‘Thinspiration’: A form of self-harm?

While news media has often gotten a bad rap for encouraging unhealthy diets and unrealistic body image expectations, there is a new wave of threats towards individuals who are predisposed to eating disorders and body image issues.

‘Thinspiration’ is a recent phenomenon in which individuals–primarily girls and women–take to social media outlets in order to post images and other content which is intended to motivate people to become thinner. Unfortunately, the majority of this content encourages self-starvation, purging, and other unhealthy weight loss methods which can lead to or perpetuate disordered eating.

Based on my own experiences, thinspiration can be extremely triggering for eating disorder behaviors and it can also be extremely addictive. In the past I have spent hours looking at such content online in search of the secrets that would allow me to lose enough weight that I might one day love my body. Of course, that never happened. Instead, I was hurting myself physically and emotionally by starving myself into a state of total self-destruction.

For this reason, I believe that ‘thinspiration’ is simply another form of self-harm thinly veiled as a form of motivation for self-improvement. For all intents and purposes, the content is intended to help people achieve an unrealistic and unhealthy standard of “beauty” no matter how dangerous it might be.   The images highlight thigh-gaps, collar bones, hip bones, and ribs. Internalizing the messages from this content is toxic for the mind; it may not be as overtly harmful as cutting one’s self, but the resulting self-starvation is just as dangerous.


10 Pick-me-ups for when you’re struggling


  1. Treat yourself!! Whether it’s going out for a coffee or buying yourself a new pair of shoes, treating yourself to something can really help boost your mood and show yourself some love!
  2. Retail therapy. This one sort of builds on the previous point, but even just window shopping can help you feel better. Getting yourself out of your normal routine and into a more social environment can help you feel less alone and it can be a good distraction from any negative thoughts.
  3. Look good, feel good! Sometimes dressing up and making yourself look your best can really help you feel better. This can be a huge confidence boost and sometimes it’s nice to pamper yourself.
  4. Work out. It’s scientifically proven that working out releases endorphins which can make you feel better emotionally and physically.
  5. Set goals for yourself. Give yourself a sense of purpose and you’ll be amazed how much it can change your perspective!
  6. Take a “me day”. Give yourself a break and take a day to relax and unwind. Take a candle lit bubble bath while reading a book, watch some TV, or catch up on your beauty sleep! Do whatever it is that you like to do in order to relax!
  7. Express yourself. Let that negative energy out of your system. Creativity can be a great way to do this. Whether you like to colour, draw, paint, write (hello, bloggers!!!) or play a musical instrument, creativity can be cleansing for the mind.
  8. Sometimes the reason we feel so upset is because we are sleep-deprived. This is something that I’ve noticed has had a huge impact on me. If I’m running low on sleep I turn into an emotional, weepy ball of negative energy. The solution to this is obviously to catch up on that beauty sleep!
  9. Talk it out. Whether you call one of your closest friends over the phone, meet someone for coffee, or go visit your therapist, talking can be a great way to feel better. It allows you to put your feelings into words which can help you get those things off of your mind.
  10. Change up your routine. Sometimes the best way to get yourself out of a rut is to change up your routine. If you don’t change anything that you’re doing in your life, how do you expect to change the way you are feeling? Even a small change to your daily routine can help you improve your mood.

Challenge: Think of one thing that you do now that you would like to change, or something that is not currently part of your daily routine but which you would like to add to your routine. Brainstorm ways of how you could make this change possible. Bonus points if you are able to make the change!!

Good luck everyone!!



Defining Personal Success


Right now I’m in this weird in-between phase of my life in which I am not where I want to be, but neither am I where I was one year ago. I have accomplished many things in my life for which I am proud, but at the same time there is still so much that I have yet to achieve which often leads me to feel unsuccessful. It’s as if the successes of my past pale in comparison to the successes that I want for my future. But once I achieve those successes they are no longer enough.

I’m a very goal oriented person and while I truly believe that this characteristic gives a lot of meaning to my life, it becomes problematic when coupled with the perfectionism that I also possess.

On the one hand, even getting out of bed in the morning can be a personal success when I’m struggling with my mental health. But on the other hand, when I finally do achieve big milestone goals in my life I often feel as though I should have done something to be even better than I was.

There is a constant battle between considering my successes for what they really are (huge accomplishments!!) while at the same time feeling as though I should have been better in one way or another. While it is healthy to see room for improvement in our lives, it is not so great when you begin to struggle with acknowledging the achievements that you have reached.

