Progress Not Perfection

Progress Not Perfection

It’s amazing how the farther I travel in my Whole30 journey the more similarities I find between my story and my hardships and those of my patients.
Just last week I facilitated a group on “the honeymoon phase” of recovery. You know, when you’re first introduced to something new that brings so much joy and happiness to your life, inspiration, love and hope– where you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and embracing the “newness” of it that you think will last forever? For my patients, it’s finding stability on a medication that makes them not sick or impaired, where they are finally able to see a life without chasing heroin.
For me it was new found pride and hope that I could finally manage my food addiction and cravings and see that I can make it through a day without binge eating or over-exercising.

Regardless, the honeymoon phase (for me at least) was full of motivation, inspiration and encouragement from others which kicked my will-power into high gear and allowed for a successful Whole30, and Whole60.  But like with any recovery process, it starts with you. It’s crucial to have a support system but you’ve got to believe in yourself first.

Now a lot of you that have kept up with my journey know that I did encounter some bad days. Nothing that resulted in devouring a dozen doughnuts, but there were days I wanted to, which is why I extended my Whole30 to Whole60.

As I was nearing the end of my Whole60 I noticed that I was starting to get complacent. I am very familiar with complacency because it is something that I remind my patients to be aware of all the time.  To you it may mean simply being satisfied with where you are in your life, but to me it’s becoming too comfortable with my current situation. And me, like my patients, we have adopted the motto of we are either working on recovery or working on a relapse. There’s always room to grow, room to learn, new triggers to identify.

If you’re not careful complacency can stare you straight in the face when the honeymoon phase is over, and that’s what happened to me.

No, I didn’t run wild through a bakery but during reintroduction, I wasn’t as methodical as I wanted to be. I reintroduced a few gluten free items and oats for breakfast which brought up a previous breakfast of choice which included lots of fruit. Yes, you can have fruit on whole30 but the excess fruit hyped up my sugar cravings.


and then Easter happened.

“I made it through an entire 60 days of clean eating so I deserve a 4 pack of Reese’s Eggs”

That’s the equivalent of telling an alcoholic that just got their 90 day chip to celebrate with a pitcher or two at Happy Hour.

I realize that no journey is perfect and from time to time we will fall into a rut and the the honeymoon phase will not last. But it’s maintaining a positive attitude (which I let get the best of me this last week) and go back to the beginning. To go back and remember why I started whole 30 in the first place and it was to change my personal relationship with food.

So, I am taking a step back and I am starting a Whole9 today to get back on track. The Honeymoon Phase is over but the journey has not ended.

I plan on staying Whole30 compliant for a little over a week and re-read the reintroduction part of my Whole 30 Book and write a plan of action so that I set myself up for success with reintroduction. Easter, my cousins wedding and a few other events hit back to back after I completed Whole60 and I rewarded myself too generously. I didn’t gain any weight back, but when that started to become my concern, was my first clue that I needed to take a breather.

One of the nicest people I’ve never met (think that one through for a second) told me earlier today that “everybody has their days/weeks/months and it’s great to express as that you are human, too. Being vulnerable means being human–simple as that.”

It’s taken me longer than my usual time span to get this blog written because I felt like a failure because of the way that I was feeling but, I’m human.  I know that we are our own worst critics, but I have learned the good, bad and the ugly about my relationship with food. If I don’t hold myself accountable, cut myself some slack, and have realistic expectations about this entire process… then how can I expect to help anyone else, which has become the second most important thing to me with my Whole30 story.  So I will leave you with this,

“Being defeated is often a temporary condition, but giving up is what makes it permanent.” -Unknown

Keep your head up Whole30’ers, there’s a ‘whole’ network of support systems for you out there, everything from The Whole 30 Website, blog, Facebook and Instagram and regular ole people like me. All we can do is take it a day at a time, strive for progress, not perfection and remember,  It Starts With Food 🙂

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“Drinking your coffee balck. Is. Not. Hard.”

Today is a big day.

