FOOD + GUILT

food + guilt 2

Real talk.

I have spent years trying to find a reasonable balance between loving my body, eating an appropriate amount and diet of meals + snacks daily + letting go of guilt when I eat certain foods. For over a decade, I obsessed about things I should eat, things I “shouldn’t” eat + the things I was afraid I would be judged for if I ate them. Crazy, right? As I’ve continued to grow in my recovery from anorexia, bulimia + over exercise, I’ve come to learn that my thoughts + behaviors around food aren’t so strange after all. In fact, some of the people closest to me who have never had an eating disorder in their life mention feelings of guilt after eating too much or particularly food around the holidays.

This pattern used to be a HUGE challenge for me this time of year. Thanksgiving, Christmas, baking for the holidays, New Year’s parties, you name it. I hated feeling as though I would lose control over when to stop eating, what was appropriate to eat + then DEALING with the feeling of, “why did I even just eat that”? I’m happy to say that this feeling or fear isn’t particularly a challenge for me anymore, rather than something I have noticed when others make those comments around the dinner table or at social gatherings.

My husband + I are leaving for a weekend with friends later today + we’ll be celebrating New Year’s with our close friends, eating delicious food, staying up late + indulging in some sweet treats too. As I pack my bag for the weekend getaway, I can’t help but to reflect on how different this time of year used to be for me. I dreaded the thought of having to eat around others + the celebrations that revolved around foods like cheese platters, cookies, chocolate + copious amounts of chips + dip. I now associate these foods with some of my favorite holidays + the people I get to enjoy this special time with.

I know that I will hear my friends + others say, “I shouldn’t eat this” “I can’t (have that)”, + “Why did I even eat that”? … but I won’t be participating in that kind of talk. I refuse to let myself feel guilt or shame for eating things I enjoy or foods that I want to try even though they might not be my favorite in my recovery. Food has now become something I associate with creating new memories, having lots of fun with loved ones + sharing new recipes. The kitchen is my favorite part of the house because it’s a great place to gather + share stories. I’m just thankful that the stories I choose to share + create now revolve in a guilt-free zone that I enjoy.

That being said, I know that I can’t control what my friends or family think about the foods they eat or the way they feel about them. I can control what comes out of my mouth around these things now + it feels good not to engage in that kind of talk. To me it’s a form of self-love + it’s a part of how I’ve learned to take care of myself. I am going to challenge you this New Year’s weekend NOT to engage in guilt talk around food. Try your best NOT to say, “I shouldn’t”, “I can’t” or “Why did I” around food or in the kitchen. Take note of how you feel if you hear someone else engage in that talk + see if you feel obligated to chime in agreeing or not.

I wish you all a Happy New Year + look forward to sharing my journey with you in 2018! Cheers, friends!

xoxo,

Ashley

RECHARGING MY BATTERIES WHEN LIFE IS TOO MUCH

 

recharge batteries

Are you finding yourself exhausted from running to work, parties + meetings while just trying to make sure you have groceries in the cupboards + the laundry hamper isn’t overflowing? You’re not alone. I have been a perpetual “list maker” + always focusing on what has to get done instead of taking the time to just chill out. The difference between the list making problem I had until recently + the person I am now is simple… I let that way of thinking go.

I have been a perfectionist, people-pleasing, over-obsessing + control freak ever since I can remember, but that way of thinking + obsessing drove me straight into the ground. I really NEEDED to have all of the meal prep done by Sunday night, all of the laundry clean + folded (not to mention put away just how it belonged) + I needed the house to be in order. With my best efforts going to keep this way of life afloat, I needed something to give but I didn’t want to give up the way I prepared for my week, my clean + tidy house or my laundry routine (anything but that)! 😉 But I needed to switch it up… So I decided to give myself grace. I stopped making “To-Do” lists a few months ago.

