ADDICTION… THAT SNEAKY THING…

COFFEE ADDICTION

Did you catch my latest post on Instagram? I decided to share a little bit about my ex-addiction to caffeine. Did you know you can be addicted to caffeine? Well, you can! In fact, addiction to just about anything’s possible + it’s important to educate yourself on the dangers you might be exposing your mind + body to on a weekly or daily basis. Let me share a bit more…

Addiction to caffeine was something that started for me back in my early adulthood. I was working a full-time job as a nanny, a part-time job as a dance instructor, going to college full-time, oh… + did I mention I was cheering in the NFL too? Yup, I was always going. At the time, I didn’t think I needed caffeine to get by from day-to-day, just on particular occasions when I would find myself not getting adequate amount of rest or feeling a little groggy in the morning. Buuuut…. That changed quickly when my eating disorder started to spin out of control. I found myself constantly tired + lethargic after skipping meals, working out for hours on end, + purging just about everything I ate. I needed energy quick + caffeine became my fix. At first I turned to energy drinks, but then that wouldn’t do the trick, so I changed it up to Diet Coke… brilliant idea, right? I think I’ll just go off the record + tell you that was one of the worst ideas I ever had, like for real. I ended up drinking 1-2 cans of energy drinks per day + would consume anywhere from 4-10 cans of Diet Coke a day. Can you say insanity? Go ahead, I’ll say it with you…. it was insanity.

After a few months, I ended up with crazy bad stomach ulcers, having a terrible memory + fainting all over the damn place. I didn’t realize I had a problem though- to me caffeine was a SOLUTION. If you have been following my story, you know I sought professional help for my addiction to food, caffeine + exercise + I’ve been in recovery for 6 years now, however I learned so much while working on myself that I want to share this information. Addictions come in all forms, not just the ones you hear most about like drugs + alcohol. Addiction shows its ugly face in the form of caffeine, food, sex, shopping, gambling, stealing, video games (have you seen that new-ish game Fort Nite?! … omg…), not to mention opioids, exercise… the list goes on. The reason I share these things with you is because it is so easy to become dependent on something that can be a crutch to get you through your day.

I’d like to ask you to take the time to step back in your day + ask yourself if you really need the thing you’re doing or choosing to bring into your life. Is it that extra cup or two of coffee, that second doughnut or another handful of chips? What about online shopping again when you are just maxing out your credit card? I challenge you to become more mindful in your thoughts, actions + daily routine the rest of the week + into the weekend. Are you avoiding something with these behaviors or with your actions? I’ll tell you that I usually have 1-2 cups of coffee each day, + that second cup of coffee I’m really trying to pay attention to. Do I really need it or want it? Maybe it’s all in my head. Take the time to stop + think about it, you might surprise yourself + end up grateful for your newfound sense of awareness.

xoxo,

Ashley

RELATIONSHIP BOUNDARIES

relationship boundaries

What does it look like to set relationship boundaries? This was a concept I struggled with for years as I began my journey through eating disorder recovery. I was co-dependent, struggling with perfectionism, people-pleasing and wanted to be liked by everyone around me. I had no idea what it was like to say the word “no” without fearing rejection from the people I cared about. Enter boundary setting.

So what is it exactly? Boundary setting is being able to stand up for yourself in a respectable way while kindly acknowledging others around you. It can be saying “no” to a friend when you are invited to brunch, “no” to your significant other when they ask you to do something you might not want to do, or it can mean taking a break from a heated conversation with a family member when you need to walk away for a little while. When I first heard about his concept, I thought it was a flat-out bad idea. First of all, what is your family going to think if you step away from an important conversation? Or won’t your friends stop inviting you to outings if you reject their invitation for some quality “me” time? And for the record, I was ABSOLUTELY SURE that if I told my significant other I didn’t want to do something he wanted to do, like go out with his friends or go to a sporting event that I’d stop being a desirable partner.  Have you ever thought these things too? You’re not alone.

