Grandpa’s Garden

What I don’t want you to know about me is that a lot of times I am driving around my neighborhood and most of South Wales, and all the gray pebbledash (aka stucco) houses stained with diesel smut really gets me down.

I want to see color! Vibrancy! Variety! Wooden cladding with beautiful paint jobs. Nicely decorated front porches and whitewashed fences.

I’m not in Kansas anymore though, and unlike OZ, all I can see is gray.

The part that I don’t want you to know about is that I am starting to resent where I live. I feel stifled. And I judge myself harshly for feeling this way.

‘Grow up. Get a life. Stop judging your surroundings. You should be happy with what you have. Stop being so superficial that you let a bit of dirt and gray get you down.’, my inner critic dutifully chides away.

A couple of months ago I was walking towards the Swansea waterfront for a jog on the beach. The neighborhood I was walking through… let’s just say it could use a facelift. Terraced pebble-dash houses with concrete slabs passing for a garden, bleeding into asphalt pavement (aka sidewalk). No grass. No trees. No sign of life.

Except for one.

One neighbor in the 4 or so blocks I walked was doing life on their own terms. They had created an actual garden in their 10’ x 6’ plot of front yard and humongous tulips were in full bloom, all different colors. You could tell it was cared for.

It was so beautiful, and so starkly different from it’s surroundings, that I stopped and took a picture to capture this memory. Imprint the beauty. Make it last.

grandpas garden

A true testimony to the idea that when you shine your light, you impact others.

Two days ago, I was again going for a jog along the beach, and The Beatles decided to come with me. ‘I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together’ started running through my head.

I never could really understand the point of this particular song. The Eggman? The Walrus?

But as I fell into a rhythmic pace over the sands of Swansea Bay, it clicked. I didn’t have to be high on LSD to get the point, at least of this first line.

I am he: I want beauty in my life and so does the person who takes the time to make this garden beautiful.

As you are he: If you want beauty in your life, you’re just like him too.

As you are me: Oh cool, we both crave beauty (and both probably winge when it’s lacking).

And we are all together.

So if we’re really all together, than I’ve got some socks to pull up because ‘he’ is clearly doing his part in creating beauty, and all I’m doing is getting more and more depressed the more I don’t see it.

So two days ago I did something different.

Drug-free but high on endorphins from my run, I went to my car, took out a pen and paper, and wrote this neighbor a note of thanks. ‘Thank you for caring enough to make Swansea beautiful.’

I walked over to the garden (this time, huge purple roses in bloom; took my breath away so much I forgot to take a picture). I was going to leave my note in the mailbox but heard voices on the other side of the door, and sure enough an elderly man opened the door as he was was about to go walk his dog.

I thanked him for creating a beautiful garden.

He had no clue what this Crazy American was on about.

But he proudly told me about the days where he would get up every morning, walk over to the university, tend to the gardens there, and then pick up his grandkids from school.

I still don’t know who the Eggman is. Or the Walrus.

But lesson #1 from the Beatles I now know: People around us can teach us about, and heal, our soul cravings.

I crave beauty. I need it in my life. I know this because when I see someone else create beauty, I am attracted to it.

And now I am challenged to create it. Because I am he. And if this grandpa can conjure up some beauty, then so can I.

Whether it’s by planting flowers, cutting my grass, painting my nails, or writing a note of gratitude…

I get to choose. I get to let the light bouncing off my soul cravings, light up others around me.

Lesson #2 from the Beatles: I am he, and you are he, and you are me, and we are altogether… works not only with beauty, but with all the crap in life too. Our suffering is the same.

As different as we might think we are from those around us who suffer, we are not.

We are in this together. We create beauty together, we suffer together, we heal together.

Perhaps that’s the Eggman. The Walrus. I think I am so different… I mean, heck, I don’t have a bald head or tusks. I’m not a retired grandpa who maintains his horticultural hobbies.

But inside we’re all the same. So when you come across someone who is suffering, remember that their suffering is yours too.

Thursday happened to be the first ever World Eating Disorder Action Day, which makes this Eggman and Walrus concept even more profound. At the crux of an eating disorder you’ve got a massive loss of identity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the person sitting across from me say, ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’.

So if that is the suffering of someone with an eating disorder, all the more reason for the rest of us to shine our light so that they’ve got a chance to find themselves through the light they are attracted to. Just like grandpa’s garden reminded me of my soul craving for beauty, and experiencing it healed a part of me.

I have no idea what grandpa saw in me other than that Crazy American, but I would like to think that somehow in helping me heal my suffering, some of his was healed too. Maybe he felt alone, unappreciated, forgotten and someone noticing his soul creation gave him some hope or something. Who knows.

But I do know that sometimes I feel alone, unappreciated, forgotten.

So maybe our suffering is the same. Maybe your suffering is the same. Maybe we can heal it all together.

