5 Steps to Healing & Eating Again

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1 year ago today, I came clean to my family and closest friends about the habit that was secretly driving me away from God… my eating disorder. It is only appropriate that this post comes during Holy Week and is about a scar that so deeply wounded me. Holy Week is the perfect representation of my journey and shows that every Good Friday brings about an Easter Sunday. In a previous post I told about how God is turning this embarrassing story into my strongest testimony, you can read that post here.

I sit here… a year later…. with joy and happiness knowing that I fought for where I am today.

I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday sitting down with my loved ones and explaining to them, “I haven’t been eating”. Fear told me that there would be anger, resentment, or maybe a few “what were you thinking! You KNEW better!”. Instead? I got all of the support and love in the world. Both of my parents wanted to see me heal and were monumental in the beginning stages of my recovery. It was only a few months ago that I was in the kitchen with my mom and catching her up on the days festivities when I told her, “Mama I have been eating 3 meals a day consistently!”. Later she told me that just hearing that I am eating 3 meals a day, which was nearly impossible for me 10 months earlier, made her want to jump up and down.

Now… I want to outline the 5 steps that helped me eat again and how I got where I am today.


5 steps to help heal from an eating disorder

1. Prayer & Sacraments

This first one is quite obviously the first and most important thing that helped me start eating again. Prayer, more specifically prayer for my future spouse, helped open up the line of communication between myself and Christ and allowed for forgiveness to take place. Only through prayer can true healing happen. In prayer, Christ was calling me into a deeper union with Him through the scar of my sins. He was asking that I leave whatever mangled brokenness I had, at the foot of the cross and He would take care of the rest. The other essential piece to prayer was the participation in the Sacraments. I regularly went to confession and received guidance from spiritual directors on how to tackle the sins which caused my eating disorder. Let me explain, the actual disorder itself was not the sin but was the result of my sins. Meaning, the sin of self-loathing and immense insecurity led me to the action which was to stop eating. Through the grace of confession and Christ’s precious body and blood in the Eucharist, I gained the strength needed to continue my journey towards healing. The sacraments are like what a body builder uses the gym for; strength. I gained strength and the ability to have my will be stronger than my head.

2. Exercise

Growing up I was always told “working out produces endorphins and endorphins makes you happy.” This couldn’t have been more true for me! I have to be honest though, it was recommended that I try this but I was worried about the potential of misusing exercise and it replacing my lack of eating with just an over indulgence of working off the calories. Luckily with prayer I was ready to take this challenge on! (Please note how important step #1 is!) My sweet boyfriend was a good help with this step also! He was my greatest coach and cheerleader as I started to change my lifestyle. He encouraged me even to the point where we signed up to run the Bolder Boulder (10K). This helped me gain strength physically and also helped me get hungry. Hunger = food. I’ll get into accountability more but just know that as I was getting hungry by exercising, I was also being held accountable to consume the meals which would relieve that hunger.

3. Daily offerings

Trying to sit down and have a meal as a person who struggled with disordered eating habits can be extremely tough. What is so natural has gotten so clouded. When my spiritual director and I were first trying to figure out a “game plan” for recovery, he told me that if I were to start trying to eat again I would have a hard time doing it for myself so he suggested that I offer up meals for some greater social injustice. I have been doing this ever since! I offer up breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for social injustice around the world such as: an end to abortion, human/sex trafficking, Christian persecution, and many more. Selfishly I had rejected that which many people around the world are denied or not able to have, now I offer up those meals in thanksgiving for the gifts God has given me.

Accountability

This step is incredibly vital in those first few months. I had a few people that were holding me accountable to meals including: my spiritual director, my family, and my boyfriend. My spiritual director and I had set up a text exchange system where we could talk everyday at 3:00pm (the hour which Christ died) about what I had eaten already and what I would eat for dinner that night. The catch? Obviously, no lying! This helped me learn what was right for me and how I could balance meals. It was definitely helpful that my spiritual director also had experience in the medical field. 🙂

