An Open Letter to the Power of a Tribe

Two years ago today I was depressed, critically underweight, heavily drugged and utterly hopeless.

Two years ago today I was lying in a bed in a Swiss psych ward. 

Two years ago today I’d have given anything not wake up in the morning.

And my wish almost became a reality.

Fourteen years of hell were finally getting to me and I didn’t have any energy left, no more power to fight, no more willingness to move on, no more strength to be happy and hopeful.

I was empty and I couldn’t keep on doing what I had been doing for so very long.

Today, everything’s different. Today, I love my life. Today, I am free. Today, I am happy.

Today, I’m traveling all over the world. I’m privileged to work with women who struggle with themselves, their bodies and their lives. Today, I’m of service to the world and I love every minute of it.

More than that, today I’m living proof that hope is real.

The last two years have been more than I could’ve ever wished for. Yes, they have been marked by super low lows. But they have also been marked by extremely high highs.

DarlingHarborI was on my knees, powerless, helpless, scared and lost.

I wanted to give up more than once, but I didn’t. I couldn’t.

There was this one stream of hope in my life that just wouldn’t let me go. There was my army of angels, my community of friends and family who would not let me fail. People, who wrote to me, called me, visited me, prayed for me, held me, cheered me on and gave me the occasional kick in the butt. People who reminded me I belonged, I mattered and I was loved.

I’ve learned a lot during those hard times and the one thing that I now know for sure is that life without a community of friends, without a solid tribe is no life at all.

I always thought that I was destined to live life alone. I always believed that I liked being on my own, doing what I do. Oh, how wrong I was; how very, very wrong I was.

The more I retreated from friends the sicker I got. The less I engaged with other people the louder my voices inside my head became, the more scared of life I got and the less fun I had.

Now, I’m not saying that being on your own doesn’t have its benefits, it certainly does. There are many occasions when being alone is the best thing for you and there’s a certain clarity you often have when you’re by yourself. But once being alone becomes a regular “thing” or even your entire life, something’s gone very wrong.

You see, there’s a big difference between being independent and being lonely. There’s a difference between enjoying your own company and being terrified of people. There’s a difference between fighting your fights alone or doing so with an army of angels who support your every move.

Today, if you feel like life is not worth living, if you feel that there is no hope, no light, no love, then hear this message and know that there is hope. There is a way out of your heartache, your pain and your hopeless situation. There is a life of happiness waiting for you.

And it all begins by reaching out to others.

happy3How about you? Have you ever experienced the power of a strong tribe? Have you ever lost hope but felt encourage and taken care of by others? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt is a body-confidence expert, self-love advocate and the author of The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Body Image. Join her newsletter and receive your free three-part video series empowering you to accept yourself wholeheartedly.

Re-Post: Guest Interview for Stacy Juba

The following is a guest post I had the pleasure of writing for Stacy Juba’s blog, and I wanted to post it to my blog. In this post, I open up about why I decided to start “Jason’s Spina Bifida Journey” and my decision to allow people to share their stories on the blog; my love for photography and the most amazing pictures I’ve taken in the field; my mission to increase awareness of the different types of disabilities that are out there; and other writing projects I’m currently working on, when I’m not taking a road trip down the “Journey.” I hope you enjoy it. Look for my guest post on Stacy’s blog later this month and be sure to drop by and show her some love. Tell her Jason sent you 😉 

You have some testimonials on your blog that indicate that anyone that wants to open their heart more and to be empowered to find hope and more love for life should read your blog. What made you decide to start Jason’s Spina Bifida Journey and share your story with others, and what kind of guest stories and interviews do you like to highlight on your blog?

Great question, Stacy. I decided to start “Jason’s Spina Bifida Journey” for a couple reasons. First, I wanted to finally open up a little more about myself and let readers know what spina bifida is and the obstacles I face every day. I know that most people may not know about spina bifida, even I don’t know everything about it, so I wanted to start the blog to provide a resource of information about what causes spina bifida, what the side effects are, the kinds of treatment available, and to just show that anyone with this disability can do anything they set their minds to if they just believe in themselves, surround themselves with a great support system and have the faith that anything is possible.

Writing has given me an outlet to get my feelings out on paper (or on screen), and blogging has opened doors I never would have thought were possible. I’ve met some amazing people in the blogging and social media communities, and they’ve really supported me and helped me develop the blog into something bigger than myself. I never expected to be a blogging success story and just wanted to find some way to make the world a better place for someone who may be having a bad day, may be doubting themselves or questioning whether what they’re doing makes a difference. I’m here to tell you, what you do DOES matter and makes a difference. Don’t ever doubt yourself and don’t ever, ever give up. With God, all things are possible. One of my favorite words is “impossible.” Now the literal meaning is that something is NOT possible, but if you look again the word actually says “I’m Possible!”

