Proud2Bme | Dear KJ: How Can I Self-Care During Tough Recovery Days?

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Dear KJ: How Can I Self-Care During Tough Recovery Days?

"Dear KJ" is a weekly advice column by Dr. Kjerstin "KJ" Gruys, sociologist, author and body image activist.  She holds a Ph.D. in sociology with a focus on the politics of appearance and is the author of Mirror Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body By Not Looking at It for a Year (Avery Press, 2012). Her work and writing have been featured by Good Morning America, 20/20The Colbert Report, USA Today, People, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, NPR's "Tell Me More," and "On Air with Ryan Seacrest," among others. Find her at

What are good unplugged/offline activities for tough recovery days?

I think that spending time outdoors, surrounded by nature, can be an amazing antidote to tough recovery days. Although some people might want to have a day focused on body image stuff, I think that it’s also really healthy to give yourself breaks from thinking about ED and body stuff for a day or two. Recovery is emotionally draining, and it’s difficult to recharge without getting away.

So get out of the house, leave your scales and mirrors and recovery journals behind, and do your best to unplug from technology. Instead, spend some time hanging out with Mother Nature. Even though I don’t really consider myself to be much of a “granola girl” or wood nymph type, going hiking or camping has been one of the best “reset” buttons I know. Do your best to forget about what you look like, maybe even forget about what you feel like, and just explore the world. Your goal is to get in touch with the feeling of “awe.”

Camping or hiking in the woods meant spending a lot of time with trees. Hanging out with huge trees makes me feel much smaller than usual (in a philosophical rather than skinnier sense), yet somehow more majestic. Trees have wrinkles, gnarls, warts, rough skin and weird smells...and I am in awe of them anyway. Trees get really old, and I am in awe of them more for it, because age shows strength. Trees get really BIG... HUGE... ENORMOUS, really... and I find them more beautiful for it. No tree is alike, yet all are magnificent.  

The feeling of awe for the magnificence of trees, or of nature more broadly, is not only a great reprieve from the stresses of recovery (not to mention those of everyday life), but is also a great reminder that there are different ways a living being can be amazing. Can we gift our bodies with the same respect and admiration? Eve Ensler (dynamic author of The Good Body, and playwright of The Vagina Monologues) posed this exact question when she was interviewed for a body-positive documentary called America the Beautiful.

Here's a YouTube clip that always makes me feel inspired. I hope it inspires you as well! 

Have questions for Dr. KJ? Post them in the comments below!

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