aka So how did you go from planning binges and head over the toilet bowl to playing with your food?
aka What can house music teach us about eating disorders?
First, you have to listen to these beats. The first 40 seconds and you should get it. 1:27 and you’ll start to feel it.
And in case you don’t, here’s the lyrics to Eddie Amador’s ‘House Music’ that explains it all.
‘Not everyone understands house music. It’s a spiritual thing. A body thing. A soul thing.’
So after having the ground shaken under me with that question, ‘where are your roots planted?’, I started to wake up to the fact that this problem I had with food, just like House Music, it was a spiritual thing. A body thing. A soul thing.
Which meant, that instead of just deciding to stop purging, and fight the urges to binge, the solution was a spiritual thing. A body thing. A soul thing.
I had to connect to my mind, body, and soul differently.
Be more of who I was.
I had to make some changes.
One was pretty drastic. I broke up with my boyfriend of 5 years. The same guy that I had visited in Miami and binged on his gift of chocolate covered almonds.
I had been with him throughout my entire stint with bulimia. He was the first person I let in on my dirty little secret.
He had been there with me and for me, and I was grateful for that, but he wasn’t the one long term. (Although, we could jam to house music and we were all on fire.)
My soul knew this. My body knew this. It was time for my actions to catch up.
That wasn’t the only drastic change.
I started swapping my 10+ year pattern of daily runs and gym visits for other activities. I intuitively knew that going to the gym every night, although glossy on the outside, was a destructive pattern. It was perpetuating the cycle of the focus being on burning and consuming calories. And this focus would often lead to a binge.
I tried out yoga, spin, swimming, karate. Except for the karate, I kept going back to those.
Spin, although similar to the cardio and calorie burn that came with running, gave a euphoric soul-high when spinning to those house tunes.
Swimming? Need I explain what happens when your body is submerged in water? The shape and size doesn’t matter anymore. The water flowing around you is heavenly.
And yoga? I realized I had muscles in between my ribs!!!! Who knew!? I loved this new exploration of how my body was made, and what it was capable of, other than repetitive knee-up-knee-down motions and swinging my arms along my side.
In the fall of that year, I ran the Chicago Marathon. This time, purging was not part of the training routine and instead, I incorporated a bunch of cross-training. I only ran on long run days and workout days. The other days I was spinning, swimming, yoga-ing. It was fab.
As was lightening up about food. Although I was still very conscious about what I was eating and was looking forward to the weight loss that the marathon training would inevitably bring, my thoughts and my actions weren’t as consumed by food as they had been.
I also started spending one night a week tutoring an immigrant woman from Pakistan to help her pass her GEDs (highschool equivalency exams).The time with her had nothing to do with me and everything to do with her.
For those 2 hours a week, my soul got replenished by serving in a way that only I could do. There aren’t many ways you can explain electrons, neutrons, and protons to someone who’s never heard of an atom before. Somehow I did and she passed.
I started adding more funk to my wardrobe. Without the Brooks Brothers poster child for a boyfriend, I didn’t feel the need to be the mirror image girlfriend.
I got myself this really cool denim knee length winter coat with fur around the hood. So fun, and so not the corporate vibe that I had molded into.
I went out and bought three new pairs of shoes. A pair of blue suede heels, maroon heels with this funky stitching and pattern by the toe, and a pair of flats, that to be honest, I don’t know what I was thinking because they looked like duck shoes.
Sometimes you can be a bit rusty with hitting the bull’s-eye when trying to come back to yourself. That’s all I can say about that.
But I remember this. I called my sister up as I was walking from the subway back to my apartment, bags of shoes in tow, and I told her about my new blue suede shoes. Her response,
‘Kenge! You’re back!’
The quintessential Kendra was on her way back to town.
My quintessential self started taking Italian lessons… a dream of mine since junior high school when I disappointingly got stuck with Spanish.
I bought myself a pair of Adidas turf shoes… a throwback to my soccer days, and I actually got to wear them on the turf. I joined a rec team and was playing and practicing on a regular basis.
As I was making all these seemingly subtle yet life-changing choices, my confidence was growing. The fear of rejection, the shame I was carrying, didn’t have such a hold. All of these choices were a bit vulnerable; any change from your habits and doing something new is. But I did them. And I survived. Which gave me the fuel to keep being more of me.
I sum up this whole process that I went through in four words: Stop Trying Stop Hiding.
I slowly but surely…
Stopped trying to dress like someone that wasn’t really me. That Brooks Brothers and Ann Taylor cover girl? Not so much. I like a bit more spice. A bit more flair.
Running? I definitely thought it was me. In fact it was me over 10 years. But by letting that be my identity, I was missing out on and suppressing other forms of physical activity that I really enjoyed.
I swear, there is nothing like running shoulder to shoulder with another sweaty soccer-phile, chasing a ball, and perfectly connecting the top of your laces to the underside of the ball and watching it soar down the field. It’s a different thrill that stepping over rocks and roots and getting lost in the blur of the forest on a trail run.
Both I love. But I had been missing the variety in my life; pigeonholing myself into boxes that gave me an identity that I thought would be more acceptable.
On the other side of Stop Trying Stop Hiding is Free to Be Me. And this is what I was starting to experience. The freedom that came with just being who I was created to be.
For the record, this is a never ending process. What I’ve found is that I will inevitably get to a point in my life where I have to ask the question, how am I trying, how am I hiding? How can I be more of me here? A blue-suede shoe moment.
I know it’s a blue-suede shoe moment when something doesn’t feel quite right. When I can tell I’m literally trying too hard and getting caught up in everybody else’s way of doing it. Or when I keep putting dreams of mine to the bottom of the list.
Inevitably, it’s because the trifecta of shame, fear and vulnerability has showed up.
Last night I went to a 5rhythms class for the first time. Dance has been something that I’ve only explored in the past 18 months or so. It’s a part of me that has been hiding. A soul expression that was a natural part of me as a 6 year old as I would dance around my living room uninhibitedly to Ravel’s Bolero.
But as I was told that I wasn’t ‘coordinated enough’ to be in the front rows of the church shows that required precision choreography, dance was off the table.
Here’s a little secret.
We can all dance. When nobody’s watching, we all got moves like jagger.
Especially when you’re not trying to dance like the person in front of you, and you aren’t asked to hide your unique bootie shake or shoulder shimmy.
So anyway, last night I mustered up the courage to go to a 5rhythms dance class for the first time. Let’s be honest, I was nervous. I can dance on my own fine, and I’ve even shared some clips on youtube, but when there’s others in the room, will I really be able to let myself fully be seen?
So I walk in, not knowing a soul.
A woman welcomed me, and I asked how long she’d been going, and she proceeded to tell me why she loves it so much.
‘I get to just be me when I’m here. I’ve spent my whole life trying to fit myself into all these little boxes. Here I can stop all that trying and hiding and I’m free to let all of me out on the dance floor.’
Sister, you speak my language. I guess we have met before.
And there, on the dance floor, with the house music bumping, it was once again a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing. A healing thing.
Something to think about: Where in your life are you trying? Hiding? What would being more of you look like? What activities are spiritual things, body things, and soul things for you? How can you do those things more?
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