I have featured several people on the blog, and each one of them has a great story to tell, whether it be overcoming a disability, eating disorder or addiction and leading a productive, happy life; a reunited adoptee, who finally met her birth family after many years of searching; or an aspiring independent author who just released a new book and wanted to offer advice to up-and-coming authors. I wanted to provide an outlet for other people to share their stories, especially if they’ve been affected by a disability. I can honestly say that it’s really hard to open up about a disability and actually get someone to listen. So I wanted people to know that I understand what they’re dealing with and will always be available if they have a question or just need someone to talk to.

It took me a long time to open up about my disability, and it’s still hard to open up about some of the more personal things like how spina bifida affects my dating and sex life and being able to go to the bathroom. Growing up I didn’t have a lot of girlfriends, and I’m still single at 29 years old. Now I do have several female friends who are some of my best friends, and they have really taken me under their wing and helped me through a lot of tough situations. I’ve also been to several concerts a couple blocks from where I work and have danced the night away with several amazing women, who looked past the chair and saw a man who just wanted to have a good time. I just have a hard time opening up and striking up a conversation with a woman I’m interested in, I guess, and that maybe why I’m still single. But a lot of people have told me that God has a person in mind for me, I just have to wait and let Him lead her into my life.

I have no feeling below the waist, so I am not sure if I can have kids or can even have sex when the time comes. I do have the necessary “tools” but not being able to feel anything I’m a little curious about how I’ll feel and “perform” when I do get married and my wife and I do make love. I can’t use the bathroom like a normal person can and have to use special supplies to help me go. It really makes me sad and a little frustrated when I see other people using the bathroom with no problems, when I struggle to even have a bowel movement for weeks and sometimes months. One thing I’ve learned, though, is that I am bigger than my struggles and have the best friends and family in the world, who will always be there to help me when I stumble. I shouldn’t try to make everyone happy or wish I was the perfect person. I was put on this earth for a reason and should count my blessings every day for all God has given me. Sure I may have trouble going to the bathroom or having sex, but I can do so much more if I just keep my focus on Christ and allow Him to carry me through each day. If I do that, there is absolutely no way I will ever fall.

On your blog, you have a feature where you post pictures of people, places and things that make this world a wonderful, amazing, beautiful place to live. What are your a couple of your favorite pictures? What do you enjoy about photography?

This is an interesting question, and I’m actually glad you asked. I hadn’t really taken an interest in photography until I started my job about five years ago. I was a member of my high school and college newspaper staffs, but was more focused on writing stories people would read than taking pictures to accompany them. Back then, 10-15 years ago, we had to send the film to be developed and wait to check them out to make sure we could use them. We also scanned the pictures in, so they were always black and white when the papers came out, if memory serves me correct.

Now, with all the digital, high-definition cameras on the market, I’m able to check my pictures on location and can re-take them if necessary. Also, I am able to upload the pictures to my computer at work or at home and can delete all of the blurry, out-of-focus ones before we upload them to our website. When I first started working in the city of Marietta, Ga.’s, communications office in June 2007, I really had no clue about taking pictures. I honestly just thought you just got the subject in the viewfinder and clicked away. But thanks to my supervisor, hundreds of hours in the field taking pictures for articles we write and self-teaching myself how to use a camera, I have learned so much about the rule-of-thirds, shot composition, how the angle of the sun affects lens flare and what really makes a powerful shot. I’ve learned so much the past five years, and apparently it shows in the pictures I’ve taken because I’ve received some amazing feedback about some of my best work.

I’m out in the community at least two or three times a week taking pictures, depending on if we’re doing a story and if the weather is nice, so I hardly ever go anywhere without my cameras. I have a primary camera I use for work and also have a couple other personal cameras I take with me on work-related shoots and personal shoots I go on just for fun. I remember a couple of instances I’ve been on location for an assignment for work taking pictures, and some of the pictures I’ve taken have surprised even me. One time I was taking pictures of the local fire department burning down apartments to make room for a city park. One picture I took showed two firefighters sitting under a tree about 100 feet away, and they were surrounded by smoke, hanging their heads like the world was coming to an end. What made the shot even more powerful to me was the fact that I was sitting on the other side of some beautiful green weeds and was able to get them in the shot as well. It was almost like God was sending a message saying, “The world may in fact be coming to an end, but I will always be there to lead you to bigger and more beautiful things.”

The other picture I was captivated by I took during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. To set this picture up: a local Kiwanis Club commemorates certain anniversaries of the terrorist attacks by placing more than 3,000 American flags in a field in front of a beautiful mountain for an entire week. I went by the mountain almost every day of that week last year, and the picture I took that made me almost cry showed the “Field of Flags,” the mountain in the background and a replica of a cannon used during the Civil War. I’m not sure if this picture carries a message, but if it did it’d probably be that America and people with disabilities can overcome any attack or obstacle they set their minds to.