#BOAW16: What Naked Female Bodies taught me about Beauty

Naked Female Bodies. Probably the most competitive arena in the Western world. So much so it might as well be an Olympic Sport. At least then the standards would be objective and not left up to the eyes of the beholder, forever wondering if this body is ‘good enough’.

Our bodies are either too fat, too thin, too soft, too hard, too round, too flat, too tall, too short. We’ve adopted the Goldilocks syndrome, except we can never find the resting place of, our body, or her body, is ‘just right’.

I am guilty of being Goldilocks. For years I judged every pair of legs, arms, abs, and cheeks (both pairs) that passed me by. And as with all forms of judgement, I was my own worst critic. Displacing my judgement on to her body was easier than accepting my own frailty and flaws.

When I was 18, I was exposed to more naked female flesh than I bargained for. The locker rooms in my university had showers that were reminiscent of Auschwitz. One big, square, stark, concrete room; empty except for shower heads peeking out from the walls. No cubicles, curtains, or any gesture of privacy.

And so after track practice, I’d be butt and breast naked with at least 10 other women as we washed off that day’s sweat and grime.

A perfect opportunity for the dissatisfied Goldilocks in me to take over. Her legs aren’t cut enough. Her bum isn’t round enough. Her thighs aren’t toned enough. Her breasts aren’t firm enough.

I was always comparing each body to some idealistic vision of what a woman’s naked body should look like.

The reality: no one in that room made the cut. Least of all myself. Because none of us had cracked the code of how to surpass the unreachable standard of perfection.

For years I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes about what a woman’s beauty is; caught in the harsh cycle of comparison, judgement, shame; resulting in trying to hide my own flaws and compensate, in order to meet aesthetic standards.

Here’s what I know now, that I wish I knew then.

Aesthetic beauty is not uniform.

Aesthetic beauty is not the defining factor of a woman’s beauty.

A vivid memory I have from those locker room days was noticing the variety in breasts, nipples, and pubic structure. In the first 18 years of my life, the only naked female body I was familiar with was my own, and I naively thought that all breasts and vaginas were created equal.

Equal? Yes. Identical? No.

Why this was a shock to me, I’m not too sure. Clearly our eyes, noses, and ears were all different. Why wouldn’t the most intimate parts of our bodies be different too?

While this was news to me, I didn’t understand the symbolism of this fact until more recently. I was too busy looking for similarity, conformity, and sameness, missing the point those naked bodies were trying to tell me.

No one body has a monopoly on beauty. Beauty is variety.

No two bodies have identical features (OK, except for twins), even down to our most intimate parts which are usually hidden from sight.

When we are clothed, we hide our differences. It is in our nakedness, that we see our uniqueness.

And while one body may have individual features that can be labeled attractive, or pleasing to the eye, it is the collective, the combination that is beautiful.

Consider a painting. A canvas that is painted solid purple may be nice to look at, a pretty color. But it isn’t until the blue, green, pink, red and yellow are splashed on and accentuate each other, that you have something beautiful.

And so it is with the beauty of a woman. To think that you or I alone define beauty, destroys its essence. Alone, you and I can be pretty, nice to look at, and yes, carry pieces of beauty.

But, it is in standing naked next to another that is beautiful.

It is in our differences, our variety, the fact that no two of us have the same exact same shape, size or coloring, that we create the beauty.

And while this stands true aesthetically, our beauty extends beyond our physical.

Last week I made a comment in The Nourish Circle, reflecting on the experience of coming together for a group call the day before. I wrote, “The vulnerability and shared wisdom that each of us brings is beautiful.”

Hmmmm…. That has nothing to do with how hard, soft, round, flat, tall or short we are.

It was the sharing from the heart, letting others in on the secret heartaches and joys of our souls that was beautiful. Getting emotionally and spiritually naked with each other.

That was beautiful.

And just as in our physical self, while we each have a similar make up and can relate to much of each other’s stories and experiences, no two of our souls are identical.

We are individual, yet the sharing of our individuality and differences creates connectedness, relatability, and no longer are we alone. Like a single strand of a spider web, each strand serves a purpose, and once connected, you have a work of art.

And just like a spider web, where one strand on it’s own can easily be broken but a web can carry an immense amount of weight, keeping one’s ‘weaknesses’ to oneself will break you, but sharing them generates strength.

The beauty of sharing the intimate corners of our hearts, the parts of ourselves that we usually keep close, covered up and clothed, because showing those parts would be too embarrassing, shameful, or inappropriate, is something that I now crave and seek out.

Although at the time of the naked showers, I allowed myself to be physically seen, I kept my emotional and spiritual self, buttoned up and buried deep. And I too, broke.

I could not see that my differences, my so-called flaws, both physically and emotionally, contributed to a collective beauty. And so I fought to change myself and my body. So much so, it led to an eating disorder.

It is only now, through my healing that I can see what I missed. That our beauty, and strength, comes from our differences, ‘weaknesses’, and surrender.