Through my recovery process, I was challenged in my personal beliefs quite a bit… + I hated many of those moments because they pushed the envelope on who I had been for most of my life. The belief that I needed to say “yes” to others was ingrained in me because I wanted to be liked, appreciated + loved by my family, friends + peers, like forever. My treatment team ensured me that if I didn’t stop thinking this way in all aspects of my life that my self-care + my own personal happiness would never be restored… but most importantly, I would never overcome my battle with my eating disorder if I didn’t change this behavior. Gritting my teeth, crying many tears + through a hell of a lot of resistance, I started to make slow changes. At first the change looked like saying “I’m really sorry, I can’t finish this conversation right now, is that ok?” Then, I would follow that sentence with a reason or another apology due to feeling guilt + shame, but mostly fear that this person wouldn’t care about me anymore. This process continued on for about 5 years- saying no in the most cryptic, apologetic, LAME way ever + having my own feelings + happiness jeopardized. It was uncomfortable + scary to even think about missing out on things that I was certain were making me an outsider, but then one day it just started to become easier.

I stopped feeling so terrible for saying I couldn’t make it to the birthday party, for telling a parent I don’t want to talk about a sensitive subject if they bring it up, or for missing out on a fun night out with my significant other + friends because I’m too tired from school or work on a Saturday night. I was sick of missing out on what I wanted to do. I wanted to be happy. Did any of these people love me less for the situation I created? Not to my knowledge! Sometimes I receive push back if I say no- but the truth is that I need to respect my own wants + needs. When I end up saying yes to everything, I end up exhausted, depressed, unappreciated + feeling empty. The truth is- every yes you agree to, you’re saying “no” to something else.

I will add that there are times you need to say yes when you might want to say no- that’s life. There’s also the reality that you can’t become a hermit, miss out on everything you’re ever invited to + say no to everyone all of the time. Setting boundaries is about finding a respectable balance between your life, the people you care about, + the priorities you set for yourself regarding what you want to do, how you want to be treated, + how you want to FEEL. By prioritizing your own needs + voicing them, you’re able to set effective boundaries to support the important relationships in your life, including the one you have with yourself. Take a look at your own patterns + tendencies this week. Are you a perfectionist, a people-pleaser, someone who is always exhausted from running to one person’s event to the next? If so, you might need to re-align your personal boundaries with a few people in your life. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person either- it just means that you might be a bit happier if you make a few adjustments.

xx,

Ashley

ADDICTION + EXERCISE

ADD PHOTO

When you think about addiction, what comes to mind? Alcohol? Drugs? Maybe Food? Something I never thought I would understand was when my Dr. told me I had an addiction to exercise in 2009. The truth is that I had been practicing the same behavior for years. I had always been an athlete since I was young. I loved pushing myself to new limits + it felt good to be strong. All of this was great until it wasn’t, though.

At the age of 20, I dove head-first into summer courses at my college + quickly noticed my time for exercise was dwindling down. I didn’t have that extra hour or 2 on my lunch break or after practice to get that cardio in or to hit the weights. My body was looking a little different as a result + I gained a few pounds. I became desperate to “get back to” where I used to be. I needed that gym time + I had to “lose the weight”. I hated the way I looked even though my clothes still fit. I was missing my 2-a-days + hated myself for what I had allowed to happen. Who was I becoming? This was when my eating disorder started catapulting from restricting + heavy exercise to bingeing + purging. Yikes.

When I saw Dr. Karp at my inpatient hospital in 2009, he told me I was an over-exerciser + that I was addicted to exercise. I was finding any waking moment to have an excuse to be alone to do sit ups, push ups, squats, you name it I was hiding this behavior from everyone just to get a chance to move + CHANGE MY BODY. I was in complete denial + insisted that working out + exercise was part of who I was. I hated that he didn’t understand that about me. As I worked through treatment for the next 5 years, I learned that I really did have a problem with exercise. I found myself arguing with my Registered Dietitian + bargaining with the point of time when I could get back to it. I started hating everyone who told me “No, it’s not the right time to exercise”. Even though I hated this response, I listened because each day I let go of my exercise regimen, the urge to actually exercise started going away. I found that letting go of the obsession to exercise a few hours a day allowed for me to let go of the holds I had on certain foods I allowed myself to eat + enjoy. This relationship seemed to go hand in hand with one another + I was happy to see that maybe my treatment team was right. I had a problem + I needed to fix it.

