“I was relapsing:” Eating Disorder Relapse & Support While Away from Home

Rebecca Tishman, our teen college blogger, has openly told our readers her story of eating disorders and recovery over the last 2 years. Her frank insight and bold discussion has helped many understand the many facets of eating disorders during the teen years and how they can be a support to others who are facing similar challenges.  Today, Rebecca writes about her eating disorder relapse. 

Relapse from an eating disorder is not uncommon. Studies show that 1/3 of women treated for anorexia or bulimia relapse within 9 years and 40% of patients with anorexia relapse within 1 year of being treated at an inpatient eating disorder facility. While Rebecca is in no way alone, there is no doubt that this article was likely hard for Rebecca to write. Please write in your support, comments, questions, encouraging words, and congratulations for her courage during her ongoing fight against ED either here or on my Facebook site where she’ll also be interacting with readers.

blog_rebeccat2-230x300“I was relapsing:” Eating Disorder Relapse & Support While Away from Home by our college blogger, Rebecca Tishman

I’ll be honest. As much as I’d like to say that I’m fully recovered from my eating disorder (ED), it looks as though ED’s still got me on my toes.

Back in May I finished my first year of college. What a feat, right? Two days later I moved to North Carolina for an internship opportunity I secured there at an artist collaborative. Things seemed to be going great at first. I did my own grocery shopping. I cooked meals everyday.  I was able to clear my mind of all the stress that developed over the past year and exercised in an appropriate amount. Yes! I was staying in control of my Eating Disorder instead of the other way around.

But then it happened. I had naively let my guard down and allowed ED sneak his way back in. I was relapsing.

It was about halfway through my stay there. I somersaulted so quickly. My own admission that I was in ED’s grips again My own admission that I was in ED’s grips again forced me to choose to return home earlier than I had originally intended to so I could see my team of doctors and be closer to my parents’ support.

I remember a time when I was in treatment. One of the tasks they gave us was identifying what relapse meant to us. They asked us; what would the signs of our own relapses would look like? They then asked us to give them to our family so that they knew what our relapse would look like and what signs to look for. This exercise helped me to identify the very painful truth. It was happening and I needed to do something about it.

The signs of relapse are different for everyone.  Here were some of mine:

  • Disconnection: Feeling disconnected from friends and family-whether physically far away from them or standing right next to them I felt like we were in different solar systems
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol to escape the feelings
  • Food intake: Basing the amount of food intake on whether I exercised and how much I exercised
  • Skipping meals: Intentionally skipping meals-while missing a meal once in awhile is not a definite sign of relapse, going into the day intending to skip meals and not making up for them at the next meal was a red flag for me
  • Eating “safe” foods: rather than enjoying what I was cooking and eating, I felt like I was in control of what I was eating and drinking by returning to my “safe” foods and beverages
  • Eating by myself: Not wanting to eat in front of people
  • Withdrawing: Wanting to be alone all day-I was constantly afraid of being left out, ignored, not wanted, so I recoiled into myself and stayed home for days on end instead of venturing out and making friends
  • Being afraid of food: Whether I ate an entire pizza or a single grape I felt like I was binging and instantly wanted to purge; in order to avoid that feeling I avoided eating (not a healthy solution!)
  • Using attention-seeking behavior to speak for me: often I use my ED to speak the words I don’t know how to voice

Of course, identifying the signs of relapse is a good first step, but it takes more than that – one then has to change those behaviors.

Here are some of the steps I’ve taken to change my relapse behaviors:

  • Returning to my original nutritionist: I’ve trusted her opinion for almost four years so having her set up a meal plan and give me permission to eat gave me back some control and helped me feel like all of those foods were now “safe” foods
  • Ridding my wardrobe of “skinny” clothes: I no longer want to torture myself with the reminder of the body I had when I was very sick so I got rid of all the clothes that do not fit or that I have had since before I went to treatment
  • Recommitting to recovery every morning: it’s tough but when I wake up I try to tell myself “today I am committing to a better life which one day will be ED free”
  • Having an open dialogue with my team and my family: They can’t possibly help me if they don’t know what is going on so I have to remind myself to be honest with them.
  • Making a plan to move forward: I’ve decided to come home once a month so that I can see my parents and my doctors and can try to be that much more connected to them all

I’m trying to learn from each slip-up in my recovery in order to avoid doing the same thing again. In doing so I learned how important it is to identify what is truly my own behavior and what is an ED behavior, what ED behaviors still exist after all this time, and what new ones are starting to crop up. Once I can identify them for myself I’m that much closer to changing the behavior and ultimately being truly recovered. Today that seems impossible but tomorrow it could be a reality if I continue to diligently call my behaviors into question.

