The only reason I’m excited about the election results (and how you could be too)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the election results. It’s hard not to.

My facebook feed. My mailman. The lady at the town council office that accepted my forms. A client who had an out of the blue binge.

‘What do you make of Trump?’, ‘This is not going to be good.’ and ‘It’s all his fault.’

A mix of fearful disbelief, dismay, grief, and blame. Not fun times.

So what do I make of Trump?

I don’t.

I didn’t vote. It didn’t seem like the integral thing to do when I didn’t and don’t have a strong opinion about either candidate.

This might sound like a cop-out, but hear me out. A Facebook Ad made it’s way to my feed when there were only 3 days left to register for an overseas ballot and I quickly added it to my ‘to-do’ list. But then thought twice about it.

And I realized the only reason I’d be voting was because I think I ‘should’.

That as a free citizen in the western world, I should exercise my right to have a say.

But for me, jumping in the political ring at the last minute just because of all the hype around Hillary vs Trump didn’t seem like it was the real me.

I haven’t followed politics for years. The last time I voted, I voted for Bush junior because my parents were staunch Republicans and I couldn’t imagine what would happen at the dinner table if I voted for Gore. By the time his second term came around I was dating a liberal Democrat, and I couldn’t pick between my family’s values or my boyfriend, so I didn’t vote.

As I started to find my own voice, and what I really cared about, I realized that for now I don’t have the bandwidth to keep track of all the ins and outs of how government and the economy works. What I do have space for is why an individual makes a choice.

I care about why the person in the position of power, and the person casting their vote, is making the decisions they are making. Are they making it out of Pride, or Shame, or Fear? Or is it out of Love and what they believe is the ultimate good for the earth and mankind, even if it’s an unpopular vote?

As I hear the reactions toward this last election there’s a lot of emotion going on. I see Anger, Disgust, Grief, Sadness, Fear. Thankfully there are also slivers of Compassion and Love.

If you’re feeling any of those things, I can understand why, and I’m feeling those emotions throughout my life right now too.

I’m also aware that those aren’t my primary feelings about this election, and so I’ve had to check in with myself. What am I feeling instead?

Oddly, it’s Curiosity mixed with Anticipation and Excitement.

Not because I think Trump will do a good job, or is the best person for the job.

But because the only good I see coming out of this election result is that we, as a generation, have been given a wake-up call.

America is having a breakdown.

The same kind of breakdown that I’ve had.

The kind when you’re at war with yourself because you’re so caught up with fitting in and keeping up with the shoulds of who you think you have to be. The kind where you think the survival of you and your identity depends on this, and so you keep trying to keep it all together. Except you’re faced with guilt when you realize you’ve screwed up, and shame when you realize you could’ve done better, and fear that because of this, and regardless of this, you’re not OK anymore. It’s not working and you’re stuck, but you keep trying to make it work all the same because you don’t know any different. And so you lose yourself in the process.

Maybe you can relate.

Yes, it is scary when something the size of America has a breakdown. I have Fear there too. Because a breakdown on that scale means very few are left untouched. It’s no longer contained to the tears on my couch and the visits to my therapist.

But here’s what I know about breakdowns.

You either become a victim to it and let it define you…

Or you rise to the challenge and let the process of shedding and refining happen, so that you come out through the fire a more wiser, aware, connected, and purer version of you.

You get in touch with your True You.

That is the exciting part.

On the morning of Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 I did something I never do…

Aside from willingly getting out of bed at 6am (in the dark mind you) for my first day of fish feeding training (the joys of a fish farmer’s wife)…

…I turned on the TV when we got home. It was in time to watch Trump give his acceptance speech live.

My husband commented, ‘You never watch TV!’

‘I know! But this is watching history in the making!

In hindsight, I reflect on that statement, and sure, there was probably a lot of truth in that. That day is likely to end up in the history books of the future.

But here’s the other thing. We don’t have to wait for a presidential election, or any election to watch history in the making.

Every. Single. Moment. Of your Life. Can Change. The Course. Of History.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Every. Single. Moment. Of your Life. Can Change. The Course. Of History.

Every choice we make in our daily lives is us casting a vote. How we treat our neighbors, where we do our shopping, how we love (or don’t love) ourselves, our family, our friends, our enemies. How we do (or don’t) speak up and take action for what we believe.

It is the ripple effect and accumulation of those choices that matters more to the future of this planet than who is living in the White House.

Here’s something I was taught recently about feelings:

We have Anger when we have Passion and Desire for something to be different.

We have Sadness and Grief when we have lost something dear to us.

We have Fear and Anxiety when we are living in the future and forget that we have what we need, right now, this very second.

We have Shame and Guilt when deep down we know that we are capable of, and wish we had done, something different.

For those of you, and those you love, who are experiencing any of these emotions due to the state of the world affairs, or the state of any part of your life right now, first, let yourself feel. Feeling is important and necessary. Numbing doesn’t do anything except opt out of your life (trust me, I’ve tried).

Once you are feeling, here’s a few things to ask yourself:

What do I Desire to be different?

What do I have Passion for?

What is it that I think I have lost or will lose?

What can I be grateful for right now?

What is something I can do right now, or today, or tomorrow, to do my part to create the future I want to see for the world?

I started writing this to extend an olive branch to those who are hurting right now. But I am also writing this to those who are not. Because my gut tells me, that if Hillary had won, you would be hurting too, just for different reasons.

That’s what happens when the best our political system can do is give you the choice between a crook and an asshole to run the country, or so I’ve heard.

I am still undecided as to whether I will call them a crook or an asshole. Because I know two things about myself.

One, I will most usually judge the hell out of someone else when it is somehow reflecting a part of me that I really don’t like.

Two, anytime I say ‘I will NEVER do (or be) THAT!!!’, I inevitably do (and am).

So before I call her a crook or him an asshole, I’m asking myself, where am I a crook? Where am I an asshole?

Where in my life do I let the desire for power or greed or being right, or the idea that I can get away with just a little (or not so little) white lie, influence my decisions?

Where in my life do I think I am better than the other person, dismiss their point of view, and exert my own privilege or power over them?

Guess what, I do both.

Whether it’s covering my tracks when I know I’ve messed up so I don’t have to face the humiliating pain and shame of being wrong in front of family, friends, or colleagues;

Or stereotyping and rolling my eyes at the guy in front of me in the checkout line because they are taking too long to bag up all of their booze and potato chips.

At the end of the day, I am just as guilty as they are.

You might be too.

So here’s a reality check:

Blaming, shaming, and complaining isn’t going to change anything other than you will grow a lot of bitterness and discontentment. You might experience anxiety, or hopelessness, or possibly depression. You’ll probably increase your blood-pressure and see a few more wrinkles in the mirror.

You may choose that if you wish. No one is stopping you.

You can also choose to get curious about yourself. Because like it or not, that is the only person who’s words, decisions, and actions you have any control over.

You don’t have to hand over your power to the government, or any institution for that matter, and watch the show from the side of the road, or your couch.

You get to play a part.

Not only do you get to play a part, you get to cast your vote and create the ending to the story, at least for your own life.

And who knows, maybe by creating an ending that reflects your deepest truth, one that is grounded and founded in compassion, empathy, patience, kindness, courage, and more of the endless facets of Love, then maybe you get to shape the ending of the bigger story at play, that extends beyond the next 4 years, 8 years; beyond your lifetime.