Ah, the Surrender.

For years I thought that I knew better than my body. That I could mold, sculpt, and whip it into shape. Turn it into a machine.

Except it already was a machine. I just didn’t understand how it works.

Within our naked bodies lives wisdom that lays dormant until ignited.

The key that turns the ignition? Surrender. Not Control, as I naively believed.

Surrender and trust, that the same body that pumps blood, creates a baby, and gives and receives pleasure, without having to micro-manage it’s every move, also knows what we need to emotionally and spiritually survive, create, and freely give and receive.

When your body is aching for a run, go for a run. When it is knackered beyond belief, sit still and rest.

When something inside of you craves a catch up with your best friend that you haven’t spoken to in months, a book that you’ve just heard about, a visit to certain part of the world, a good wail and a cry…

Listen to that craving.

Chances are there is something waiting for you. Something that you are ready to learn, a door or window ready to be opened, a gift.

Your body knows where you need to go and what you need to do before you do.

But it won’t tell you if you can’t see it’s beauty.

When you are judging, controlling, and disconnecting from your body, it goes silent.

Instead, we have to be grateful for how it functions, regardless of it’s shape, size, or shade.

We have to care for it, as we would any machine.

And we have to listen to what we are sensing, feeling, and hearing, even when it doesn’t make 100% sense and we can’t be certain of the outcome.

By learning how to relate to our bodies in this way, we learn how to relate to the world.

When we learn to love and surrender…. That, my friends, is beautiful.

So here’s what I finally realized was staring right at me all those times in the shower:

When our hearts are filled with love and surrender, and we stand naked next to another,  exposing our differences and ‘weaknesses’…

that is the beauty of  a woman.


Thanks to August McLaughlin for inspiring and inviting this post. For more Beauty of a Woman blog posts and a chance to win prizes, visit www.augustmclaughlin.com/beauty-woman-blogfest-v/.

To join a group of open-hearted women sharing their vulnerabile beauty with each other, visit www.thetrueyouproject.com/nourish.

What I don’t want you to know about me

You know the show MythBusters? (OK so I’ve never watched it either, but I’ve heard of it too.) Well, I like playing a game that’s my own version of myth-busting. It has to do with shame-busting. Bust the shame, and you bust the myth about who you are.

The game goes like this:

What I don’t want you to know about me……

And then you fill in the blank with some deep, dark, shaming secret.

And by that I mean, the ‘blank’ makes you want to crawl into a hole and die, or melt into the floor like the Wicked Witch of the East, or you think that if and when others find out about this secret, they will laugh at you, spit on you, or go ‘Eek! I’ve bumped into the thing!’.

The point is to uncover the part of yourself that you ‘just know’ will make everyone run the other way…. including yourself.

And then you win by sharing it. Once it’s not a secret anymore, it loses its power. And you find out that you’re still a worthy human being, with or without the secret.

This game is always a challenge for me. The first time I played, my response was, ‘I don’t have anything I don’t want you to know about me. I’m an open book. Ask me anything, I’ll tell you.’

But the point isn’t for other people to get inquisitive. The point is that for you to get curious and search your soul long and hard enough to uncover some gems that sometimes are hidden even from yourself.

The bombshell for me the first time was this: What I don’t want you to know about me is that I will only fill in the blank with things that I have already come to terms with, and so they no longer feel vulnerable, and no longer really count as shame. What I don’t want you to know about me is that I am so well protected against vulnerability that I don’t even know how to show you my shame.

Wow. I had instinctively found a way to beat the game. Except it meant that I lost out. I missed out on the chance for me to practice shame-busting at it’s finest.

This week I got to play this game again, and while some of my answers were admittedly pre-meditated, I asked myself to go a bit further.

And while this answer didn’t come up for me in the moment, my subconscious was obviously working at it all week.

What I don’t want you to know about me is this:

I want to be ‘somebody’.

I have a prideful ego the size of this room. Possibly, my house. Heck, it’s the size of Wales.

I want to be in the spotlight, take center stage. I want the world’s accolades to flood over me like a silky balm.

What I don’t want you to know about me is that I read this and makes me feel physically sick. Like vomit sick. It is an ugly side of me that has always been wrapped in brown paper packaging tied up with string, rubber stamped with words like motivated, high-achiever, and going somewhere.

But if I am honest with myself and you, a lot of that ambition is being driven by pride.

That is a ginormous pill to swallow.

I’ve acknowledged my shame before, but never really knew where it came from.

Perhaps it comes from pride.

When I have pride… and not the kind of pride that google defines as a healthy dose of self-esteem…

…but the kind of pride that is driving, striving, pushing, because it feeds off of achievements in order for it to stay alive. The kind of pride that holds the reigns to my self worth.

…the kind of pride that shouts from the back seat of the car when your dad gets pulled over in podunk upstate NY to tell the police officer that his daughter goes to Cornell, and therefore should be exempt from getting a ticket.

