noticing and softening your inner dialogue and manifesting positive energy. Do you criticise yourself a lot? Blame yourself for things that are out of your control? Hold negative beliefs about your personality or your appearance? Creating a self love mantra can help to challenge destructive thought patterns and create new healthy habits.

SELF LOVE PT 2: BROWNIES

Holy Heck these brownies are good. As someone who eats a gluten free diet (because gluten makes me ill not because i'm trying to lose weight), I am used to pretty much all carbohydrates tasting like cardboard so eating brownies that actually tasted like brownies was pretty mouthgasmic.

You've done your self love mantra, you've stepped outside of your comfort zone, now let's bake some chocolately goodness.

What you'll need:

150g of decent chocolate (I like dark, but you can use whatever you want, I won't judge)
100g of gluten free plain flour (I used Dove Farm's mix, you can probably substitute this for standard, gluten-containing flour...I'm sure it'll work) 
3 eggs (go free range, if possible)
100g of butter
200g of sugar
1 tsp of baking powder

How to make them:

  • Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180 °C and stick on your favourite playlist to get you in the brownie baking mood
  • Gently melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan - try not to burn the mixture, keep stirring it on a low heat and you should be fine 
  • Mix the dry ingredients together
  • Beat the eggs into the dry ingredients
  • Stir in the melted chocolate and butter mixture SLOWLY to avoid creating too many air bubbles
  • Pour the mixture into a well greased tin and bake for 20-25 mins on the middle shelf in the oven
  • While waiting for your brownies to bake, lick the spoon and the bowl clean, dance around the kitchen and try to forget about the impending mountain of washing/tidying up
  • Lastly, let your brownies cool for a while in the tin before cutting into squares (or dinosaurs if you're feeling fancy) and serve. However if you do eat them out of the tin, I ain't gonna judge you.




I hope you have enjoyed this post, let me know if you make the brownies - you can thank me later!

Remember to follow this blog on bloglovin and like the Facebook page to keep up to date with new blog posts.

Click here for more self care posts!

Until the next time,

Niamh xxx

Friday, 2 February 2018

All things FOOD // Eating Disorder Recovery #3

Hello lovely people,

This post is the 3rd instalment in my Eating Disorder Recovery series. Today, I want to tackle a fairly tricky subject - FOOD.

Obviously food/eating is hard to talk about in eating disorder recovery, especially without it being triggering. When you have an eating disorder, food isn't food as you know it. Food is elevated to God-like status . It is given the power to 'reward' and 'punish'. It is labelled as 'good 'bad' 'healthy' 'unhealthy' 'guilt free' 'indulgent' etc. Food is given a moral compass that in reality, doesn't exist, even though this idea is actively promoted by the media (more on this here). And with that moral compass comes a whole bunch of emotions. Disordered eating habits are then used to numb these emotions, to regain a sense of control.

For example...

I would always purge before important events, special occasions, or any time when I wanted to feel good about myself and gain a temporary boost of confidence. Hunger and thinness became synonymous with 'having my shit together' (even though I really didn't have my shit together). For a short time after purging, I felt invincible, like I could take on the world. It's a kind of high that's hard to explain, especially when you're hurting so much underneath; a light-headed, paper-thin fantasy. Soon enough, I would crash back down to earth and my emotions would flood back into consciousness - guilt, shame and self-disgust. Then, to antidote my strict regime, I would 'lose control' with food, by binging. Even during a binge, my thoughts were restrictive, torturing me over every morsel that passed my lips. My binges had rules, just like my purges, certain foods I couldn't binge on because they were too 'bad', how long the binge would last for; I would even start planning my next purge as soon as the binge began.

Honestly, I don't know how that sounds to someone who hasn't had an eating disorder. Does it sound crazy? It should do, it is crazy. To me, it sounds exhausting and familiar and sad. To me, it makes perfect sense and at the same time no sense at all. After all, it was my brain that constructed this plan and my brain that remembers it all, so of course it makes sense to me. However, it was also my brain that put a stop to it, that absorbed new information about the world and rejected that seemingly never-ending cycle of self-loathing.

It is hard not to idolise your eating disorder and think of your ED memories as 'the glory days'. I catch myself doing that sometimes. Remember who was in charge when those memories were created - your ED. The way I look at it; when you are feeling vulnerable, you ED presents you with an social media style super-cut of memories - filtered, edited and twisted into something that it's not. Granted, in some ways, it was easier to just go along with your eating disorder and all its crazy ideas. BUT, you've listened to those ideas time and time again and tried to make them work..but they didn't. They left you unhappier and unhealthier than before. So not matter how great those memories seem, remember all that is missing from the story - all the tears and heartache and empty stomachs. Remember too that it's not your fault that things ended up that way.