Thank you, Rebecca, for your bravery and your honesty.  We are rooting for you every step of the way.  Readers; please leave your comments here or on my facebook site and Rebecca will surely read and respond either place.


Some other articles by Rebecca Tishman:

Is Vegetarianism feeding some girls’ eating disorders? HERE

Speaking out against Fat Talk while Recovering HERE

High School’s Helping Kids Down the Path of Eating Disorders

The Rub with Greasy Grub

Summer Renaissance: The Tale of a Body Image Rebirth

Are you part of the fat-talkin’ club? 7 Tips to Address the Problem with Friends

Are you a member of the Fat-Talkin’ Club?  There are chapters…worldwide.

blog_girlstalk-300x199It’s Fat Talk Free Week and, like every year, we are being challenged to drop the fat talk between friends.  This can be a tall order for many.  Why? Because fat-talking has become a habit and a bona fide, integrated component of many friendship circles.  Is it part of yours?

Let’s see.

Do you hear things like:

“You’re so skinny!

“I wish I had your legs!”

“I’m such a whale…pig…heifer…elephant…”

“I can’t believe I ate that.”

“I’m so fat…”

when you are with one or more of your friends?  Then you may be a card-carrying member of the Fat Talkin’ Club.

blog_girlstalk2-300x199So what can you do about it?

  1. Bring it up: This is the time to be assertive.  If you feel awkward, blame it on Fat Talk Free week.  You are welcome to blame it on me too! Discuss what you see happening and how it can be detrimental to the people you care about most.
  2. Challenge yourselves: Can you stop the fat talk for the week?  It would be even better if you could stop it for a consistent 21 days, as it has been stated that it takes 21 days to make a habit.  It may be the beginning of the end of your Fat Talkin’ Club.
  3. Redefine your interactions: What do you want out of your friendships? What do your friends want from them?  Take the time to discuss what is beneficial and damaging in a friendship so that everyone is on the same page.
  4. Create a Fat-Talk Free Zone: (I talk about this in my body image book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat if you would like more detail) When you and your friends are together, make it a point to steer clear of fat talk. When someone breaks that rule, call them on it and refocus so you don’t all slide back into old habits.
  5. Break free of toxic friends: Not all friends are keepers.  It’s the truth.  If a friend makes you feel inferior, unworthy, critical, or ashamed, it’s time to speak up and change the dynamic or part ways.  Surround yourself with people who embrace who you are and bring out the best in you when you are with them.
  6. Spread the word: When new people come into your life, don’t be afraid to talk about your commitment to ending fat talk in your life.  You will likely find some great people who are excited to embark on the healthy relationship you bring up!
  7. Clear your own head: When you are in the privacy of your own head, are you still fat talking?  Breaking free of this negative pattern needs to happen when we are by ourselves just as much as it needs to happen in our friendship circles.  Catch yourself when you are doing it and counter act these thoughts with positive ones about yourself.  You can always call a friend for an encouraging word.

It’s time to make a change.  Make the commitment. End fat talk.  You can do it AND you are AMAZING!


Next Twitter Chat 10/13! What to do about Pornified Halloween Costumes for Girls?

halloween_cop-150x150You probably don’t need someone to tell you that there has been a major shift in the “point” of Halloween lately as it pertains to young girls. We’ve moved from creative, scary, or funny costumes to sexy, sexier, and sexiest. Even childhood favorites, known for their youthful innocence have been pornified.

blog_halloween1-150x150Just check out Red Ridinghood and Alice in Wonderland. Interestingly, when I pressed on these tween/teen blog_halloween2 costumes, the costumes that came up under “compare similar items that customers also browsed were: “Red Hoodie- Sexy” and “Disney Aladdin Sassy”. Uh huh. That says a lot.

