negative thoughts

A Quick Flash of Positive Thinking

You know that feeling when you’re trapped in a cycle of negativity? You know that continually thinking about the worst thing that could possibly happen isn’t going to do you any favors, and that if you could break the circle of dark thoughts you’d feel better. But knowing it and doing anything about it are two really different things. And so you end up lying on the couch running through the same five or six thoughts for minutes that feel like hours, or hours that feel like minutes.

“I should be [exercising/working/getting up and talking to people/ eating/ not eating/ building Rome in a day], but I’m too tired and lazy and worthless to do it.”

“Everything I do is wrong. Why should I even try?”

“Maybe if I just stay on the couch forever, no one will know what a failure I am.”

“I’m worthless. I’m hopeless. I’m horrible.”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

And the kicker is, you start feeling bad about yourself for feeling bad (or, as you like to call it during times like this, “wallowing” or “whining” or “making a big deal out of nothing”). And nothing’s going to come out of that except feeling worse.

Been there, my friend. Been there.

And so, on this lazy Sunday morning (I wish it was lazy, I’m actually sitting in a library trying to write a paper about Simone de Beauvoir and nature as a metaphor for a Garden-Of-Eden-esque take on sexuality…), I thought I’d share some of my favorite flashes of positivity. Some of these are images that I’ve seen on friends’ Facebook pages or Tumblrs, some are quotes that I love, and some are videos and pictures that never fail to make me smile.

Consider this my early Thanksgiving gift to you. Crack a smile. Be kind to yourself. We all deserve kindness.






tumblr_mwfcblcAdg1rpu8e5o1_500Gifs That Will Make You Laugh Every Time

51 Corgi Gifs That Have Changed The World

28 Of The Best Animal Photobombs Of All Time

(Particularly this one…)smosh-13




And, lastly but not lastly, my go-to YouTube video every time I’m upset… This probably has about eight million views on it, and most of them are from me.


Hang in there. No matter what you have going on in your life, you are strong and wonderful and important and you can do it.

You can do it.

Happy Sunday!


The Voice in the Mirror: Confronting Negative Self-Talk

Image via

Image via

I received a comment on one of my posts a few days ago that I can’t stop thinking about, and it made me want to address a topic that I’ve danced around a few times but have never gone into concretely.

What do you do when, even though you know that you are at a healthy weight, you can’t stop the voices from telling you otherwise? How do you take control of your own mind again?

I wish there were an easy answer to this.

The most insidious element of any eating disorder is that it takes place in your own head. One of the biggest misconceptions about EDs is that they’re about food: they’re not. They manifest themselves in our relationships with food, but they’re not caused by the piece of pizza sitting on the plate in front of you. They originate in our heads, and once they take root they’re incredibly difficult to get rid of. How many of you have heard that whispering voice in your head, when you least expect it?

You look horrible today. Take off those jeans, they make you look like a whale.

You can never be as skinny as she is, because you’re fat and you can’t stop eating.

Don’t you dare eat that. You don’t deserve it.

You’re a failure. Everything you try is a failure. Just stay in the house and don’t talk to anyone, they don’t like you anyway.

The most infuriating part about these voices? It’s almost like we’re all expected to have them. According to a semi-recent study by Glamour magazine (let’s not talk about how Glamour may or may not be perpetuating the problem and focus on the results…), a terrifying 97% of women have at least one negative thought about their body every day, with the average number of body-negative thoughts coming in at 13. That’s pretty much one negative thought for every waking hour. Oh, it’s 3:00. Time to hate my body again.

What are these negative thoughts doing for us? Only making it more difficult to live our lives to our full potential. If you’ve ever tried to drive with a nervous passenger, you know that constant judgment and critique makes you perform worse than you ordinarily would. And if you get stressed and inefficient in this basic situation, think about how much worse it becomes when you never get a break.


Like I said, I wish there were an easy answer to reclaiming your inner thought-space. But even a year into active recovery, there are still more moments than I’d like to admit when the voices pop up again. I’m not that far off the average, let’s put it that way.

There is a difference, though, between hearing and listening.