5. LOVE

This step was the hardest to accept because I struggled with such self-loathing. I had to accept the love of Christ despite my shortcomings and also forgive myself for how much I had fallen. I also had to accept the love of my “person”. My boyfriend was hurt because over the past 2 years I had lied, plain and simple. I knew that I hurt him so badly and although he was willing to forgive me, I wasn’t willing to forgive what I had done. I remember so clearly taking a drive and talking about this issue with him and as I cry and cry I told him, “I’m not worthy… I’m not worthy.” He simply said, “you’re strong enough, pick yourself up and fight. I love you and that won’t change.” I had to be accepting of this response to love and forgiveness. Love gives us hope. I recently heard this quote from Father Pedro Arrupe:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than
falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide  what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Love. Christ’s love, the love of my family, the love of my friends, the love of my boyfriend, and the love of my future spouse heals. It is what brought me out of the pit of isolation that I was in and gave me hope.

Whatever struggles you are having, wherever you are coming from, do not give up on love. Do not give up on hope! Christ is fighting for you and with you! Sometimes we just have to pick ourselves up and fight alongside him.

“If God is within her she will not fail.” Psalm 46:5

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How God is Turning My Biggest Embarrassment into My Strongest Testimony

I remember the first time I prayed for my future spouse. I was 11.

I am pretty sure I got the idea from either my older sisters or a chastity talk I had been to in middle school. I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly where the idea came from… I just did it.

At 11 years old I didn’t know the woman that I would be when I would fall in love with my future spouse. I didn’t know who I would have become in those years or how my relationship with Our Lord would have transformed. I didn’t know who this man was or where he would come from. I didn’t know how he would smile or what sound his laugh would make. I didn’t know much of anything…Except I knew he was out there and he was worth waiting for.

As an 11 year old I also didn’t know the brokenness that I would be carrying into this relationship years down the road, the battles we would have to fight, or the struggles we would have to overcome.

In the [amazing] book called “Woman in Love”, Katie Hartfiel asked this question,

What is your brokenness? Name it. 

This brought me back to last April where I had  to finally name the brokenness that was tearing apart my relationship with God.

This can be summed up into two words…eating disorder.

I struggle everyday with the simplest action of sitting down and having a meal. Yes, that basic human need. Trust me it is as ridiculous as it sounds.

It was only last April, through the grace of confession, that I put a name to the brokenness that was keeping me from God.  My spiritual director sat me down many times throughout the year to ask, “Kileen, are you eating?”. I would reply all offended “Father, of course I am eating! Gosh. Can everyone stop asking me that?”

Yet… that question came up person, after person, after person. My family and friends were growing increasingly concerned over the rapid amount of weight I had lost from my Freshman year of college to my sophomore year. But I refused to listen.

Then I woke up one day last April with the intense desire of wanting to go to confession. This was so weird for me! Although I love the Sacrament it usually takes me days to prepare myself to go to the confessional because I get such bad anxiety beforehand. For some odd reason, this day was different.

In the confessional Father asked me for the millionth time, “Kileen I have to ask because I am your spiritual Father, I care about you…. Are you eating?”

I broke down into tears. I couldn’t lie anymore, I couldn’t fake it.

Throughout the past 2 years I had gotten pretty good at putting on a fake smile and answering the question as if there was no guilty conscious ringing off in my head. I had become used to saying, “Oh no… I walk everywhere so that has really helped me drop a few pounds.”

I was recycling an old lie that was used on me when someone close to me had revealed her eating disorder.

See… the devil knew exactly where to place the sin that I would be too ashamed to share. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide that I wasn’t going to eat anymore. No. It started with my busy life not lending me time to eat breakfast. Then it turned into ‘I’m getting too busy to eat lunch but I’ll have a big dinner’, all up to the point that I was having a smoothie or a few spinach leaves a day. As I stopped eating meal after meal I noticed a change in my body. Sadly, I liked it.

There was still a deep shame inside. After all, my entire reversion was built on ‘rediscovering’ my beauty. In the past I had enjoyed explaining to other woman that they were dignified beautiful creations of God! Yet, here I was. Feeling “satisfied” with the growling of an empty stomach as if it was some victory. While a voice inside said, ” You are a disappointment. You are a failure. You are broken.”