At first I will admit that I felt lost + panicked; I didn’t know where to start with the daily chores, my routine of balancing my business, both jobs, my marriage + the everyday things. But then I realized that the lists had actually been holding me back! When I woke up, I didn’t immediately start reaching for my list + trying to see what I could check off before 8 am. Instead, I was listening to what I needed + WANTED to do for myself. Since ridding myself of these freakish “To-Do” lists, I actually take the time to sit on the living room floor + play fetch with Scout, I drink a cup of coffee + take the time to light a freaking candle when I need a retreat from my day… just because I want to. Guys, it feels SO good!

If you’re not a perfectionist or juggling lots of commitments, I know it might sound crazy, but for those of you who are always swinging from one thing to the next while trying to manage your everyday life… you feel me on this, right? I never allowed myself permission to let the expectations go (yes even my own) about having my week all lined up before Monday morning. Crazy? It was for me. It wasn’t because someone told me my bed always needed to be made, that laundry can’t be exploding over the hamper sides once a week or the fact that sometimes you have no choice but to eat mac n cheese for dinner again because you couldn’t make it to the grocery store Sunday night (P.S. I have never once complained about having mac n’ cheese). 😉 . The point I’m making here is that I have always wanted things to look right, I always wanted to be prepared for everything + feel like I have it together. But that’s just not possible or realistic if you intend on being a semi-sane human being. If not, all it takes is one dish to be left in the sink, one pair of dirty socks left on the living room floor or a toothpaste smudge left in the sink to send you over the edge into crazy town. This is somewhere I don’t intend on going back to guys, ‘cuz I’ve been there + it’s not pretty. 😉

Since letting these expectations go for myself, I am enjoying a much higher quality of life. Some days I let the bed go un-made, the meal prep doesn’t happen on Sunday, the laundry gets done during the week between jobs, the dishes pile up in the sink (this still drives me bonkers) + our dining room table has junk mail or Christmas decorations piling on it, just waiting to be put away + organized. Today is one of those days. I was planning to head into the office, but I woke up, looked at my calendar, realized we had been going all weekend with holiday parties, house renovation projects + family time. I knew I needed a re-charge. So today, I’m allowing myself grace. I’m taking the time to hang with Scoutie, catch up on laundry + get my work done from home. The cleaning will be done soon enough. I can get the rest of our shopping done another day before our house guests arrive next week (can’t wait to see my parents + sister), + most of all, I deserve this peace of mind.

My recharge happens when I take care of myself, when I take the time to rest my mind + my body. I need this time + I actually crave it when I’ve been busy doing even the things I enjoy most. I realize this might not be your personal way of thinking or how you recharge your own self when you need it, but it’s been an epiphany that has been right in front of my nose for years + I’m finally allowing myself to let my own expectations go. I’d love to hear how you recharge your own batteries during a busy week, while prepping for the holidays or just during a normal, chaotic, on the verge of tears because you “just can’t” anymore kind of day. Drop me a line or send me a personal message, + happy Monday, friends!

Xoxo,

Ashley

LOBBYING FOR EATING DISORDER AWARENESS IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

DC

It’s been a hot minute (that means long time mom + dad) since I shared my experiences speaking + I’ve missed writing about my travels! My husband + I purchased our first home the day before I traveled to D.C. to share my experiences living with an eating disorder. September, October + November of this year have probably been some of the busiest months of my life + some of the most EXCITING! If you can forgive the timing of this late post, I’d love to share my experiences at the Capitol, Senate + Congress.

