Eating Disorder Therapist in Rockville, Maryland. Serving Montgomery County, Maryland. Specializing in the treatment of anorexia, binge eating, orthorexia, bulimia, compulsive exercise.
One important element of recovery from an eating disorder, is the ability to have (even a small bit) of hope. It can be so difficult to maintain this sense of hope for recovery and a better life, when things feel really tough.
I started this "recovery stories" series on my blog to provide real-life hope and inspiration that recovery from an eating disorder is possible.
I knew that I just had to interview the amazing Kristie Amadio, who owns the eating disorder recovery coaching group, Recovered Living. If you are looking for an eating disorder recovery coach, or a virtual support group-i'd recommend that you check out her services. There are only a small handful of people whose services I can 100% recommend. Kristie's virtual recovery coaching is one of them.
Kristie truly embodies this idea of "recovered living." She is passionate, charismatic, kind, and really "knows her stuff" when it comes to helping people to recover from eating disorders. I appreciate her courage in speaking publicly about her own recovery journey.
Jennifer: Tell me a little bit about your struggle with an eating disorder (please avoid numbers or graphic descriptions of behaviors, so as not to trigger my readers):
Kristie: I had an eating disorder for fourteen years – in large part because I was never told ‘recovered’ was a thing. Living in Australia and New Zealand the message I got was, ‘this is something you will have to mange for the rest of your life. You will always be fighting the thoughts.’ I had been in residential treatment twice in Australia as a teenager (a hospital setting which helped stabilize me) - but I left believing this was my lot in life
For most of my eating disorder I was what you would call ‘high functioning’ – I was an elite athlete, I had a job and relationships and travelled...but I had an eating disorder that was subtly controlling everything I did even if it wasn’t apparent to the outside world. Eventually that 20% of an eating disorder spread like an infection and I became very ill, losing everything; my health, my friendships, my job and my ability to function.
I travelled to America for residential treatment at Monte Nido in California. I went there thinking ‘I’ll do six weeks and be done’ but I wound up spending 7 months in Los Angeles doing full time recovery. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but it’s the thing I’m proudest of and most grateful to myself for. The staff at Monte Nido were the first people to ever look me in the eyes and tell me I could recover and I will always be grateful for that.
Jennifer: What do you think was the function of your eating disorder in your life?
Kristie: It was so many things, the exercise piece of my eating disorder became my identity. I was known as the girl who loved to do ‘hard core’ exercise. I fooled even myself. Deep in my heart I hated exercising at extreme levels, but I thought it showed "self control and discipline" and it helped me "control my weight." Exercise even became a career for me, first as an elite athlete and then as an outdoor instructor. I was literally getting paid to have an eating disorder!
On reflection I can also see that my eating disorder gave me self esteem and purpose in life. If I every stopped exercising or planning how to micro-manage my food I felt so empty inside that my eating disorder was a way of distracting me from the truth of my life – it was empty and inauthentic.
Jennifer: Was there a turning point for you, where you really started to embrace the idea of recovery?
Kristie: I remember this moment really well. I was in residential treatment in group therapy and it suddenly became very clear to me that I could continue living according to the rules and beliefs of my eating disorder – which had led me here, or I could try embracing something different. There were no guarantees with recovery and that was scary, I didn’t think I could do it and I was scared but the guarantee of my eating disorder is that nothing would change. That was scarier.
Jennifer: What helped you get through the tough times in recovery?
Kristie: Meeting people who had recovered gave me so much hope and inspiration. These people embodied peace and freedom with both food and their bodies and I longed for that so badly I used it as my primary motivation. There were thousands of times I slipped or thought ‘nothing will change’, ‘I can’t do this’ but I kept my goal front and center and kept doggedly aiming for it no many how times I fell over.
My relationships with people were also key. My eating disorder affected my relationships so deeply because it wasn’t possible to have an eating disorder and be authentic. As I developed authentic relationships it became harder to do my eating disorder. I had to choose literally between the people I cared about and brought me joy and the thing that offered me safety, but also pain. I’m so glad I chose people!
Jennifer: What were some of your motivations in terms of pushing yourself in recovery?
Kristie: Something else that springs to mind was bringing recovery into every area of my life to help with motivation. John Demartini talks about how if we want to value something, we need to consciously make it a value by surrounding ourselves with it visually, spending time with that value, talking about it, thinking about it, spending our finances on it etc. In the same way an eating disorder had become a 24/7 thing in my life I made a conscious effort to make recovery be a 24/7 thing too and there was only room for one of them!