I kept the secret. I isolated the voice of Christ telling me to give Him this brokenness. I felt that if I just shut His voice out, I wouldn’t have to feel guilty or ashamed. It actually increased both.

I wasn’t willing to give up everything for Christ. I was still holding onto a “vision” of my body and along the way I was hurting so many people close to me. They felt lied to… And rightly so.

Why am I telling you this story? 

Well. The man who I began praying for as that 11 year old girl was the same man who helped me heal my own brokenness.

On the day of this same confession, Father continued his spiritual guidance and asked this question, “Do you want to have kids?” My response was a loud and proud yes! He explained gently that if I were to continue denying my body its most basic necessity, I could lose my chance at motherhood.

My heart dropped.

How selfish of me.

Christ was opening up a desire in my heart that was far deeper and held more meaning to me than the size of jeans I wear. I had always desired to be a faithful wife and loving mother, but for some odd reason I didn’t connect my own eating habits with my future marriage and family. One thing I really want to stress is that if I were to have tried to heal purely for me, I would have never started my recovery. In thinking of myself I was led only to self harm and isolation. It was in thinking of the man who God had created with me in mind, the man who Our Lord knew would lead me safely back to Him, that I was able to step outside of my selfishness and name the sin that was keeping me tucked away in darkness.

It was love, namely love Himself, who brought me back into the light.

I was praying daily again. I opened up my first prayer in a little while for my future husband. I prayed that he would forgive my failures. I prayed that I could be the wife he deserved. I prayed for the ability to still be able to have children in the future and if God allows that, I prayed that my children would learn from my mistakes.

It was prayers for my Husband-to-be that began a slow and steady ‘yes’ from God… He was telling me over and over again, “You are enough”.

Months later I still look at the front cover of the journal I bought while beginning my road to recovery, and on it says;

“To You Lord, I am enough”.

I still carry the scar of my own self harm. I still struggle with eating. Sometimes I still even cringe at the feeling of being full. And no… This disorder isn’t glamorous like the store Urban Outfitters would have you think. They would like to de-sensitize it to make you buy a fashion tee that says “eat less”.

But there’s hope…

For me it began with Christ. He brought me back into the light to name the very sin that was leaving me crippled. It was painful and the first few months were exhausting, some days still are. But as Saint Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “The pain you’ve been feeling, can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”

The joy of a fruitful and holy marriage that will lead me back to my Heavenly Father is the joy I pray will come. To my future husband, thank you. Your existence alone gave me inspiration to live not just for myself, but for what may come.

This struggle will not become my identity. Because even the tragedy of the cross, Christ turned into His greatest victory.

This is my cross.

“And he said to all, if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Please pray for me, know I am praying for you as well.

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30 Day Modesty Challenge Final Lessons & Favorite Outfits

Here it is! My final week of the challenge.

Here are a few lessons I took from the 30 days:

1. I am not perfect

Sometimes the problem we get ourselves into is thinking that we are supposed to be perfect all the time, but if we continue this thinking it can be dangerous. This extends even to our health, which is what happened to me earlier this year. My body is never going to look as the world will see it “perfect”. But to God? I am a slab of gold which is purified through fire, and has to be continuously purified until the reflection the goldsmith sees in the gold…is Himself. I am imperfect, God is not. That’s the lesson.

2. Prayer, Prayer, then more Prayer

The most important part of the challenge was growing in my prayer life. Those conversations with God, and Him opening up my heart to see what’s truly in there, showed me the reality of why I felt called to join the challenge. It wasn’t because I needed a fashion makeover, although that was definitely needed, but because I needed to remember my own dignity.
“It is not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or fine clothes that make you beautiful. No, your beauty should come from within you- the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This beauty will never disappear, and it is worth very much to God. -1 Peter 3:3
My clothes needed to reflect the dignity that I found in Christ.