Here are three tips for taking back control of your mental soundtrack:

1. Externalize the Demons

Remember when you were five or six years old, and your older brother would take your hand and smack it against your chest while taunting, “Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself?” (I hope I’m not the only one with this childhood trauma…)

Did you believe for a second that you were actually the one causing yourself pain? Of course not. It was the external force of the antagonist hurting you, not you. Negative self-talk is the same way.

You are not the voices in your head.

Can you think of moments when you distinctly heard your own voice? Maybe it was a reaction to a book or a TV show that you love. Maybe it was how you felt in a conversation with a loved one. Maybe it’s the gentle drift of consciousness you slip into while laying in the sun doing absolutely nothing. Get to know this voice. Recognize it when you hear it. And then recognize when you don’t.

Some people find it helpful to name their negative voices to see them as detached from themselves. Jenni Schaefer uses this strategy in her book Life Without Ed, to great success. It’s not you that’s insulting you, it’s the voice of your eating disorder, which Schaefer called “Ed” for the obvious reason. For most people, it’s easier to reject being insulted by someone else than to challenge your own cognitions.

Personally, I never found naming the voice helpful, though it does work for many. However, I do have an image of a person in my mind to whom I associate my negative thought-track. I know exactly what my eating disorder would look like, if it were a person. This might sound weird, and heaven forbid I ever meet someone who looks like this, but it’s helpful in creating distance between self-care and self-destruction.

You are not your eating disorder. Step one is learning to tell the difference.

2. Pay Attention

Remember when I said earlier that eating disorders are not about food, but food is a manifestation of a different psychological problem? Negative self-thought, likewise, is not caused by there being something actually wrong with your body. It’s a manifestation of emotions that takes itself out on your body. And that’s not fair.

Notice what you’re doing when your negative voices come into play. What else is going on in your life? Are you taking on a lot of new projects at work? Is there an illness or another stressful event going on with your friends or family? Are you nervous about work, family, responsibility, being judged by others? Are you sleeping enough? Are you physically feeling ill?

I used to reject this advice out of hand, because I thought it made me sound hysterical and irrational. Obviously it’s about my body, I would tell myself, I’m not making this up! I feel fat and out of control and horrible because I am fat and out of control and horrible.

But with a little distance and mindfulness, I’m starting to notice patterns. When is my negative self-talk the worst? During big transitional moments. Travel. Beginning of the university semester. Moving. Family illness. New responsibilities. Any time I think I’m not going to be able to measure up. And so I take that stress out in the easiest way I know how: body hatred.

That’s not fair. And it’s impossible to deal with an issue if you’re avoiding it.

Not that the solution is easy in any case, but it helps to be working on the right problem.

3. Learn to Say No

This can mean many things in recovery. Learning to say no to ED behaviors. Learning to say no to others who want to take advantage of you, and to take control of your own choices. But in this case, we need to learn to say no to the voices in our head.

Sometimes out loud, if necessary.

Often, when we get caught up in mental negativity, it’s almost impossible to find the off switch. The spiral of thoughts goes on and on, getting darker and darker, until soon you feel so terrible about yourself that you don’t even want to get out of bed. One thought builds on another, until they’ve formed an unbreakable chain of horrible things.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Negative thoughts are powerful, but they can be stopped.

Just say “no.”

No, I am not going to listen to you today.

No, you’re wrong, there is nothing wrong with me.

No, I do deserve to eat, because you have to eat to be alive.

No, I am beautiful.

It’s not always appropriate to say these things out loud (it might look weird at a dinner party, for instance), but it’s helpful to hear your own voice if at all possible. Your voice is the real one that you can hear with your ears. It exists. The voices in your head? Not real. Why would you listen to something that doesn’t really exist?

If you can’t vocally throw a wrench in the works of negative self-talk, try movement. When I’m eating out (still difficult sometimes) and get stuck in self-doubt, I like to shake my head quickly, just to myself. It can look like it’s part of a conversation, or just a little shiver, but I know what it means. It means no, I’m not going to listen to what I’m hearing. I don’t need to believe it. No. You’re wrong.

You are a human being with your own beliefs, opinions, and knowledge about the world. You are allowed to disagree with people who are saying things you know to be wrong. And that includes yourself.