And it all starts with You. With Me.

How can you and I show compassion, empathy, patience, kindness, and more to Me, Myself, and I?

How can we let go of an old harsh story that says we need to be doing and striving and pushing and trying, so our pride and ego can say we have done enough?

What about really tuning in? Slowing down enough to hear the whispers of your heart. To see where your soul wants to take you? What might you do differently then?

And how might you then BE and Become what you so desire for the world around you?

I am not promising that this is easy. In fact, heads up, it’s not. I get it wrong all the time.

I will promise you this though. It is worth it.

You are worth it. The lives of the people you touch are worth it. Your community, your country, and this world is worth it.

As you extend more compassion and love to yourself, you will have more to give to the people around you. And they will have more to give to the people around them. (Heck, there might be so much love and compassion floating around that even the White House will get the hang of it!)

And there lies the hope. And excitement for what could be.

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Learning to Breathe

This story was written by Corinne Birchard. Thank you for sharing your heart with us!


This was supposed to be the year of everything. Senior year of college. I was so excited to start this year as I had big goals and aspirations for the up-coming cross country season. I dedicated my summer solely to training;  I discussed with my mom the idea of not getting a summer job to maximum my time for getting in my hour long endurance runs, my lifting session, my shakeout second run of the day, and my routine of “little things” to promote recovery, including sleep. My parents not only understood that, but encouraged me to hold off on getting a summer job so I could focus my energies on training. So that was my summer.

I was so excited to go back to school and compete in my class cross country season as a Division I runner. And to learn and complete my degree in biology, of course, but I invested so much time in running during my time off from school that I couldn’t wait to taste the delicious fruits of my labor.

Turns out they weren’t so delicious.

While I was focusing my energies on training, I kept putting off the dreading feeling of leaving the home I love so much. This year was different from other years. The early years of college, I would be so excited to go back to school and reconnect with my roommates and teammates, train hard and study hard. Of course, I would miss my family and friends and boyfriend back home, but the college atmosphere was different, almost refreshing. New.

Now, things are different. With one year left of college, I had my future career to look at, deciding where to get my masters of education, spending time with my parents that I enjoy so much, and planning a future with my then-boyfriend, now fiancé. And, life happened back up at school. I grew apart from people whom I was close with at the beginning. That happens, that’s okay. I went through mindset changes that maybe didn’t exactly line up with the mindset of others on my team (some may say I take my sport too seriously, but I’ve always been a serious person. That’s how I perform my best.)

I wish I realized this earlier, but underneath the focus of putting forth my best effort in training, I was masking the dread of going back to an environment in which I knew would be different.

But when I realized it, it hit me like a ton of bricks straight to the chest. I felt like I was suffocating.

The year I was expecting to be the best year ever wasn’t turning out that way. Training was going okay, but I didn’t feel comfortable with where I was at. Between the different training philosophies, eating lifestyles, practice conflicts, and levels of interest in competing and training, I felt like I was isolated and had no one to connect to. I thought that it would pass, maybe it was just everyone was adjusting to being back at school again.

But weeks went on and I never felt more alone surrounded by people. I dreaded going to practice. I ran with others, but being with people felt like I was suffocating. I would break off and run by myself, and that was equally as suffocating. I couldn’t escape it. The pressure would follow me back to my apartment and I felt uncomfortable in what was supposed to be the comfort of my own space. It felt like living in a compacted bubble that was ever pressing down on my chest.

The worst was when that pressure, the suffocating, came crashing down in my first race of the season. I went in with a happy heart and a happy head (I thought) and was looking forward to seeing how I would perform. Mid-way through the 6K race, the pressure came back and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

Not exactly the way I wanted my first race as a senior to go. It was embarrassing. My parents drove for eight hours to come watch me run and spend the day with me. I felt like I let them down, and cried in the shower as they waited in my living room to go out to dinner. They had no idea.

In a place in which I was surrounded by positive energy, I encountered negative energy at an unrelenting rate. The pressure, the suffocation would squeeze tears from my eyes on my way to class, or practice, or on my way home. But I couldn’t tell anyone there; I was colloquially known in the athletic department and on my team as the girl who was always smiling, always happy, such a great big smile on my face.

Yes, I’m smiling, but on the inside, I’m crying. I began counting down the days to graduation, not because it would a joyous occasion, but because that meant I could leave this place for good.

I decided to take a weekend away. I needed a change of scenery, a change of people, a change of everything. I couldn’t wait to leave.

And thank God I did. I left my computer at my apartment and my phone’s touch screen wasn’t working too well, so I only used it to get in contact with people on an urgent basis (like, where was my ride from the airport, and yes, I landed safely, because just to type those five or six words took a solid ten minutes. I couldn’t be bothered with that the entire weekend).

With the first breath of fresh air I took in when the flight landed, I felt all the negativity leave my body. I was able to breathe again.

Over the course of that weekend, I got the best sleep I’ve been able to get since I went back to school. I really, truly, genuinely laughed so hard in the pee-your-pants-but-you-don’t-care type of way. I genuinely smiled so much (a real, tooth-grinning smile) that my jaw cramped up.

And, I felt independent. With the suffocation gone, I felt like I could actually do things I wanted to do, instead of veg on the couch post-run thinking of all the things I could be doing but instead wasting my day away. Slowly but surely I felt strength come back to my body in the form of the warm light ability to freely breathe.

I didn’t know how much I needed to get away, but I’m glad I did. I learned so much about myself that weekend. Like I truly enjoy math and maybe I should have majored in math instead, or that I am actually able to strike up a conversation with a person I just met, instead of waiting for her to dictate the conversation.

The best part was that the happiness I felt in the core of my body didn’t leave me when I stepped on the flight back to school. Instead, I think it grew and made me more confident. I reached out to a friend and teammate who I haven’t really spoken to since the beginning of the year due to scheduling conflicts and I told her how I was feeling. It felt so good to actually tell someone, instead of letting the feeling suffocate me. I became more comfortable reaching out for help from different resources, like my coach, my sports psychologist, my journal, and you, who is reading this story. The more I shared how I felt, the more comfortable I felt, because I wasn’t alone.

The more I talked, the more I realized that there were changes I could make myself to help me truly enjoy my last year at school. I happily decided to switch my degree from a BS in biological sciences to a BA, and resign a class I really wasn’t enjoying or benefiting from. I explored places and initiated activities with my friends, either going out on adventures in town or finding a new place to study.

And, most importantly, I felt like I was able to breathe. I was able to breathe without restriction.

What I learned from this experience that it is so important to do what makes you happy. Don’t worry about obtaining perfection. Don’t worry about obtaining the ideal “senior season” because there will be someone that is out of your control that may change that vision in an instant. Instead, be malleable. Be open. Be present. Be you, do what makes you happy in that moment, and breathe freely.

The little engine that could

Earlier this week I shot an impromptu video about a healing journey I’ve been on the past month, trying to heal a candida flare-up on my hands. It’s become clear that the process we go through for physical healing is pretty much the same deal for any kind of emotional or spiritual healing or recovery.

I won’t spill the beans, so check out the video here (it’s short, only 12 min or so).

And if you only have 30 seconds, here’s a tip that didn’t make it in the clip:

Pretend that you are The Little Engine that Could.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….

That line of thinking will get you through any Crash & Burns, Die-Off Symptoms, or Allergic Reactions.