While I was able to change my relationship with exercise, the way my body looked as a result of giving it up was another story. I probably gained 20 pounds, needed to go up a few jean sizes, my face was round, my thighs rubbed together when I walked + I was absolutely mortified when I looked in the mirror- I couldn’t look at myself. But something changed with this shift in my life. I started to love myself more because I was forced to look inside of me instead of looking for something to escape my emotions. Ever had the need to just go for a run when you had a bad day at work? That’s what I did all the time, except when I was happy, sad, angry, in pain, feeling love- you name it. I got pretty down to earth with what was most important to me + as a result, I was eventually able to go back to exercise within a reasonable timeline. At first, it started with 3, 30 minute walks per week (I hated this). Then I was allowed to use a treadmill or stair master 20 minutes at a time, 3 days a week as long as I didn’t go crazy + could remain exercising at a reasonable timeframe. Introducing those timelines + learning to balance a good pace helped me to learn I didn’t always have to push it to the limit because that was all I knew. I had to be open to make these changes to have a healthy relationship with exercise again.

I now exercise when I want to. If I find myself feeling the “need” to hit the gym, go for a run or lose a few pounds, I shy away from exercise all together because that’s how my addiction slowly creeps back in. Ever heard about an alcoholic not being able to have another drink or it snowballs? Yep, it’s kind of the same mentality with exercising. I only do it when it feels good- not when I need to take the edge off. I am starting to slowly introduce a few things back into my routine + it feels really good! I was able to run my first half-marathon with my best friend last spring + I proved to myself that I can train for something + have a good relationship with it. I did have to skip a few days because I was craving that run + feeling the sweat down my face + that’s ok.

I have been hesitant to share this story + my relationship with exercise for a long time because I knew I had to give it up to gain my life back + truly recover. I didn’t want to share triggering pictures or topics to my readers working to recover too. But the truth is- it’s important to know there is an end to the madness if you work hard for it. You don’t have to give up things you enjoy forever- sometimes it’s just for a period of time until you can prove to yourself that you can change + grow. I’m happy to share that I’ve made amazing shifts in my life since conquering my addiction to exercise + if you have an addiction, I’m sure there is a way you can overcome your obstacle too. Keep fighting.

xx,

Ashley

“NEDA” HELP OTHERS RECOVER TOO

NEDA Walk post

It’s been 1 year since I first publicly shared my story of my eating disorder on social media. It was January 2017 when I saw that the annual National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) walk was coming to Phoenix, AZ again + I had been invited to walk on the team for the hospital I was treated at. For 8 years, I ignored this invitation because I was afraid to get involved or to share my story with others. I didn’t know what would come up for me emotionally or if anyone would support me. But last year, something changed. I was ready to take that leap + share my story with others. I wanted to take away from the stigma that kept me from sharing my story… SHAME. I was so sick of feeling embarrassed to tell someone what I had been through + I didn’t want others to feel that same way that I had spent years of my life doing. Enter my story on Facebook. (YIKES)!!!

I texted my husband one morning while I was at work + just asked, “Would you be interested in doing this NEDA walk with me”? Of course he responded with an overwhelming YES + I was off to register the both of us on the Nationaleatingdisorders.org website. After I registered, I realized that there was an option for me to share my personal story + create a personalized page to connect with others about how this walk was important to me + why I was deciding to share my story with the world. After taking a little time, I typed up a few paragraphs about my personal experiences + clicked the “submit” button. I was live + also freaking out a little bit. I posted the link on my Facebook account + immediately texted my sister something along the lines of, “OMG freaking out. I just posted about my eating disorder + the NEDA walk on Facebook”. Her response was simple. “I’m so proud of you, Ash. You’re making such a big difference to so many people”! My anxiety fell back + I waited to see the comments rolling in.

Overwhelming support + love is what I received back. So many people pouring their hearts out + donating to the cause that would help save lives + encourage others to push through the disease they secretly struggle with behind closed doors. I felt a sense of relief. I knew that this weight + the secret I had been holding back on for so many years was lifted off of my shoulders. It was time to start sharing this reality of how many people really suffer from eating disorders, what it’s like living with one + how you start to make changes to overcome an eating disorder. These are things I wanted + needed support with when I was fighting for my recovery + now I’ve made it part of my job to document this information + make a difference to others + their families looking for support.