(True Story. In what world does where you go to school put you above the law? In my f-d up prideful world where I was clutching at straws to make me feel special. Roll out the red carpet. Here she comes, the prom-queen has morphed into the pride-queen.)

When I have that kind of pride, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for shame.

  1. It’s clearly ridden with judgement (I am better than you.)
  2. It’s clearly a false sense of security. The reality is never going to meet the expectation, and so the falling short part is an ideal spot for shame to show up.
  3. The recognition of the prideful thoughts, whether conscious or not, feels like crap. Another dose of shame.

I’ve never really thought that I brought my bulimia upon myself. I’ve chalked it up to an accumulation of nature and nurture; a combination of ingredients that when mixed together produced a very sour dough.

Perhaps I did have a part to play though. At least my pride did.

The part of me that was willing to sacrifice love for myself and others in order to get what it wanted. The achievements, the approval, the acceptance.

The pedestal.

Funny how, the feeling that I now have when recognizing my own pride, I call vomit-inducing.

Hmmmm…

My epiphanic ‘what I don’t want you to know about me’ moment this week came as I was flicking through Brene Brown’s instagram account and saw a cartoon drawing that summarizes her career. It starts with this:

‘My TED talk was an accident.’

That stopped me in my tracks.

Brene Brown is someone that I admire and whose work has deeply touched me. And what I don’t want you to know about me, is that when I was preparing for an Ignite talk last year, my pride was trying to studiously craft and engineer a talk that would go just as viral as her TED talks have.

But an accident? No. I wasn’t ready for an accident.

Because an accident happens when you lay down your pride, your ego, your desired outcomes, and you humbly take each step for one reason, and one reason only: because you can’t not do it. Because it’s your calling, your passion. Because it’s in the name of love.

That’s my version of ‘an accident’ anyway.

I can’t ignore that this revelation has come to me right around Easter-time. A holiday while famous for it’s abundance of chocolate, egg hunts, and funny hats, has much deeper roots.

I grew up in a Christian house and culture, and for years have considered myself to be ‘a Christian’ (even though I really don’t like labels), but it’s only been recently that I’ve actually been asking the question, ‘Who is this Jesus dude anyway?’

And then I realized this: Jesus wasn’t famous until he was dead. (And then got back up again.)

His ‘TED talk was an accident’, too.

I highly doubt he sat there one day chillin under the olive groves with his fishing buddies and thought to himself, ‘How can I be the most well-known person in the course of history? Oh, I know. I’ll claim to be God, die on a cross, and then rise from the dead! Yes! That’s gonna do it!’

Yeah, not so much.

In my opinion, he just saw every breath of his as an opportunity for love. He did what he couldn’t not do. He followed the Love. And it led him to his death.

The ultimate act of Love.

And then he got up again; because Love Never Fails.

And so as I think about the Easter story in this way for the first time ever, and think about how my own pride has gotten in the way of my embracing and expressing love, I ask myself, what within me can die this week? What can I lay down? Put to rest? Surrender? Give up?

How can every breath of mine be an act of love?

#bu29days: Day 29: Go be your Quintessential Self

aka What does Positraction have to do with bulimia?

aka Why would I turn myself ON?

Nine years ago my sister and a friend were visiting me in London, and after we watched ‘My Cousin Vinny’, for the umpteenth time, I remember looking at my sister and exclaiming, ‘There is positraction in my life!’

I don’t remember what it was that I was actually referring to, and to be fair I had probably had a glass or two of wine.

But the idea that ‘My Cousin Vinny‘ can explain my life and my story with bulimia is once again proven true.

This blog series started with the idea that we can get stuck in the mud sometimes, and that part of the answer is to go be your quintessential self. Today it ends with Positraction.

If you don’t know what positraction is (don’t worry, I didn’t either at first), picture this scene (bold emphasis mine).

Marisa Tomei’s character has been called to the witness stand and she’s explaining how you can tell which car made the tire tracks that were being used as evidence against the defendants.

Mona Lisa Vito: The car that made these two, equal-length tire marks had positraction. You can’t make those marks without positraction, which was not available on the ’64 Buick Skylark!

Vinny Gambini: And why not? What is positraction?

Mona Lisa Vito: It’s a limited slip differential which distributes power equally to both the right and left tires. The ’64 Skylark had a regular differential, which, anyone who’s been stuck in the mud in Alabama knows, you step on the gas, one tire spins, the other tire does nothing.

[the jury members nod, with murmurs of “yes,” “that’s right,” etc]

Vinny Gambini: Is that it?

Mona Lisa Vito: No, there’s more! You see? When the left tire mark goes up on the curb and the right tire mark stays flat and even? Well, the ’64 Skylark had a solid rear axle, so when the left tire would go up on the curb, the right tire would tilt out and ride along its edge. But that didn’t happen here. The tire mark stayed flat and even. This car had an independent rear suspension.