I love taking pictures because it gives me an escape from the struggles I face because of the spina bifida. Whenever I am behind the camera, I don’t have to worry about my back aching, not being able to feel my legs or not being able to go to the bathroom when I need to. I can just focus on whatever subject I am taking a picture of, whether it is a beautiful woman in a short skirt or a pair of jeans, a baseball field that has just been newly renovated, a stay-at-home mom with her kids having a picnic, or a soldier who has come back from overseas and is enjoying a day at the park with his fiancé and family. I feel like God has called me to take pictures and show people how beautiful this world is. We get bombarded with violence, high gas prices, politics and people arguing every day on the news, and it’s time people realized that we need to come together and embrace all the good things waiting to be seen and experienced, right in our back yard.

You also have started an extensive list of disability resources on your blog. How would you like to see this list grow and evolve? How important is it to raise awareness on these disabilities?

I started the list of disability resources to give not only other readers, but also myself a better understanding about all the information that’s available about spina bifida. As I’ve had other people on the blog, I’ve added resources about cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, autism, you name it. I’m sure there are thousands of resources I haven’t come across yet, and I hope someone will read the blog, see the resources link at the top of the page, read the resources I’ve collected and e-mail me with more. I do know there are several local places that offer information, and hopefully when I can get some free time I can visit them and ask if they have anything I could add to my list.

Raising awareness about these disabilities is very important because hopefully more people will understand that the disabilities exist and understand that there are people out there who have these disabilities. I hope people will have more compassion for people with disabilities and understand that we are members of society just like everyone else. We may act a little differently, and may even have a different way to get somewhere, but we can offer society so much if people just give us a chance. Also by including resources about the different disabilities that are out there, I hope and pray that we can raise enough awareness to find cures for some of them and perhaps even get legislation passed to get special-needs citizens more involved with their communities at the local, state and national levels.

Who knows, we may eventually see the first President with special needs, who will fill his or her cabinet with people who have a disability. I know this may never happen but what a great thing to think about: the first Presidential administration full of people with different disabilities, different talents and different perspectives. Maybe then, people would take a step back and FINALLY learn to accept us for who we are inside and stop all the fighting, raping, terrorist attacks and learn to get along for a change. What a wonderful world that would be.

What kind of writing do you do “off your blog?” Any books or stories in the works? 

Most of the writing I do away from the blog involves writing stories for the city of Marietta’s website. I work with all city departments to discuss programs and initiatives they’re working on; events coming up; and parks, road and transportation improvements that have been completed, are underway or are planned in the future. I absolutely love my job and am right where I am supposed to be at this point in my life. God led me to the city, and I firmly believe He has placed me in this position.

I am currently working on my first book, a fictional look into my life with spina bifida. I’ve written three chapters, but have had to put the book on hold because I’m working on a major project at work, collaborating with our IT department to renovate the city’s website. It’s taken about a year, and we are really close to unveiling it to the public, so it’s still kind of a surprise. I’ve found that writing a book isn’t as easy as writing content for my blog or the city’s website. I’m still learning plot development, character development, how characters interact with each other, how to set the scenes, etc. Hopefully I can have a rough draft completed in about a year. Stay tuned!!!

About Jason Bourne

Jason is 29 years old and has been disabled since birth. Diagnosed with spina bifida, he has no feeling below the waist and can’t feel his legs. He graduated in Dec. 2006 from Kennesaw State University, about 20 minutes north of Atlanta, with a B.S. degree in communications. He works with the city of Marietta, Ga.’s, public information office, writing press releases and taking pictures for the city’s website, He loves reading, writing and taking pictures in his spare time. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn. If you have a question or topic you’d like him to discuss, drop him a comment or send him an e-mail.

Body Image

For the longest time, I was captured inside a body I hated. I thought I was ugly, fat, not tall enough and, therefore, completely unlovable. I was convinced that most of the horrible things that were happening to me had to do with my appearance.

I desperately longed for a different body. I thought my life would turn around completely once I was leaner, had longer legs and was as thin as a piece of paper. 

When I had my first thoughts of dieting at the age of 10, I knew that this was the only way I could make others love me. I knew that it was the only way I could tolerate living.

And at the beginning, my prediction seemed to become a reality. When I lost a few pounds, I received one compliment after the other from teachers, my parents, grandparents and friends. Life seemed a bit better, and I felt like I had accomplished something good.

But the way I saw myself did not change. I still always felt too fat, and all the bad things around me did not stop either. So, I continued to restrict what I was eating, and I intensified my workouts always hoping that my world would be brighter once I reached a new goal.

Unsurprisingly, this was not the case.

During the next 14 years, I would completely disconnect from myself and my body. I would be entangled in anorexia nervosa, hating my body more than ever before.

I’d stand in front of the mirror looking like a skeleton and still only see fat and failure. All I wanted was to eradicate the last inch of fat in order to be happy and fill the hollowness inside.

When I finally committed to recovery, I was terrified of having to gain weight. If I could not love my body when it was hardly there, how could I love my body when I was heavier?

In the first few months, I struggled a lot with these thoughts. I thought I could not live without being skinnier than a model. I thought I had no right living and looking healthy. I believed everybody would judge me for having eaten and instantly think of me as inferior.