It’s the last day of Eating Disorder Awareness Week AND it’s my Whole45 finale. (I am this close to Whole60 so here’s to 15 more days).

Speaking of eating disorders,  I had several friends growing up who were hospitalized due to their eating disorders. Anorexia consumed them, nothing but skin and bones, with big hearts and tiny waist lines. Helpless and hopeless. Bulimia, the other extreme. Beautiful girls–you would’ve have never guessed in a million years WHY they visited the bathroom so quickly after each meal and then the overeaters, the “lazy” ones who used food to cope.

Much like opiate addiction, eating disorders do not discriminate.

I questioned my path for a lot of years but now as I am faced with my own demons I can see how every step I’ve taken was purposefully planted right in front of me.

I’ve been around the family business of treating addiction my entire life, never, ever thinking one day I would have the privilege of being a certified counselor.

College days rolled around and my passion quickly turned from being an ESPN side line reporter (after all, there is only ONE Holly Rowe ;))  to helping those who suffered from addiction of any kind from eating disorders to pain pill, heroin and/or alcohol abuse.

My best friend was a victim of addiction and it was my eye opener to see such a beautiful, family oriented, hard working, best friend and mom struggle with this disease.  Good and bad days came but she taught me that with loyalty to herself and meetings that life could be lived drug free. It was up to her what she put in her body.

One week after graduation I started my first “big girl” job at Magnolia Creek- a residential treatment center for woman with eating disorders. That is when I first saw the connection between eating disorders and addictions… while still being blind to my own problems.

I was the staff counselor for the graveyard shift. I had it “easy” because that’s when everyone was sleeping. Well, supposed to be sleeping. Sometimes the nightmares kept them awake, or just the anxiety that breakfast was only a few hours away plus the morning weigh in. It was hard for me to understand WHY portioning out cereal could be such a devastating task for some people.

I get it now.

It’s not just about control, compulsion and obsession. I understand that there are genetic and environmental components to eating disorders and addiction but it’s important to understand what lies beneath. Mental illness is not something to taken lightly and no one is immune. As an advocate for both with personal & professional experience, be careful who you judge and why. These mental illnesses impact more people and families than you think.

This week I’ve had the honor of sharing part of my story that I am just now coming to terms with,  with my patient’s in our group sessions. I was able to bring awareness to eating disorders and co-occurring disorders of many kinds.  It’s all starting to make sense. Past experiences were my building blocks to my career and identifying who I am and why I am the way that I am.

At Magnolia Creek I had patients I would drive to 12 step meetings because when they could not have control over food they substituted with drugs or alcohol.

The same thing can happen here at Private Clinic. Regardless of the amount of work put in to ANY recovery program, it’s important to learn new coping skills so that you don’t substitute one addiction for another. For many of my current patients it’s food. After years of putting drugs before food those roles reverse quickly when entering rehab.

 My all-time favorite Whole30 quote that has been known to cause some controversy is a certain truth that I finally understand.

{Whole30}  “It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. “

While I know that Whole30 was NOT designed as a “cure” for eating disorders, it WAS designed to assist men and woman to change their relationship with food. And maybe that’s the start with any addiction or eating disorder. Figuring out why your drug of choice, be it heroin or cupcakes was a temporary solution to your problems.

I am thankful for Whole30 because it brought me an understanding of WHY I was craving all these calorie dense foods (the “scienc-y” stuff as the Hartwigs phrase it) and why it is important for my patient’s to understand as they begin the journey of drug addiction recovery.  It has been so helpful to me as an individual and to my profession.

It’s more than just losing weight, it’s fueling your body to function how it was meant to in the first place.

Did I learn new coping skills from removing bread and cheese from my diet? Did I learn new coping skills because I make my own mayonnaise and ketchup?

No. I’ve learned new coping skills because I acknowledge that I have an unhealthy, toxic relationship with food and like with any vice, it could lead me further down a road to major health problems or premature death.

Whole30 has made me a better counselor, a better accountability partner, a better & healthier wife and daughter. I am finally able to put all the pieces of my life together and realize my purpose and my passion. And for me to be the best that I can possibly be…. It starts with food.