3. Modest doesn’t mean frumpy- It never did

Shortly after my blog was shared on Chastity Project’s site, there were numerous articles week after week detailing issues about modesty. This was really awesome to see because by my observation it was the modesty challenge which opened up communication on the subject. One blog talked about their problem with the “M” word. Modesty means frumpy clothes that doesn’t give you any shape, isn’t cute, but outwardly portrays your holiness. The challenge was meant to breakdown these stereotypical walls for modesty! For me, it was to make the clothes I love both modest and fashionable. Guess what? You can totally do it! Modesty doesn’t mean wearing turtlenecks or dresses that make you look like a box. No way! You can wear cute clothes! It just has to be a mindset that “What I’m wearing will honor My Lord.” Or a question of, “Would I wear this in front of My God?”. Our Lord wants you to look beautiful! He created you that way! Don’t be afraid of the “M” word, it doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself in your own fashionable way! Challenge yourself to be creative when it comes to modest outfits! Don’t be afraid to show your beautiful femininity!

4. Modesty strengthens us in Chastity

Modesty and chastity are two sides of the same coin. My desire to live out my promise of purity for my husband means that I want to be representing myself in a dignified way. A quote I really love that speaks to this says, “Dress how you want other women dressing around your husband”. For me? As my prayer life increased, my positivity about chastity increased as well. Modesty isn’t just meant for me to understand that my dignity is from God, and not in the clothes I wear. It is also for my future spouse. I wear clothes that, although still show my femininity, will provide mystery for my husband to unravel. On my wedding day I want to wear white, and mean it. I want to be the gift he has to unwrap.

5. It starts with just ONE

Changing a lifestyle doesn’t happen over night. But all it takes is one person, one day of courage, or one moment of surrender. That’s where it begins. God filled Mary’s heart because of one word… Fiat.

What is your ONE moment going to be? Will you say yes?

My Top 10 Outfits in the 30 Days

1.  Date Night Out

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2. Yes, you can still wear that shorty short dress- just as a shirt.

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3. No more uncomfortable yanking! Strapless dress win.

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4.  Modest at 14,000 Feet

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5. Sunday Best

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6. Can’t go wrong with a jean shirt and maxi skirt

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7. Colors of Summer

Day 3 Modesty Challenge

8. Accessorize & Simple Style

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9. Sunday Best Part II

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10. It isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish.

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Thank you for your prayers! I am still praying for all the women participating in the challenge and those who will eventually join!

Although this challenge may be over for me, doesn’t mean my journey is anywhere near over! Another challenge begins for me. Please pray for me and trust I will be praying for you as well!

30 Day Modesty Challenge | Week 1

I have been praying for all of you women who have joined me so far in the 30 day modesty challenge! It’s never to late for you to join and make sure that you document at least once so that the other ladies can get some more ideas of modest clothing!

Remember the most important thing you can do during these 30 days is to pray. Modesty reveals the dignity of the woman, which is a perfect reflection of Our Lord.

PRAYER
In need of suggestions for prayer? Are you struggling with this aspect of the challenge?

Here are a few of my favorite prayers or types of prayer:

-The Rosary- Ask for the intercession of Our Lady to help you become a woman of the Lord that she was!

-Sing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (Here’s a link to the song version on YouTube)

-Read a religious book. The book I’m reading is “On Being Human” by Fulton Sheen. A really great recommendation would be either “The World’s First Love” by Fulton Sheen or “I believe in Love” by Fr. Jean C. J. d’ Elbe.

-Read today’s readings and try to WRAP yourself in scripture. Write, Reflect, Apply, and Pray. You can do this is a prayer journal if you have one… If you don’t have a spiritual journal I highly recommend you get one!

– Pray the St. Bonaventure prayer everyday

There are many other ways to pray! What matters? That you’re diving into your relationship with Our Lord and communicating with Him… as you can see there are MANY ways to do that!

MODEST DRESS WEEK 1

Here are the modest clothing that I wore for this first week! Remember if you need ideas go ahead and follow me on Instagram (kileenwillis) and Pinterest! Check out the woman who are posting their photos as well with the hashtag #30daysmodestychallenge !

Day 1

Day 1 Modesty Challenge

On day 1, I wore a plain black t shirt with some Bermuda shorts. I have found that Bermuda shorts are the perfect length for my legs. Don’t forget to accessorize! What can really style up an outfit is adding some pretty earrings or in this case a headband! Have fun with it and be creative! As G.K Chesterton said, “Modesty IS beautiful!”.

