Meet Rachel

I first met Rachel Morrow while I was working at my part-time job a few weeks ago. She and her friend approached me and mentioned that they knew of me and my blog. Needless to say, I was super flattered that people actually knew who I was and read what I wrote! We exchanged information and decided to collaborate in the near future. Rachel is an incredible writer and an inspiring woman who doesn't let depression drag her down. To learn more about her story and to read the article that I wrote for her blog, check out her blog, Finding the Sunshine, at 

 I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. From the time that I was little, I can remember feeling a little bubble of anxiety in my chest when things weren’t perfect. I’ve wanted to be perfect—to be the perfect daughter, perfect sister, perfect friend, perfect student…perfect everything. This wasn’t too much of a problem until I was diagnosed with depression when I was sixteen.

My perfectionism fed my depression. It made me hate myself for not living up to an impossible standard. The more I thought about my insecurities, the stronger my depression grew. I felt like I was never going to be able to be good enough and that I might as well give up. No matter what I did that was good, I felt like there were a billion other bad things to outweigh it.

 I mostly got things under control by the time I was eighteen. I started school at BYU and decided to serve a mission at age nineteen. A month or two into my mission, my perfectionism (along with my depression) started to really get to me. I got overwhelmed and frustrated. As my depression started to drown me, my perfectionism was there too as my constant companion. I felt like I was failing as a missionary--I was failing myself, God, and the people around me. What I didn't realize is that the chemical imbalance in my brain was causing these thoughts. I was holding myself up to a standard that wasn't realistic because it was perfection.

When I came home early from my mission in 2013, my depression was debilitating. I had to come home after six months because I couldn't do the missionary work and for my health it wasn't right for me to stay in the field. So when I got home, I still struggled to get out of bed. I had a hard time with social interactions and often had panic attacks when I was in a crowd of people. I felt absolutely awful about myself. Because I had come home early, I felt like a failure. I was trying to work to be better—I started my blog, I went back to school, I got a job, etc.—but my depression and my perfectionism kept telling me I wasn’t good enough. I hated myself for being depressed and for not being able to do what other people can do.

Finally, I started to realize that perfection isn’t possible. I began to look for the little accomplishments I did each day. I decided to live each individual day to the fullest, and to go from there. If one day all I could do is shower—that was enough for me because I was living that day to the fullest. The less I focused on the things I couldn’t do and the more I focused on what I could do the happier I became. Progress has become my mantra.

Progress, to me, is living my life to the fullest. As I take each day one at a time, my days are brighter and I am happier. I have to assess each day individually and work on some sort of progress for that specific day. Progress doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be one step, then another. I still struggle with perfectionism, but I’m learning more and more each day. As Frederick Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” To struggle is okay. Struggling and striving are a part of the human experience. Through my battle with mental illness I have learned that perfection isn’t possible. But I’ve also learned that it’s not perfection that matters—it’s progress.

The Optimist in Progress

Finding the Sunshine

This week, Rachel from Finding the Sunshine (a blog about depression and overcoming mental illness) and I decided to do a collaboration! She asked me to write a post for her blog about how I've "found the sunshine" despite my challenges with eating disorders, and how other people can do the same.

Here's a preview of what I had to say, but make sure to check out Rachel's blog to see the full post tomorrow!

I was 14 years old when I first began my journey with eating disorders.

Although I had struggled with body dysmorphia for as long as I could remember, I didn't do anything to drastically change my body until the beginning of tenth grade. I decided to follow the "advice" of my health teacher and start a "calorie deficit" diet to lose weight (which I now realize didn't need to be lost in the first place).
Around when I first started to "diet".

The diet quickly turned into more than a weight loss plan, it was a obsession. I was constantly preoccupied with counting calories and controlling my food intake--I was convinced that I was being "healthy". Food was always in the forefront of my thoughts and I was always hungry; I would go to bed starving just so I could eat breakfast in the morning. However, during this time I wasn't willing to accept that what I was doing was wrong. I was happily miserable.

At my lowest--not healthiest, weight. 

Towards the beginning of eleventh grade, I was bullied. I became depressed and turned to the one thing that I had been denying myself in order to find comfort: food. This quickly turned into a different disorder known as binge eating disorder. I would go into my family's kitchen and gorge on food for hours on end until my stomach couldn't take it anymore. I hated myself and it was also during this time that I became suicidal. 