As the months went by and I gained pound after pound, I went through many phases of despising myself. I was even more self-conscious than ever before, put on big shirts and pants in order to hide the weight gain. I shed way too many tears and probably strained my husband’s patience during this time of transition.

When I reached a healthy weight, I had to get used to not only a completely new body, but also a completely new me. The face I saw in the mirror was not the gaunt one I had seen for most of my life. The body I looked at was not the one of a girl anymore. I had curves now and was not as flat as a child anymore. I hardly knew the person in that reflection and had a few moments of crisis whenever I saw a picture of the new me. I felt unworthy and undeserving of living a rich and fun life in this body that I could not accept as my own.

Intimacy with my husband decreased drastically. One some days, I could not even let him take my hand or touch my back. I just did not want to feel my new reality. This, of course, let to many arguments and moments of huge fights.

I was at a loss and had no idea what to do. I did not want to relapse, but I also refused to keep on living this way.

I had to make a choice. Would I continue to weigh myself down or would I try something new and drastically improve my life?

I decided to challenge myself, and changed my thoughts and my habits. Instead of looking in the mirror and judging myself, I focused on a body part that I liked. Instead of comparing myself with others, which is one of the worst things a person can do, I focused on myself. I started to say positive messages to my body. I stopped standing in front of the mirror over and over again checking my belly and thighs.

I gave myself the permission to grow into the natural shape that I was supposed to be.

The transformation that has taken place since that day is unbelievable. I am not exaggerating that by simply altering the way I look at myself, I completely changed my life. I can walk taller. I dare to voice my opinion with more confidence than ever before. I feel free. I can look on the bright side much more often than I used to. I can laugh again. I can enjoy being intimate with my husband again without worrying about imaginary flaws, and I fell in love with myself again.

I have become so convinced that we are the only ones who stand in our way of a healthy body image and a love for ourselves that I created The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Body Image. In this guide, I explain exactly what I did to transform my body image, and I motivate you to do the same in video form, work books and audio files.

I would like to stress that I did not lose a single pound, nor did I try to.

All I did was redefine what beauty means to me. I allowed myself to think that I am beautiful now, exactly the way I look today. Nobody has the right to tell me otherwise. Not even I.

I want every single person in this world to experience the joy of living in and with a body that we not only accept, but also love. Everybody can do it, and it is easier than you think.

I would never have imagined that I would have the audacity to say that I love my body the way that it is today. The fact that I am doing it should you give tons of hope that you will soon be able to do it too!

About Anne – Sophie Reinhardt

Anne – Sophie Reinhardt is a world traveler, anorexia survivor, podcaster, blogger, digital entrepreneur, speaker, wife, lover of books, and aspiring yogi and social media enthusiast. Her blogs My Intercontinental Life and Fighting Anorexia are focused on everybody who wants to live a purposeful, free, healthy and passionate life.

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Trip of a Lifetime

“I am free. Completely free. I cannot believe it. I did it!” Those were the thoughts running through my mind after I successfully stopped abusing laxatives. I was thrilled, proud, over the moon, but I was also terrified.

And while it was true, I was freer, a part of myself still held on to my eating disorder and my addiction. After all, we shared a close attachment for 14 years.  Although it will take more time to completely let go, the differences between the life with anorexia nervosa and the life in recovery are enormous.

A typical day, a year ago, was dictated by the voice in my head. I had to follow orders or disaster would arise. Today, I am the only one doing the talking and the acting. A year ago, my life was a sea of hopeless desperation. I was carrying around feelings of absolute failure. I was constantly counting calories and agonized over the impending daily workouts.

Today, I am full of energy and enthusiasm. I can focus all of my attention on being creative, and I don’t completely obsess over food anymore. I spend my days having fun and enjoying what I am doing and, with that, I am experiencing a level of freedom I have never known before. And on top of that, I have grown as a human being in ways I could have never imagined. I began to love myself for the very first time. I acknowledged my weaknesses and embraced my flaws. But I also regained trust in my many abilities. Today, life is exciting, and the future looks amazing and full of opportunities.

Achieving this stage was not easy. In fact, it was more difficult than maintaining my eating disorder for so many years. However, it was one of the most rewarding processes of my life. With each day, I grew and transformed a bit more, and I learned many invaluable things about myself. I formed a relationship with myself, instead of deepening the one I had with my eating disorder. I learned that it is OK to concentrate on myself from time to time and that it is important to take care of myself and my body.

A body that looks so different now than it did a year ago. A body that finally looks like a women’s body instead of a child’s. At first, it was not easy coming to terms with the fact that I had to gain weight, and I needed a few months to adjust to my new body. But over time, I accepted it and even began to love my curves. I am a woman now, so why can’t my body show that? It has been more than a year now since I initially committed to recovery, and sometimes I cannot believe how far I have come. However, since I am a human being, I sometimes slip and fall, and so setbacks are inevitable. A recent world trip was a reminder that my base is still a bit fragile.

My husband and I recently went on a trip to Australia and Bali. It was a chance of a lifetime, and I was beyond excited to travel to places I had always dreamed of.