Resources if you or anyone you know are struggling with eating disorders or opiate addiction.       

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Eat like you love yourself

Eat like you love yourself

I have to say that in the past 36 days I have adopted the motto below. I have good days, and bad days. I still have anxiety from time to time, but I have to remember that I am human. Just because I’ve removed cupcakes & fried chicken from my life doesn’t mean I’ve got it all figured out. Life is not perfect but there are so many things I have control over. Like, what food I put into my body. If I choose to go to the gym or not. If I smash self-destructive thoughts as soon as they surface. So many times I have gone from diet to diet to try and look better for other people or to fit in. This go around, I am doing this for me. I am giving myself permission to be selfish & to change my life, because I am worth it.
Like I’ve mentioned before, lots of questions come my way when people see me bring my own salad dressing to a party, or if they see me say no to dessert for like the first time ever. The question of the week has been, “I guess you never get to go out to eat now do you?”
Is it the easiest thing in the world? No. Is it hard to say no to delicious, cheesy, fried appetizers? Yes.  Have I had a successful Whole30 friendly date night? YES. 
The hubs wanted pizza the other night, so I looked around at different restaurants and noticed that Mellow Mushroom had a build your own salad option. Well, as mentioned before I’ve been bringing a small Tupperware container of my homemade dressing when we eat somewhere other than our house.  But I forgot it and kinda panicked. Our waitress had already caught on to the fact that I was being “picky” based on the fact I attacked her with questions as soon as we were seated. The good news is, she was fantastic. I asked her about marinades and how the ingredients are prepared. She asked what “diet” I was on, and I explained that it was something similar to paleo.
Much to my surprise she knew exactly what I was talking about. So she got out the menu, walked me through the list of veggies and salad toppings and told me what would be appropriate and what wouldn’t. She went so far as to have the chef skip out on the marinade for my chicken and just grill it with olive oil, salt and pepper AND she brought me a delicious and whole30 approved dressing.  So, shout out to Becca at the Mellow Mushroom in Columbus, GA for not making me feel like one of “those” customers who make waiting tables so complicated. Needless to say, she got an awesome tip & we’ll be going there again!
On to different news, it’s pretty clear, I mean very clear, that during the first 30 days of Whole30 you are not to weigh. You weigh on day 0 and on day 31. Since I was extending my 30 days to 45, and maybe even to 60 I had decided that I was going to wait until I was ready for reintroduction to weigh again. Well, day 33 was a struggle for whatever reason so instead of eating my emotions for temporary satisfaction, I got on the scale.  Along with the increased energy and overall better quality of life… I have lost 14.7 pounds. WHAT!? I didn’t see that coming. That’s the true beauty of it. Whole30 isn’t about how many pounds you lose, it’s about being good to your body, physically and mentally. Losing weight is just a side effect.
So, here’s to 36 days of loving myself & looking forward to the days to come! <3
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A Lifestyle Change