Let me know if you can relate, and what you’ve learned from your own healing/recovery in the comments below!

 

What trapeze school taught me about Letting Go

Sunday kicked off week 1 of Your True You Journey, an 8 week group program that 6 beautiful women here in Swansea have started together, and we start off with the seemingly hardest, yet sometimes the simplest topic: Letting Go.

Two days later, I was asked by someone else… ‘How do you let go?’

As I’ve been trying to hack into this concept, find the 5 step plan to ‘letting go’, I think back to the time I went to trapeze school for a day in NYC.

We were however many frightening-feet high in the air swinging from a trapeze bar, and guess what? The only way to get down, to get home, was to let go of the bar.

It really was that simple. Open my hands. Detach myself from the bar.

The hard part? I’d be falling an uncomfortable distance to the net below.

I’m sure I held on for a couple swings more than necessary before gathering up the courage to let go and drop.

I survived.

The lesson here: Letting go takes gathering courage to be in an uncomfortable and unknown space, but the act is practically automatic.

When I let go of the bar I didn’t consciously tell my hand to open up, and my fingers to move in an upward direction.

No. In the moment my mind chose to let go, my body followed suite.

Lesson here: Letting go is a moment by moment choice.

Our final acrobatic move on the trapeze that day was one of those hang upside down and swing to the person on the other side moves, where you have to be swinging in perfect harmony in order to lock arms, and then swing together.

That took Trust.

Trust that the experts would launch our swing at the right time. Trust that the other experienced trapeze artist would have a strong enough grip to hold me, and trust that the nets below would catch me.

In that split second moment when I felt the grip of the other, I had to release and relax my legs to let go of the bar, otherwise I’d be pulled back in the other direction.

Lesson Here: I had to trust the bigger picture. And trust that letting go at the right moment would make everything work like clockwork.

I was not masterminding the whole performance, controlling every action of every person. I had to surrender to my part: Stay present, stay connected, feel, listen.

Now, let’s talk about the fall.

Of course, when playing on a trapeze in a set up that is purposefully there for amateurs, and has an insurance policy to cover any and all accidents, there were many, many, many nets below me, ready to gently break my fall.

In life I often think that I am supposed to be my own net.

Trust me. You do not want me to be a net. I will crack and shatter with the impact of any object plummeting toward me with irreversible gravitational force.

Either that or I will swiftly move to the side and that object will fall splat on the ground.

I can not be my own net.

That in and of itself is a letting go moment. I can not be all things to all people, including myself. I can not fix all problems, including my own.

So if I’m not my own net, then who or what is?

Well, in real life trapeze school, the owner put the net there;  the person who created a space for me to play in. They obviously knew I wasn’t going to start swinging and never stop. I’d need to come down at some point.

They foresaw a need and intentionally designed a facility to catch people when they fall.

What is your net for life?

I like to think of mine as the force that created a space for me to play in; the creator of my existence and the world I live in.

I wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t something to catch me. I didn’t force, or will, my own existence into being.

Lesson here: I can choose to believe that, if something got me here, something’s going to catch me.

But only if I let go.

Otherwise I will continue to swing back and forth in fear of falling, fear of failing, straining and exerting all of my energy to hold on to something that I think is providing me safety; eg that trapeze bar.

But if I am holding on to that for dear life, I have no life. I am stuck, at some ridiculously high height in the air, not able to do anything but swing back and forth. The view might look good, but it gets old after awhile.

Let go? And and a whole new world opens up.

So you see, there is no 5 step plan; unless Courage, Presence, Choice, Trust and Faith count. Each of those steps are a practice in itself.

Earlier this year I made a picture prayer. A physical representation of the desire I have for my life.

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As you see, it starts with Teach Me…

What I’ve learned is, as you ask to be taught, the lessons present themselves.

Practice courage, presence, choice, trust, and faith in each moment, along with a heavy dose of grace & love, just like that daring young man on the flying trapeze, you’ll fly through the air with the greatest of ease :).

 

 

#bu29days: Day 26: What the recovery road looks like

aka Life as an Artichoke

aka So what did getting better look like? You talk about forgiveness, it being spiritual journey, etc. Details please!

Yeah, sorry, I’ve gotten sidetracked with all the juicy stuff 🙂

So here as some key highlights:

There was bathroom floor moment #1 where I decided I wasn’t going to live like this anymore. The key here to note is that it was a choice.

Over the next 18 months, the conflicted feelings and obsessive thoughts about food was there, but with additional decisions to do more things that I actually liked to do (eg wear blue-suede shoes and study Italian) I was starting to feel better about myself and my life, and sustain the decision to not purge anymore.

Bathroom floor moment #2 came 18 months later and that’s when I realized will-power wasn’t going to cut it and some deeper healing was needed.

This is when I started praying, started reconnecting with God, and participated in a recovery course that helped me realize there was a lot more going on than just bulimia to recover from.

It was shortly after this period of time that I moved to the UK. I was living on my own for the first time, no roommates. This was a real test on the food front because I had no one to hide any weird food behaviours from. I could easily binge, or binge and purge, and no one would be the wiser.

There’s another part to this story that is quite telling. Part of the reason I was so keen to move to the UK was that I had re-met a British guy that I knew. We carried on a long-distance relationship while I was back in NYC in the hopes I’d get a transfer to London. By the time I landed and got off the plane and settled into my one-bedroom flat, he had met somebody else.

This was the real test: How would I handle being jilted at customs? The rosy picture I had painted of my new life in London with a guy by my side, just had some of the pink erased.

Thankfully the healing that I’d received up to that point grounded me. I had a deep inner peace that I had made the right decision to move here, regardless of the outcome of that relationship, and that I would be OK. Sure, it wasn’t the adventure I was expecting, but it was still an adventure.

I spent a lot of time on my own in those first few months. Lots of reading spiritual self-help books. Journalling a lot. I didn’t have TV or internet hooked up in my flat, so it really was just Me time.

There were still nights where I would have mini-binges. I say ‘mini’ because I would stop after maybe half a sleeve of crackers or half a loaf of bread, as opposed to continuing on just because I had ‘broken the seal’. The good news was, I wasn’t trying to make up for the extra calorie consumption anymore.

I was still trying to maintain my running routine, although this was starting to change too. One, because it rained non-stop that year from May through August and Two, because I couldn’t run from my office like I used to in NY. I had to go home first, and by the time I’d gotten off the 20 minute tube ride and 20 minute walk to my flat, a lot of times I wasn’t in the mood anymore, and I was listening to that.

I started to practice what I call ‘eating normally’. Grocery shopping with meals in mind and then cooking them when I got home.A meal like stir-fry, or pasta with chicken. Not just snacking or grazing on food that didn’t need much preparation like fruit and peanut butter, or a sandwich, or a salad. This was a conscious decision to change my eating habits.

This new exploration with food and my body was a reflection of the changes going on inside. My confidence was growing, I was shifting my idea of self-worth, and I was consistently putting myself into new, vulnerable, experiences and I was surviving. I was more connected to me.

Having community was a big part of this too. I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with the church over the years and during my time in London it was very much ON. I found an awesome newly planted church in my neighborhood where I met a lot of people that I clicked with right away. Plus they served wine after the Sunday evening service and they met in pubs. This was my kind of place.