The NEDA walk is held in cities all over the U.S. year-round + happens to take place in Phoenix in the month of February. The walk is at the Phoenix Zoo + the funds raised for my participation in the walk go toward the volunteers + staff at NEDA to answer calls, look for resources for people looking for treatment in their area + raising awareness for this issue that unfortunately goes undetected for many years in so many girls, boys, men + women all over the world. Because of the secrecy + shame of this disease, many people such as myself feel they need to hide their struggle from others. Now that I’m in a place of recovery, I feel it’s important to share my story in an attempt to take away from the pain, shame + what so many families + loved ones do not know about this disease. It’s CURABLE! It is possible to overcome, but it takes an incredible amount of understanding, patience + willingness to listen + talk about difficult topics.

Now, in January 2018, I can say that I launched my blog about 9 months ago, I’ve shared my story openly + traveled all over the country sharing my story + working to impact the eating disorder community to offer resources that are so needed. I guarantee that if you don’t have an eating disorder yourself, you most likely know a few people who have suffered or are currently quietly suffering from an eating disorder. The problem is that it’s something too many people feel ashamed to admit or ask for support. I am working to break that stigma. Help me break the stigma by liking this post, sharing it, commenting or donating to help other people just like me to get the support they need.

If you’d like to donate, click here + then to “donate”, then the drop down to “donate to a walker”. Select the city of Phoenix, AZ and find my name, “Ashley Law”. *You can make a difference! Thank you for reading about this important topic + for considering donating to this life threatening disease. ❤

xx,

Ashley

WHY I STARTED A FEMALE-ONLY TOASTMASTER’S CLUB

toastmasters blog post

If you have followed my story, then you’re aware that I chartered an all-female Toastmaster’s club in 2016. Heard of Toastmasters before but not sure what it is? You’re not alone. 😉 When I first heard of Toastmasters, I thought it was something I would find a bunch of grandparents hanging out at, drinking tea and eating cookies at 2 pm… I was SO WRONG!

I had a passion for learning the skills I needed to feel more confident speaking in front of a crowd because that’s what I’d been doing on a small scale. I wanted to improve, speak to larger audiences & motivate others. But public speaking is not easy. I mean, there’s a reason it’s one of the top fears almost everyone has. Nobody wants to look like a fool in front of others, make a mistake or even freeze up + forget your train of thought. Yikes! The thing is, where do you even go to learn or practice these skills as an adult? I know EXACTLY ZERO PEOPLE that wants to jump into a scary situation like this, how about you? That’s when the idea was brought up to me that I start an all-female club where it was a supportive + safe space to learn this stuff.  I did a little research + I was all in.

After a few months of researching, I met with women in my community + informed them about what the Toastmasters International program offered. Just like the women I was talking to, I was shocked to learn that this organization wasn’t just about public speaking. It also helped foster leadership, management + organizational skills. I am proud to say that I have used all of the skills I have learned as a club member in my full-time job numerous times + it also looks super great on a resume! 😉 I had about 70+ women clamoring to join this club that I was now President of + I was a newbie… I knew just the bare minimum to get this thing off the ground. It was a scary experience to commit to, but I had an army of women behind me. I had all of the support I needed + that gave me the encouragement to go for this thing, unafraid to make mistakes or fail.

As it turned out, our club started with about 25 women who paid their dues (Toastmasters costs about $45 every 6 months to be a member) + our club was bumpin’! We met every-other Saturday morning in Downtown Phoenix + I arrived early to set up folding tables, folding chairs, a standing podium, + take our club supplies out of a cardboard box kept in t back closet. Together, we learned to practice our skills as Toastmasters intended. We had a general outline for meetings, followed various portions of the content for the club such as Tabletopics (practicing impromptu speaking), Rehearsed speeches (about 4-5 per meeting (where members choose a topic + craft, practice + deliver it in front of the club), + then our evaluation portion of the meeting where various leaders in the club help us all to improve our meeting skills, watch the timing of speeches, be mindful of how to support others + of course hav a little fun with awards too! 😉 Our club was growing quickly after about 6 months + we needed to make some changes.