At this point, I want to make something quite clear: there is a very small part of my brain, the ED part of my brain, that doesn't get much of a say in my life any more. Nevertheless, during times of stress, I still have disordered thoughts, and sometimes even disordered behaviours and that's OK. It is the part of my brain that has yet to heal. It may never heal completely and that's OK too. At a basic level, eating disorders are coping mechanisms and my eating disorder happens to be my brain's default coping mechanism. So, sometimes I need to manually go and change it to a healthy coping mechanism - it doesn't happen automatically. Saying that, with practice, it will become second nature to you, like brushing your teeth.

By far the most important thing to remember during this whole process is to forgive yourself. Forgive your brain and all its craziness. Despite what you may think, it is doing its best even though it doesn't always get it right. 

Food Diaries

When I began recovery, something that was recommended to me was keeping a 'food diary' where I would note down what I ate and how I felt before, during and after. For me, personally, this was an incredibly stressful activity. It felt like even more rules were being added to my life and even more opportunities to remind myself of my food 'failings'. Also, I started watching 'Food Diaries' on YouTube, which, even at the time I knew was self-harm in itself. Please please PLEASE do not watch these. Do not get sucked into food comparison and food perfection ideals. Trust me when I say 99% of these people are either hungry or lying. Also every person is going to eat different amounts of different types of food and that is 100% fine and normal. This will fluctuate throughout the day, week, month, year etc. People are not going to film the day that they stayed at home and ate a packet of biscuits for lunch. The same goes for 'Workout Routine' videos. Stay AWAY at all costs.

Going Vegan in Recovery?

AH this is a hard thing to talk about for me because I was vegan during a lot of my eating disorder. I personally believe that it is important to lift all restrictions on food until you have healed enough to make decisions around food that aren't going to trigger ED behaviours. I would love to be vegetarian, for purely ethical reasons but I know, deep down that I'm not ready for that and I am not willing to become a martyr and sacrifice my health. This is just my personal opinion - it might be very different for others. However, I would advise that you exercise extreme caution around any kind of changes to your diet. Find out what is safe and healthy (and by that, I mean mentally healthy) for you and do it.

Fear Food Exercise

Make sure that you are feeling emotionally 
stable before attempting this exercise

Pick one food that your ED had labelled 'bad' or 'unhealthy'
 or that you are afraid or reluctant to eat

Take note of the kind of thoughts that emerge 
when you think about this food

They might be something like:

'I can't eat this food'

'I don't deserve to eat this food'

'This food will make me fat'

Now, reverse them.

What would be the opposite of those thoughts?

It might be something like this:

'I can eat this food'

'I deserve to eat this food'

'I feel vulnerable when I eat this food,
but this food will not do anything bad to me'

Say these new thoughts out loud before 
eating your food of choice.

This is not a quick-fix solution but the 
more you challenge your thoughts,
 the easier that eating will become.

From twitter account @whwucadv

I hope you have enjoyed this post, let me know what topics you would like me to write about next.

Remember to follow this blog on bloglovin and like the Facebook page to keep up to date with new posts.

Find the rest of my eating disorder recovery series here!

Until the next time,

Niamh xxx

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

I believe in this country...do you? // 8th Amendment Poem


I believe in a country where all genders stand tall
where bodies are not battlegrounds 
and voices are not muted

I believe in a country where swollen bellies 
are reserved for times of joy and excitement 
not fear and frustration

I believe in a country that does not run away from its past
and instead invests in its future

I believe in a country that puts people before politics
where personal belief systems operate outside of the womb

I believe in a country that chooses
understanding over judgement
nourishment over punsihment
healing over heartache

I believe in a country that acknowledges parenthood
 as a choice not an obligation

I believe in a country that provides healthcare for all
that does not turn away people in crisis
and those without money to travel abroad

I believe in a country with compassion
 that respects each person's
 authority over their own body

I believe in a country that prioritises mental health
over physical capacity

I believe in a country that strives for progress over power
and gives the people who call it home
the power to live their best lives

I believe in this country, do you?


#Repealthe8th



News of the upcoming referendum in May prompted this pool of words (and doodle). 

I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Remember to follow this blog on bloglovin and Facebook to keep up to date with new posts.

Click here for a surprise post!