As someone who is struggling to overcome an eating disorder, I can honestly say that I see connections between my goal oriented personality and the disease that controls my eating habits. Essentially, the eating disorder tends to have a stronger hold on my life when I find myself unable to make progress towards my aspirations in life. For example, right now I am in between school ventures and it is driving me absolutely bonkers that there is nothing I can do in order to speed up the admissions decisions of the universities I am applying to. As a result, I find myself setting other goals for myself; caloric goals; weight goals. I find myself fixating on goals that I can achieve in the short term in order to give myself some semblance of meaning.

Realistically, I know that this is illogical and dangerous. But at the same time, my disordered thoughts are strong and I am easily drawn into the need to have a goal that I am working to achieve. This is something that I’ve been working on in therapy. I’ve been setting smaller goals for myself in order to distract myself and focus on something healthier than restricting my food intake, but even this seems futile in comparison to the eating disorder. The calorie goals just seem to matter a lot more than a goal to read 50 books by the new year. These smaller goals that I’ve set for myself really hold no meaning for my life. I need to set goals that will make a contribution to my future. The eating disorder contributes by giving me some semblance of control in my life, which evidently I need right now in order to manage the anxiety that I’m experiencing while waiting to know if I will get into grad school.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I define my personal success based on my goals for the future and my success in working towards those goals. I’m proud of my past successes, but I’m also fond of the idea that my past does not define me. I need to be continuously successful throughout my life to consider myself successful. I can’t rest on my laurels.

It’s a bit odd, really, to put so much emphasis on achieving goals but then those achievements are no longer enough to make me feel successful once they’re complete. I need to constantly challenge myself. But there’s nothing wrong with working towards self improvement!



Recovery songs: Music as an alternative to self-harm?

“Stand By You” by Rachel Platten has been playing on repeat almost every night for the last week or so since I discovered it. The song makes me feel empowered; strong; capable of overcoming anything that threatens to tear me down. But it also reminds me of my best friend who has been there for me since I was 14 years old; that’s almost a decade of unwavering support.

When I shared the song with her it brought her to tears. She told me it is the story of us. It is our song. We’ve both struggled a lot over the last few years, but the one constant support system that we’ve both had is each other.

“Wings” by Birdy is another song that makes me think of my closest friend. The song brings about such strong emotions that it often makes me cry, but in a way that lets me feel both the good and the bad; the joy and the pain. The song hits me so close to home that the entire song evokes memories of times in which I felt impossibly lost and alone, but also times when the people in my life were able to help me get through those hard times. This song truly is an emotional roller coaster in the best possible way.

“All About You” is another song by Birdy that has a more obvious meaning. The course in particularly really speaks to me:

“You don’t have to do this on your own
Like there’s no one that cares about you
You don’t have to act like you’re alone
Like the walls are closing in around you
You don’t have to pretend no one knows
Like there’s no one that understands you
I’m not just some face you used to know
I know all about you
And you should know that someone cares about you”

I tend to listen to this song when I’m feeling completely alone. It reminds me that I’m not alone in my fight. I have my friends, my family, my treatment team, and, of course, myself. I have so many people in my life who know about my struggles who have been there for me since before they even knew about my struggles. The didn’t run for the hills when I disclosed to them that I was struggling; they stood by me and gave me support without trying to take over and control me. This song reminds me of those wonderful people.

“The Scientist” by Coldplay is another song that really stands out to me. Note, this is not the original version of the song, I just prefer this cover of the song because it’s what inspired me to learn how to play the song myself.

The song itself really makes me think about my struggle with an eating disorder and the things in my life that caused me to go down that path. I very much feel as though my struggle is about “numbers and figures” and has me “running in circles”, and in the end the lyric “nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be this hard” speaks to my recovery progress. It’s been almost 2 years of recovery and yet I still find myself struggling and relapsing every few months.

One of the first lines in “Elastic Heart” by Sia is “you did not break me, I’m still fighting for peace” followed by “I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart, but your blade might be too sharp”. This reminds me that I am no where near as messed up mentally as I was even one year ago, but at the same time, the memories of the past still haunt me and tempt me to self-harm. The reference to the blade as a means of destruction in the song reminds me that it is not the memories themselves that cause me physical harm, but the blade itself. This song reminds me that I am in control of the physical harm and I do not need to go down that road.

“Candle in the Wind” by Elton John is by far one of my all time favorite songs. I feel as though this song perfectly describes my struggles with anxiety, self-harm, PTSD, and the eating disorder. The lyric that really stands out to me is “it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind, never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in” which perfectly articulates how I feel when I’m at my lowest points in recovery.

This is another song that can quickly bring me to tears, but when that happens it is the kind of meltdown that purges me of negative emotions and allows me to feel rejuvenated when it is over. This song is like an alternative to self-harm. It forces me to feel the emotions that I try to push away which feels like physical pain at times, but in the end I feel the same emotional release that I might otherwise achieve by harming myself. It’s amazing that someone can bring out such an emotional response just by singing a song. Thank you for that Elton John. I wish that I could one day have the opportunity to express my gratitude to you in person.