It was here that my faith was re-kindled and I realized that a lot of the strict rules that had been enforced in the church community that I grew up in (like no dancing or wine at weddings) were outed. I was able to move past a lot of the shame I was carrying about how I was living my life and that maybe God wasn’t such a control freak after all.

Within a year of moving to the UK I very much felt that my bulimia was behind me. I was talking about it in past tense. And I also had a desire to help others who were struggling. I felt that I had something to give in that front, although I didn’t quite know what or how.

I came across a sister church in London that was holding a course called New ID, created by a woman who had overcome anorexia, and I attended in the hopes that I could run the course at my church.

I think of attending that course as the final balm of healing of my bulimia. Even though I thought I was better before attending, there was a new freedom that I felt afterwards.

I know this because shortly afterwards I met my now-husband. And I was able to eat burgers, chips, drink pints of beer, make nachos, Welsh-cakes, and spinach-artichoke dip together, enjoy them together, and I didn’t bat an eye-lid. I wasn’t worried about calories, what would happen to my stomach or my thighs.

I was able to enjoy me, him, and our budding romance without the 3rd wheel of a bulimia-hangover.

It was a beautiful gift.

So at that point, I knew for sure, the bulimia was gone. And I knew it wouldn’t be coming back because, due to how a past relationship of his had ended, there was just the right amount of uncertainty to test me. And food never became the answer.

Journaling, prayer, having open and honest conversations with him, and having a good friend by my side to support me, did.

And of course, just when I thought all my ‘work’ was done – because I was pretty sure I was living a ‘normal’ life now, it became clear there was more.

This is when I realized my relationship with sex wasn’t right. I was struggling with the no-sex-before-marriage doctrine that I had literally signed my life away too in a No-Sex-Before-Marriage seminar when I was 16, and I realized I had no idea what I actually believed about sex and my own sexuality.

I realized that I was once again using sex for self-worth, validation, love and acceptance. In the same way I had been using food.

So I went to see a therapist.

That was over 7 years ago. What I have learned since then allows me to say that 7 years ago, when I could hand-on-heart say I’m not bulimic anymore and I thought I just had this little sex issue to sort out, I had only just uncovered the tip of the iceberg.

It has been in the past 7 years that I have learned and AM LEARNING what it means to not be in a codependent relationship. This was the pattern with men my whole life, except I never realized it until I went on the recovery course.

Thankfully, my husband and I promised each other that we wouldn’t carry this into our relationship (he had been in this pattern too). This meant both of us upholding boundaries with each other; not rescuing each other even when the other person wants us to. I am still guilty of the ‘wanting him too’ more often than not.

So yeah, healing from codependency, learning to set boundaries, learning to say what I mean in the moment, learning to express my wants and desires, learning to be able to think about my sexuality without embarrassment, disgust, or confusion, learning to detach my self-worth from money.. oh gosh, THAT has been a huge one too.

That has been the past 7 year journey that I’ve been on. On the outside this has looked like a lot of arguments, tears, loving embraces, having conversations at work where I speak my possibly unpopular truth, and other times where I’ve been too fearful and have held back. It’s looked like resigning from my 10 year career, following a dream to backpack in foreign and exotic places, starting two businesses, failing miserably at certain aspects, succeeding in others.

In a nutshell it’s been a rollercoaster ride.

An adventure.

I liken this adventure, from that first bathroom floor moment 12 years ago to now, to the idea of peeling back the layers of my favourite food, the artichoke, or like the more commonly known analogy, the onion. Each year, month, day, moment, another layer gets peeled back.

There is no straight path, a series of boxes to tick off, and then you’re done.

It’s a continuous cycle of revisiting the same principles and capital-T truths over and over. Each time you get to go deeper.

And maybe it’s just me, but it really is fun! I have never laughed so hard at myself, and I have never cried so hard.

Life peeling artichokes is good.


Something to think about: How can you celebrate moments that prove your own growth? What do you think about life being about peeling artichokes and onions? Would you rather be a head chef than a sous chef? 🙂 What expectations do you have for your own life and recovery?

Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email kendratanner121@gmail.com if you’d like yours shared there.

Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome judgement and shame, and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You.

#bu29days: Day 25: An adventure of a lifetime

aka So you must blame your mom then, right?

No I don’t.

Your dad then?

No.

I don’t blame anyone.

Including myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I look back at my past and I can easily point fingers.

If mom wasn’t so accommodating, if my dad wasn’t so budgetary. If the church taught more about love than fear, shame, and control. If that kid didn’t spit on me, or that girl didn’t call me ‘the thing’. If my coach had asked me why running was so important to me, if I hadn’t started running, if I hadn’t learned about eating disorders in my Psych class.

So many ifs, ands, or buts.

So many contributing factors that make it all so very complex, as most eating disorder definitions will attest to.

There’s many different ways the story could’ve gone. And perhaps there could’ve been a different middle, with the absence of bulimia.

But the bulimia wasn’t the end of the story. Today isn’t even the end of the story, but the bulimia has gotten me to where I am now.

I like where I am now. And so I am grateful for my experience.

Maybe I’d be here anyway, but with a different story to tell.

I often wonder how much of life we can prevent and avoid, and how much of it we have to go through as part of a necessary process to get us where we need to be. To what extent was I already scarred when I popped out as a pumpkin, calling for inevitable healing?

Sure, it was a crazy ass invitation that brought me through a fire, but on the other side I’m finding the person I was meant to be all along. 

Marianne Williamson talks about Love being the only real thing. Any act or circumstance is either an expression of Love, or a call to Love.

There was not much I was doing out of Love throughout my eating disorder. But it was one hell of an invitation to find Love.

And it worked.

I often think, if I didn’t have such an extreme reaction, I could’ve easily just gone through life on a plateau, numbed out but coping. Things would’ve been ok. I would’ve had the house with the white picket fence, the 2.4 kids by now, maybe a dog.

But if I never learned how to actually Love, what’s the point? It’d be like living in a coma.

Now I am awake. I become more awake each day.

I never know what today is going to bring. Maybe it’s tears of joy after reading a note from a client who has woken up along the same journey. Maybe it’s tears of hurt and frustration after acting out from a place of fear, and having to pick up the pieces.

I have a sticky note hanging on my wall to remind me of something I said to Liberty a year ago, ‘I am willing for today to be something I can’t explain.

I think of my life now as like a treasure hunt. What gold nugget am I going to find today? Sometimes it is sitting there bright and shiny and I can easily pick it up. Sometimes I can kind of see the shine, but it’s muted and needs some time to get dusted off. Sometimes the nugget is covered up in layers of hardened dirt that clearly needs some work to clean it off.

We often just want the shiny nuggets. Guess what though, they only start showing up when you’re willing to clean off the dirty ones as well. In my experience anyway.

One of my clients has summed it up best:

The favourite adventure of my life so far has been learning to love myself through this ‘bulimia journey’.

She’s been cleaning off the mud caked nuggets. And it’s been a bloody ADVENTURE!

How cool is that?

Yes it can feel hard, even impossible at times. Like banging your head against a wall; over, and over, and over.

But it opens up possibilities.

So I don’t see the point in blaming.

Sometimes I really want to; for a moment I think it will give me some sort of satisfaction if I can sit back and say, ‘see I told you so!’

But what good is that? Then that pain and hurt is winning.

I have found it helpful to talk with my parents about things that I’ve struggled with in our family dynamic. It’s been hard to start the conversation and a lot of times I put it off until another day. When we do talk about things, I walk away with more understanding. Less judgement, more love.