I have always loved to travel. It was one of my earliest passions. My parents made sure that we would see the world from an early age on. We would travel around Europe when I was little, seeing France, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany (of course), Spain and so many more countries. Even during those early trips, the scale was always with me. I couldn’t leave it at home. I had to be in control. This created many arguments with my parents, many tears were shed because I had gained weight, many vacations were ruined.

When I was 13 years old, my father arranged for me to be able to stay at a friend’s house in Chicago. This was the first time that I would travel to the U.S., and I was traveling alone. I enjoyed myself a lot, but the voice in my head was constantly berating me for eating too much, for gaining too much weight and for not deserving to have fun.

I would travel around the world even when my illness was the worst. I would enjoy myself and be excited about exploring new places, but I was never truly free.

When I traveled to L.A. last November, everything was different. I did not fear going out to dinner with my friends. I did not feel guilty over drinking a mocha. I was able to just be in the moment. So, I thought that I was ready to go on a longer trip.

The first few days at the other end of the world were fabulous. Arriving in Sydney after being in the air for almost 24 hours was amazing. Being able to walk around in shirts in late November was a welcome change. We settled in fairly quickly, met friends, did some sightseeing and enjoyed each other’s company. I ate regularly, not even feeling overwhelmed by having to choose from a menu.

However, after flying to Melbourne for a couple of days, I started restricting again, dark thoughts arose of not being allowed to eat breakfast or lunch. Then I would binge at dinner. This vicious circle accompanied me during the rest of the trip. I felt bad again, cried often, feeling trapped in my own body again. My thoughts were torturing me. I tried to be brave and not ruin everything for my husband. We were able to have many wonderful moments, and we saw so many incredible sights (the Sydney Opera being one of them), but my dark passenger was always there.

In Bali, I was constantly going back and forth between wanting to eat and wanting to stop. I wanted to enjoy the special delicatessen of Bali, wanted to try to delicious cakes they served during high tea every afternoon. But could I deal with gaining weight? Would I lose control? I decided to try it. It was a chance I would not have again for a while, so I had to use it.

It wasn’t easy. I was restless, hardly able to appreciate the beauty around us. I felt discouraged, wishing I could be totally free. But I pushed through these feelings and tried to make the best of the situation.

We saw a lot of the island, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. My husband and I both fell in love with the people and the peaceful spirit of this little island.

Am I sad that I couldn’t totally let go? Yes. Would I change anything about the trip? Yes. I would not go away from home for such a long time this early on in recovery. I would prepare myself better, would make meal plans and detailed coping plans. However, I am beyond grateful for having learned another lesson, and I am sure that I will be able to implement many of the things I learned on future vacations.

Life is a journey and so is recovery. Learning lessons is part of the deal. Some are larger, some are smaller, but they are all important. The way to health is not always fun, and I have taken many detours, but overall, I am proud of where I am today, and I am excited for the next part of this trip.

About Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt is a blogger, podcaster and digital entrepreneur.  After struggling from Anorexia Nervosa for 14 years, she recovered and is now helping others who are trying to do the same. If you would like to engage with Anne-Sophie beyond her blog, she offers 1:1 consulting! Just send her an e-mail.

Podcasting 101

Podcasting was something that literally saved my life. 

Back in 2007, when I was super depressed, spending my time in bed, not being able to sleep, but too weak to get up, I started listening to podcasts. Cliff and Stephanie Ravenscraft, now close friends of mine, helped me regain the belief that people could be good. I started opening up and coming out of my isolation again. 

Over the years, I have found many friends through podcasts, friends who have been there for me throughout the years, helping me fight my illness and supporting me in ways I could have never dreamed of. 

I had been playing around with the idea of having my own podcast for a while. But I was too self-conscious and had many doubts. What would I say? Would anybody even listen? Is my English good enough? 

When I was at the treatment facility last year, I decided that learning how to podcast would be a good way to distract my thoughts and to spend all of my free time between therapy sessions. 

So, I participated in one of Cliff’s “Podcasting A to Z classes.” However, it took me another couple of months and a phone call with Cliff to take action and just get the first episode of My Intercontinental Life out there. After this episode, I was hooked. 

I started three other podcasts in a short amount of time: Fighting Anorexia, Raus aus der Magersucht and The West Wing Podcast. 

Even though I haven’t been recording for more than six months, I am noticing how much better I am getting every single time. It is a fun way of sharing my life, the lessons I have learned, the struggles that I am facing in recovery with others. By doing the Fighting Anorexia podcast, I have found yet another way of helping those who are fighting against this disease and feel completely alone. While My Intercontinental Life is simply my audio journal that takes no preparation time, the Fighting Anorexia podcast takes a lot of work. 

Depending on the subject that I choose to talk about, I will research and think of personal stories that can underline what I am suggesting. I usually need four to five hours to prepare one podcast episode. But, just like blogging, I enjoy it tremendously. 

At the beginning, I used my iPhone and an app called iTalk to record the audio. After a while I invested in a mixer, audio recorder and a microphone. The sound quality has improved a lot, and I feel much more professional. 

