Passion vs. Professionalism: The Middle Path

The other day, I was at a doctor’s appointment for an upcoming shoulder surgery. He did the routine “deep breath-in, deep breath-out” six times and handed me a slip of paper to sign to consent for my body to accumulate some fancy new hardware. As I was signing, he asked me quickly, “Oh, and by the way, you seem really healthy. But is there any serious medical diagnosis you haven’t shared with me?” I casually put my pen down and said, “Oh yeah, that one thing! I had an eating disorder for a decade.” The look on my medical doctor’s face was priceless. He looked at me as if I had just transfigured into a ghost.

Eating disorder. Yes. An eating disorder.

His knee-jerk response was, “But you’re all good with that now…it’s not a problem or anything, right? You can eat and stuff?” Mildly amused, I decided to take a minute to educate my doctor on the topic of eating disorders and share a little bit of my story with him where I believe we both walked away with a greater understanding for each other.

I’m not sharing this story, in any way, to highlight the faults of my doctor, or to make light of the situation. I hand-picked this doctor to do my shoulder surgery because he is one of the best in the region and is a wonderful man with a kind heart. The reason why I have decided to bring this story up is because I have been wrestling with the idea between hiding my personal life behind a professional lens and moving forward in my career as a professional rather than a survivor with a story. However, in the midst of everything, I have realized the importance for me, personally, to be honest and real about my struggle with an eating disorder because that’s why I care so much about the field and it’s the reason why I’m here. My story motivates me and gives me passion for what I do.

I absolutely adore Marsha Linehan (for many reasons) and her Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, because it highlights the idea of a middle path. Moving into the professional world, I have been stuck in a black and white situation, with great arguments to stay on either side. One side tells me I can teach others and offer hope in sharing my recovery story. The opponent argues the fear of entanglement and enmeshment between professionalism and self-serving work.

With the middle path in mind, how freeing is it that I do not have to choose and can simply be myself? The middle path can look different for everyone, but the middle path here means I can be both: a passionate survivor and a professional. I chose to work at Rooted Recovery because it offered freedom to do what I want and create what I want. With freedom also comes responsibility, and that is another beauty of the concept.

I value transparency and understand that recovery is challenging.

I see the need for connection and realize it’s hard to connect with a computer.

I respect professionalism and see it can be protective.

I understand an eating disorder and I understand recovery.

So let me be an ally, in whatever form that may be. Let me share my story and earnestly listen to yours. Let me be transparent and hold boundaries.

How many times in life do we find ourselves in a “but” situation that can truly be an “and” situation. We can struggle with an eating disorder and still feel happiness. We can have a stressful job and still love it. These absolutes placed by society and ourselves are concepts that do not have to be absolute. When we judge the percentage missing from our perceived goal, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

How often do we give up on something because we aren’t where we want to be? How often are we in the black or the white when we can walk the middle path? How many people do we shut out because of fear of vulnerability and opening up?

The beauty of entrepreneurship, in my opinion, is that it can be whatever I make it to be. I want this business to align with my values and to be a reflection of who I am. What ultimately led me to Rooted Recovery is the idea that it is different and holds opportunity for growth and diversity. I am non conventional and crave freedom- the opposite of what my eating disorder gave me for so many years. So, I am going to keep walking this middle path and see where it takes me.

Because the unknown is scary and beautiful. And I welcome it.


Reflection Journal: Connecting with Your Body

For those in recovery from an eating disorder, our bodies can feel foreign, uncomfortable, and may bear the pain of the negative thoughts and feelings we’re experiencing. This journal entry can help you grow more in touch with your body; hopefully, in a more loving and compassionate way.  For this entry, reflect upon an experience you’ve had. It can be big or small, short or long…whatever works best for you.  Once you have your experience in mind, write about it from the perspective of your body. Note how your senses were engaged in the experience. What did you see, smell, touch, and hear? Let your body guide you into the memory and take note of what it’s like to experience something connected to your body.  When you’re finished, you might notice how rich and wonderful it is to experience things in this way.  With any luck, you can take this newfound wisdom into your everyday life and recovery as well.

Reflection Journal: Letters to Myself

When I was preparing to leave graduate school, my supervisor gave me a wonderful gift. She had all of the students in my supervision class group write a letter to me dated 2020 where each one talked about my future self, work, hopes and dreams.  I can’t wait to see which of their predictions comes true.