One of the things I find deeply disturbing is that marketing and wording is saving the butts of the advertisers. Remember when the ad for the sexualized push-up bra for 7 year olds became the fodder for firestorm a few months back? The advertisers merely changed the label of this item to “triangle swimsuit.” Somehow this was supposed to address the sexualization issue. Not exactly the solution we were looking for.

blog_halloween3-300x225Well, here we are again. Take a good look at these two “Little Bo Peep” costumes. The first is labeled “Little Bo Peep Tween Costume.” The second is labeled “Sexy Little Bo Peep Costume.” The first is size “preteen”, obviously, for tweens. The blog_halloween4 second is meant for adults. See a big difference? No? Hmmm. Look again.  Still no? Yeah. Me neither. The teddy bear is a nice attempt to making the whole costume feel a bit more youthful…dominatrix. And she is in flats rather than boots, right? Ugh.

(My colleague, Melissa Wardy, did an interesting comparison of the “cop costumes,” among others).

The issue here is that one costume after another is sexualized. Girls tell us that they feel they have 2 choices: Sexy or prudish. One of cool and daring, the other is lame and boring. Here is one teen’s explanation, more in depth.

So what are we supposed to do? Let’s talk about it. After a successful and intriguing twitter chat last month on the sexualization of girls, we’d love to invite you to join us on Thursday, October 13, 2011, at 9pm EST, 8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, and 6pm Pacific to our #girlsnow chat (formally #SaveGirlHood).

A peak at our powerful crew:

blog_audrey-brashich-300x226Audrey Brashich


Audrey Brashich has been involved in teen and women’s journalism since 1993. She’s worked and written for magazines such as Sassy, YM, Seventeen, Elle Girl, Cosmo Girl, Teen People, Lucky, Shape, Ms., Health and others. Her work focuses primarily on body image and understanding media influences–and she’s the author of All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty (Walker Books for Young Readers, 2006). Audrey has appeared on TV and radio in the US and Canada (CNN, NBC, CBS, Canada’s CBC). Her commentary has also appeared in USA TODAY, The Vancouver Sun, The Seattle Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, The Toronto Star and many others. She’s served on the board of directors for Mind on the Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering critical analysis of media messages, and consulted with national organizations such as Girls Inc. on their programming and policies for girls.

Amy Harman

blog_amy-harman-200x300Amy Harman is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a wife and mother. She has worked as a therapist for several years, most recently as a therapist for women and girls with eating disorders. Because of her work with women and the examples of strong women around her, she has developed a desire help women realize their worth. While taking a break from working full-time, she has created a website to empower women by strengthening relationships and improving mental and emotional well-being. Visit her blog at becomingabetterwoman.com, follower her on Twitter @beabetterwoman, or like her Facebook page. Amy is concerned about the sexualization of young girls because part of becoming a better woman is leaving a better world to those who will be the women of tomorrow. In working with girls struggling with eating disorders, she has seen the harmful impact sexualized messages can make on young minds. She believes we have a duty to teach children the positive aspects of womanhood through example, discussion, and activism.

robyn_purple42-200x300Dr. Robyn Silverman


Dr. Robyn Silverman is a body image expert, parenting resource and child & teen development specialist who appears regularly on national TV such as The Today Show and Good Morning America. An award-winning writer, professional speaker and success coach, she has been the content consultant for 17 books and writes a character education/leadership curriculum called Powerful Words for top level after-school programs worldwide. Her most recent book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It, is based on her passion to help all girls reach their potential and highlight their strengths rather than their deficits. To learn more, please visitDrRobynSilverman.com, follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/DrRobynSilverman, or on twitter at @DrRobyn. You can also book Dr. Robyn for a speaking engagement: Please contact Dr. Robyn’s speaker’s bureau, American Program Bureau, Inc., or call her speaking agent Nancy Eisenstein directly at: 800.225.4575 Ext 1616 We can help our girls (and our boys!) thrive!

Nancy Gruver

blog_nancy-gruverNancy Gruver is founder of the groundbreaking safe social network and magazine for girls ages 8 and up, New Moon Girls, author of How To Say It® To Girls: Communicating With Your Growing Daughter(Penguin Putnam, 2004) and blogs on girls’ issues, parenting, and media. www.newmoon.com & www.daughters.com

blog_melissa-atkins-wardy-226x300Melissa Wardy

Melissa Wardy is the creator/owner of Pigtail Pals www.pigtailpals.com. A business owner, writer, and children’s advocate, her work has appeared on CNN, FOX News, and in the Ms. Magazine blog. She is the mom to a 5yo girl and 3yo boy and wants to see some big changes in the children’s marketplace. What originally began in 2009 as an empowering online t-shirt shop for little girls has now grown into a large online boutique that carries goods with the message to Redefine Girly and recognize our girls as “Smart ~ Daring ~ Adventurous”. We also have a line of tees for little boys called Curious Crickets. In 2010 Melissa began the Redefine Girly blog to educate parents on issues of gender stereotypes and sexualization that our children face. The blog and parent community quickly became known as the go-to place for parents to discuss these issues. In 2011 Melissa started presenting Media Literacy workshops for parents and educators helping them to understand how girlhood was changing, and in 2012 you’ll be able to read her book that brings everything full circle. Let’s change the way we think about our girls.