Meltdowns are necessary

Okay, I’ll admit it; sometimes I fall apart.

I used to be completely ashamed about that. I would hide away and have my meltdowns in private so that nobody would ever know that I was suffering or dealing with emotional turmoil.

Thankfully, I have come to realize that it’s okay to fall apart sometimes. It’s okay to not be okay 100% of the time. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to feel angry, sad, lonely, and everything in between. Negative emotions are just as valid as positive ones and deserve to be felt just as happiness, joy, love, and companionship demand to be felt.


I think this is one of the most evasive life lessons that I’ve had the pleasure of learning. It took me years to realize that there was nothing wrong with feeling negative emotions. To be honest, I believe that my difficulty in learning this stemmed from my upbringing. While I love both of my parents more than any words could ever express, they had a tendency to discourage any form of negative emotion. Anger was an emotion that I didn’t dare express and to cry would be worthy of chastisement.

I grew up believing that it was not acceptable to express or even feel negative emotions. Unfortunately, I cannot deny that this may have contributed to my development of self-destructing coping mechanisms. However, throughout the last few years I have had the pleasure of working with a therapist who not only taught me that it was okay to acknowledge my negative emotions, but to turn around and face those emotions head on. Gone are the days of denial and avoidance. I’m proud to say that I have grown emotionally and mentally as an individual by learning to face my emotions in a healthy way, even if that means I have a complete meltdown and spend an afternoon watching TV or reading a book to give myself a break.

I guess the moral of this story is that it’s okay to have a meltdown. It’s okay to express those “ugly” emotions just as it is okay to express the positive ones. At the end of the day, I’m not super-human. My mind was not made to hold the weight of the world. At some point, I’m going to reach a breaking point. And that’s okay.

As ridiculous as this might sound, you need to embrace your inner glow-stick. Sometimes you have to break before you can shine.



“When the fat girl gets skinny” response

I feel like this poem perfectly describes my experience having an eating disorder. I went from being overweight to being underweight in the space of 5-6 months. And even though I wasn’t healthy, people showered me with praise. They told me that I looked great and that they could not believe the transformation. They asked me how I did it and what my secret was. I wanted to give them a snarky response and tell them that it was a perfect recipe of one part self-loathing and two parts starvation. But I stopped myself and explained it away as being the result of stress.

I think this girl does a great job of explaining my experience and I hope that this will help others in the same way that it helped me to feel understood.

Happy listening!

Letting my body say what words can’t

Have you ever noticed that when someone is going through a hard time they start to show physical signs of distress? They might look tired or lose weight or just seem to lack the same energy which they once possessed.

For some people, this decline in physical health is an unintentional result of an emotional or physical ailment. For me though it is a cry for help. I use my body to say the things that I can’t put into words. For so long I hid secrets behind a picture perfect exterior. I looked healthy and happy until I just couldn’t hold it together anymore. I turned to cutting and starvation to put what I was feeling emotionally into a physical form. I still hid the cuts and wore baggy clothes to disguise my weight loss, but for me it was enough to get out the emotions even if nobody else noticed.

Of course, people eventually did notice; how could they not. The scars were difficult to conceal and you would have had to be blind not to see the drastic change in my weight. But even when people started asking questions I kept my true suffering a secret. My self-harm and eating disorder stopped being about showing other people how much my emotional pain hurt and started being about control. Only I could control my weight and the number of cuts on my body.

Since working towards recovery though I find myself slipping back into using my body as a tool to communicate my pain. Even after nearly 9 months free of self-harm I still struggle with the urge to cut every time I am forced to face the painful memories of my past. Even though I’ve been in therapy for nearly two years I still struggle with disordered eating as a way to show people how much I am struggling. Whether or not people actually notice is irrelevant. What matters is the fact that it lets me express my pain in a way that words will never be able to. It’s like I’m screaming “LOOK AT WHAT I’M GOING THROUGH. LOOK HOW MUCH PAIN I’M IN”!

I used to think that this really didn’t make sense. I thought I was lying to myself to make it okay to continue hurting myself. But then I talked to my therapist about this and she helped me understand that it makes sense. I used to be ashamed of my issues because I thought I was being manipulative. Thankfully, my therapist being the wonderful woman that she is helped me recognize that my actions were actually logical, even if they weren’t exactly healthy. So now my goal becomes finding a way to express those emotions without using my body as the outlet. I don’t know how to do this yet, but I’m definitely going to fight like hell to find out.