Now, I am not a mechanic and have absolutely zero interest in the inner workings of a car other than knowing they get me from A to B.

But here’s what I can appreciate about her testimony:

Positraction: Provides balance and keeps you from getting stuck in the mud. 

Independent rear suspension: Easily gets you over the bumps.

When it comes to bulimia, there is both mud and bumps, and we need our own version of Positraction with an Independent Rear Suspension to find a way out.

If you think back to that Layer Cake I talked about the other day, about what actually lies beneath the surface of an eating disorder, the muddiest place is in that trifecta of Shame, Fear, and Vulnerability.

What kind of Positraction is needed here so you don’t get stuck in the mud?

  • A sense of worthiness. A deep knowing that ‘I am Enough as I am’, regardless of any perceived lack.
  • A heavy dose of Love. Understanding what love actually is, and making choices that come from a place of Love instead of Fear; Because Love Never Fails.
  • The courage to Let Go. To let go of expectations for our lives, To let go of outcomes having to look a certain way. To let go of needing certainty and control. It’s OK to Let Go and learn to dance comfortably with vulnerability instead.
  • And with all of that, embracing the truth that I’m Free to be Me.

Even out of the mud there are bumps, and so you need an Independent Rear Suspension made up of the following.

  1. Truth Sets Me Free. The Truth of who you are inherently created to be. Accessing your vulnerable truth, whether that’s uncomfortable feelings or confusion about what you believe. And being able to sift through the should’s, have to’, need to’s, goods and bads, that get thrown at us daily, and find the truth instead.
  2. I am not Defined by What my Body Looks Like. Because your heart, mind, and soul is beautiful. And your body is beautifully and wonderfully made even it is doesn’t look like the airbrushed supermodel on the cover of a magazine.
  3. I Choose Me. Because your dreams, wants, and desires matter. Because you need to refuel before you can fully give to others. Which is critical because:
  4. I am Here to Shine. Your gifts, passions, talents, interests, personality, and quirks are uniquely yours. And the world needs them. It needs you to turn your light on and Shine.

Put all that together and you get another layer cake that looks something like this:

Cake (1)

And it tastes good too.

These principles, I call them True You Truths, helped me find a way out from bulimia, and they now help me stay connected to me on a daily basis.

It’s OK to Let Go: Then, I had to let go of fitting into a size 4 pair of jeans. I had to let go of being ‘a runner’. Now, I have to let go of how many people turn up to a workshop I am hosting for the first time, or how many followers there are (or aren’t) on my blog, or how clean or messy my house is, or what my marriage looks like compared to what I think it’s ‘supposed to’ .

I am Enough as I am: Then, I had to accept that even if I was still binging, the fact I had chosen to stop purging was enough. I was enough even though I wasn’t perfect. Today, I remind myself that my heart is enough. That my efforts are enough, even when there are still items on the to-do list. Another form of letting go.

Love Never Fails: Then, I had to face the fear of getting fat. I had to accept myself, and give others the opportunity to accept me even when I gained weight. I had to be kind to myself when I ate more than I wanted to, instead of punishing myself and make up for my ‘sins’. Now, I ask myself what is driving my actions, or the words I am choosing. Is it because I am afraid someone will say No? That I will be rejected and therefore I am trying to get them to say Yes? Or is it because I am genuinely excited for them and the possibilities for their life?

Free to be Me: Then, I had to start doing things that reflected my likes and interests. Buying blue suede shoes, taking Italian lessons, playing soccer again. Even if that didn’t fit the mold I thought I had to fit into. Now, this means creating a life and business my way. Finding places that light me up and meeting people there, even if it might seem somewhat unconventional to meet with an eating disorder client in a Food Emporium. Oh well, that is me.

Truth Sets Me Free: Then, I had learn to feel my feelings. Acknowledge that a relationship wasn’t right for me anymore. Acknowledge that my roots weren’t planted anywhere. I also had to realize that ‘fat’ in and of itself is not bad. Accept the truth that my body needs fat in order for my brain to function properly; that eating a piece of chocolate does not mean that it will automatically get taped to my thighs. Now, it still means connecting to my feelings and my most vulnerable truth. And it means that when I see a SHOULD barrelling down the street, I ask myself, what is true for me right now? As in, I *should* go out with a bang on the last day of the #bu29days series. What is true for me right now? I am relishing in the fact that I still have something to say and I want to celebrate that with you with a nice big slice of purple cake! Hehe.

I am not defined by what my body looks like: Then, this meant I could embrace my body as the number on my jeans kept getting bigger and bigger. And that I could bask in what it let me do regardless. ie play soccer, ride a bike, do yoga, swim in the Med in a string bikini. Now, this lets me forget about how much I weigh. If I am getting up on stage to give a talk, or meeting a client, or climbing into bed with my husband, it doesn’t matter if I’ve gone for a run, or exercised, or done yoga that day. I can turn up and focus on who I’m with regardless of what my body looks like.