Now that our meetings have attracted more women, we have catered scheduled meeting times to accommodate everyone in the club. We still meet 2 times per month, but we now hold our bi-weekly meetings on a Saturday mornings + weekday night each month. We also have so many members wanting to practice their public speaking skills that we incorporated a social aspect for our club called, “Sip + Speaks”. These events are held about every 2-3 months + involve tasty food, refreshing cocktails/mocktails + a little socializing too.  😉 Since our club members are all busy, successful women who juggle being moms, entrepreneurs, full-time working professionals, volunteer work + so much more, it’s important to us to find time to have a little fun while we build up our skills. The next Sip + Speak will be held at my house next week! YAY! 🙂

Long story short, I started this club to support other women who have big dreams like me who desire a supportive environment to grow + thrive. This club makes me feel empowered + I truly enjoy the friendships our members have created as we support one another. After just 15 months, it’s come so far + I cannot wait to see where it takes off! Stay tuned + check out more about this incredible organization at Toastmasters.org.

 

xx,

Ashley

NO CALORIE COUNTING HERE: TRACKING “EXCHANGES”.

breakfast

After publishing my last blog post on the things I say “no” to, I had a few readers approach me on how choose the foods I choose eat on a daily basis. If you haven’t read my last blog post yet, I recommend you check it out. 😉 You’ll find that cutting simple words out of my everyday vocabulary helped me to recover from obsession about food while finding a well-balanced daily intake.

I decided to share a little bit of how I put a meal together here + what inspires the choices I make around food. Whether you are curious about changing the way you talk about food, if you have an eating disorder, are recovering from one, I’m, glad you’re checking it out. Since I don’t describe foods as “good”, “bad”, “junk food”, “healthy food” or use terms like “healthy fat”, I have been able to simplify my choices to put a meal together that is well-balanced that I truly enjoy. The strategies I use today were taught to me by Rosewood Center for Eating Disorders + my Registered Dietitian (R.D.) worked with me to help me adapt to a new way of thinking about food. By adapting food categories into the following, I was able to slowly let go of my obsession to count calories, categorize foods as things I can + can’t have + even things I “shouldn’t have” eaten. Here are the food categories, or “exchanges” that I still use today: Protein, Grain, Fat, Fruit, Vegetable… + that’s it! 🙂

If you take a look at the photo above, it’s the breakfast I made for myself this morning. It contains 1 fruit (grapes, raspberries, blackberries), 1-2 fats (avocado), 1-2 grains (sourdough toast)+ 1 protein (egg). *I do not eat this breakfast everyday + I really enjoy switching it up based on how much time I have to meal prep, if I’m eating on the go, or simply based on what I feel like eating. When I was first learning how to put meals + snacks together in my recovery, I was given a meal plan by my R.D. It was recommended that I ate 3 meals + 3 snacks per day. Each meal + snack was up to me, I could choose what I wanted to eat for each of them + I had a set of guidelines to make up my daily intake. I was given a guideline of how to count exchanges to help myself determine what was a full meal. An example of this is 1 exchange of fruit can be 17 grapes, 1 exchange of vegetables was 8 carrots, 1 exchange of grains was 1/2 cup of rice or pasta. At first I counted out all of these things + measured to ensure I was following my meal plan the “right” way. Then, I got comfortable with my exchanges + started to gain confidence that I trusted myself + knew things din’t have to be perfect. I didn’t count out my berries this morning + I din’t measure my avocado to know if it was 1 or 2 Tablespoons, but that’s what life is about.. letting go of having all the control + just enjoying the little things. (Happy dance) 🙂

Breaking my day down into meals + snacks: An example of breakfast is what I listed above. It was strongly recommended that I ate every 3-4 hours or so to get my body nourished + my mind working the way I needed it to. An example of my morning snack would be a protein + fruit of my choice (I like having nuts + berries but sometimes I have a hard boiled egg with a fruit leather or even peanut butter with a small apple. My lunch + dinner plans were something completely different, afternoon snack was a protein, grain + having a snack after dinner helped me find guidelines of  what was appropriate to eat at various times of the day. This isn’t to say that everyone else had the same meal plan, they were all specified for each of us based on our own needs. that was important to recognize. My meal plans have also changed + evolved as I recovered because I didn’t need the same intake as I did when I was first hospitalized, 1 year into my treatment, + 4 years into it. My body changed + my R.D. was mindful of that.