I doubt I’ll ever have an opportunity to talk to the kid who spat on me. That’s ok though. I’m not sure I really want to or need to.

I can still choose to forgive. From wherever I am in the world. Let go of holding on to the idea that I was wronged in that situation.

It doesn’t mean that he was right. But I can let go of being the victim.

Sometimes forgiveness is like those gold nuggets. Some are really easy, others take awhile to clean off and get to genuine forgiveness.

That’s where being willing to be willing to be willing to be willing to forgive helps 🙂

So for today, think about who or what in your life are you blaming? What if you could drop the blame and see that hurt, or that mess to clean up, as an opportunity to go on an adventure of a lifetime?

You ready?

Or *should* I say ready to be ready? 🙂


Something to think about: Which is easier, blame or forgiveness? Which is better in the long run? Why is it difficult to forgive? What adventure is your life taking you on? What adventure do you want to have?

Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email kendratanner121@gmail.com if you’d like yours shared there.

Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome judgement and shame, and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You.

 

#bu29days: Day 15: What’s Love got to do with Food?

aka How you do anything is how you do everything. 

aka Why didn’t willpower work?

Let me ask you this? Have you ever tried sticking to a diet before? How’d that work out for ya?

Dieting takes willpower. And in my experience it doesn’t work.

I’ve tried a number of them.

The South Beach Diet, the Leek Soup diet from ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’. I’ve tried eating only Superfoods.

They lasted from all of 2 hours (the leek soup was so boring and bland I ended up binging a few hours later) to maybe 2 weeks of eating cottage cheese and pineapple for lunch.

The problem with diets, is that you very rarely get to give yourself what you really want. It’s a condoned form of Deprivation.

When your desires are parked over there… with chocolate cake, burgers and fries, and buttered bagels… and all you’re giving yourself is cottage cheese and leeks, you are left wanting.

It’s a simple equation.

-10 +1 = -9  = still in lack

-10 + 10 = 0 = whole = complete = satisfied

I tried the different diets and restrictive eating in the years I was still purging. I was desperate for a solution and it was worth a shot.

The irony is, that what actually led to healing my relationship with food, was the complete opposite of your typical diet.

I had to let myself eat everything.

I know, you’re like, ‘Woah!’ Everything? Including Twinkies? And Pork Scratchings? And those really nasty cheese twists with E number whatever yellow and orange coloring and flavouring?

Yes. Everything.

Not only does that sound unhealthy, and slightly indulgent, I too can see the potential danger in opening up the floodgates for someone who A, loves food and B, was having some ‘slight’ problems controlling herself around food.

Here’s the thing though, until I gave myself permission to have whatever I wanted, this was my mentality:

  • I can’t have xyz.
  • I feel guilty if I do.
  • But xyz looks so good!
  • Stop thinking it looks good, it’s bad for you. It’s going to make you fat and you’ll binge (and maybe purge).

To break that down, you have control, guilt, the push-pull theory, fear, beratement, and distrust all in one.

I don’t see no Love.

And that’s because there wasn’t any.

When your relationship to food is built on that good vs bad lens, can and can’t, deprive and punish, fear and distrust…

the outcome isn’t going to be very loving, and it’s not going to work in the end.

Think about this, if that mentality was brought into a real relationship, say with your partner, or your kids, how would that turn out?

Disaster. Trust me, I know from personal experience.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, how we do anything is how we do everything.

We have to bring Love into our relationship with Food.

And if we can do that, guess what, bonus! It will bleed into all other areas of our life too.

So instead of good vs bad, what’s the 3rd option?

  • I am allowed to have whatever I want, when I want it.
  • I get to choose what I want in the moment.
  • The food itself isn’t actually good or bad.

An experience of freedom, expansiveness, abundance, respect, choice trust, empowerment, truth, and dare I say Love.

I’m pulling up yesterday’s definition of Love. Let’s test it out in this scenario, just for kicks.

  • Love is surrendering to the idea that you don’t have to have it all together. Surrender to the idea that you have to ‘get it right’ with food all the time. Maybe you’ll eat more than you really want at first, that’s OK. Babies fall when they are learning to walk. Adults can fall when we’re learning to eat (and live) again.
  • Love is giving yourself what you want. As in, the largest, gooiest, piece of chocolate cake on the table, if that is what you really want.
  • Love is receiving what you want. As in, don’t be thinking about how you’ll only have shakes tomorrow, or you’ll burn it off at the gym. Enjoy every single bite of it right there and then. Tomorrow you can decide what you really want for tomorrow.
  • Love is accepting your birthright to receive love. As in, stop depriving yourself of what you really want.
  • Love is engaging with beauty. Food is beautiful. It is colorful, smells amazing, tantalizes your tastebuds. And it nourishes you. Play with it.
  • Love is finding courage to face fears. Including the fear that the chocolate, or the bread, or the burger, is going to make you fat. Or that the sugar or the gluten is going to ruin your health*.
  • Love is being vulnerable. It means getting really honest with yourself about your weak spots. This doesn’t mean that you are weak. Admitting where you are is strength. Hiding from reality, not so much.
  • Love is speaking your truth. Who knows what yours is. Mine was, ‘I love food!’, something that I had been ashamed to say for years, considering how I had treated it.
  • Love invites in. It creates connection. Include others in the conversation about your relationship to food, body, and self.
  • Love does not judge. Including, ‘thou shall not judge the cheese on the pizza, or the grease on the french fries.’
  • Love does not condemn. Including the cheese, the grease, the fat, the sugar, the gluten, the white rice*.
  • Love is gentle. You don’t have to get it right on day one. We’ve got loads of time to play here!
  • Love accepts what is in the moment. I am trying this today and will see how it goes. Tomorrow is another day.
  • Love forgives, even yourself. Even when you fall back into fear and the deprive/indulge or control/release mode.
  • Love says come as you are. However many pounds of you, whatever size clothes, whatever health issues, no matter how ‘anorexic’ or ‘bulimic’, or ‘compulsive’ or ‘undiagnosable’ you are. Labels don’t matter to love.
  • Love says you are worthy. You are worthy of living freely with food, your body and yourself. You are worthy of the pleasure and joy and nourishment that food and this world offers you.
  • Love says it’s OK to let go of what you’re holding on to; I will catch you. It’s OK to drop the ‘Food Rules’ book (and dare I say ‘Life Rules’ book?)
  • Love says you don’t have to have it all figured out today. One step at a time works just fine.
  • Love speaks to you like you would a friend. You’d let your friend eat the cake without staring at her belly rolls and thinking, ‘How could she eat that when she looks like that?’. Right?
  • Love doesn’t give up. It cheers you on to keep going and find what works for you.
  • Love never fails. You will get there in the end.

I didn’t consciously know what I was doing at the time, but I started adopting this philosophy. I started to let myself have foods that had previously been forbidden; Cheese on pizza, red meat, salami, candy.

I started to explore more. What do scrambled eggs actually taste like? Do I like them?

I let myself have the ‘binge’ foods, like chocolate or ice cream, in broad daylight, without judging how many I had.

I started putting butter on bagels instead of eating them plain. And not in just any old way. I cut the bagel in half, spread the butter on, and then broiled it under the grill, just like we used to have as kids.

I started to find out what I wanted, listen to that, and give it to myself.

I began to heal.