A fantastic resource for learning how to podcast is the free Podcasting 101 tutorial that Cliff Ravenscraft created. If you need additional help, feel free to ask me for 1:1 training

About Anne Sophie Reinhardt

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt is a blogger, podcaster and digital entrepreneur.  After struggling from anorexia nervosa for 14 years, she recovered and is now helping others who are trying to do the same. If you would like to engage with Anne-Sophie beyond her blog, she offers 1:1 consulting! Just send her an e-mail.

The Courage of Asking For Help!

I often receive the question whether it is a sign of weakness if we admit that we cannot fight against this disease alone.

Whenever I hear this, I think to myself: Why would anyone label you as weak if you take a huge step towards recovery? Why is asking for help seen as a sign of failure?

I couldn’t disagree with that notion more. I am of the opinion that reaching out and saying that you cannot fight on your own, takes a lot of guts.

I know we live in a society where you have to be able to do everything all by yourself. Everybody has to be perfect (and we eating disorder sufferers are notorious for striving for perfectionism). The more you can achieve, the more respected you are. But, oh my, admit that you are a woman who cannot change a tire or a guy who just cannot cook, you have the label of weakness on your forehead.

Why is that? I mean, quite honestly, is there a single person in the world who does it all? No, I dare to suggest that there is not.

So, why do we think that we have to walk the way towards recovery on our own. Why can’t we use the wonderful resources that are out there? Why can’t we ask a counselor or doctor for help? Those are trained professionals who can prove as enormously helpful on our way towards health.

I speak from experience. For more than 13 years, I thought that I could make it on my own. I believed that I did not need the help of a therapist. “This is for other people” was my answer to everyone who suggested I see a psychiatrist. I honestly thought I knew myself best.

Boy, was I wrong. I lied to myself all the time, so why did I think I knew myself AT ALL? It was only with the help of therapists that I was able to start being honest with myself. Yes, I did the lion’s share of the work to get to where I am today, BUT I would not have come this far without counseling.

I have to admit that admitting myself to a treatment facility crushed my spirits for a few days. Was I really this sick? Was it the right decision? Should I not rather do it the harder way? What will everybody think when they hear about it? But something deep inside me knew that this was what I needed. And that feeling proved me right. Letting go and knowing that others are here to help me made a huge difference in those difficult months. Having the support of a team gave me the crutch that I needed at the beginning. Whether they were able to comfort me when I was devastated, whether they helped me eat that one potato more or whether they were able to get me out of a bad time when I felt so depressed I thought I couldn’t go on, they helped me get back on track every single time.

And if the prospect of counseling is still too scary for you, then confide in a friend, someone who is close to you, someone you trust. They will be glad to help you and hold your hand. Just don’t isolate yourself.

Asking for help is a sign that you are taking serious steps towards a new, healthy life. Asking for help shows that you are willing to re-evaluate everything you believe about yourself. It means that you are ready to attack that misleading thought of being your eating disorder. It signifies that you mean business.

So, go, ask for help! Do it now! It will be one of the most rewarding things you will do in your life. I promise.

About Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt is a blogger, podcaster and digital entrepreneur.  After struggling from Anorexia Nervosa for 14 years, she recovered and is now helping others who are trying to do the same. If you would like to engage with Anne-Sophie beyond her blog, she offers 1:1 consulting! Just send her an email.

No Christmas Tree For Christmas

Editor’s Note: I realize that Christmas has come and gone, but some people, myself included, have overcome so much in our lives, whether it be addiction, cancer, depression, bipolar disorder, anorexia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy or autism, and we have so much to be thankful for every day of our lives. So I’ve made it a point to celebrate CHRISTmas every day of the year because, without the love and grace of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ I would not be here today. Merry Christmas!!!

No Christmas Tree for Christmas

By Patti Murillo-Casa

Three years ago I was shocked beyond belief when my doctor gave me a cancer diagnosis.  That particular moment is vivid in my mind, but the moments after the words “You have stage IIB cervical cancer” are a blur.  It was mid November of 2008, right before the holidays, Thanksgiving,  Christmas and New Year’s.

Needless to say after receiving such a diagnosis, I wasn’t in the spirit for any of the holidays. At the time everything went dark. I thought, Thanksgiving??? What do I have to give thanks for? For having cancer? I was forgetting the rest of the blessings around me. I was only focused on the words that I had just heard. I was giving up before I even started to fight back. For me, it was the beginning of the end.

I went into a cocoon, asking myself over and over, “What did I do wrong to deserve this?” I did not want to see anyone, no family, no friends. That year there was no giving thanks for Thanksgiving, no Christmas tree or gifts for Christmas, no party or champagne cheers for the new year. What was the sense of doing all that if I felt uncertain about my life. I was facing my own mortality.

It took a while to gather my strength to get ready to fight back. I was fighting for my life.  It was a long and difficult journey, but I won the battle. God gave me a second shot at life. 

