Hi friends! How are you? It’s been awhile. I can’t believe it’s already June! Life has been hectic between moving, starting my job as an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach, trying to get into graduate school, and most of all, taking care of myself. Blogging hasn’t exactly fit in with unpacked boxes, mental overload from so much “new”, and interview preparation. However, I’m slowly knocking things off my plate one by one so I can show up here more regularly. I missed you guys.
Before my little break, I was on a streak where I featured an eating disorder warrior the first Wednesday of every month. But now it’s the third Wednesday of the month so there’s that. I mean, I’ve forgiven myself for this change in plans and hopefully you have too. I know you all enjoy hearing from others and I think you will especially enjoy this June feature. She’s amazing!
Emily Gass, from the @eatwithcare Instagram account, is creating a name for herself through her photography, storytelling, and vulnerability. Born and raised in New Jersey, Emily recently graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in Psychology. Eventually she will become a licensed therapist or social worker but for now, she’s embracing fun rather than jumping into more school or an intense job following graduation (been there, done that). She recognizes this might not be the best for her mental health and instead, shared her summer plans in our interview:
Without the structure of school, I have more time to pour love into the blog. It doesn’t feel right to call that “work,” but maintaining Eat With Care does take up a huge part of my brain space and time. I host weekly virtual support groups, share captions and photos about my recovery and mental health, just launched a line of merch (that sounds weird yet fun to say!) and try my best to connect intimately with the people who follow me. I don’t have an end goal for the blog, but I’m content with the balance I feel I’m striking right now between work/blog/LIFE.
Let me just say, it’s refreshing to see someone so influential honoring their mental health. I’m definitely one of those people who races from one thing to the next and doing so can keep you stuck in a lot of ways. For instance, it can cause you to live under a lack mindset; a mindset where there’s never enough and you feel the pressure to constantly do more. But honoring your accomplishments and giving yourself space between goals can help keep you in an abundance mindset where you become more mindful and appreciative of all you’ve done; excited for the next big thing, while also content in the here and now.
If you’re at all like me then you’re probably curious to know how Emily’s Eat With Care Instagram platform and 25,000 follower community got started. In addition to this, I asked her how Eat With Care has changed since the creation. Here was her reply:
I started Eat With Care a few years ago as a food blog. I was attracted to the idea of being a “wellness blogger,” having looked up to people in that space who made careers out of sharing recipes online. At this time, though, I was struggling with my eating disorder. I was deep in the binge-restrict cycle, and held so much shame around the behaviors I was using. Posting photos of “healthy” food on social media was a way for me to mask what I was really struggling with. I finally hit a breaking point about a year ago. I was tired of lying to myself and the people around me about the state of my recovery, and I knew that if I wanted to fully recover I had to start being wholly vulnerable. That’s when my page shifted from food and wellness to recovery and mental health. I’ve been sharing honestly about my recovery ever since.
From what I’ve heard and experienced, there are many “wellness bloggers” who struggle with an eating disorder and eventually choose recovery while transforming their social media accounts drastically—including me! My Instagram started out as a food account where I shared the meals I cooked and was obsessed with “clean eating.” Behind the scenes, however, I had many fear foods and was caught in the restrict, binge, and purge cycle.
I would feel shameful over something like listing butter in the ingredient list for recipes I created, and I was so focused on eating the “right” way, that I dismissed my bodies cravings in an attempt to be seen as “good” and “healthy.” Other people being open and honest about their struggles helped me recognize my eating disorder in a clearer light. It also—eventually—gave me the courage to be vulnerable about my journey. So, I hope that if you’re reading this now and you are up against food rules, food fears, body image issues, and more, Emily’s journey—and my own—encourage you.
Keep reading to hear more about Emily’s disorder and how her recovery started:
My eating disorder took on many forms. I was diagnosed with anorexia as a sophomore in high school and my recovery then looked much different than it does now. I went to inpatient and residential treatment, and trudged through the motions of recovery for several years without actually wanting it for myself. After about two years of treatment and relapse, treatment and relapse, my eating disorder evolved, and I started struggling with the binge-restrict cycle. I was never formally diagnosed with another eating disorder, but I struggled with this cycle for even longer than I did anorexia. I kept my behaviors hidden to the naked eye and felt hopeless and misunderstood. I struggled quietly for almost a year before opening up to members of my support system. It was then that my true healing began. Acknowledging my behaviors and sharing them aloud is what gave me the ability to get better.
I loved reading these words by Emily because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million more times: Vulnerability is what opens the door to healing. When we take that first step of admitting we’re not okay and we need help getting better, true transformation is birthed. Taking that first step can be scary, however, many will find in taking that step, there is an entire community of people able to relate to the very thing you feel alone in.
Our monsters, or inner demons, want us to believe we’re alone and always will be. They want us to stay hidden and engulfed by our struggle so we are more reliant on them and less reliant on others. And when it comes to something like an eating disorder, they will always try and convince us our disorder is helping us when in reality, it’s harming and distracting us from our true potential.