Dr. Michael Spigarelli was the first person to tell me that an eating disorder--of any kind, is a (curable) mental disease; my disorders were not me or my fault. Additionally, he made sure to emphasize that depression and anxiety are often linked to disordered behaviors as well and also can act as catalysts for disorders to begin. Thanks to him, my therapist, and antidepressants, I was able to overcome my disease along with the depression that resulted. 

In all honesty, this was an incredibly dark time in my life; I had no hope for myself or for my future. There were times when I couldn't and didn't want to find the sunshine in anything. I accepted and feared that my life would always be a constant battle against myself; it felt as if I was slowly burying myself in a grave that I wouldn't be able to climb out of.

Ask Aly: Questions

I recently received this email and I thought it would be worth sharing with all of you. I want to clarify that this blog is not intended as a handbook for recovery, but rather a source for hope and insight into the world of eating disorders and body dysmorphia since everyone's experiences with both are different. If you ever have a question about a specific topic or resource I have included in a past post that you may have missed, feel free to click on the label section of the sidebar to find what your're looking for, check out the "Helpful Websites" section of the navigation menu, or submit an "Ask Aly". Although I may not have all of the answers or word things exactly as you need them to be said, I'm here to help!

I have struggled with EDs for almost my whole life. As a college student, I have emerged myself in  health studies, which have helped me cope with my eating issues, because I've been studying how to promote health in others.
I love reading your blog, and often find myself relating to the things you say. But as of late, I have had an issue with some of the things that you preach. You reach many young women, especially your peers, and I feel like you should be hyper aware of the messages you send to others.
You send the message that recovery is possible, and mention health pretty frequently. I wish you would promote the idea of reaching out for help from more than just those around you. I don't know if you ever got any professional help for the problems you have faced, but as with any mental disorder, professional help should be a line of defense. Many people are afraid to get help because of fear of being "caught" or the stigma related to mental health issues. I honestly wish you more explicitly would offer some type of professional resources for recovery, rather than just suggesting leaning on family and friends for support.
Additionally, I feel like you don't promote health quite accurately. You mention that now you are helathier, even if that means being heaier, however you don't really explain how you are healthier. I know it may seem like common sense to you or I, (both college educated and have struggled with these things) but some people have never faced these issues and don't really understand what is healthy and what is not. SO overall, I'd like to say that I enjoy your blog, but wish you'd promote health in a more professional light with more emphasis on how to get help and what being healthy really means.
I know you personally and understand how you get when you're criticized, and don't want you to take this as a personal attack, rather I'd like this to be seen as some support from a fellow soldier in this fight looking for ways to help you coach others.
xoxo best wishes

Hi there,

In past posts I have mentioned that I did go to a professional and I list his information on one of my blog pages. I don't know how long you have been reading my blog, but from the beginning, I have emphasized how seeing health professionals is a crucial aspect of recovery. I mentor girls on campus for their EDs and tell them the same thing. A good doctor will always be better than a good friend who is trying to help you. I am hyper aware that what I say influences the young women around me--which is why I say what I say. I try to focus on the causations for eating disorders like bad body image and low self-esteem--since those need to be cured first before one can successfully overcome an eating disorder. I suffered from depression and was suicidal during my eating disorders; I understand that eating disorders are a mental disorder. As to what I have said about reaching out to others, that was in response to a specific question that I was written about that. However, reaching out to others is another crucial step towards recovery. As to my health, I have been diagnosed as completely recovered from my disorder and I no longer hate my body--I have a healthy mentality towards myself; which I have also explained before. Thank you for your message, I'll make sure to reiterate these points in future posts.

Also, I know that offense wasn't your intention when writing this, but I question the extent to which you know me and what I have written on my blog based on what you have written to me.

You probably won't get this response because you used what looks like a fake email in order to maintain anonymity, but I hope that you're able to recover and find the help that you need. It's a hard journey, but it can be done.

*To submit a question, you can either use the submission app on the sidebar of the blog or email me at:*

Ask Aly: Accepting Help

How can people with eating disorders reach out for and accept help from others? Eating has always been very personal for me. I don't know how I can include loved ones in my recovery journey when I can't even be honest with myself about my eating habits.

Hi there!