*Note re: gluten and sugar: ?  I realize that a lot of food allergies and autoimmune conditions exist where it would be harmful to your body to eat certain foods eg gluten, sugar, etc. There is still an opportunity to bring love into the relationship. eg instead of the mentality that gluten or sugar is ‘bad’, what would love say? Probably something like this: ‘I want to take care of my body as best I can, and I’m committed to healing. Right now I am choosing to limit my sugar and gluten intake because that is what’s best for my body.’ Now you’re making a choice in line with your wants and desires, without fear, deprivation, or guilt.


Something to think about: Fear and love can’t co-exist. What are you afraid to let go of?How can you bring love into your relationship to food, and your life?

Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email kendratanner121@gmail.com if you’d like yours shared there.

Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome judgement and shame, and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You.

Nourish your Quintessential Self. The Nourish Circle, a private group for women to support each other’s journeys with food, body and self, is starting soon. Join Liberty Bain and I on Wednesdays from wherever you are, and see if this could be your next life raft. Join us this February.

#bu29days: Day 13: What I wish they taught me in Psych class

aka How my future child saved me.

aka How long were you bulimic for?

aka So how did you go from pre-meditating binges and purges to not making yourself sick for the past 9.5 years?

That my friend, is a long story with many twists and turns.

It started though one Saturday afternoon when I was kneeling on my bathroom floor with my head over the toilet bowl. I was on meant to be on my way to catch the ferry back to Staten Island for some family event that evening. My original plan was to catch a mid-day ferry. That got pushed pack to 2pm, then 3pm, then 4pm as I couldn’t get myself together to leave my apartment. I don’t remember why, but I was binging and that was stopping me from getting myself home to spend time with family.

I think by the time I had made myself sick, it was 2pm or so. I and remember sitting there thinking, what the f*ck Kendra!? What are you doing with your life? You are so messed up that you can’t even stick to your plans and catch the ferry on time! This is a SATURDAY AFTERNOON!!!!! Why aren’t you enjoying yourself? Why are you at your lowest? What is wrong with you?

I know those weren’t the kindest words I could say to myself, but they got my attention.

Followed by: How are you going to ever have a family? How are going to raise kids if you can’t control yourself and you end up here in broad daylight? How are you even going to birth a child if you can’t keep your food down? What if you vomit up your baby while you’re pregnant?

Now, I know from a biological point of view, that would be impossible because my uterus and stomach are not connected. But that Saturday afternoon, it seemed highly likely that they were.

And something clicked. I vowed to myself that I was going to change.

Magic didn’t happen overnight. But that one moment, that one choice, was pivotal.

And with that decision to change, and more specifically, that I wasn’t going to make myself sick anymore, I took my first steps down a different road.

This happened sometime in the winter of 2004. I don’t remember exactly when, but I know was I training for the Boston Marathon at the time.

The events of the next year was a blur for me. Partly because I still had one leg in the Denial river.

I had previously accepted that I was bulimic. It was the year before that I first told anyone; my boyfriend and my parents. You can read about that here.

But, since I stuck to that decision not to purge anymore, my logic for a good year or so was this:

Zero throwing up + Zero use of laxatives = Bulimia Free

For the record: this is the faultiest logic I have ever come across. And unfortunately, it is pervasive in the world of eating disorders and disordered eating.

The accepted medical definitions of anorexia and bulimia at the time, laid out very clear behavioural criteria that had to be met in order to wear the label of anorexic or bulimic. I clung to those criteria for dear life.

I skimmed over the caveat (and slight fine print): It is important to remember that someone can still have an eating disorder or body image issues and not meet the diagnostic criteria.

As I mentioned, I first heard about eating disorders in a psychology class. We learned about them according to the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is commonly used as a guide by doctors and psychiatrists to diagnose a person with a mental health issue.

The criteria at the time that I held on to, was that bulimia meant you had to purge twice a week for at least 3 months.

When I first experimented with binging and purging, this gave me license to proceed, because I knew that so long as I didn’t do it twice a week for 3 consecutive months, I was good to go. No problem to address. I had it all under control.

And on the flip side, when I made that decision on my bathroom floor not to purge again, it was back to ‘all is well’. No diagnostic behaviours present, meant no problem present. 

(Again, this is not how it works!!!)

But that is how I was still floating down Denial and making steps to recovery at the same time.

Except I didn’t really see it as recovery at the time. What was I recovering from? All I had to do with stop some (pretty messed up) behaviours, and I was back to an even playing field with the general population.

I didn’t have the Acceptance or Awareness that there was anything to recover from. It also somehow served me and empowered me to believe that everything was OK.

That belief served as a life raft that I was willing to hold on to. If at the time you had offered me a life raft for Low Self-worth, People-Pleasing, Co-Dependency, Sex Issues, Money Issues, and a variety of other self-worth related issues painted on it, I’m not sure I would’ve grabbed it.

Stop Purging. Yes, that one I could wrap my head and my arms around.

So for a year or so, I was holding on to that life raft, trying to stay afloat. Trying to go about life as if everything was hunky dory because the problem had gone away.

What I didn’t know at the time, was that the other life raft was the one I’d eventually have to hold on to. The first one could only take me so far.

I have no judgement for myself then, and neither for you if you need the simple and specific life raft right now. Stop Purging, Follow the Meal Plan, Run More, Eat Less, or some other tactical change might be your saviour right now. And if it is, hold on tight.

I would just ask you this: don’t let it seduce you into thinking that it can carry you forever. And when it loses its buoyancy, don’t freak out. It doesn’t mean that you’re back to square one again, it just means you have to find the next one that is going to carry you a little bit further.

I want to acknowledge that the DSM-5, published in 2013, has changed the criteria for bulimia to purging only once a week for 3 months at a time. It’s also added in new category that is essentially a catch-all in case you don’t quite fit into any of the other ones. It’s called Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED) and is defined as this:

‘According to the DSM-5 criteria this category applies to where behaviours cause clinically significant distress/impairment of functioning, but do not meet the full criteria of any of the Feeding or Eating Disorder criteria.’

The funny thing is, I’m not sure I’ve ever met the bulimia criteria for either DSM-IV or DSM-V. Three months is a long time for me to do anything consistently once a week, let alone twice a week, without missing a beat. But that’s just me.

I don’t remember what the longest stretch of time my consistent purging covered, and I don’t remember the most intense frequency. I do know that the fall of 2000 marked my first purge and August of 2006 my last (with an 18 month break in the middle, does that count?)

I also know that for at least 4 years leading up to my first episode, I was restricting and controlling with food and my body to get a desired outcome, and that from 2006 until 2008 I still had binging episodes, was restrictive with my diet, and was using exercise for weight management.

To quote Liberty Bain, ‘You can have an anorexic mindset, and not be anorexic.’

My bulimic mindset carried on past my bulimia. To be honest, I am still recovering from a bulimic mindset, and I learn more about its impact every day. (And I’m actually grateful for it too. It’s helped me learn how to live. More on that later.)

So to answer the question, how long were you bulimic for? My answer could range from never (according to the DSM), to my whole life (according to my mindset).

Personally, I wouldn’t worry about meeting or not meeting the criteria.

The only benefit that I see of the criteria, is for that time where you’re not sure what’s going on, you feel really alone because you’re not sure if anyone is experiencing the same thing you are, and you’re asking yourself, ‘What the heck is wrong with me?’ Then you can google what your behaviours are, or how you’re feeling, and now you have a name for what you’re going through. And now you’re not alone anymore.