Now, I give thanks every day like if it was Thanksgiving, good or bad. I celebrate and see every day as a gift giving to me like if it was Christmas, and I live every day like if it was a New Year’s day. There is so much I want to do, and I don’t take anything for granted anymore. I see life differently now, and what seemed like a big thing before is not so big now. Life is good!!

Wishing everyone a very healthy New Year!!

About Patti Murillo-Casa

Patti Murillo-Casa is a cervical cancer survivor, who was diagnosed with stage IIB cervical cancer in 2008 shortly after retiring from the NYPD. She uses her personal story in the hopes that other women will avoid what she had to endure and not become a statistic. Presently serving as president of the New York City Chapter of Tamika and Friends, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about cervical cancer and its link to HPV. Follow Patti on Twitter and Facebook. For more information about cervical cancer awareness and other women’s health issues, visit Patti’s blogs, A New Camino-A Latina’s Journey Back from Cervical Cancer and The Voices of Two Mujeres.

Anne-Sophie: One in a Million

My fight with anorexia began when I was 10 years old. I started dieting and exercising rigorously. What started as an innocent attempt to control my body, soon became an obsession. After three years of this behavior, I started eating even less (on most days, I only ate two slices of toast in the morning) and exercising even more.
Everything in my life was defined by eating, not eating, working out. Everything I thought about were those things, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The first thought after waking up was, “How much did I eat yesterday?” I lost all of my friends, concentrated only on how much I could or should eat, how long I had to run in order to burn the calories, etc. My life consisted of numbers. I was always dizzy, tired, cranky, miserable, unhappy. It was torture. I could not escape from these thoughts for a second. They were always there. Concentrating was impossible. I did not enjoy anything anymore. If I went to the movies, all I thought was that I missed an opportunity to work out. When I was 18 years old, I tried to commit suicide because I just could not take it anymore.

Basically when I was 18 years old, my life felt empty. My body and mind were exhausted from years of dieting, rigorous exercising and the abuse of laxatives. My brother continued to terrorize me, beat me, verbally abuse me, and I just could not take it anymore. I coulnd’t go on anymore. Nothing made sense. I was hurting so bad. I was sad and tired and had no energy left. It was a very dark place to be in, and I wanted to end it all. I can now say that I am more than happy that God let me live (even if it was so very difficult). I made it out of this black hole, so strong, and I will never go back to that dark place again, never. 

My parents never abused me. They have their own struggles, but they never hurt me. I don’t know why they let my brother abuse me in this way, but I have forgiven them now. They were terribly sad when they saw how miserable I felt, but I guess they were too weak to help me. I have a good relationship with my parents, when we don’t talk about this part of our lives. But I accept that they have their reasons for acting the way they did. 

I survived, but the next four years would be even more horrible. I slid into a depression, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t smile, couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. I spent the entire year of 2007 in my room, alone, scared, hopeless and without any energy left. In the years after that, I started studying several courses, but quit all of them because I *had to* go to the gym to work out instead of going to the university. I couldn’t even change my behavior when I got to know my husband in 2010. For a while, I pretended to be happy (in those 14 years of being anorexic, I became an expert in pretending), but on the inside I was even more miserable. I beat myself up for not even stopping my behavior now that I was in love and supposed to be the happiest girl alive. But after a few months of being married, and realizing that I was genuinely and madly loved, I was able to admit to myself that I needed help, and this realization couldn’t have come soon enough. I was on the brink of death because of being so underweight. Had I continued on this destructive path, I wouldn’t be here anymore. This was in December of 2010 and the beginning of my recovery process.

Anorexia defined more than half of my life, but I won’t let it determine the rest of it.
What anorexia is

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. The deadliest kind of it. Twenty percent of people who suffer from anorexia die either from the sickness itself or from its symptoms.

Anorexia is a mental disease.

You lose weight through dieting and ridiculous workout routines. You lose control over yourself. You cannot eat anymore, you count every calorie, think you are fat even if you almost die from being underweight, your thoughts circle around food and calories, and you define yourself by how much control you have over yourself.
A typical day started with the thought “How much did I eat yesterday?” The answer to this question determined the rest of my day. If I could answer “nothing,” I was fine (for the moment). If I said “too much,” the day was going to be horrible. I woke up and started a 30-minute workout routine. I ate two slices of toast. Depending on what day of the week it was, that was all I ate. If it was a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday, I would eat something for lunch. I would then go for an hour- or an hour-and-a-half-long walk. In the evening, I would run on the treadmill.

Of course, these routines changed over the 14 years I was anorexic. In the final stages of my disease, I worked out up to four hours a day and only ate soup.

Every day, I measured my thighs, hips and arms.

I weighed myself every single day, sometimes more than once and freaked out because of every gram I gained. I was often so hungry that I dreamed of large quantities of food.