First off, I was totally caught off guard when the Alumni Coordinator at Rosewood Center for Eating Disorders (shout out to Shannon Hershkowitz) called me to ask if I would be interested in talking to our Senators + Congress about eating disorder awareness in the month of October. It is honestly one of the biggest honors to be asked by the very people who saw me struggle + fight for my life day in + day out for years come back + state that they believe I can make a difference because I’m living, breathing proof that recovery is possible. I made it! Let’s just say the happy tears were flowing + I was almost at a complete loss for words. 😉

When I traveled to D.C., it was with a team of 2 other recovered women who went through the same treatment style I did in an inpatient hospital. Shannon also traveled with us + helped to prepare us for our meetings at the Senate + the House. We were assigned various topics + bills to discuss with our representatives. Additionally, we were given records (public knowledge) of which particular representatives had voted in favor of bills in the past regarding similar bills that had been passed such as the Anna Westin Act of 2015. The Anna Westin Act of 2015 is a bill which is aimed at training school officials and healthcare professionals on how to identify those with eating disorders + how to properly intervene. If you aren’t familiar with eating disorders + the way the government is getting involved, you’re not alone! In fact, I was so new to all of this that I certainly felt overwhelmed + scared thinking, “I don’t consider myself any sort of government expert… how am I going to walk into the Senate + the House with confidence”? I did my research though + I spoke from my heart. I was sad to hear that the Anna Westin Act was not re-signed in 2017 and now needs to be pushed again to create awareness + detect eating disorders in children early to help save lives. This was the purpose of my trip, to remind our state representatives why this bill needs to be signed + passed again.

The morning of Lobby Day, I was surrounded by all sorts of people from various parts of the country when we met at the Hart Senate Office Building. We were greeted + distributed goodie bags as speakers + found ourselves in a room full of health care professionals in the eating disorder world, other recovered men + women as well as parents who had lost a child to an eating disorder. It was challenging to hear the stories of pain + suffering, but incredibly joyous to hear of the recovery stories exemplifying triumph + strength. We were educated by the Eating Disorder Coalition staff on how to discuss our personal stories, how to best “hook” the people we were talking to + help them understand this is a matter that needs dire attention in our country.

We were given a brief 20 minutes of time to “rehearse” our stories + off we were to meet with our state representatives. Living + being treated in Arizona, our team was assigned to speak with 5 various representatives, two of them being Senator John McCain + Senator Jeff Flake. We walked the halls with our power suits + high heels clicking on the floor like nobody’s business… I felt like I was in a movie! It was exhilarating + I couldn’t help but feel empowered by the difference I already felt I was making. Our first appointment happened so quickly, it felt like a blur. I shared my story struggling with anorexia + bulimia while my colleague shared her story with binge eating disorder. While we shared stories from the heart, it was important to have our respondents engaged, hoping they would ask probing questions to better understand why we were asking for attention + time to be addressed to these life threatening issues plaguing men + women all over our country on a daily basis. It was a relief when the questions started flowing in, the conversation flowed effortlessly + I knew I was in the right place at the right time.

While I mentioned my team + I represented the state of Arizona for Lobby Day, it’s important to recognize that many others traveled from all over the U.S. to meet with their own state representatives to make an impact + share their stories. Throughout the day we came across other teams in the hallways as well as on the streets walking the long blocks between the Senate + the House. It was such a great feeling to know that we were all on the same team, who had all fought for our own lives, knowing we were making a difference to save other lives + detect eating disorders early.

After the day was finished, all 150 or so of us met in front of the state Capitol where we gathered to recap our day, share our experiences + encourage others to continue making a difference when we returned home. Following the recap meeting, we ventured outside to take a group photo where we celebrated with silly faces, the biggest smiles + countless new friends at our sides. It was quite the rush of emotion.

When I flew back to Arizona the following morning, I couldn’t help but feel like the trip was a whirlwind. I was rejuvenated with the thought that I have the ability to make this kind of a difference in my life. I was chosen out of thousands of people at the treatment center that saved my life to fly across the country + share my story with our Senators + Congress representatives. My strength + stubborn tendencies saved my life along with a highly skilled teams of health care professionals who never stopped believing in me. The fact that I am not ashamed to share my personal story in the public eye, to people I know well as well as complete strangers through my personal blog + public speaking matters has changed the way I think about my own life. I know I am meant to share these lessons I’ve learned + help create awareness, hope + spread self-love. This is my passion + this trip simply lit the fire under my tush to know that… yes, I’m doing this because I was truly meant to”.