Point being: Use the label if it helps you. There were times when it helped me.

But really, the thing I invite you to ask yourself the following:

  • Does your relationship to food, body and self cause you distress?
  • Do I adopt a control/release indulge/deprive mindset at all?
  • Does shame, vulnerability, and fear, lead me to try to change who I am and what I look like?

If yes, regardless of whether it is 1% of the time or 100% of the time, there is room to grow.

I wish those questions had made it into my Psychology of Adolescents class curriculum. Maybe I could’ve taken the shortcut, instead of the long way round.


 

Something to think about: What defining choices have you made in life? Would a label help or harm right now? What life raft would serve you best? What areas of your life cause you distress?

Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email kendratanner121@gmail.com if you’d like yours shared there.

Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome judgement and shame, and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You.

Nourish your Quintessential Self. The Nourish Circle, a private group for women to support each other’s journeys with food, body and self, is starting soon. Join Liberty Bain and I on Wednesdays from wherever you are, and see if this could be your next life raft. Join us this February.

#bu29days: Day 11: Floating down Denial

aka So was that it? For a few months you binged and purged, travelled around Europe, and was good to go?

Oh dear me no. That was just the beginning.

For April, May and June of that year I was OK. I didn’t purge and I’m pretty sure the binging was under control. The guy I had said goodbye to in Miami was coming out to see me. We had kept the long-distance thing going and I suppose part of what kept me from binging was wanting to look good for him ie not put on any weight.

That summer though, it started up again. I was working as a camp counselor at my university. I don’t remember how I was with food overall, but I do remember one incident where I had plans to run with my track coach one afternoon. I had been staying in the dorms to monitor the camp kids but this day I must have had off, so I went to the house where I lived when school was in session.

I don’t remember what came over me, but I do remember going through at least a pint of ice cream along with whatever else I found in the cupboards, within hours of meeting up for a run. I had to get rid of the food because, as any runner will know, going for a run on a full belly is a recipe for disaster. It will come out one end or the other.

So I tried to pre-empt the situation, made myself sick before going for the run, and still felt miserable during the run.

The next vivid memory I have was that fall. It was two nights before our division’s championship meet. I had had a decent season so far. My best one yet and good thing considering it was my last.

My time in the season’s kick-off workout made it into the all-time top 10 list, which was supposed to be an indicator for the rest of my season. I ran an 18:30 5K, my goal time, although it was on the flattest course ever so I didn’t really think it counted.

I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to close the season strong.

One thing I have noticed, and I probably knew then… I am not a good closer. I pick people off in the middle of a race, but I would always peter out at the end. The last three-quarters to half-mile of a race, my legs would get heavy, I’d feel like I was in slow-motion, and in my head it was a combination of ‘go faster, c’mon you got this’ and beating myself and my body up. Shame would show up with ‘Should’ve done more miles, eaten less, more squats etc.’

It was never pretty, as you can tell.

HEPS 2001
On the left: The face of shame. On the right: Quiet confidence.

 

I used to have nightmares where I looked and felt exactly like I did in the picture.

I recently read Gay Hendrick’s book, The Big Leap, and I can see now that what I was doing was a form of upper limiting. I inherently didn’t believe that I had what it took to win, place, beat the other girl, and so I subconsciously self-sabotaged, even though consciously I wanted to perform.

Talk about an internal tug of war.

And so that night, two nights before the championship meet, I binged on God-knows-what and had my head over the toilet bowl. For the record, that is NOT the best way to prepare your body for a peak performance. I don’t remember my time for that meet, but I don’t think it was even my best for that course.

The rest of my senior year I don’t remember specifics. But I know by the time I graduated and started my first job, I was at it again. The night before the interview, the night before the first day at work.

My mom had bought me my first suit that spring, and I was so afraid that after I graduated college and stopped running 60 miles a week and training so hard, I’d put on weight and wouldn’t fit into it.

Guess what, that fear came true because the only way I knew how to regulate my weight was through running. I grew out of it quickly. It became my benchmark though. On a good day I could fit into the skirt without it being too tight around the waist. On a bad day, I couldn’t even bear to try it on.

This is when I started having two wardrobes. The set of clothes that were between a size 4 and a size 6 for when I was ‘at my best’ and another set between size 6-8 for all the other days.

It was this first year out of college that the binges and purges became more frequent. A pattern started to form too. I was officially living at home at my parents on Staten Island but my boyfriend had an apartment in the city that was a 20 minute walk from my office.

Let me see, a daily 90min-2hour commute twice a day, or a 20 minute walk in the morning and a jog through Central Park in the evening? 

I think I’ll go with Option B.

When I was at my boyfriend’s place, I wouldn’t make myself sick. It was only when I was home. So my bulimia developed a bulimic pattern. 

I’d be ‘fine’ for days at a time, while staying with him, but I had to control my urges to binge. We’d get pizza for dinner and I’d always get the veg one even though the pepperoni one looked really good. We’d go to Gristedes and get ice cream or Pringles to snack on and I’d be terrified of eating what we bought and at the same time craving it. I’d try to subdue that internal battle and just act ‘normal’, whatever that meant. 

But then when I was  home, I could binge eat in secret. I could finally satisfy that craving and release all of the tension that had been building up from trying to control and hide my urge to binge.  I’d binge on binging. It was the epitome of the deprive/indulge model that I had learned oh so well.

These were dark times and it’s hard to find a silver lining.


 

The message that I’d like to highlight today is that while it’s not easy to hide in broad daylight, people around you are.

I’ll quote an amazing kindred spirit that I just met, Angela Barnett, who summed it up perfectly in a blog post; ‘Bulimics are cagier than Her Majesty’s Secret Service.‘ #truthbomb

We’re not the only cagy ones though. Anyone who has a vested interested in hiding shameful behaviours will go out of their way to keep their secrets safe and try on an act that makes everything look hunky-dory.

And this trying and hiding will make you a basket case. The dis-integrity of looking like you got it all together on the outside, meanwhile WWIII is going on inside. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re going for a run with a promising athlete, or interviewing someone with a great CV for a job, or welcoming a new employee wearing a beautiful suite on their first day of work, or filming someone for a prime time TV program (sneak preview for tomorrow). That person could be suffering inside.

They could be caught in a destructive cycle that is ripping them apart and you’d have no idea.

Except now you do have an idea.

I ask myself, was there anything that people around me could’ve done to help or to stop me at the time?

My honest answer: I don’t know.

I don’t know what would’ve gotten my attention then because I wasn’t at a point where I recognized that I had a problem. And as we’ve all heard, the first part of any recovery to so stop floating down the river Denial.

For sure one option is NOT to bash them over the head with a stick until they give up and say, ‘OK, OK, I’ve got a problem!’

And the other option of ignoring that there’s potentially a problem? Not really helpful either.

Third option?

For all of us to come out of denial.

Come out of denial that people you know and love could be struggling. And this isn’t just limited to eating disorders. We all have our struggles.

Accept that this is the case, and then raise your Awareness.

And then from Awareness, show up with Love.

Create a non-judgemental space for someone to just be in. Someone who is in denial and is doing their best to cover their tracks, needs to know that there is somewhere safe to turn when they are ready to get out of the river.

The presence of judgement and an expectation-oriented environment makes this difficult. It’s as if the alligators are on shore instead of in the water.