I am here to Shine. Then, this helped me to realize that I was making my life all about me. It helped me break a habitual cycle where my free time was spent either running, at the gym, food shopping, eating, or thinking about any of those things. It helped me to focus on what I could give to others; tutoring, leading recovery groups. Today, this reminds me that I am here for a purpose. And that I can either bury my talents in the sand or share them with others and spread some light. This especially helps on days when things aren’t going as planned. Another reminder that It’s OK to Let Go.

I Choose Me. Then, this looked like me choosing to stop purging and start praying on those two bathroom floor moments. It looked like buying self-help books, talking with my doctor, seeing a shrink. It also meant choosing those shoes and Free to Be Me activities. Today, this looks similar. Any choice that nourishes me and/or brings me pleasure. Choosing my wants and desires. Listening when I am plugged in. Including writing this #bu29days blog series.

In any given moment, there is the potential for that muddy trifecta to show up, and so part of Choosing Me is making space in my life for tune-ups, otherwise I get stuck in the mud or I hit a bump and get thrown sideways.

Those days are never pretty.

So I make sure I have time to be still and connect to what’s true. I used to cram my schedule with plans. I’d go out every night of the week, and if I didn’t have plans, there’d always be the fallback of working late.

I didn’t want to be alone with myself.

Now, if I don’t spend alone time with myself, everything goes pear-shaped.

The impact isn’t just on me, but it bleeds to those around me too.

Like breeds like. If I bury my head, feelings, truth, light, love, in the sand, those around me are likely too as well.

If I practice the True You Truths, then everyone around me gets a chance at being their Quintessential Self too.

We all can be Free to be Me, without shame or fear of how others react.

Imagine a world where everyone was out there, doing their thing; acting out of love, letting their light shine, instead of dimming it ‘just in case’.

Just in case their brightly shining light wasn’t accepted. The idea that ‘I’d rather be OFF, or dimly lit, and accepted’ than ‘fully turned on and snuffed out’.

How about another 3rd option?: Be fully turned ON, AND turn someone else ON in doing so!

Inspire someone with your light.

You are here to Shine.

Go do it.

Go be your Quintessential Self.


That’s All Folks. Thank you for following along the #bu29days blog series. I hope you got something out of it even if you’ve never been bulimic. And if you have been or are bulimic, I hope it’s helped you wherever you’re at in your journey.

If you’d like to connect about anything you’ve read, email me at kendratanner121[at]gmail[dot]com.

And stay tuned for opportunities to explore the True You Truths further.

Lots of love.

PS If you still haven’t watched ‘My Cousin Vinny‘, what are you waiting for? 🙂

 

#bu29days: Day 28: Bulimic Bloopers

aka How to spot disordered runners.

aka How to pick-up an ex-bulimic.

aka One thing NOT to ask an ex-bulimic.

 

If I were a TV show producer, I’d make a show of all the funny things that can happen to you because of your ‘disorder’. There’s been a few memorable moments I look back on that make me smile. Some are funnier than others.

Note to my 25-year-old self: When you can find humour, you are healing.


 

How to spot disordered runners.

One evening when I was still living in Manhattan, I had planned to get a quick 5 or 6 mile run in before going out to eat with friends later that night. Sure enough 6pm rolls around and it is pouring buckets, no – sheets, of rain, as a typical hot and humid summer’s thunderstorm will do.

This didn’t stop me. I plowed on. Not the smartest thing to do since the nearby claps of thunder were so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, and they were shooting out bolts of lightning.

But I had to get my run in.

This was when I wasn’t purging anymore, but still very much dependant on running and exercise for weight management, and the fact that I was going out to eat later that night meant I had to ‘make some room’.

So I’m running through the park, which resembled a ghost town, the usual posse of runners using better judgement and staying indoors this evening, and I come across one of the only other runners in Manhattan crazy enough to be running in this storm.

It’s a gym friend of mine. A girl I would go for 5:30am runs with occasionally; who was more dedicated to getting her runs in than I was.

I hadn’t seen her in a couple of months and as we’re running, both sloshing through puddles and soaked to the bone, in between thunder claps she proceeds to tell me that she just got accepted into an inpatient program for anorexia.

And I proceed to tell her that I am/was bulimic/am recovering.

I had known her for a good 18 months or so at this point. Go figure, it took an act of God to draw us out of our closets, to share our most vulnerable selves with each other, and to form a deeper level of connection.

When your disorder drives you to go for a run in life-threatening situations, you bond.

How to pick-up an ex-bulimic.

The first night my husband and I met, we were at a party and he asked me if I wanted to go outside and have a cigarette with him.

I tell him, ‘I don’t smoke but I’ll come and talk with you while you smoke.’