If this topic interests you, send me a message + learn how you can help get involved to help early detection in eating disorders. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Xoxo,

Ashley

 

HOW I TRANSFORM “BAD” THOUGHTS ABOUT MY BODY

 

changing thoughts

The holiday season is finally here. We’ve heard the fat jokes start up, the talk about how much hypothetical weight we will gain from a couple of meals and attending holiday parties + the stretchy pants jokes are officially in full force. I fully accept the fact that I used to be one of those people who engaged in all of the above behaviors… but I’m not anymore!

Before you ask how I did this, I didn’t make any trips to the gym, I don’t work out on a regular basis or obsess about my calorie intake, I just incorporated the tools I’ve learned to love myself without needing a scale or a 6-pack of abs (I don’t have either anymore). And I’m not ashamed of that. I simply welcomed the thinking that I am worthy of love + acceptance no matter how I feel or look. Do I still get thoughts that I don’t think I look good from time to time? YES! But the difference in loving myself fully is that I now am able to change my thinking process. When I have a “negative” thought about how I look, I think of three positive affirmations: encouraging things I allow myself to believe about my appearance. Here’s an example of what that process looks like:

Initial thought: “My stomach is so big, it’s hanging over the top of my jeans. I look disgusting.”

Change thought: “My body is beautiful no matter how well it fits in these jeans today.”

2nd thought change: “It’s okay that I don’t have my 19-year old body anymore. My body is perfect just the way it is.”

It took me years of learning + practicing this thought process before I actually believed these thoughts. If you have followed my journey, you know that I battled a life threatening eating disorder for years + was even hospitalized for 3 months in an inpatient facility in 2009. I truly struggled with the belief system that I was worthy of love + support in my life. I had lost sight of who I was + needed to re-train my thought process + the fact that I was someone worth knowing, I needed to remember I was a good person + life wasn’t about being or looking perfect. Sure enough, after I attended enough group therapy sessions, I knew that I had the knowledge to try applying these thoughts, I just didn’t believe them yet. I learned that it was going to take practice + a whole lot of brain power to stop my negative thoughts about my body + changing them to positive thoughts. It didn’t matter what mood I was in or what I was looking at in the mirror. My self-confidence was riding on the fact that I needed to change how I thought about my body. Let’s face it: I couldn’t let the way I looked on any particular day. I needed to build myself back up by the thoughts that went through my brain every moment + every day. Here’s another example of how I change my thoughts:

Initial thought: “My arms are chubby + I don’t want to show them at all today.”

Change thought: “My arms are functional + I’m thankful for things they allow me to do.”

2nd thought change: “My arms are strong + I love the way they look.”

Now that I’ve been living in recovery for 5 years, I can still say that these negative thoughts still cross my mind sometimes, that’s ok. It means I’m HUMAN! The cool thing about learning how to change my thoughts into positive affirmations is that these thoughts now come pretty naturally to me. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to keep working at them. I’m frequently reminding myself how important it is to build myself up + I LOVE encouraging others to do the same. How do you talk to yourself on a good day? What about how you talk to yourself on a “bad” day? Do you pick + choose the way you think based on your reflection in the mirror or how your jeans fit on a bad day? You have the power to change the thoughts that fill your brain each day, it’s up to you to allow the good stuff to fill your brain.

It might be holiday season, but that doesn’t mean that you have to obsess about the food you ate yesterday, the food that will be served at your Christmas party this weekend, or the sweet treats that are going to be in your office break room. Remember that your self-worth is not determined by the guilt you might feel after indulging in a delicious meal or if your clothes are a bit more snug than usual. You deserve love + self-confidence no matter how your jeans fit today or any day. Here’s an example of what I used to think back in 2009 the day after Thanksgiving:

Initial thought: “I ate too much food, I wish I would have had self-control to stop eating sooner. I wish I didn’t eat dessert. I’m such a failure.”