Progress is slow, and it’s difficult, and often it’s two steps forward and one step back.

But hopefully someday, the only voices any of us will be hearing will be our own.

Vigilante Positivity: Coping Strategies and Relaxation


I realized it’s been a little while since I took up a cheerful topic with you all… It’s easy enough to get caught up in negativity, especially with fantastic people like Abercrombie & Fitch running amok in society, or with every third commercial on TV advertising some pre-packaged diet plan that ships food to your doorstep (more on that later, I’m sure). Although it’s productive to focus on the negativity so that we can pinpoint things we’d like to see changed, it can be a little wearing.

And by “a little wearing,” I mean exhausting.

Whether it’s from reading the news headlines, being exposed to media that’s trying to make money off of your low self-esteem, or negativity that’s coming from within yourself, we all need strategies to pull back when things get too difficult. Taking a break from thinking about problems isn’t giving in, and it isn’t hiding. It’s so important to think about your mental health and give yourself some time to breathe, zone out, and do something you enjoy. Even President Obama still enjoys a game of pick-up basketball now and again, and if you think he doesn’t have enough to worry about…

But stepping back and relaxing is easier said than done. Sometimes negativity can seem so overwhelming that you don’t feel like you deserve to enjoy yourself, or you can’t even remember what you used to do that made you feel good. Trust me. I’ve been there. It’s a vicious cycle of feeling bad because you feel too bad to make yourself feel better.

That’s why this edition of Vigilante Positivity is about coping mechanisms.

Now, I’m sure many of you have read lists of ways to relax or to distract yourself from the urge to engage in behaviors. They’re not difficult to find: for example, you can check some out here, here, and here.

My problem was always that reading a list of ways to relax always felt disingenuous, like it was written for someone other than me. Write positive affirmations and put them in a shoebox? I was already tired of being treated like I was eight. Learn to garden? Okay, I wasn’t in a retirement home yet, and besides, my home state is notorious for being 80 degrees one day and snowing the next. I wasn’t ready to sign up to be a plant murderer.

What I’ve learned might seem like an unproductive topic for a blog post, but it’s true nonetheless: all the lists in the world won’t help you until you find what actually works for you. Sometimes you have to go out on a limb and try something that feels stupid or unimportant, but no one can tell you what strategies will work for you other than yourself.

Discovering ways to help you feel good about yourself and relax is a huge step in the recovery process. I’ve gotten to know myself better since I started actively searching for things I enjoyed and evaluating what I did and why I did it. It’s a way to explore what you can do, not what you look like. And it doesn’t have to be limited to coping with eating disordered behaviors. You can use the strategies that you discover for any stressful situation. (Hello, college exam week.)

Even though I’ve just said that you need to find what works for you, I hope it might be helpful for me to share the strategies that I turn to on a regular basis when I’m stressed, sad, or overwhelmed. I’m not perfect at this; anyone who knows me will tell you that I have my days when I just want to sit around and feel sorry for myself. (I call them Wallowing Wednesdays, because I’m a sucker for alliteration.) But these strategies help. And I hope that you’ll find what you need to help you as well.



I know, I just said that I wasn’t in a retirement home yet. But there’s something oddly centering about having something to do with my hands but not with my mind. It’s the repetitive motion that I enjoy, and it makes it totally okay to zone out and think about nothing. I’m especially fond of knitting while watching terrible TV, because even if I am wasting three hours watching Real Housewives of New Jersey, at least I have a hat to show for it at the end.

And on a side note, I’ve been knitting relatively actively for the past three years, and last week I finished the first hat that I actually had any desire to wear myself. (I’ve been donating the rest to charity.) A sign that I’m improving? It’s fulfilling, anyway.


This is a recent addition, because I just received a subscription for online streaming for my birthday, but this is just a more convenient rendition of a previous item: searching the Internet for free streaming of TV shows or movies. They don’t have to be of any good intellectual quality; actually, sometimes I find it’s more relaxing if they’re not. Taking an hour or two to escape from reality and enjoy someone else’s melodramatic life without being counted on to engage with the other person in any way is extremely satisfying for me.

