Tag Archives: exercise

National Recovery Month Stories: Nikki

Welcome, everyone, to Writing for Recovery’s National Recovery Month Story Project! I’m honored to be able to bring you these narratives, written by the people who experienced them. I’m grateful for their vulnerability in sharing these pieces of their lives, in hopes that others may take away something that helpful.

This first story is by a dear friend of mine. It is beautifully, if painfully, written. She has been through more pain than anyone should ever have to endure; and yet, despite that, she has a firm conviction about her recovery. An amazing story, a great way to start. Thank you, Nikki.  -Sarah


Imagine a girl.

Imagine a girl who was broken. A girl who was abused, neglected, and abandoned throughout her life. A girl who couldn’t trust her father. A girl whose mother picked drugs over her. A girl who was bounced between family members for the first 10 years of her life, only to be permanently placed with the most abusive one of them all.
A girl who stopped eating. Started purging. Cutting. Eventually moved onto pills. A girl who hated herself and felt unsafe in her world. A girl whose mother died when she was 21. A girl who discovered her biological father, her last hope for a parent, had died when she was 14. She never knew him.
A girl who went in and out of so many treatment places that she has even lost count. A girl who lied and manipulated others. A girl who hurt and was hurt. A girl who almost died, should have died many times.
2 serious suicide attempts. 2 surgical feeding tubes. Crushing pills to dull the pain. Purging. Thousands of dollars spent. Dozens of therapists seen. Blame, hurt, sadness, anger, despair; often misplaced.
Imagine a girl who hated herself.
Then decided, one day, she was tired of hating herself. Tired of lying. Of pain. Of hurting. Of hating being alive.

Imagine a girl who clawed her way out of the mess she had created. She fell a few times, but managed to find her way out. She made amends with family, forged new friendships, and decided to begin living again.
One day, that girl met the man who became the love of her life. He understood her, loved her for who she is, not who she was, and knew everything about her. He didn’t care about the past, he fell in love with this girl.
Many months later, this girl got pregnant. After all of the abuse she had shown her body, she was told it would never happen. She had abandoned the hope of a family, of children of her own. She was overjoyed. Grateful. Blessed.
15 weeks later she was grieving, broken, devastated.
“I’m sorry, your son has no heartbeat anymore.”
Words that came to define her life.
She cried, screamed, got angry, sad, spent nights in despair.
But she did not fall. She did not relapse.
3 months later, she got the surprise of her life when she discovered she was pregnant again. Joy combined with terror and fear.
Please don’t let it happen again.
At 8 weeks:
“I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”
And there she was again, sitting in a funeral home signing a fetal death certificate. For her second baby. Devastated.
But again, she is not falling. She has not relapsed. She knows her recovery is real. She knows that no behavior will bring her babies back. Starving, cutting, purging, running, pills; nothing is distraction enough to take away the pain of losing her children. Her hopes, dreams, visions of the future. Gone, in the blink of an eye.
14 days after the news, she is still angry, sad, broken, defeated, devastated, and in agony. She cries daily, nightly for her babies. She needs them. Wants them.
This girl’s recovery has been tested, and still stands strong.

We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for, stronger than we ever thought we could be.
This girl is me. And I am proud to say, that despite losing my baby Aiden, and my second baby (who we take to be a boy) Connor, I am still solidly in recovery. I waiver in many things, but never that fact.
I know pain, the worst kinds of pain. And I know that behaviors, of any type, only multiply pain.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story.

Nikki Albrecht



Eating Disorders: The Medical Reality

I wrote this last year as part of one of my nursing courses. This particular piece does not address Binge Eating Disorder, though that can be just as deadly.


Eating Disorders: The Medical Reality

by Sarah Henderson


There are two main types of eating disorders that are generally diagnosed: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.


Anorexia nervosa is defined by the DSM-IV as:

Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected)

Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.

Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.

The absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles.


Bulimia Nervosa is defined as:

Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

1)Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.