“Recovery is a full time job—a lifestyle change.” “It’s not going to be easy.” “The first step is admitting that you have a problem.”
If only I had a dime for every time I’ve said these phrases to my patients!
But, Mrs. Courtney. “You don’t understand.” “You don’t have the cravings like I do.” “You don’t know the guilt I feel or how stressed I am.”
Every day I go into work, 5:30 am with a smile on my face. I am there to serve. To serve as a listening ear, a guiding voice, to offer a sense of understanding to help my patients learn how to live life without drugs. Without heroin, or Percocet, without Vicodin. A prescribed tablet of hope that so commonly is used for real pain and then for the unlucky ones, leads to a life of disease, sickness, and helplessness.
Over the years I’ve seen ups and downs, successes and relapses. I’ve seen overdoses and deaths. I’ve seen desperate men finally become the father they wanted to be and I’ve seen women learn to love themselves without sacrificing their integrity.  I’ve seen children come home to their parents, and trust brought back to families.
Over the years I’ve learned that I am really not that different.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with food, with my body, for as long as I can remember. I was always the friendly, abnormally tall chubby kid. I could never shop from Aeropostle or Limited Too. Long shirts were crop tops and pants were capris. Embarrassment prevailed.
I don’t remember being made fun of or ridiculed. I wasn’t always cornered on the playground and laughed at. But, I always felt out of place. It didn’t feel right to eat cake and ice cream next to the tiny, petite girl at the birthday party. “They must think I am huge.” “They probably think I am a fat cow.” Negative thoughts consumed my mind, so I ate more.
I remember seeing my senior pictures and thinking, “No one is ever going to want to be with me.” So with that in mind I started exercising.
I started college and the freshmen fifteen came by no surprise.  My first day in the gym at the Pete Hanna Center was one to remember. My sprints on the treadmill turned to a brisk walk, to a jog to a slow walk… right out the door when the men’s basketball team flooded the room. Cue negative thoughts. “They probably think I am a moron to be doing this. I don’t need a treadmill I need liposuction. “
My negative, destructive thoughts and I frequented the Pete Hanna Center until I started working a full time job with 16- hour semesters. I didn’t need exercise then because there weren’t enough hours in the day and I had endless espresso at my fingertips. Between work and research papers I shed some pounds, made good grades and had a boyfriend. I had it all.
Until the relationship soured and I went to the go-to friend that I could always fall back on..

And the cycle started again.
I remember taking a water aerobics class towards the end of my time at Samford when I learned more about my body, the importance of exercise and the food I put in it. I was surrounded by non-judgmental people who helped me build my self-esteem back and helped me get on the right track to healthy-ville.
I realized then, that even with hard work, I am not built to be skinny. I’m a 5’10, curly headed girl who’s supposed to have meat on her bones. And for the first time in a long time I was okay with that.
Until the stress of graduation combined with one of the worst nights in my life lead me to the most destructive thoughts I’ve ever had about myself. Then, I moved away from a place I thought I wanted to make a home leaving the good and the bad behind, I found myself depressed and taking every opportunity to eat my feelings. I didn’t want to feel sad, or happy or hungry. I wanted fullness and I got that with food. So I became obsessed and unhealthy and my waistline grew.
Luckily, I have a great family who came as my wake up call. I got a great job with great co-workers who encouraged me to go to the gym. Unfortunately those underlying voids and feelings that I hadn’t dealt with kept re-surfacing. So, I joined a challenge at the gym to see who could lose the most pounds and/or body mass in 2 months to keep my mind off of all the inner demons. So to the other side I flew. Working out two to three times a day, protein shakes and kale became my “best friends.” I was still hungry so I’d go to sleep early to avoid the feeling and wake up even earlier to go to the gym before work. I was so pleased with the results…. I became obsessed and unhealthy but I was beautiful.
My iron dropped. My muscles were strong but I felt weak. Would I ever find a happy medium?
Yes. A wise soul once told me, “Remember, it’s not a diet. It’s about changing your relationship with food. Learning not to rely on it for comfort, company stress or relief. “
A light bulb went off. I’m really not that different than my patients. Bread is my heroin. My comfort, my companion in my time of need.  Reese’s Cups keep me company and make me feel good until the high wears off. My brain suffers, my heart suffers, my pant size suffers. My quality of life is in danger and so are the rest of my years if I don’t change. Working out and exercising put on a great front, but doesn’t change much when you sneak an extra serving of pasta and dinner roll when no one is looking.
It’s time that I practice what I preach on a daily basis and accept that I , too am stronger than my excuses. I am a beautiful, educated woman with the support from family, friends and an incredible husband. I have faith in my ability to overcome obstacles, and achieve goals that I set my mind to. I have a daily reminder when I go to work. To help my patients get through denial and identify their triggers. To be a living example for those around me and when times get rough, to encourage them to think back to the beginning, to that first step and remember why they started when they feel like giving up.
I have an extremely unhealthy relationship with food. And this my friends…





is my first step.
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