On some days, I was so hungry that I had eating attacks that lasted all day long. I would eat everything that I could find from 6 a.m. until late at night. I ate until I felt so sick that I thought I was going to throw up. However, I never made myself throw up. I did, however, abuse laxatives. After those days, I had to punish myself for this behavior, and ate even less and worked out even more.
I was very, very, very lucky and did not have major health problems. I stopped growing when I was 12, which is very common when you develop an eating disorder in your adolescence, and there were years when I didn’t have my period. My skin was always dry, and I was always cold. That was it for me.  But I really need to stress how lucky I was, this is very unusual. Most anorexics have major health problems.
Anorexia itself didn’t make me stronger, but recovering from it made me a lot stronger. The recovery process was brutally hard. Having to admit to yourself that you are seriously sick and that you need help immediately is very hard. But now I look back and see how much courage it took to make this step, and I am proud of it. I did not want to die (even though there were many days when it would have been so much easier to give up) and instead fought. I still have to make a decision every day that I want to fight against this disease. Every morning I need to make a decision: Do I want to give up or do I persevere? And I move on. It is the hardest thing I ever did, but also the most rewarding process. I am starting to grow into a woman, and I am proud of it. I am starting to develop self-confidence. I am learning to love myself for who I am and to trust myself. These are things I learned in the last year, and this journey will continue for a long time. The girl I was last year and the woman I am now are worlds apart.
If you are struggling with anorexia and being underweight, I would like you to know that you are not alone. and don’t feel ashamed. Anorexia is a disease, not a choice. We do not behave like this voluntarily, we cannot help it. Don’t blame yourself and seek help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength, of wanting to survive.

Talk to someone who is close to you, someone you feel comfortable with. If you want to talk to me, email me (, I would love to help you.
Now that I am in recovery, I am starting to appreciate life for what it is. Life has always seemed to be nothing but misery. I used to be scared of every single day. I used to fear the future and the decades of hating every day. But now I know that life is miraculous. I am starting to appreciate the little things like the beauty of flowers, wonderful days in the sun, spending time on the couch with my husband, laughing until we cry.

Life should not be defined by how much you weigh. Yes, you should try to be healthy and make the right choices, but you should learn to enjoy every single day. Life is so short and I am now living every day to its fullest.

I have decided to follow my passion of writing, podcasting and helping those who suffer from the same disease as I have. I won’t let others define who I am or who I should be.

I have suffered enough, now I want to live.

About Anne-Sophiecourtesy
Standing on the brink of death, having struggled with anorexia for 14 years, Anne-Sophie has finally been able to break the cycle of eating, not eating, exercising and taking up to 60 laxatives in the summer of 2011. After a three-month long stay at a sanatorium that resulted in almost no weight-gain, Anne-Sophie has been able to gain more than 20 pounds and is slowly finding her way to health and a better life. It is a difficult journey, one that will last years, but Anne-Sophie is determined, as determined as she was when she started her first diet, and she will be the winner of this fight against her own body.

During her time at the sanatorium, Anne-Sophie started her first podcast called My Intercontinental Life, which was then followed by Fighting Anorexia, the podcast that she had been dreaming of doing for years. This is the podcast that is the most important to her.

The goal of this podcast is it to spread the news about the dark side of the slimming craze: the suffering, the loneliness, the deceptions, the heartache, the weakness, the mental terror and the deteriorating health. Furthermore, this podcast wants to provide a platform where anybody struggling with an eating disorder feels save to have his voice heard and feels understood and never judged.

Anne-Sophie’s story is only one of millions. The podcasts are her attempt to do something against this horrible disease.

Guest Blog and Touch More Lives Than You Can Imagine

As I’ve said on a few occasions, I had plans to blog at least once a day, sometimes more if the passion hit me at the right time. But as time has passed, work has taken up a HUGE amount of my time, not to mention the fact that my disability and sitting in my wheelchair for 15-18 hours a day makes me really tired and drained, plysically, emotionally and, yes, even spiritually.

That’s why I am offering you, my loyal readers and fans, the opportunity to jump aboard my spina bifida journey, wherever you can find an empty spot on the magic carpet… or wait is it a fishing boat?

Do you have an inspiring, encouraging story to share? Are you a cancer survivor? Do you or someone you know have a disability? Were you in a near-death accident, a tornado or hurricane? Did you survive physical abuse when you were younger? Are you just looking for someone to talk to and share what’s bugging you? If you want to share your touching stories of survival and hope, here is your chance to become a guest blogger and share your story with a bigger audience.

If you’re interested shoot me an email and tell me about your story. For starters, answer this short questionnaire and we’ll get started.

1. What’s your name?

2. Tell me a little bit about your story. Which one of the above situations describes your story best?

3. If you are disabled or know someone who is, what’s a typical week like for you/them?

4. How do you think your situation made you a better person? Has it made you look at life any differently? In what ways?

5. If there’s anything you could say to someone who has been through your situation, or may face that situation in the future, what would it be and why?

6. Do you have a short bio and a few pictures to accompany your guest blog?

If you’re REALLY, REALLY interested after reading, let me know and we can work on your guest post together!!

I look forward to hearing from everyone. Oh yeah, invite your friends and family too. There’s room at this party for everybody!!! 😉