If you’re at a loss for TV shows to lose yourself in, here are some of my personal recommendations (this is a no judgment zone, remember!): Downton Abbey, Sherlock, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, The Tudors. (That last one is a recent love of mine… I’ve watched four episodes in the past two days. No judgment zone!!)


I’m extremely lucky in that my mother signed me up for piano lessons when I was five and made me stick with it until I learned to love it (around age eight). Music doesn’t involve thinking in words, but it’s a completely engaging emotional experience. If you don’t play an instrument, it’s never too late to try and learn one! Listening to your favorite music is just as effective. Even if you don’t have time to really disengage and relax, listening to music during your commute or while at work, if possible, can really change your outlook. If you want to listen to something soothing, I’ve discovered fabulous hour-long YouTube mixes of classical music or instrumental world music that are great for getting rid of stress.


Not going to lie, this is my go-to. My emotional fuse gets proportionally shorter along with how sleep-deprived I am. The less sleep I get, the smaller my personal space bubble gets, the less patience I have for anything, and the more cataclysmic the smallest setbacks seem. When I wasn’t getting nearly enough sleep between work and stress, I lost one sock in the dryer and it felt like the world was going to end.

It’s important that we take care of our bodies, and while that tends to get conflated with behaviors that, if taken to the extreme, can exacerbate eating disorders, that also means listening to our bodies and giving them what they need when they’re asking for it. If that means rest, make sure you rest.

Take a warm shower with nice-smelling body wash or shampoo (I have aromatherapy honey vanilla shower gel, and I credit that with the recent love I’ve developed for showering), put on comfortable clothes (you all already know about my love affair with sweatpants), and curl up in bed. It doesn’t really matter what time it is. If it’s in the afternoon, set an alarm to go off in an hour and a half. If it’s later, don’t worry about going to bed earlier than you usually do. One night of relaxing won’t kill you.

Coloring pages

I’m here to contradict myself, apparently. I’m tired of being treated like I’m eight years old, and yet one of my favorite coping strategies is coloring pages. I can’t really explain it. It’s just another mindless activity to do with my hands. A psychologist might analyze it as a way to regain control, in a world where everything turns out like I want it to and everything fits within the lines. I don’t really care what a psychologist would say, though. It works, and I’m keeping it. You can find some of my favorite sites for free black-and-white printouts here and here.

Animal Videos

I really don’t think I need to explain this. It works 85% of the time for me. Maybe it’s a mark of shallowness on my part, but seriously there’s something about a cat dressed as a shark chasing a duck or screaming goats dubbing pop songs that makes life seem less serious.

Those are just a few of my personal favorite ways to relax and step away from stress and negativity. What are yours? Share them in the comments!

Fear and Clothing in Las Vegas

Image via simplerabbitsociety

Image via simplerabbitsociety

Well, folks, it happened. I went shopping today.

I promise this isn’t going to become one of those oversharing moments where I tell you what I made for breakfast this morning, what time I woke up, and what setting I turned the washing machine to when I did laundry in the afternoon. This isn’t as mundane as it sounds. Actually, it’s one of the biggest victories I’ve had in the past couple of weeks, arising as it did out of one of my biggest setbacks.

But before I can explain why the plastic bag sitting on my bed from JCPenny is brag-worthy, I’m going to need to back up a little bit. Let’s do a wide-angle shot and include the time of year in our considerations. It is currently May 5th. In my region of the US, this indicates absolutely nothing for certain about the weather. As a measuring stick, about nine days ago it was snowing. Today, it is 75 degrees and gorgeous. So I’m not complaining about the sudden change from permafrost to summer. Not at all.

It’s just that I had nothing to wear.

I began my unsettlingly high-speed recovery from anorexia sometime around September, and in the ensuing eight or nine months my body shape has changed dramatically. I’m not going to describe this in numbers, because I know as well as any the unreasonable power numbers can have to ruin somebody’s day, but let’s talk ratios to give some kind of understanding about how big a change this was: since September, my body weight has increased by about 50%. Yep, you read that right. Take how much I weighed in September, divide it in half, add one of those halves on top, and that’s where I am now.