Accepting help from others and being honest with yourself are two of the hardest--but also most important, steps that anyone can take when trying to overcome an eating disorder. Personally, I really struggled with both throughout all three of my disorders; however, I realize now that being honest with myself enabled me to reach out and accept help from others when I was ready.

When I was anorexic, I was in complete denial about what I was doing. I thought that because I was the smallest I had ever been in my life, I was also my healthiest (which is definitely not true for anyone). Whenever friends or family tried to reach out to me, I would push them away and justify my actions. Not only did I make myself miserable, but I made them miserable as well.

My relationship with my family--especially my mom, became really strained when I became a binge eater. However, it was during this time that I was finally able to start accepting that my previous "diet" was an eating disorder and that turning to food for comfort (I would eat uncontrollably for hours in order to forget my depression, how much I hated myself, or to forget how I was treated at school) was a disorder as well. Despite realizing this, I had a lot of emotions trapped inside of me. My family didn't really know how to handle me, my depression, or my disorder; no matter what they did or said to help, it was wrong. I hated them for not understanding what I was going through or for not understanding in the way that I needed them to. Because of this, everyone tip-toed around me like  I was a bomb that was waiting to go off...which only made things worse.

Eventually, I went to a therapist and she helped me gain more control of my emotions and my relationship with my family.

Like you said, eating is a personal thing and I think eating disorders are even more so. I think that's one reason why connecting with others throughout recovery is so hard. Eating disorders are unique to each individual who experiences them--but they aren't something that you can overcome on your own. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a strong (and diverse) support group to heal an eating disorder victim.

Looking back, I think that the most important step that I took towards being honest with myself was telling my mom that I thought I had a binge eating disorder and then looking for medical help. From there, I was able to find professionals who gave me the tools and support that I needed to heal--and with this, Elaine Cheung, my therapist, was a godsend. I sincerely believe that having an unbiased, third-party to talk to was one of the best resources that I could have had--especially at the beginning of my recovery. Talking to family members--or even friends, about eating disorders or other emotional experiences, will always have strong emotional consequences on both sides...there can be a lot of unintended misunderstanding. My therapist looked at me objectively which allowed me to say things to her that I couldn't have said to others--she allowed me to talk about my relationships at home without offending anyone at home. By doing this, I was slowly able to release a lot of emotional pressure within myself and get to a state of relative calm where I could then move forward and take bigger strides towards recovery.

Another thing that I came to realize is that you have to give those around you some slack. I think a lot of my fear and frustration towards my family came from me expecting them to perfectly understand what I was going through--which they never could have done; not because they didn't want to, but rather because they couldn't. Well-meant sympathy is never the same as empathy. They also weren't eating disorder specialists. I expected them to save me when they were just as lost with how to help me as I was. I was so focused on myself drowning, that it was hard to see them drowning beside me.

I don't know if this answered your question, but I think you already hit the nail on the head. The first step towards including those around you is to be honest with yourself which then enables your to be honest with them. I remember that after meeting with Elaine for a while, she suggested that I sit with my family and officially tell them what I was going through--put it all out in the open so that everyone was on the same page. It was terrifying and embarrassing, but it helped. It's a wall that I would have eventually climbed at one point or another, but as soon as I did, I was able to move on to the next hurdle in front of me.

So, the sooner you do in your road to recovery, the better.

I can't guarantee how your family will react to something like this, but it's important to remember that whatever they do, it will be out of love and concern (even if it's sometimes misguided).

So make sure that you're not only patient with yourself, but patient with them too.

You can overcome your disorder, I believe in you.

You can do this!

*To submit a question, you can either use the submission app on the sidebar of the blog or email me at:*

Interview with Up and Up

Two weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to be interviewed by Sarah, from Up and Up Magazine! We talked about my experiences fighting eating disorders, coming to terms with loving my body and how spirituality can play a role in eating disorder recovery.

This interview has been a big step forward for me in my journey to help others overcome their own body image issues and disorders. When I was dealing with my disorders in high school, I was terrified of anyone finding out that I had gone through not only one, but three eating disorders.

I was terrified of weakness and being seen as someone to pity.

It was also during that time that I first began writing this blog as a way for me to cope with what I was going through. Originally, I wanted to publish it my senior year, but my mom and I decided that it would be for the better if I waited until I was in a safer environment to open myself up to the world--somewhere away from the things and people who harmed me in my past.

Thank you to all of you who have followed me throughout my journey and helped me get to this point;
I appreciate your support immensely!