Changed thought: “I really enjoyed eating Thanksgiving with my family today, I am thankful to have enjoyed a delicious meal with the people I care about most.”

2nd changed thought: “I deserve to enjoy a tasty meal with good company. I’m glad I was able to take home leftover stuffing too!”

I challenge you to change your thought process when those negative ways of thinking start to take over this holiday season. Try using a positive affirmation or two when you catch yourself thinking, “I shouldn’t have…” or “I wish I looked like…” Stop that stuff right now, friends! Be your own biggest fan + change those thoughts to positive ones. You are the only person that can actually make it happen, try it out + let me know how it works for you the remainder of the week. You won’t regret it!

xoxo,

Ashley

HOW I ORGANIZE MY PRIORITIES

Passion Planner

Have you ever caught yourself too busy to do the things most important to you, even though you really want to do something? Yep, me too. I truly feel as though we live in a world where we are all “so busy” that we get caught up telling everyone just how busy we are while we run around from one volunteer event, to brunch, to a work thing, + then home just in time to watch some silly reality show that really shouldn’t be a priority in the first place, but we need an escape from the chaos. Sound about right?

I have been catching myself caught up in this “busy” web far too often + it’s time to cut out all of the crap. I’ve sat down over the holiday weekend to prioritize the stuff that matters most to me. It doesn’t mean that the things that were at the bottom of my list weren’t important, it just means that it was time for me to re-structure what was taking the front seat of my crazy ride + check it back in the driveway. Sometimes all of the chaos doesn’t deserve a ride after all.

It’s true that I volunteer, I’m the Vice-Chair of a women’s training organization, I mentor girls + women, I’m an officer of an all-women’s Toastmaster’s public speaking group, married, just bought my first house with my incredible husband + I’m trying to find the time to manage my blog + grocery shop once a week… yikes! All of these things are super important to me but I need a space to keep it all in order (+ if I’m being honest, keep myself in-check). I know you’re busy with your commitments, finding time to work out, try that new recipe you’ve been wanting to get around to, have lunch with an old friend, do something for you. This might be the thing that helps you prioritize your life too!

I’ve been using Passion Planner for 3 years now + I can honestly say that’s it’s transformed the way I think about what I commit to, how I prioritize my day + what I allow time to worry about or have fun doing each week. Check out the gorgeous designs + options on PassionPlanner.com + find the planner that best suits your lifestyle. When you find it, don’t forget to use my code: ALAW10 to receive your 10% off discount too! 😉 I’m so grateful for this planner + I think it just might help you transform your priorities too!

xoxo,

Ashley

ONE SHORT RACE AFTER ANOTHER

SHORT RACE QUOTE

So I’ve taken quite a break from blogging the second half of the summer because I NEEDED ONE. I noticed I lost my ‘spark’ for a bit + it was super frustrating for me. It took some digging deep to figure out why that spark was gone, let me share a bit of what I discovered during that time away.

Through my process of healing from my eating disorder I learned many things, both from a clinical standpoint and learning how to handle life without an addiction to food and exercise. I noticed that many people in this stage of my life talked about a ‘mask’ that we would wear as someone healing from an eating disorder and it took some time to discover what that really looked like for me. After putting lots of tears, time + money into 1-1 therapy sessions as well as group therapy, I learned that I had in fact become very comfortable over time putting this mask on to avoid sharing how I really feel in moments that happen on a daily basis. The best example I can think of here is when someone asks you how you’re doing, + you respond with ‘good, how about you”? I learned that my emotions didn’t always have to be in check because during these few years, I was going through emotional turmoil + my world with my addiction to food + exercise was crumbling as I worked to rebuild it in a manner that actually served me well. …Imagine that. First off, I am not always ‘good’, sometimes I’m sad or a little depressed, stressed, anxious, angry, you name it… I feel it. Like all the time. Admitting this is not to say that I don’t feel joy, passion + love because I certainly do, I just try to focus on the positive because I can be a negative thinker by fault.