So needless to say, the shorts and tanktops I was wearing in July and August… well, they didn’t fit so well when the thermometer topped 80 on Wednesday. And so there’s a giant pile of old clothes sitting in my front hallway, waiting for me to take them to Goodwill. (I will get to this. I swear.)

Strangely, throwing out the old clothes that wouldn’t have fit without me detaching a limb wasn’t particularly difficult. Those pants and shorts are connected in my mind with a time that was not exactly my high point, and I’m glad that my body has come a long way since then. I don’t expect to fit into the same clothes that I wore in the height of my disorder. I understood that I was going to have to go out and buy new ones.

But understanding and accomplishing are two entirely different cans of worms.

My life story

My life story

Let’s just say that today was not the first day this week I set out to buy a few pairs of shorts. That first time… was not pretty. I’ve been pretty much living in yoga pants for the past few months, except for the two pairs of Levi’s a friend of mine sent me in the mail because they were the wrong size for her and which were close enough to fitting me to be getting on with. But I’ve deliberately avoided trying on pants for at least five months, because I just wasn’t ready to handle knowing what pants size I was.

And not only was I not the pants size I thought I was, I was also not the pants size bigger than that. Which, you know, was a lovely surprise to discover in a crowded Target dressing room. I went home empty-handed, still wearing jeans despite the weather, and a royal emotional mess. Exactly how I like to spend my Wednesdays.

There was more going on here, obviously, than none of the shorts I grabbed fitting. I’m okay with gaining weight from a year ago, but I won’t pretend to be fully recovered. There’s definitely a point over which I did not want to go, and discovering that I’d crossed the point was a little rough to take. (Okay, a lot rough.) I felt lied to: they always said that I wouldn’t get fat, I’d just gain weight! What’s going on here? I’ll never wear shorts again.

Obviously, there’s a turning point to this story, and it comes from the most unlikely source imaginable. I feel weird typing the name, because she’s the person who probably least deserves to be mentioned in this blog, and I actually just finished editing an article that talks (indirectly) about how much I hate her. But what are you going to do? This story finds its happy ending thanks to The Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels.

I know. You all just did a giant double-take. Sorry for anybody I gave whiplash to.

Over the course of the year, I’ve totally burned myself out on my ordinary exercise routine, and so I’ve been searching for alternatives that are at least mildly entertaining. Most of these came from YouTube, and one of the workouts that gave me the most satisfaction for my time frame was a cardio workout with Jillian herself. Now, I still don’t like her as a trainer. I think her strategies of fat-shaming her clients and her tough, abrasive, “Exercise should make you want to die” demeanor is terrible and shouldn’t be condoned. (But that’s a tangent. No tangents here.) The point is, I did her workout routine this morning, and as I sat on the floor in front of my computer, covered in sweat and pretty much feeling like a hot mess, a thought that I don’t have that often drifted across my mind.

You know what? You just made it through that whole workout. Kid, that’s really hard. Good for you. Clearly you’re in pretty good shape.

I praised myself. I saw the results of my exercise coming through in fitness, not in weight loss. I said something nice to myself, which hadn’t happened since the Target Fiasco of May 2013. And then another thought followed the first ones:

You know what else? It’s hot outside. This is stupid. Go buy yourself some shorts.

And I did. In the next hour. Before I changed my mind and chickened out.

I’m not pretending the shopping trip was perfect. It could’ve been an episode of Supermarket Sweeps: throw a bunch of shorts into your dressing room, fling them on over your hips as quick as you can, do a quick scan in the mirror to make sure nothing’s hanging out that shouldn’t be, slip your jeans back on, pay, and get back to the car. Twenty minutes, tops.

Still, I’m laying on my couch right now enjoying the 75-degree breeze in a brand-new pair of shorts. And they only cost me $10, and they’re neon orange for a bit more pizazz. Sure, they’re not the size I’d hoped they would be, and sure, my legs don’t look exactly like I’d like them to in them. Thank God I don’t live by the beach, because I’m not sure I have the stamina to go through bikini shopping right at the moment.

Nobody else is going to be looking at my legs but me. I’ll keep working on looking at them a little more nicely as I hang out on the back porch and let my legs see sunlight for the first time in nine months.