So we go outside and we’re chatting away, probably for like an hour or so and he goes…

‘So, you don’t have any problems that begin with ‘B’ that I should know about, do you? Because my last girlfriend was bi-polar and the one before that was bulimic.’

Best. Pick-up. Line. Ever.

He’d hit the bullseye!

How did he know!!!!?

Am I wearing a huge ex-bulimic sticker on my forehead? Or did I get one stuck to my foot along with some toilet paper when I walked out of the loo?

Considering this was in the ex-bulimic days, I wasn’t technically lying when I said, ‘Nope, not that I know of.’

Although the sideways glance, head tilt to the concrete, and quick change of topic should’ve given my secret away 🙂

And of course I’m thinking, what kind of guy keeps attracting these B-for-broken women?

But of course, we’re all B-for-broken aren’t we? We all have our mud.

So, anyway, a few dates later it somehow came up again and I told him my deepest darkest. I had been bulimic. Not anymore though, so he doesn’t have to worry if I head for the toilet at some point in the night after we’ve had burgers and fries (sorry chips).

But just for the record, yeah, you caught another B-girl.

One thing NOT to ask an ex-bulimic.

We were out for drinks and my brother-in-law was training for his first marathon. He leans over and goes, ‘Oy Kendra, you’ve run marathons, what was your nutrition like when you were training?’

I literally laughed out loud.

Seriously?

You’re asking me, the ex-bulimic, for training tips?

Me? The girl who had her head over the toilet bowl as part of her training regiment? And whose secret purpose for running them was to lose weight?

My nutrition was non-existent. Nada.

I tell him this and we’re laughing so hard tears start rolling down. Whatever you do bro, DO NOT do what I did. 🙂


A lot of times we try to bury our mud. We’re embarrassed, ashamed of it. We fear what others might think of us if they knew. It feels too vulnerable to come clean.

I share these stories because they make me smile and laugh, and they illustrate the progression of healing that is possible.

Ten years ago I wouldn’t have been able to laugh at my brother-in-law’s question. I probably would’ve regurgitated some nutrition info I read in a magazine or heard fellow marathoners talk about.

But today I can laugh about it because the wound has healed. The laughter itself is healing.

When my husband was unknowingly using the most appropriate pick-up line with me, I had healed enough that I could recognize his vulnerability in asking, and eventually be vulnerable in return; as opposed to fearing his rejection or judgement if I said, ‘Yeah, I’m a pro.’

Know that anything is possible. Your story, no matter how muddy, can open up doors. It can lead to connection. More love.

It’s starts with you embracing it. Knowing that you are enough as you are, even with the mud.


Something to think about: What shame do you carry about your story? How can you embrace your story instead? How are you able to find the humour, have a taste of the best medicine out there?

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 27: The ultimate Trust test

aka Why do you walk when you run? I thought real runners don’t walk.

aka How will you feel about your body if and when you put on weight?

One thing I haven’t talked much about is how my relationship with my body has changed. I have gone from trying to turn it into a machine, running every day, freaking out and potentially binging if I didn’t, routinely lifting weights and doing situps and pushups, to a much more intuitive way of working with my body.

I hardly run at all anymore. If I do, I usually walk part way through.

Gasp! This is sacrilege!

Trust me I know. I have definitely had the thought, and admittedly said outloud, ‘real runners don’t walk.’

That was my MO when my identity was that of a ‘runner’. Call what I did a ‘jog’ and you got ‘the look’ from a pair of devil eyes.

Runners RUN. They do not jog. And they most certainly do not walk.

This was my mentality when my self-worth was tied to how far and how fast I ran. Stopping to catch my breath was a sign of weakness. Stopping to smell the roses, not an option.

As I started to slowly lighten up with food, I similarly did about running. By the time I moved to the UK I was less rigid about running. I was playing soccer, going to spin class, and yoga.

While I was mixing it up, running was still my go-to activity for weight management and I suppose, grounding me.

When I moved to London, I quickly learned that ‘running’ and ‘working out’ is a whole different thing compared to NY. The city itself has a different vibe. The energy is different. People aren’t so driven, Type-A, on a mission.

In NYC pretty much every Manhattanite I knew had a gym membership. Its what you did, no question. Like paying City taxes.

In London, if pub memberships were an option, every Londoner would have one.

In NYC, as a runner, you had to be tight and toned; low percentage of body fat, cut muscles, as well as having the latest gear. Running around Central Park was like performing on a catwalk.

In London, people wobble and jiggle when they run. This was literally a foreign concept to me.

The only time I had known anything different was when I met this one woman in NY who carried probably 20lbs more than the average runner. Her legs were stocky and muscular, vs sleek and toned. Her arms had very little definition and her belly had fat rolls.

Yet she kicked my ass in every race we ever entered, including the marathon.

This challenged my whole paradigm. You could be fat AND a runner?