Hope to see you all, Thursday, October 13, at 9pm EST, 8pm CT, 7pm Mountain, and 6pm Pacific! Together; let’s talk about #GirlsNow!



Fighting Weight Obsession: Good Girls Don’t Get Fat Revisited

ggdgf-cover-hi-res-192x300It’s been a year since the launch of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It. The book, based on 10 years of my own research, was born out of my dissertation at Tufts University and morphed into over 200 interviews of girls and women around the US who told me their personal story about weight, body image, struggles and triumphs. The video was born out of the book and was launched on October 5, 2010.

As I just spoke to a room full of Girl Scout leaders for the Power of Popular conference this past Sunday on this topic, I had to wonder, are things getting better or worse?

Well, perhaps it’s a bit of both.  I still talk to girls and women on a weekly basis who are struggling to accept themselves as they are.  Sometimes it’s more formal, like in a speaking setting or in a coaching session. Other times, it’s very casual– reiterating that the body bully within, as I call it, it alive, well, and sabotaging the well being of our girls. In fact, I just walked into a store on Saturday to get some moisturizer for my face when one of the young women who worked there started talking about hating her body, feeling fat, and not being happy…with herself…because of it.

And that’s representative. It still is true that the majority of girls and women wish they looked different than they did.  So much so, that when I presented the statistic from my book that 95% of girls between the ages of 16-21 want to change something about their bodies, someone shouted out from the audience, “Really? Only 95%?”

And that kind of reaction isn’t that surprising, is it? Photos of incredibly thin women are still rampant in fashion magazines. Girls are still valued or devalued based on their looks, dismembered part by part, sexualized, objectified, dumbed down, and “perfected” by the media that is supposed to be a glorified, fantasized reflection of actual society. This year we’ve seen the likes of push up bikinis for 7year olds, 10 year old models in women’s Vogue dressed, styled and positioned as an adult, 4 year olds in “loungerie,” and a recent glorified Halloween costume that incited collective anger due to its depiction of “Ana-rexia” as a “sexy” personified illness.  There are many more, of course, as Toddlers & Tiaras has become more mainstream and more people feel the need to push the envelope even if it means compromising our girls.

As I listened to the frustrated and shocked expressions of the Girl Scout leaders in the audience this weekend, I knew they were hungry for solutions.  They knew the girls who we spoke of from my book– they themselves brought up girls who were having the same issues.

Thankfully, there seem to be more and more people working on behalf of girls to help them receive positive messaging about themselves and their bodies.  As this is one of the solutions I talk about in my presentations, I find it really exciting to see that solution in action.

In my book, in chapter 9, I provide my Big Black Book of amazing organizations, websites, books, and people who are doing something to make the lives of girls better. Next Thursday, October 13th, at 9pm EST, I’ll be co-leading our second #SaveGirlhood twitter party (see details about our first here) with several of these amazing people.  More details to come! But just to get your thoughts going, we’ll be talking about Halloween costumes, our girls, body image, self esteem, and overall effects of sexualization and self objectification.  Hope you’ll be there!  I will be joined by my distinguished colleagues; Nancy Gruver of New Moon Girls Magazine, Audrey Brashich- of All Made Up,  Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals, and Amy Harman, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

You’ll want to follow our faithful crew who will be leading the discussion: @PigtailPals, @BeABetterWoman, @AudreyBrashich, @DrRobyn, and @Nancy_Newmoon.

Again, more details to come.

I know that what’s being thrown at girls can seem so overwhelming.  Let’s discuss it.  There are solutions out there– and I feel so blessed that I get to work and grow along side some of them!

Please let me know what you think of the video above and what struck you about weight obsession, body image, and asset development in Good Girls Don’t Get Fat.

Wishing you an awesome day!