2)A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications; fasting, or excessive exercise.

The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors occur, on average, at least twice a week for three months.

Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.


Eating disorders have very little to do with weight or food. Variations for all who suffer can be anywhere from extremely underweight to extremely overweight to anywhere in between. The outward appearance of anyone with an eating disorder does NOT dictate the amount of physical danger they are in, nor does is determine the emotional conflict they feel inside. A person with an eating disorder may have only a few symptoms or may be on the verge of death. For the most part however, like many mental illnesses, you would not know they were suffering unless they admitted it to you.

Of all the known mental illnesses, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate; about 20%. Let’s take a look at the devastating effects that anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can have on the body and it’s systems.


Some of the most common medical complications of anorexia and bulimia include: gastric ulcers, gastric esophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome, anemia, electrolyte imbalance, orthostatic hypotension, bradycardia (slow heart rate), arrythmia, heart muscle atrophy, poor circulation, hair loss, fine hair growth (lanugo), callused or bruised knuckles from the fingers being forced down the throat to induce vomiting, osteopenia, osteoporosis, severe erosion of tooth enamel, muscle weakness, ketoacidosis, amenorrhea, hormonal imbalances, syncope (fainting), glucose disturbances, gum disease, difficulty with concentration, irritability, anxiety, mania, depression, obsessive thinking, insomnia, and mood lability


Other possible complications include: rhabdomyolysis (muscle wasting), blindness (due to vitamin A deficiency), infertility, suicide attempts, high cholesterol, kidney infection, pancreatitis, brain atrophy, transient paralysis (due to potassium deficiency), low white blood cell count leading to impaired immune system, bone fractures, and gallbladder disease


The following complications are potentially (or always) fatal: gastric or esophageal rupture, severe rectal bleeding due to laxative abuse, heart attack, cardiac arrest, stroke, seizures, swelling of the brain due to electrolyte imbalance, aspiration pneumonia from inhaling vomit, liver failure, kidney failure, heart failure, multi-system organ failure, and suicide


If someone you know is exhibiting any symptoms of an eating disorder it is imperative that they receive help as soon as possible, for both their psychological and physical well-being. Otherwise, they could end up being just another statistic.

The Weight of Her Words: “Crazy Weights (A Game)”

This poem sort of mirrors the manic feel of being caught up in a serious eating disorder, as well as how suddenly things can go wrong.




Crazy Weights (A Game)


Put it on, take it off– the objective: To win

You drop and you rise, then play again


When the weight is put on by some hospital staff

And the choice is being made on your behalf


It’s agony, torture, you just wait to break out

Through the whole thing you shriek and you pout


As soon as you’re gone there’s nothing to lose

Except for the fat that they have infused


Time to step up– new here are the rules:

You must cut your food into molecules


You must check the scale at least every hour

With every pound lost you will have more power


Throw up every calorie over the line

Know where your boundaries are, keep them defined


Run, lift, and stretch, come on, keep it up!

Remember the goal here, you’d best not fuck up!


But oh no, it’s beginning to complicated

The stakes are becoming elevated


Your body’s rebelling and you’re getting sick

You’re starting to hear the game’s timer tick


But if you’re going to die, by God, you’ll be thin

Come on now, come on, there’s still time to win


Keep working, keep running, they can’t make you stop

They’ll try but they know you’ll run ‘till you drop


But in the end when your body gave out

And your family was left to deal with the doubt


Could they have done better? Could they have done more?

Were there symptoms or signs they might have ignored?


If you were alive then you might feel regret

You might want to say sorry for all the upset


But now you will never receive that chance

Because you decided to dance this mad dance


In the end was trying to “win” worth the cost?

For it wasn’t just you– everyone lost



© Sarah Henderson 2008

“FAT is Not A Four Letter Word” by Ramona Carmelly

This is an excellent guest post by my friend Ramona. Love her argument!

FAT is not a four letter word.