Until the next time, 

Niamh xxx


PS: Really great myth-busting article here!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Feeling 'fat' // Eating Disorder Recovery #2

Hello lovely people,

Welcome to the second instalment in my Eating Disorder Recovery series. In today's post, I want to talk about feeling 'fat'.

I used to feel 'fat' on a daily basis. It was the worst feeling in the world. I used to sob my heart out over that feeling. This was a feeling that existed years before my eating disorder. Feeling 'fat' was something that haunted my daily existence. Going into changing rooms was a nightmare. It was as if the mirror itself was taunting me and mocking how 'fat' I felt.

In recovery, I was informed that 'fat' was not a feeling and what's more, in order to acknowledge what I was truly feeling, I needed to banish that idea.

I both agree and disagree with that statement.

Let me explain. Rationally speaking, of course 'fat' is not a feeling, 'fat' is a neutral descriptor for bodies. Except that it's not. In fact, I would argue that 'fat' is one of the most weaponized words of our time. It is a go-to insult that packs a serious punch. Why? The word 'fat' has become synonymous with lazy, greedy, shameful, useless, unclean, ugly and even disgusting. We live in an openly fatphobic society. While nasty comments about race, class and sexuality are generally shunned, fatphobic comments are still socially acceptable. Not only that, they are deep rooted in Western cultural ideals.

So, where does that leave us?

We've already addressed the fact that the word 'fat' has seriously negative connotations in wider society, but when you have an eating disorder, fat is not just bad, it is the worst thing you could be.

Let's examine this a little closer.

If you are in recovery, have body image issues or are just curious, I encourage you to try out this short exercise with me.

In the dictionary of your mind, what is your definition of 'fat'?

Prior to recovery, my answer would probably have been something like:
 'failure; disappointment; unpopular; ugly'.

At this point, it might also be worth asking, what is your definition of thin?

Again, my answer would have been something like:
 'successful; beautiful, desirable; popular; loved'


Now we've examined our definition of 'fat', let's look at the emotions behind it.


Read out your definition of fat with the words 'I am' in front of it; 
e.g. 'I am a failure, a disappointment, unpopular and ugly'.

What emotions do you feel when you say those words? 
For me, it's frustration, self-disgust, anxiety and loneliness.

Know that there is no right or wrong answer.


Therefore, when I said I was feeling 'fat', I was feeling that specific combination of emotions. 
Now that I am in recovery, when I feel these emotions, I say that I am feeling 'vulnerable' instead of 'fat'. Now that my definition of 'fat' has changed and my understanding of the word has broadened, I find that 'vulnerable' is a better fit for me.

More about the word 'fat':

Up until fairly recently, I fiercely rejected the word fat. I could not understand why anybody would want to use that word. Instead I used 'plus-sized', 'curvy', 'fuller-figured' etc. When I discovered that some body-positive activists were calling themselves 'fat', I was shocked. How could this be body-positive? How could you call yourself 'beautiful' one minute and 'fat' the next? Fat was something to be avoided - feared even. And yet here they were, embracing the word whole-heartedly.

I was pretty dumbfounded to say the least. Little did I know that their definition of fat was very different to mine. That in reclaiming the word fat, there were in fact, neutralising it. No longer an insult, just a way of describing bodies. Quickly, it seems, 'fat' lost all it's power and became boring, almost.

Crucial to my understanding of feeling 'fat', is the acknowledgement that it had nothing to do with my outward appearance. My feeling 'fat' manifested itself in my stomach: that was the part of myself I most wanted to hide and the part of my body I felt most ashamed of. Although this is true, it is also true that my stomach had nothing to do with how upset I felt, no more than my hand or my ear.

The aim of this blog post is to validate all the feelings you may be experiencing. For me, feeling 'fat' was such a vivid part of my eating disorder and a difficult part of recovery; I thought it would be nice to honour that by writing this post. By peeling back the layers of our beliefs and emotions, we can gain more insight into our current situation and in turn gain a sense of calm, in what can be a chaotic state of mind. 

I wish that I had known much sooner that it was OK to feel this way and that it was OK to not know what I was feeling or why I was feeling it. 

Moral of the story: Emotions are confusing. Eating Disorders are confusing. You are awesome. 


Quote by Nayyirah Waheed // Art by @kimothyjoy in collab with @huffingtonpost

I hope that you have enjoyed this post and that you found the little exercise to be helpful.

Find more Eating Disorder Recovery posts here 

Remember to follow me on bloglovin/Facebook/Instagram to make sure you don't miss out on any upcoming goodness.

Until the next time,

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