Has anybody else dealt with a similar problem shopping after recovery? Any tips or advice that you’d like to share? Is there anything else you’d like me to talk about in future posts? I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.

You Matter Too: Overcoming Problem Shaming


“Destructive Thoughts” by coweetie

For me, and for all other Americans, this has been a pretty rough week. Start with the bombing of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon, speed through a wave of xenophobic finger-pointing and misinformation about potential suspects, add a catastrophic explosion killing at least fourteen in West, Texas, and then culminate in Friday’s shootout-slash-car-chase-slash-manhunt-slash-media-circus around the apprehension of the bombing suspect, and it’s no wonder that suddenly I’m lost in a glass case of confusing emotions right now.

And as if this all wasn’t enough, exams and final papers are coming up for me right now, my weight still refuses to stabilize, and I have an appointment with a nutritionist in four days.

If those two paragraphs sounded like problems that really shouldn’t be mentioned in the same blog post, then welcome to the conflicted world of what I like to call Problem Shaming.

I don’t know if there’s a technical name for Problem Shaming, but here’s the basic three-step overview:

  • Something bad happens to you.
  • Your problem is thrust into comparison with another problem on a more widespread scale.
  • You feel selfish, petty, and terrible about yourself.

you-are-bad-and-you-should-feel-bad2Yes, friends, Problem Shaming is essentially a glorified way of describing feeling bad about yourself for feeling bad about yourself. If there’s a less productive cycle in the world, I’ve yet to find it.

In my case, I’ve had nothing but horrific experiences with nutritionists in the past. I wasn’t particularly keen on going back for another go-round in the Nutritionist Torment Spin Cycle, but both my parents and my GP were behind me on this one, she came highly recommended, and she was very kind to me when I expressed my concerns over email. So although I’m still asking myself at least once a day what on Earth I’ve gotten myself into, there’s still a glimmer of hope there.

And then this week happened, and I’m left feeling scared, threatened, disgusted, unnerved, and, above all, ridiculous.

What am I doing wasting valuable energy worrying about my weight when people across the country are losing their lives or gravely injured?

How selfish can I possibly be?

Don’t you realize that no one cares about your petty self-centered little problems?

Why don’t you just get over yourself and accept that no one gives a damn how fat you’ve gotten, because there are more important things in the world than your feelings?

bad_thoughts_by_nekolizI put these thoughts in italics because this isn’t me thinking. This is my eating disorder talking.

This is the same voice that tells me that I don’t deserve to eat, and I don’t deserve to relax and take a day off of exercise.

This is the same voice that reminds me constantly that I am worthless and that no one is interested in my problems.

This voice is wrong.

Whether in this specific instance or in any issues that arise in your daily lives, we are entitled to our feelings. We are allowed to feel sad, scared, and frustrated when things beyond our control happen in our daily lives, regardless of how small or insignificant they may seem to others. In fact, it would be a more serious problem if we refused to register any emotions about our lives. What kind of existence lives on emotional level zero every second of every day? Our ability to feel makes us human, whether those emotions are positive or negative.

Problem Shaming crops up an unsettling amount of the time around eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia are written off as “First World Problems,” a pseudo-disease given to rich young suburban white girls with nothing better to do than look at themselves in the mirror and complain about “oh my God I’m soooo fat right now.” A legitimate mental illness is treated as a personality flaw and a selfish problem constructed for attention, and those dealing with this problem aren’t able to get the help they need.

But eating disorders are serious problems, just as any other problem going on in the world right now, on any level, is serious. Anorexia nervosa has a 20% fatality rate, the highest of any mental illness. I dare you to tell me that’s not serious.

Sometimes I don’t want to be in touch with my emotions. Last night, watching the news and texting a friend, I sent the following message:

I don’t want to live on this planet anymore. I just want to escape to a magical world without any other people, only cats wearing amusing hats.

No seriously, please?

No seriously, please?

And while I think this would give me a lot less emotional torment in the long run, we can’t hide from our emotions or our reactions, either to things in the outside world or in our own personal lives. And neither set of emotions is more valuable than the other.

You are worth taking care of, and your problems are worth thinking about. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t ever forget that you matter.