I have now been recovered for 6 years + I still use this guideline to help me plan meals. It took me a long time to embrace eating a predetermined amount of food but it was necessary as I had terrible habits around food. Some meals were tougher to eat than others because of ideas I had always believed + heard on the news or in magazines. I had to let those statistics I heard go + asked my family + friends not to comment or judge what I was working on toward my recovery. Now, I see my R.D. about twice a year to ensure I don’t have any bad habits creeping back in, to check in on my weight (since I haven’t weighed myself or known my weight in about 8 years), as well as for guidance on exercise + wellness check in’s. Many people with eating disorders are recommended to follow their meal plan for about 2 years after treatment + I totally recall telling myself that I would be done following a meal plan by January 2011 (2 years after I left treatment) but I was SO wrong. Everyone has different needs + for me, I needed to keep this guideline around to keep myself accountable. I’m thankful I warmed up to this way of life because I truly LOVE it now. It makes my life simple + meal planning a no-brain-er. 

As I mentioned, this isn’t for everyone, but it has helped me find balance in my life, take back my control when it comes to food + to be confident that I don’t have to restrict certain foods from my life + I can make room for all things I enjoy in moderation.  I love the freedom this meal plan + way of life has opened me up to loving food again instead of hating it or fearing I would make a “bad” decision about what I “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. If you want to learn more about meal planning, I recommend you work with a R.D. to find the exchanges that are right for you + what your body needs. I am no expert, but this plan has been a successful tool for me to forget the stress when it comes to food. Hopefully this post was informative + insightful as to why it’s important for me to have adapted this way of thinking + why I choose to keep it around after all of these years. Maybe you’ll want to make some changes too! 😉

xoxo,

Ashley

LOOKING BACK AT THE “NO’S” I’VE EMBRACED

62403

Noticed a lot of New Year resolutions revolving around food + diets? Yup, me too. The thing I’ve understood as I get further into my recovery is that the more balance the better + in case you aren’t sure what that looks like, it means cutting out the “good” food and “bad” food talk. Let me explain.

When I made the decision to get the real help I needed for my eating disorder, I welcomed a whole new world of change into my life. Sure, I had to give up behaviors + thoughts… but I quickly realized those weren’t the only things I had to give up if I really wanted to turn my life around. My treatment team explained to me that using particular words about food + my body were only hurting me. Some of these words were as simple as; good, bad, fat, skinny, healthy, junk food, etc. These are words we’ve been using to describe food since I could walk. Hello…. Can you say re-programming?

I wasn’t convinced at first that this was something I wanted to do. After all, wasn’t there such a thing as good foods, bad foods, skinny people, fat people + junk food? Possibly. But the thing I had to embrace if I wanted to stop OBSESSING about what I looked like, when + where I could get my next exercise routine in, if what I ate for the day was “good” or “bad” + counting calories was just that. So I tried giving up these simple describing words in my daily lingo + slowly but surely, it shifted my mindset.

I learned which foods counted in my intake as a “protein”, “dairy”, “ fruit”, “vegetable, “fat” (no “healthy fat” talk here guys), + grains (not carbs). *You might be reading this thinking… I don’t want to talk about food in this way, that seems extreme + that’s perfectly O.K. I am simply sharing what worked for me to change the way I think about food + my body. These words I used to describe my foods were called exchanges by my Registered Dietitian + I embraced them fully. I taught my roommates, family + close friends these words + asked them to talk about food the same way I did to help me make this shift in my life.

When my now husband of 2 years + I started dating, he had a challenging time making these changes talking about food. I explained to him that I needed his support if we were going to cook together, meal prep on the weekends + enjoy dinner dates out. He never struggled with an eating disorder + in fact had a very healthy relationship with exercise, his body + food… I just needed him to get behind me + support what I needed to shift my mindset around food. It took a very long time to re-program my brain when thinking + talking about food but I did it. It takes constant practice + now 6 years into my recovery I still choose to talk about food + my body using these chosen words because it helps me to stay away from that slippery slope of knowing certain foods are taboo or preferred. I simply have a well-balanced intake of foods that fuel my body + mind.

The words I use to describe foods now are; fresh, tasty, delicious, flavorful, well-balanced + so on. I steer clear of using words to describe any bodies as skinny or fat + embrace all body types, promoting mental + physical well-being. If you want to learn more about the way I’ve changed my thought process around food + my body, leave a comment here or drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy RE-SOLUTION making + don’t forget to be kind to your body.

xoxo,

Ashley