I have come to a very stable place in my recovery over time, but I’ve noticed that it’s very easy to fall back into the place of putting on a mask that everything is always great + that I’m always happy, because that’s what I knew for most of my life. It takes a lot of practice not to slip into old ways (can anyone else relate to that)? …Whatever it might be, we all have things we struggle with + mine is trying to balance my emotions + taking a look at whether or not I’m being true to myself, if I’m feeling joyous, taking it in + enjoying the moment, + when I’m feeling down or stressed, recognizing that emotion + feeling it, but not allowing myself to wallow in that pain. (you feel me on this)?

Taking time for myself to be genuine, figure out why (+ where) my spark went was a little painful. I tend to over-analyze every thought + emotion…. blame it on all of the therapy I went through to recover. But the thing is, I’M ALWAYS GOING TO BE A WORK IN PROGRESS + I love that about myself. Learning + growing to be the best version of myself is something I’m dedicated to + I totally recognize that the needle isn’t always going to be moving forward on this journey. Sometimes it will jump back or bobble in the same space for a while + that’s what life is all about.

After coming to this realization myself, I want to know if you struggle with being authentic + genuine about your REAL EMOTIONS. Drop me a line or send me a message to share how you cope with being authentic + how you recognize pain or moments when you’re down + move on from them. ALL responses welcome! It’s so good to be back! ❤

xoxo,

Ashley

FOOTBALL’S BACK

Cards Cheer Photo

The cool thing about doing what I love is that I am able to COMBINE all of my passions into a unique set of skills to work with my dream clients! That being said, I am super pumped that one of my new clients this year are kicking off their season on the football field as the 2017-2018 Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders!

 

I’ve worked with this team a few times this year + I’ve enjoyed getting to know this talented, beautiful group of women over the last few months. When I first met the girls, it was early spring and the team was spending a long weekend working hard at their Mini Camp weekend kicking off their season. I was introduced to the girls after they had been learning new dance routines all morning + excited when they greeted me with energetic smiles + were clearly ready to accept my challenge to work on their public speaking skills for the afternoon. Together we set goals for the year + participated in a team activity to advance our public speaking skills answering interview questions on our feet. The girls were INCREDIBLE + SO POISED right off the bat! It was a blast to collaborate + learn from one another in this intimate setting as a supportive group. My passion to help others express their talents didn’t end in this setting though… After completing this session of the day, we progressed to the dance floor.

 

In case you didn’t know, I spent 3 years as an NFL cheerleader a few years back. During this time in my life, I really evolved into a young adult + worked to manage full-time college courses, work-life balance + become an organized young professional. During my years as an NFL cheerleader, I excelled in one particular area in the realm of the ever popular kick line style of dance. In fact, I won an award of “Best Kicks” as a member of my team all 3 years that I was with my team! Now that I’m (a little) older, I have to say that I’m pretty sure that my days as a performer have surpassed me, but I am still involved in the dance world in other ways!

 

I also lead workshops in order to help professional dancers showcase their talents. I was in serious luck when this team asked me to work on kicks with them because they are already super flexible + very hard workers… let me tell you! 🙂  I taught these ladies a challenging kick combo with some fun footwork + they worked hard to master it over the summer. I was super excited that when I went back to visit the girls at practice a few weeks ago, I learned they had been practicing the kick choreography I taught them in the spring + they had mastered the technique beautifully! WOOT WOOT! Way to go ladies!

 

I am one serious football fan + look forward to the end of summer every year because it means my favorite sport is back. It’s a major plus that I get to watch the talented + beautiful Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders perform again all season long, + see their skills come to life in an exciting manner that I’ve been able to get involved with! Did I mention it’s been incredible to combine my passions in life to do what I love most?! Looking forward to working with these girls again + other amazing teams as well! These women are truly a talented team as well as beautiful inside + out! I’m blessed to have worked with them this season, Go Cards!

 

Xoxo,
Ashley