I had motivational phrases on my wall at home, I would talk about recovery, blog about recovery, spend money on therapy and body image workshops, journal about recovery, listen to music that lifted me up, watch videos, listen to podcasts....anything I could think of.
It was like moving to another country and going for full immersion to learn the language. At first it was super difficult and I had to consciously think about it all the time. Once I had been ‘immersed’ for a while it became automatic and recovery became my default rather than my eating disorder.
Jennifer: What was the most helpful for you in terms of your recovery (i.e. specific skills, tools, treatment etc)?
When I returned home to New Zealand, I lived in a very remote location and the nearest eating disorder therapist was 6 hours drive away! Right away I knew it wasn’t going to work. I had come too far to only come that far so I found a therapist that agreed to work online with me, a dietician in America that did the same and I would do online meal support with my friends via Skype. Lunch time in New Zealand was dinner time in California so I would Facebook my friends saying ‘I need you!’ and we would eat together.
I had a joke for a while that I could become an astronaut and provided I had internet access I would still have my recovery team with me. That was when I first had the idea to create a virtual recovery service for people so that anyone could get support and it could be right inside their home where so often eating disorders are at their strongest.
A tool that was super helpful was eating disorder vs healthy self dialogue (explained in 8 keys to recovery). It was gruelling at first because for every healthy self thought I had hundreds of eating disorder thoughts in reply, it was like killing a single mosqito in a plague – they just kept coming! With time though I began to see the repetitiveness of the ED thoughts and they started to have less power. I can honestly say I have 100% turned my old ED thoughts around. I never thought it would be possible to be at peace with my set point weight and food, but I am!
Jennifer: How is your recovered life different from your life in an eating disorder? What would you say are some of the benefits of being recovered?
Kristie: I don’t feel scared of life anymore. I used to be such an anxious person and would worry incessantly about the future. At 19 years old I already had a bank account dedicated to my retirement fund! I used to wake up every morning and think about the calories I had eaten yesterday, what I would or wouldn’t eat that day, how I could exercise...it was never ending. Now I wake up in the mornings and I’m at peace. It gives me goosebumps to write that because it means so much to me.
Something I learned in treatment was that I didn’t need to exercise in order to maintain my natural weight. I did go back to outdoor instructing while I was in recovery and I got to make peace with exercise – that was a really important part of my journey. I learned that I don’t like exercise but I do like playing – I enjoy beach volleyball, white water kayaking or trapeze but I personally don’t like training or set and reps, I have done my time with that for sure!!
Interestingly, I fell off a cliff about three years ago and damaged my feet permanently. I’m not able to stand for more than 20 minutes at a time and I can’t walk for more than hour without pain so my life has altered drastically. It was a pivotal moment when sitting on the couch I realized despite the fact I had gone from a full time outdoor instructor to a full time couch sitter, my food hadn’t changed. There were no thoughts about restricting or compensating for the fact I couldn’t exercise. I had really healed that part of myself.
As a recovery coach, now I get paid to be recovered – talk about an about face! I’m putting energy into things that lift my soul up and feed me, rather than tear me down. Sometimes I get so excited about my life I can’t sleep at night because I just want to wake up and get going on what I love.
Jennifer: What is your approach to recovery coaching, and what kind of other services does Recovered Living provide?
Kristie: I worked really hard to create a service that had something for everyone. We provide virtual support in the form of individual Recovery Coaching, Meal & Snack Support & At-Home Cooking. We have virtual group coaching every week and a free monthly ‘Support Space’ online group for family and friends. Finally, we also do Transition Assistance (live-in support).
We currently have clients in six different countries and coaching covers everything from working through how to do life in recovery, through preparing and portioning meals, clearing out closets, even grocery shopping...whatever it takes! I’m all about getting creative and supporting people in their home environment.
Live-in support is one of my favorite things in the world to do because it is so unique. Live-in’s can be anything from 4 days to 3 months and we provide 24/7 support. It definitely isn’t a replacement for residential treatment but it is a way to help build the gap of how to do real life and recovery at the same time.
People have used live-in support for all types of things, wanting accountability to not use behaviors, getting a recovery routine down at home, getting comfortable cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning out their wardrobe etc.
Check out Recovered Living: here!
Sign up for Recovered Living's virtual eating disorder groups: here.
Facebook: Recovered Living
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Jennifer provides eating disorder recovery coaching via video to people worldwide. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com
Check out Jennifer's on-demand eating disorder trainings here!
I'm an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, MD.