Emily said sharing her most dark and messy struggles online makes her feel empowered. She expressed:
What’s scariest to share is often what I need to share the most. And this honesty, with myself and others, has directly impacted my relationship to food. Much of my eating disorder was rooted in shame and fear of judgement. Tackling those issues, and forcing myself to share what I fear judgement about the most, has increased my confidence tenfold. And right now, after lots of consistent practice and vulnerability, my relationship to food and my body is the healthiest it’s been in a really long time.
Ugh…I get so emotional reading breakthrough moments like this. I’ve only been working as an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach for a little over a week and already, I’ve witnessed so many of these breakthrough moments in the adolescents. I can’t imagine the collection I’ll have to share after a year at the facility!
But to stay on track, one of the things I wanted to know from Emily is how she navigates a bad body image day now. It’s no secret that even in recovery or after recovery, experiencing negative body image is bound to happen. Even if you’ve never dealt with an eating disorder, looking in the mirror and being dissatisfied with what you see is normal. Yet, for someone who has experienced an eating disorder, it can trigger past behaviors to erupt.
Here’s how Emily responded to me when I asked her, “What do you do or tell yourself when you’re having a particularly bad body image day?” She said:
Mentally, I rely on evidence from my past to remind myself that my body is not the problem, and losing weight or manipulating my physical form will not fix my body image issues. Accepting this fact, and that being smaller doesn’t automatically equal joy and confidence, changed my life. Now, when I have bad body image days or moments, it doesn’t send me into a spiral because I don’t feel this urgent need to change my body. I know the alternative to accepting my body (by losing weight) isn’t the solution. So I treat myself gently mentally and physically on bad body image days, knowing it is temporary, and that my life is so much fuller in this body than it was when I was smaller.
Emily also suggested getting out of the house, engaging in meaningful conversations with others, and continuing to eat the things you crave on these kinds of days. She says by choosing these health coping skills, you reinforce that your bodies appearance doesn’t have to dictate your behaviors.
“I can still live a fulfilling live even when I’m struggling with my body image,” Emily stated. That should be a mantra or affirmation we all tell ourselves. Repeat it with me: I can still live a fulfilling live even when I’m struggling with my body image.
If you or someone you know is recovering from an eating disorder or disordered ways of thinking/living and need support, Emily hosts a support group where you can receive and give advice about whatever is going on for you in your mental health or recovery journey. For more information, simply go to her website and click on the “GROUP” section. From there, you can find all of the FAQs and details for how to join.
When I asked Emily about the support group she said, “Connecting with incredible, kind, and open people in this community face-to-face, and having real conversations, is one of the best parts of my week.”
Other resources Emily recommends for recovery are:
- The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner: Emily says this is a great resource for anyone, not just people who struggle with food.
- The Nourishing Women Podcast by Registered Dietitian Victoria Myers: short and sweet episodes with lots of helpful insights on intuitive eating, body acceptance, and gentle, sustainable wellness.
- The Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center: a useful website to seek out treatment options. Find the website by clicking here.
One of Emily’s favorite questions to answer was, “Run us through an ideal self care day for you.” She replied with:
Spending time outside is my go-to form of self-care. Besides that, I’d fill my day with calming activities. Going for a walk, reading a good book, taking a nap. If it’s warm and I’m near a body of water, jumping into that. And ending it with a nice dinner out. And a glass of wine. 🙂
I’m just saying, if wine isn’t included in your self-care routine, you’re missing out. I’m sort of teasing, but also wine is delicious and man would it be a dream come true if I had the chance to share a glass with Emily one day. I’m not sure when I officially started following her Instagram page, but that alone has been a gift. She has a way of tying struggle and pain together with beauty and elegance, and her posts are a breath of fresh air.
If you want to see what I’m talking about, go and check out her Instagram profile by clicking here.
I love asking my eating disorder warrior blog features what their favorite snack in right now! For Emily, she’s been super into chips/pretzels/carrots and hummus, and cookies if she’s in the mood for something sweet. Homemade or store bought cookies…both never fail she said. And as someone who has been on an Oreo kick for the last few months, I say amen!
I also like asking people what book they are reading and what their favorite show is. I loved Emily’s response:
I’m currently reading Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne and it’s incredible…might become my new favorite book, ever. Favorite show: Survivor, always. I will be on it my lifetime, I’m manifesting it here!
I’m manifesting Emily being on Survivor too because oh my gosh, that would definitely be a reason for me to watch that show again. She’d kill it.
Lastly, I want to let you guys know that as Emily mentioned earlier, she recently started selling Eat With Care merchandise and I’m sure she would love it if you checked out the cute hoodies, t-shirts, totes, and mugs she designed. I’m in love with the “healing” crewneck (pictured below) and have it on my wishlist for next month.
Aside from the support group details, Emily also has a blog on her website. So, if you enjoyed hearing from her today, you can find a bunch more of her work there.
Again, it was such an honor to feature Emily. I’m so joyful she chose recovery and I hope she encourages some of you to continue choosing recovery every. single. day. Your story doesn’t end here and I’m confident God wants to use your struggle for amazing works just as He has with Emily, me, and so many other of the recovery warriors I’ve spoke with.
Keep fighting for joy because you are worth it.
All my love,