But creating a space for vulnerable honesty (which means you might have to show some of your mud first), and of acceptance, regardless of the mud the other person brings…. that is the best option.

We can each make a decision to practice living from a place of love. Consciously look to prevent and negate the impact of shame, courageously face our own fears, and start to dance with vulnerability.

Then we’re doing our part in helping someone who is still in Denial, come ashore.

Something to think about: Are you floating down da’Nile in some area of your life? What would help you come ashore?

Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email kendratanner121@gmail.com if you’d like yours shared there.

Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome judgement and shame, and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You.

Nourish your Quintessential Self. The Nourish Circle, a private group for women to support each other’s journeys with food, body and self, is starting.Join Liberty Bain and I on Wednesdays from wherever you are and receive support for your own dance with vulnerability. Join us this February.

 

#bu29days: Day 5: What’s up with this whole Deprive/Indulge thing?

aka How cake and salad can both be on the ‘good’ list

aka How my lizard brain works

I know, tell me about it right?

It’s crazy! We live in a world where this is the norm, practically an expectation. Deprivation is rewarded and commended.

‘She’s so good, she only had just a bite of cake.’ ‘He’s so dedicated! He goes to the gym every night after work.’

Why is only one bite of cake ‘good’? What’s wrong with having a full slice and enjoying every bite of it?

Why is dedication put on a pedestal? What about commending a commitment to one’s health, regardless of how many trips to the gym it takes?

And Indulgence? We’re invited to Indulge on a daily basis through marketing and advertising tricks, and if we give in, it’s seen as either acceptable to jump on the bandwagon, or just a wee bit naughty.

‘Would you like to supersize that?’ Oh sure, why not as I’m at it already.

‘I bought some chocolate and had a few pieces last night. I know I should’ve stopped at two but the box was just staring at me!’

And it’s not a phenomenon just with food. It’s everywhere we look.

Deprive:

  • Sure, I can stay late again at work (even though I’ll be missing my kid’s baseball game for the 2nd time in a row.)
  • Oh no, it’s fine, I can watch your kids (even though what you really need is an hour to yourself before your own family gets home.)

Indulge:

  • Just buy another TV and put it on a zero interest financing deal (because you really need another TV or even A TV.)
  • I’ll just watch one more episode (even though that’s the 3rd time you said that.)

When we foster this pattern, we give in to a way of living that denies our true wants, needs and desires. We send ourselves a signal that they are not worth it. That we are not worth it.

But if I deprive myself of them, I am somehow raised to the level of domestic goddess and now I’m worthy of love and belonging. (Faulty logic btw.)

Except prolonged deprivation is not sustainable. Picture a see saw, an extreme dip on one end begs to be balanced out. So we give in, go the other extreme, indulge, and soon the floodgates open.

And when that happens, it is clear I am definitely NOT worthy of love and belonging. Because who could love that kind of behaviour?

I’ve seen this pattern in my own life in more places than I care to admit, but here goes. In addition to adopting a deprivation/indulge pattern with food, it was there with sex, money, and emotions.

I grew up in an abstinence culture. You either had sex (indulge) or you didn’t (deprive). There was little room to acknowledge someone’s budding sexuality or engage in any kind of nourishing discussion, exploration, or acknowledgement of desires… another form of deprivation. As you can imagine, ignoring something doesn’t make it go away ; it doesn’t take away the feelings. But when they occurred, I thought that’s what I was supposed to do: just ignore them and wait until you’re married. Unsustainable in the long run which meant I then indulged the desires, but without really knowing why I was choosing to. It’s a great way to foster guilt btw. 

I also grew up on a budget. The budget rarely allowed for spending on items that I saw as pleasurable; brand-name backpacks, sweaters, shoes. The choice was often, you can have one sweater from the Gap, or three from JC Penneys. I’d often go with quantity over quality so that at least I’d have a variety of clothes to wear. But in doing so, I denied a desired pleasure. To own a beautiful, quality piece of clothing. When I started making my own money, I tried the budget approach for a while, but I could never stick to it. One month I’d splurge on clothes, the next month, I wouldn’t spend a dime. And the crazy thing was that in the splurge months, I still wasn’t giving myself what I really wanted. I’d buy/consume a large quantity, but it wasn’t necessarily what I had my eye on. I’d still shop the sale rack or buy stuff that didn’t quite fit right but was ‘good enough’. I was still depriving myself, leaving the desire unfulfilled.

This next one is an adoption of the stoic British motto: Keep calm and carry on. Whether nature or nurture, I rarely expressed my feelings. But when I did, Lordy did you know it. I’d be thinking or feeling things for months, keeping it all bottled in; calm on the outside, but seething on the inside. I’d be depriving myself of feeling the actual feelings. Which inevitably meant that later, I’d explode in a seemingly insignificant situation that ignited those bottled feelings (indulge). Just for the record, it can be a real hang up as an adult as you are trying to build meaningful relationships with partners. It’s not a recipe for success that is for sure.

And of course, the binge/purge cycle that exists within bulimia is just another manifestation of deprive/indulge. Deprive self of food that you really desire, then indulge with a binge. The purge starts the deprivation cycle again; purge and then restrict for as long as possible until the binge happens again.

Do you see the common theme in all of this? What is actually being deprived here?

Self-expression.

Whether it’s our deepest and most vulnerable sexual expression, our intense and charged emotional expression, or an outward expression of what we value and what see as beautiful and pleasurable (ie with food and money), it all comes back to the same thing…. the essence of who you are.

When you deprive yourself of this, the message you are embracing and emulating is: I am not good enough. I am not valuable enough. I am not worthy.

There he is again. Mr Dick.

So what’s going on? Why would we ever want to ignore, quiet, or deprive the world of our self-expression?

Because when we pick up signals that our self-expression, a reflection of ourselves, isn’t going to get the approval, applause, love and acceptance, we’re really good at adapting to what will. Not sure if it’s our lizard brain or monkey brain, but either way it’s a pretty good survival mechanism.

Here’s a 3rd option that’s a bit more sustainable.

Instead of asking, will they love me?  (And sometimes dare I say, Will I love me?)

Ask, what would nourish me? What would bring me and those around me pleasure and joy?

What would feed my mind, body and soul right now?

Maybe one day it’s a piece of chocolate cake. Another day it’s a gorgeous green salad.

Maybe one month it’s that beautiful red dress that you saw hanging in the store window. Maybe the next month it’s honoring your commitment to save.

All of these choices can be equally nourishing and pleasurable when you know what you want, and why you’re choosing what you’re choosing.

As I’ve started down this path I can now tell when I need/want a good cry and a release of emotion, and I’ll give it to myself. I can also tell when it’s not the right time and ‘keep calm and carry on’ is the better option in the moment. However instead of creating a bottleneck that is ignored, it’s pressing the pause button for a more nourishing time.

And as I’ve allowed myself to feel the feelings, express myself, nourish my desires, it’s been easier to allow for pleasure and nourishment with food too.

Something to think about: Where do you see the deprive/indulge cycle in your own life? What do you think would change if you allowed for more self-expression?

Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email kendratanner121@gmail.com if you’d like yours shared there.

Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome judgement and shame, and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You.

Nourish your True You. This February I’m co-hosting free weekly calls with Liberty Bain on Wednesdays; a time to have your questions answered and receive loving support about everything you’ve just read. Join us!