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Eating Disorder Recovery Over Passover

Eating Disorder Recovery Over Passover: Making it Possible

Passover
1. Managing Expectations for the Holidays
2. Passover Anxiety & Family Stress: 7 Tips to Beat it!
3. Eating Disorder Recovery Over Passover: Making it Possible
4. Surrounded By Unhealthy Relationships This Pesach?

Passover is upon us and like all holidays it is often a challenging time for everyone. A time of high stimulation and excitement comes along with stress and anxiety. This is true for the majority of individuals. However, for those in eating disorder recovery, or those struggling with any kind of adversarial relationship to food, this time of year can be especially challenging.

For the purpose of this article, eating disorders will be used as an umbrella term for eating disorder diagnoses as well as any disordered eating pattern.

Eating Disorder Recovery & Passover

I remember the years when my eating disorder was at its worst. The last thing I wanted to do was get dressed in fancy clothing or parade around a hotel with people whom I perceived as judging me. The conversation seemed to always be centered around the food. The special holiday foods, the foods we missed, and the food we imagined having after Passover. I feared losing control of my eating, and the added stress of other people’s agendas, endless buffets, and seder night fashion shows amplified my unhealthy relationship with myself and my food. Most of Passover was spent feeling completely out of control, like I was being evaluated, critiqued, and pressured internally and externally.

You are not alone

The first thing I want you to know is that what you happen to be feeling – be it unpleasant, pleasant, neutral, or a combination of all three – it is normal. A majority of the world finds holiday time to be extremely stressful. This doesn’t mean we ignore it, we can just find solace in knowing we are not alone.

Eating Disorders = Addiction

Eating disorders are like addictions, and likely one of the most prevalent addictions in the Jewish community. Both eating disorders and addictions share many common themes such as; loneliness, shame, secrecy, and isolation.

Eating Disorder Recovery & Loneliness

Loneliness is one of the greatest feeders of any addiction. It hijacks the belief that we deserve happiness. It sucks away our birthright to discover and shine like the bright stars we are. Loneliness leads us down a road of despair and disconnect, not only from our friends and family, but from our own bodies and hearts.

Seduction & Eating Disorder Recovery

Addictions love preying on people whose worthiness is in question. They like to swoop in when we are at our most vulnerable, or in transition, and seduce us into believing they will provide comfort. They will make us feel safe and in control. But as they say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Even though the intention of the eating disorder may be good, trusting and engaging in its behavior only causes us to feel more disparate in the long run.

Shame, Secrecy & Eating Disorder Recovery

Another huge feeder for eating disorders and addictions is shame. Shame is in collaboration with its close cousin – secrecy. Secrecy and shame keep the eating disorder on the front line by bullying us into isolation. They convince us that our eating disorder is the only thing that will make us happy. They collect evidence that preys on our insecurities of not being enough, not looking perfect, and eating too much. If it induces shame and perpetuates secrecy, the eating disorder will have us believe it is essential to our coping.

The GOOD News in Eating Disorder Recovery

There is good news. We are not our shame and we are not our eating disorder. The first step is to remember and reconnect with the pure goodness that lives inside. This soft place inside us that we have ignored. If we want to heal, if we want to live fully and joyfully, we must recondition our relationship with our own heart.

Eating Disorder Recovery is HARD work

This shift doesn’t happen overnight. It can take weeks, months, and even years but it can happen. I know this because it happened for me. I spent almost 16 years as a slave to my eating disorder of bulimia. It began when I was 16 years old and it took me until I was in my early thirties to truly rebuild the foundation of self love the eating disorder rotted away.

It is still a struggle some days. Some mornings I wake up feeling ugly, not good enough, anxious, and depressed. On those mornings I still find my eating disorder knocking on the door of my brain waiting to “save the day”, relentless and unyielding. On those mornings, I remind it once again, it has no home here.

Eating Disorder Recovery Begins in the Heart

Recovery is not a destination, it is a journey and one that we have to choose to stay on again and again no matter how seasoned we are on the ride.

Contrary to popular belief, the brain is not the smartest or strongest organ we have to take action from – the heart is. The greatest asset we have in overcoming our eating disorder, disordered eating, or any addiction for that matter is in strengthening our relationship with our own heart.

Important note: Eating disorder recovery cannot be done on your own – no matter how strong you are! You require the support of a treatment team which typically consists of a therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders and a nutritionist who specializes in treating eating disorders. In some situations, a medical doctor and psychiatrist are needed as well. Inpatient treatment centers or intensive outpatient programs are often necessary in the early recovery process. In those instances, the treatment team will be provided / organized in house.

Over my many years of healing through self study, yoga, mindfulness, meditation and nutrition, I have refined strategies to successfully support my health and wellness through my eating disorder recovery journey. As you read some of them below, I hope you can resonate and find comfort in knowing you can and will heal if you so desire.

3 Powerful Strategies to Support Your Eating Disorder Recovery

1Acknowledge the underlying emotion:

This means pausing and paying attention to the emotion the eating disorder is trying to protect you from. Perhaps this is anxiety, anger, fear, or worry. Whatever it is, take a piece of paper and write it down. If you can’t write, just whisper it to yourself. It’s possible a word doesn’t come to you. In that case feel into your body. You will have some physical signs and senses of the emotion. For example, tightness in the belly, or pulling in your heart, elevated shoulders, or fidgeting. Pay attention to the signals your body is telling you. Naming your direct experience will undermine the eating disorder’s power.