In recovery, we often focus on the present moment. The past can’t be changed, nor can the future be predicted. However, there are lessons we can learn from the past and hopes we can have for the future.  For this journal entry, write a letter to your past self, letting them know of all the lesson’s you’ve learned and wisdom you’ve gathered throughout your recovery. Let them know that you know they have been hurting, but ensure them that you will find your way to recovery.  When you’ve written the letter to your past self, feel free to “ship it” to the past in whatever kind of ritual works for you (burning it, burying it, sealing the envelope, etc.).  You can also keep it, of course!

Once you’re done, write a letter from your future self to your present self celebrating your recovery, the changes in your life you’d like to see, and the challenges that may still be present (or are new).  Feel free to date the letter one year, five years, or ten years from now. If you remember, go ahead and open them on the date you’ve written. See what changes have come to pass or are in the works. What unanticipated changes will you find?

Finally, write a letter to your present self. Tap into some self-compassion and hope for the future. Whenever you need to, refer back to the letters to the past and the letter in the present moment to help you continue on your recovery journey.

Ten Steps to Better Body Image

It’s summer and body image struggles can often manifest with the pressure to have the “perfect beach body.” As we move through the height of the summer season, here are some things to keep in mind to help cultivate body positivity and a body image that shines…well, like the sun.

1. Cultivate Awareness. The first step to changing negative perceptions of our bodies is to be aware of the thoughts, judgments, and negative self-talk we engage in about our bodies. Being aware of not only how we think about ourselves, but how we may compare ourselves to others is the first step to changing negative thought patterns about our bodies.

2. Ditch the Media Blitz. Studies show that popular media forms (magazines, television shows, etc.) do have an impact on body image. The reality is less than 2% of the population naturally fits the beauty ideal, meaning that 98% of the population is built differently. This can lead to dissatisfaction and obsessions with meeting the beauty ideal. This, in turn, can lead to eating disorders, body dysmorphia and other struggles. It’s almost impossible to avoid the media blitz, but being savvy about what your watching and being critical of unhealthy images are great tools to counter the internalization of these messages. Turn your eye instead towards positivity and media that supports body diversity.

3. Dress for You. It’s true that what we wear can influence our mood. Dress for you and what makes you comfortable.

4. Surround Yourself with Body Positivity. This includes books, media, friends, and support groups that encourage body positivity. It’s easy to fall into negative patterns when those around you also struggle with negative self-talk and body image. Work together to build a community that encourages body diversity and body positivity.

5. Turn the Energy Outward. Stuck in your head? Feel good about your body by sharing your time and energy with others. Cultivate outside activities to help soothe anxiety and depression. Channel the negative self-talk into something positive.

6. Keep a 10:1 Ratio on Body Thoughts. For every negative thought you have, think of ten positive things about your body. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is a part of cognitive-behavioral therapy…and it works. More than that, though, you might just find that it’s easier just to think positively regularly, rather than have to accommodate those negative thoughts!

7. Cultivate Self-Care and Nourishing Practices. When you have an adversarial relationship with your body, it’s easy to fall into negative patterns. Instead, nourish your body with healthy habits including nutrition, exercise, pampering (massages, physical therapy, acupuncture, facials), and other forms of self-love. Your body is your one and only—love it.

8. No Negative Self-Talk! Go back to Step 1 and really develop that awareness of negative self-talk. Then apply Step 6 and begin replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk. If friends choose to engage in negative self-talk, choose to change the subject, or provide positive support. When you surround yourself with positivity, good things are bound to follow.

9. Cultivate Body-Objectivity. This goes for yourself and for others. Practice non-judgment about different bodies. Objective observations are part of the human condition, but comparisons can contribute to feeling negatively about ourselves and lead to lots of misconstrued assumptions. Remember, all bodies are beautiful and have value. That’s the only judgment you need!

10. Cultivate Self-Compassion. Everyone has bad days and days where we don’t feel good about ourselves. We all have days where things didn’t go our way. It’s okay. The next moment can always be better. Remember that imperfection is an essential part of being human and part of what makes you.

Have some more tips to share? Feel free to leave a comment below!