I applaud anyone’s determination to manage their health and well-being, physical and emotional.  With parents, society, and now schools becoming the fat police, this (paradoxically, counter-productively, ironically) creates an environment in which eating disorders and body dysmorphia thrive.

As someone who has spent all of her adult life on the other end of the scale (pardon the pun), this makes me see red! When I was 13, I was 5’2 and I weighed 137 lbs – my petite mother panicked and dragged me to the doctor, beginning a life-long cycle of diets and weight gain, strict regimented eating or binging, and continual self-denigration. As a result, I have “yoyo”ed between sizes 18-24 for my entire adolescent and adult life. It has taken me 32 years from that day to overcome the damage to my spirit and I am just starting to overcome the damage to my body.

Enough! We have to combat the zeitgeist of fat phobia – the last widely permissible (even lauded) bigotry. The very word, “fat”, has become overloaded with anxiety and negative values. It has taken on hugely disproportional connotations of shame and mortification, and no longer functions as noun or adjective, but rather is used almost as a swear word. With the onslaught of media messages, from reality shows and “helpful” talk shows, the fashion industry to news reports of the latest “studies” on obesity, it is very easy to be caught up in the social frenzy and buy into the myths of fat vilification. Women in particular are bombarded with the message that if we are fat, then we are (or should be) physical, emotional and/or spiritual cripples, and fair game for all sorts of derogatory comments.

I refuse to participate in or perpetuate that mythology. We owe it to ourselves and our sisters and daughters, and yes, also our brothers and sons, to combat the tyranny of our fat phobic society and how it targets and denigrates people based on size. You are beautiful at any size.

Let’s be clear. We do not have a weight problem. We have a weight. They have a problem. Let’s stop letting them dump their problem on us.

In my adulthood I rediscovered my joy of dancing and movement as well the pure unadulterated elation that comes from celebrating your strength, flexibility and endurance. I’ve walked 60-kms in two days (raising $13,500 to combat cancer) and had the blisters and lost toe-nails and sunburns and a cold from walking all day in the rain (because while healthy activity supports the immune system, extreme activity has been shown to suppress it) to prove it.  I’ve biked all around this fantastic hilly city of mine (just take a look at a topographical map of Toronto and you’ll see what that entails). I took Yoga and  Pilates classes, found myself able to contort my body into fantastic shapes and positions, though humorously hindered by bumping up against bits of myself in the process (like the time I had my legs thrown way back behind my head and found myself with a face-full of my own bountiful bosom, unable to breathe). And, after laughing at the strength-training instructor who wanted me to do push ups (Sure, honey. Tell you what. If you can bench press ME, we are on. Otherwise, can I push YOU up?), I discovered that real weight training was a true exercise in both torture and pleasure. Who knew it could be so satisfying to bench-press or leg press or, even, those dreaded PUSH-UPS!

All that physicality finally taught me to love my body as it is.

Full disclosure: I currently wear about a size 24 (well, the labels say everything from 14-26, but i know my measurements so let’s call it that). In the last couple of years I’ve discovered something has shifted in my marriage. My husband, who used to be enthralled by the more usual womanly erogenous zones, is finding my voluptuous belly irresistible! His hands will inevitable stray to and linger on my belly. This paralleled my own (gradual and hard-won) acceptance of that part of my body.

Our unjustly maligned and oft-reviled yet generous and forgiving bellies can be honoured as a source of sensual pleasure, as well as serving so well in all the ways mentioned by Sarah Henderson in her wonderful poem, My Belly: A Poem of Love and Hope.  I just LOVE this. It’s posted in the Poetry section here on Writing for Recovery.

You know, it’s a funny thing I realized on the way to size acceptance. No matter what size we are and whether it’s our ribs or our rolls that are more evident, even swathed in a burqa, our bodies make their unique and wonderful shapes known. It’s not like we really can hide the truth of our body, so why not embrace it instead?

© Ramona Carmelly 2010