Once you have named the underlying emotion, ask yourself what this emotion or sensation most needs. This is the time when the eating disorder often comes in and screams “ME! You need ME to save you from all this discomfort”.

But, the truth is, this is false! We don’t need the eating disorder. WE are enough for ourselves and WE are the source of our own self worth and happiness. What we need to do is create the environment to pacify these passing unpleasant emotions. And pass they will! Everything is impermanent – especially emotions. In fact, scientists have found that a single emotion has a lifespan of just 90 seconds. It’s our reaction to the emotion that causes it appear to last forever.

2Create the environment for your eating disorder recovery:

This intervention can sometimes be the hardest to implement. It requires setting boundaries and taking agency over our personhood. Every individual is unique. For me, when I asked myself what I needed most, it was almost always to feel accepted, beautiful, enough, and at ease. I realized that I had to cultivate these feelings for myself because the notion that someone else’s approval or validation could do it for me, or that controlling my food perfectly would help cultivate these feelings was not a reality. So, I created a ritual that I do everyday to cultivate these positive emotions. As you read my ritual below, see what ideas you can incorporate as you cultivate these feelings for yourself.

ONE

5 minutes of meditation minimum. Sometimes I meditate closer to 45 minutes. I meditate sitting up on a chair, a cushion, or laying down. As long as the time is spent in silence it doesn’t matter how or where you meditate. When your mind wanders (as it will!) gently redirect your focus to your breath.

TWO

Gratitude journaling or saying 3 things I am grateful for – out loud to myself .

THREE

Re-integration Exercise (RIE) – I say aloud or write in my journal 3 fears, judgements, criticisms, or worries that I have for that day and reword them as positive affirmations.

RIE helps to bring shame out of the shadows and deflates any power the eating disorder can use to dig its claws into your vulnerable psyche. RIE allows us to develop intimacy with and get to know our darker emotions. Ultimately, this allows authentic self love and personal strength to emerge.

Examples of Reintegration Exercise (RIE) at work, as it relates to eating disorder recovery:
Thought:
“I am worried that I won’t be able to control my eating”
RIE:
“I will choose my food with love and eat mindfully until I am satisfied. I trust that I am nourishing my body with what it needs.”

Thought:
“I look fat in all my holiday clothing”
RIE:
“My body is a temple and does amazing things. It deserves garments to reflect its beauty and purpose.”

FOUR

Stand outside and look at the sun for 5 minutes. Vitamin D is a powerful mood and esteem booster.

FIVE

Essential oils: Tangerine, Geranium, Siberian Fur and Bergamot amplify the virtues of acceptance, joy, purpose, self love, and trust.

For my oils, I partner with DoTerra. Their oils are of the highest quality and optimally sourced. If you are interested in incorporating oils into your life, feel free to reach out to me for more information.

Below is a recipe you can enjoy:
In a 10ml bottle, add
Bergamot 10 drops
Tangerine 5 drops
Geranium 5 drops
Siberian Fir 5 drops

3Visualization:

First, imagine yourself in any uncomfortable situation. After that, try to get as detailed as possible so as to feel in your body the sensations and mind states associated with the experience that may trigger uncomfortable feelings. Discern what you would need to feel safe, and take measures to have those items around. If setting a boundary is what you would need, take responsibility, communicate, and be proactive to ensure your comfort. The goal is to remove as many unknowns as possible and prepare for discomfort you cannot avoid.

Is Your Loved One Recovering From an Eating Disorder this Passover?

Eating disorders, and disordered eating patterns such as binge eating disorder and restrictive/aversive eating, are pervasive. And, although they prey primarily on one person, the ramifications of their insidiousness affects the entire family system.

Therefore, it is imperative for families to recognize that the eating disorder is a tumor within their loved one and that they are suffering, even if they don’t appear to be. Individuals suffering from eating disorders are often sensitive and have a need to appear perfect, appease, and project an image of complete self reliance. This is often a facade and if not recognized, certain behaviors and expectations from family members will only serve to exacerbate the disorder.

What can you do to support the eating disorder recovery of your loved one?

    • Take measures to show you understand his/her needs and emotions without criticism, judgement or pressure.
    • Don’t ignore the eating disorder’s presence, pretending it isn’t there and encouraging your loved one to acquiesce to an agenda. This is only going to strengthen the eating disorder’s hold.
    • Refrain from commenting on the food or appearance of your loved one.
    • Be mindful of your own language around the food you eat and your body image.
    • Steer clear from commenting on the appearances or meals of other people.
    • Create connection and joy through non food related activities like board / card games and leisurely nature walks.
    • Refrain from blaming yourself or anyone in the family system for causing, perpetuating, or triggering the mental illness.
    • Gently suggest for your loved one to reach out to their support team (therapist, nutritionist, etc.) when needed.

Ultimately the biggest weapon you have in supporting your loved one is showing them that they can trust you and be safe with you. Demonstrate that you care about their needs and comfortability and will support them in creating a space where they can feel seen, loved, and accepted for who they are.

Join the conversation for more support:

Shidduchim and general eating disorders discussion

Challenges that make eating well hard

For more insight and hope:

Are You an Emotional Eater?

In Pursuit of Thinness: It’s Not About the Food

About the author:

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thank you so much for your article. It was written in such a clear and sensitive way.
    Your tips are really great, and I would like to try and incorporate them.
    I really appreciate you posting this. Its extremely helpful to know your not alone and to feel validated for a struggle many aren’t sensitive to like you are.
    Thanks.

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