Make sure to check out Up and Up and the interview below!

If you haven't used the t-shirt coupon code yet, here it is again: 

Up and Up Promo Code

Just two more days until we post my interview with Up and Up Magazine! To celebrate, here's a promo code for those of you who haven't bought a t-shirt yet! 

Thanks for your support!

Ask Aly: Bulimia Help

Hey Aly! I have a question for you, and it's a little personal but I'm not really sure where else to get good information. Recently, someone really close to me confided in me that they have been diagnosed with bulimia nervosa. I want to do my best to help them through their pains and help them stay on the road to recovery, but I'm not sure how to be a support without seeming pushy for their recovery. What do you think would be helpful/constructive behavior?
Hi! Thanks for getting in contact with me, I'm always happy to be a resource to help other people who are going through similar things that I experienced. This is a little bit of a tricky question because everyone experiences their eating disorders differently. When my family first started to notice that I had an eating disorder, they tended to pester me or guilt me out of my behaviors...which only made things worse. They were acting out of love, but I constantly felt like I was being attacked or treated like an infant. I think the best thing that you can do right now is to support this person in whatever way you can--whether it's being a listening ear/ letting them vent to you, offering sympathy and understanding when needed; or just asking them how they're doing that day or at a specific moment. I found that when I had someone that I felt like I could report to, I did better and stayed on track. Don't criticize their eating habits (especially in front of other people) and don't assume that every time they're going to the bathroom is to purge. Be patient and give them space, but don't allow them to be or feel isolated. There's a difference between pestering and letting them know that you're thinking of them and noticing their struggle. Engage in conversation in, during, and after meals. Try to be around this person during meal and snack times as a support system. Try to use body positive phrases and don't criticize your weight or eating habits around them. If you want, you can send this person my way and let them know that I can be a resource for her personally too; It's one thing to have someone sympathize with you and another thing to have someone empathize with you. I know that I personally started to do better when I found other people who had gone through what I was experiencing; I felt validated and hopeful. Although empathy is definitely important, sympathy is equally so. I remember wishing that I had friends who would have taken the time to notice and acknowledge what I was going though. I think knowing that someone is actively caring and worrying about you is incredibly enabling and healing too. As far as medial help goes, if they don't have an eating disorder doctor already, they could start seeing Dr. Michael Spigarelli in Salt Lake City for help; he saved my life and is an eating disorder specialist. Therapists and eating disorder groups can also help too (I'm actually a mentor for a group at my university right now). I hope this wasn't information overload, but let me know if there's anything else I can do, I'm here to help! Thanks again for messaging me, I hope that all goes well for your friend!

*To submit a question, you can either use the submission app on the sidebar of the blog or email me at:*

No Makeup Challenge

When I was little, I remember telling my older sisters that I would never wear makeup because it was like lying to the people around you about what you looked like. I held strong to this belief until I hit middle school and the pressure to look like everyone else became overwhelming.

So I digressed.

Seventh grade marked the beginning of a new life. It was the first time that I believed that I needed to change how I looked to not only like myself, but to have others like me as well.

To be pretty.

I would go to my locker between class periods to touch up my foundation or mascara.
I would stop by every reflective surface I came across to make sure I looked "okay".
I would wake up early each morning to make sure I had enough time to put on a new face;

A better face that I liked more.

For the past couple of months, I've wanted to do a "no makeup challenge" where you go a week without wearing an ounce of makeup and note the consequences (positive and negative) thereof.

I'll be honest with you, getting myself to commit to this was ridiculously harder than I thought it would be. I don't want to say that I was scared to go without makeup, but it was more like I was uncomfortable with the thought of it. It was an alien concept to me; a different reality that I had forgotten how to live.

I guess my morning routine of putting on makeup had become more than just a habit, it was an addiction.

Anyways, the best instigator for me to actually follow through with my plans was waking up 10 minutes before class started last Monday. In a panicked state, I had to make an instant decision:

Breakfast or makeup?

Given my history of disordered eating, It would have been a contradiction if I had been willing to let myself skip a meal for the sake of my appearance.

(Seriously though. How did I even consider going five hours without food just to have clearer looking skin?)

I ate, changed my clothes, and (literally) ran to class.

Day 1

After I got back from classes that day, I decided to make this experiment official and I typed up all the thoughts that I had felt while being makeup free.

