Jennifer Rollin’s interview with Eating Disorder Therapist Dr. Stephanie Waitt continues.
Jennifer: What were some of your motivations in terms of pushing yourself in recovery?
Stephanie; I was motivated by my family and my husband. I saw people living their best lives and I wanted that too. I wanted to accomplish goals and live my dreams, and I realized I didn’t need to change my body size to do that.
I was motivated by being my own boss and starting my own private practice. Once I moved away from my disordered eating, I had more time to focus on personal and professional goals. I was motivated by myself.
It sounds so cliche’ especially because fitness lifestyle folks like to use that phrase, but for once I think I understood what this meant. It meant that I was strong enough and brave enough to put myself out there, dream, and that I was enough to start making dreams a reality.
I also learned a lot about myself and a lot about life. For me. I was always chasing a final destination. I was wanting to “arrive” but I learned that you never “arrive.” Life is a journey, (again another cliche’ phrase), but I was able to understand its meaning differently.
Life will change, and ebb and flow, and rather than chase after a result, I could focus on living in the moment. This moment was going to help me move closer to dreams and goals I have. Living in the moment is a really hard concept to practice and learn but as I moved away from my eating disorder, it became easier.
I was able to focus on being IN my body rather than focus ON my body. Instead of worrying about my weight or physical flaws I was able to focus on the experience, the people I was with, and what I was doing. This gives life a different purpose because I saw that I live, have fun, and achieve success with my body just as it is.
Jennifer: What was the most helpful for you in terms of your recovery (i.e. specific skills, tools, treatment)?
Stephanie: Therapy is wonderful. I had a therapist say to me once, “Stephanie, you need to find a balance” and I think this helped me see that “health” is not about obsessing and anxiety. Health is about taking care of your body and your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
My spirituality was another vital tool in my recovery and my relationship with my Higher Power helped me heal my self-worth. Some of my favorite tools are ACT and DBT. It was important for me to learn that you cannot always change the way that you feel. There are events and things in life that truly suck, life hurts, and I was entitled to feel all these emotions.
Feeling these emotions were not bad or wrong. My eating disorder was keeping me from my right to experience upset emotion. Learning to accept upset emotions and then have tools to keep myself functioning and safe during that upset has made me a stronger and more rational person.
Jennifer: How is your life in recovery (or recovered) different from your life in an eating disorder? What would you say are some of the benefits of recovery?
Stephanie: In my eating disorder I was a pretty dull person. I only talked about food and working out. That consumed my conversations with family and friends. I had friends but I felt alone, I felt different.
Without my eating disorder, I am more connected to people. I have the mental and emotional space to connect with friends. I am able to travel the world and enjoy the most amazing foods ever. I went to Italy and ate a meal that literally made me cry tears of joy. Had I still been in my eating disorder, I would have packed food or not eaten the meals I did on this trip because I would have had to stay on my “meal plan.”
I think memories are richer now. I still have anxiety and stress, but I feel more competent to handle those (things). There is no more shame around experiencing these emotions. The benefits of being recovered is that I can be me and be okay. I can be Stephanie Waitt, flaws, quirks, screw ups, and still be a contributing, fun, connected, and worthy human being.
Jennifer: What are some of your favorite recovery resources? (i.e. books, articles, podcasts)?
Stephanie: There are so many great resources for recovery. Even though I feel strong in my recovery, I still like a big dose of recovery “resources” from time to time. I particularly enjoy the podcasts: Bodylove Project by Jessi Haggerty; Fearless Rebelle Radio with Summer Innannen; Food Psych podcast with Christy Harrison; and Nutrition Matters by Paige Smathers.
My favorite book to refer to clients is “Brave Girl Eating.” I think it does an excellent job explaining how an eating disorder takes over a person’s mind.
My other favorite books are “Health At Every Size,” “The Body Is Not An Apology,” and “Intuitive Eating.” There are so many wonderful books and resources out there. Thank God for warriors before me that realized the uniqueness of this disease and fought to get information out there. These resources are literally saving lives.
For more information, see www.texomaspecialtycounseling.com/online-recovery-coaching/ .