Day 2

Day 2 Modesty Challenge

 On day 2, I set out to go worship Our Lord at Mass. I LOVE maxi skirts. Seriously. They are the perfect length and you can mix and match them to make them fit for the Summer, Fall, Winter, or Spring. Also, at Mass I have found a love for “veiling” to continue to be modest in front of Our Lord. If you are curious about what “veiling” is or you are interested in making this step check out my post about it here. Remember you were born to be REAL, not to be PERFECT!

Day 3
Day 3 Modesty Challenge

On Day 3, I mixed and match some bright colors while also adding some fun accessories. I have found a good rule with tank tops is that if you can see ‘under garments’ it’s probably not the most modest shirt, but don’t worry! You can easily make it modest by wearing a shirt underneath! Always remember Our Lady when thinking about beauty. You will become humbled and be able to perceive where true beauty lies…. when our identity is in Christ.

Day 4

Day 4 of Modesty Challenge

On day 4, I was matching with one of my favorite guys! My nephew/godson and I were matching in our light blue jean and yellow shirts. Simple is never a bad thing! I love just wear a comfortable V-neck shirt and adding some fun accessories.

Day 5

Day 5 Modesty Challenge

On a cool day the Bermuda shorts and comfortable quarter sleeve shirt was a win! I accessorized with a thin belt around my waist and some earrings to match. Sometimes dressing modestly or making that transition can be uncomfortable, but great things never came from comfort zones! Don’t be afraid! As Our Pope Emeritus (Pope Benedict XVI) would say; “We are not called for comfort, we are called for greatness”.

Day 6

Day 6 Modesty Challenge

Like any normal girl I don’t really feel like dressing up e v e r y d a y. I am a sweats and t shirt kind of girl too! For those active girls I know how tempting it can be to workout in only your sports bra. I understand the predicament. But our modesty challenge also includes gym and pool time! We want to respect ourselves and others when we are at the gym or out tanning by the pool!

Day 7

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Date night!! Obviously it’s natural for a girl to want to dress up on the night of a date! My advice is to dress how you want other women dressing around your future spouse! Mix and match is always a good way to dress up or dress down depending on what you’re going to be doing that night… If you’re looking for nice and long skirts that fit more of that “pencil” look without it being super tight I would recommend going to Old Navy! They have really cute options that make mix and matching a bit easier!

I am praying for you all! Please pray for me as well!

30 Day Modesty Challenge

Challenge time beautiful ladies of the Lord! In our culture now a days it seems that it is much easier for us to dress immodestly than modestly. So here’s my challenge…

Dress modestly for 30 days.

Instagram it with the hashtag #30daymodestychallenge . (Yes… take some selfies. No judgement)

Pray about it and see what happens!

Question time… Why did I decide to take this challenge on?

A. During the hot months of summer I have noticed my desire to wear clothing that is not as modest because of convenience, but I want to change that thinking around! For me… I want to not only respect myself but I want to respect those around me! This is what modest dressing does… allows men to feel safe and women to allow the men to see their dignity within. Jason Evert said, “Women, modesty means you have beauty and power. And you use that to teach men how to love you for the right reasons”. THIS is why I am doing this challenge! And why I would like you to join me!! Modesty reveals the inner beauty while also allowing for the women to still cling to her femininity. How great is that!

What are some modesty guidelines?

A. Layering is always good! Make sure that your most private parts of your body are veiled. Shirts too low or shorts too high could be avoided. Shorts that are right above the knee are usually best, but trust me I know how hard it is to find some that fit “modest” standards. It may take some digging but I’m sure you can find some that work! If all else fails? Make some skirts or shorts yourself! Its really fun and cost efficient. Another suggestion, as women our stomach area is sacred and will eventually contain life, therefore it’d be best to cover it up!

Kileen, I’ve seen some modest clothing… It’s not cute. What can I do to style it up?

A. If you need some ideas check out my Pinterest profile! I’ll be updating it with my 30 Day Modesty Challenge board! Also the Instagrams will help give some ideas!!

I’ll be posting every week through the duration of the challenge! Let’s bring back a culture of modesty!

I’ll be praying for you, please pray for me!

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