Here are just a few of them:

  • It's liberating--I feel like an elementary kid again.
  • I forgot what it was like to live like this...I can remember being so excited to start wearing makeup in middle school---now it's not something I necessarily want to do, but that I feel that I have to do.
  • I can't describe how this feels--I feel...fresh?? Definitely not the word I was going for...its like my face is saying "ahhhhhh"--Like those actors on a minty gum commercial.
  • I can actually touch my face! AND RUB MY EYES. WHAT IS THIS.
  • Is it normal to feel more confident without makeup?
  • Wait, how long have my eyes been green?
  • I love how everyone assumes that when a girl doesn't wear makeup, it's because she slept in or is sick...even if it's true.
  • I feel like myself...more authentic--Like I'm not trying to hide anything.
  • Is this how it is for guys every morning? They wake up, brush their hair, eat, dress, and go?

Day 2

  • Oh great. I have to give a presentation today and be filmed. Oops.
  • Wait, why am I saying oops?
  • Will anyone notice?
  • Of course they will. You're wearing a different face.
  • I wonder what people are thinking about me...
  • Wait, I shouldn't care about that.
  • I actually think I like this a lot better...
  • Can I really do a whole week of this?

Day 3

  • I look older and younger at the same time.
  • Maybe I could just do foundation but no eye makeup...or tinted lip balm...
  • Is that cheating?
  • Maybe those acne scars aren't as bad as I thought they were.
  • Crap, I hope it's okay if I go to work like this--I can't get fired over something like this, right? 
  • My eyes are HUGE.
  • Do I feel tired because I am or because I've been taught that not wearing makeup means that you're tired?
  • Maybe I could compensate somewhere else on my appearance to distract from this...

Day 4

If you couldn't tell, I was more than a little conflicted over how I felt about going without makeup. However, as the week went on, it became more natural for me to do ("practice makes perfect"). You can even tell in the pictures that I took, that I began to feel more comfortable with this new version of myself the longer that I got to know her, but it definitely took some getting used to.

For the first few days of going without makeup, I would look in the mirror and see a stranger. I felt as if I had missed out on a lifetime of getting to know this person. Whenever I saw her at bedtime or early in the morning, I would avert my eyes until I was done making her over.

I had forgotten what I looked like.

As I went throughout the week, I found myself standing taller and taking larger strides as I walked around campus. I felt more self-assured and capable.

I found a confidence within myself that I had forgotten existed.
Since I spent less time worrying about my face, I was able to spend more time focusing on myself.

At the beginning of the week, I was worried about about what people would think of me without makeup, but by the end of the week I was worried about having to start wearing makeup again.

(I tried to put on makeup the following weekend and it was a hot mess. I didn't realize how quickly my makeup application skills had gotten out of shape!)

Day 5

I know that a lot of women say that makeup is empowering, and I completely agree! Sometimes having a black line around your eyelashes or some color on your lips can make a world of difference with one's confidence.

But, if you have to look in a makeup bag to find your confidence, that's a problem.
Also, if you feel like you have to wear makeup because you're expected to, not because you want to, that's a problem as well.

Women are constantly told by the media and cosmetics companies that their best is never good enough.
They could always look better.
That they'll be better if they look better.

But according to whose standards?

Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but after this experience, I think I'm going to take a break from makeup for a while. That doesn't mean that I won't ever wear it, bur rather that I probably won't wear as much as I used to.

I mean, what was I really trying to cover up with all of the foundation, concealer, mascara, and blush that I would normally wear?

My insecurities?

You know, I'm really glad that I finally had a reason to start this challenge; it stretched me way outside of my comfort zone and I think I'm a better person now because of it.

A more confident person.
A more self-aware person.
A more self-accepting person.

I know that doing something like this doesn't work for everyone, but if you haven't done it before, I definitely recommend going a week--or even a day, without makeup. It's one of the most empowering things that I have ever done. It was like telling the world that I was okay with who I am and how I look; that I shouldn't have to look perfect to feel perfectly fine about my appearance.

Of course there were times when I felt incredibly self-conscious about how I looked, but the more that I fought those thoughts, the less they occurred.

Maybe for me, wearing makeup wasn't so much about "lying" to the people around me about how I looked, but rather a way of me lying to myself about where I got my confidence from.

I love makeup and I love the way makeup looks,
But now I love the way that I look without makeup even more.