Not that I embraced the idea. Guilty as charged, I was extremely judgemental of other women’s bodies. Finding faults in others helped me feel better about my own body. Not something I’m proud of but true.

I remember walking to work one morning with my boyfriend at the time and asking him if my ass jiggled like HERS did.

Jiggles, wiggles, and wobbly bits did not fit into my idea of ‘acceptable’ for a runner, and for me. I was on a mission to eradicate any evidence of cottage cheese remnants on my body.

I jiggle all the time now. As my hardened attitude towards my body has softened, so has my body.

As my patterns with food changed, I ended up gaining weight. At first due to binging without purging. And I kept some of the weight on as I learned how to eat ‘normally’ again ie have an inclusive diet where everything was permissible. Be able to eat donuts, cheese on pizza, and burgers and fries without fear of gaining weight.

While you might not want to hear that weight gain was a part of the story, the reality is that by the time it happened, I was OK with it.

Letting go of the fear of fat, and letting myself put on weight was an integral part of my recovery and healing. I believe I had to experience the weight gain so I could fully believe the True You Truth of ‘I am not defined by what my body looks like.’

Saying that, for many years I still had this idea that I had to be running or working out consistently. It became less about my weight, and more of a habit, part of my identity that this is ‘what I did’. I would wake up each morning with the thought, ‘I have to go for a run today’, even if I had no intention of actually fitting it into my schedule.

But, like an addiction, the thought was still there, and I still saw myself as a runner. Even when I barely ran 15 miles a week.

8 years ago when I was living in London, and was one of the few Londoners I knew with a gym membership, I was running home from the gym and I had to stop and walk because I was in so much physical pain. My right knee couldn’t take the pounding without sending a lightning bolt charge through my body.

Turns out I had/have loose cartilage in between my knee and femur. The doctor said if I strengthened my quad muscles enough I’d be able to run again, but the immediate prescription was stop running, stop cycling, and do static strengthening exercises, like lie on my back and hold my leg in the air (yawn).

I was devastated at first, what? No more running?

Funnily enough though, my desire to get to the point where I could run again wasn’t strong enough to keep up with those boring exercises. I gave it a go at first, but quickly put them to the side.

I found satisfaction in what my body could do instead. Walking. It was my first foray into ‘slowing down’. Noticing the detail of the world around me that I used to whiz by.

I would cycle to work occasionally, but for 3.5 years, my physically activity pretty much came to a halt.

And I didn’t care.

I wasn’t worried about what I was eating, or how much, or trying to make up for the lack of exercise. I stopped having the false expectation that I would run today.

Another aspect of the healing that came after the bulimia was gone.

And crazily enough, I lost weight.

It was as if my body knew what was best for me, literally bringing me to my knees, to get me to give up trying to control it. And once it took over, it knew exactly what was best for me then too. It found it’s natural set point, with me literally doing nothing.

Leading up to our wedding, I did a 6 week yoga course.

The classes were very slow paced, the focus on settling into one pose at a time vs moving through a series of poses. The whole point was to slow down and be still, an idea I still hadn’t fully embraced, especially if I was paying to go to a class.

I wanted to be paying for exertion, sweat, and a raised heart rate.

But it was exactly what I needed. It set the foundation for me to reconnect to movement with my body. To listen in to what it wants, needs, and craves.

I now choose activities that my whole being is craving.

Sometimes, although rarely, it is a run. Or should I say jog. Because these days it is most definitely a jog 🙂

Sometimes it’s a bike ride, challenging my cardiovascular system and my thighs over the undulating hills where I live.

Often it is a walk outside, filling my lungs with fresh air and my mind with fresh ideas.

And each week, if not day, it will involve some degree of yoga.

What I love about yoga is that I end up connecting to parts of my body that I never knew existed before. I never knew I have little tiny muscles in between my ribs!

I love doing a simple forward bend, and feeling the ripple effect from my hamstrings, to my lower back, to upper back, shoulders, and my neck. 

When I first started doing yoga, I didn’t have an experience of this level of connection. I would do a ‘hamstring stretch’ before or after a run and I wouldn’t notice anything else going on in my body.

My understanding of my body was one of isolation. Everything working separately.

The connections I feel while doing yoga help me to connect to the shell I had been living in for almost 30 years. And whenever I am feeling tight in my body or my soul, you will find me doing one pose or another to feel again.

I’ve also found dance as a liberating form of movement. But for me, dance is less about connecting in and more about expression, and a form of play.

If you asked my 25 year old self to describe my 35 year old body, I would probably tell you that it is ‘out of shape’ right now.

Such a funny expression.

Out of shape? What shape, pray may I ask, am I actually supposed to be in? Square, rectangle or triangle?

How about, I am in the shape of my body. And the shape and fitness of my body is enough for it to do what it needs to do today.

I am happy with my body right now. I like the way it looks, even though it’s less muscle-y than it used to be.

I like the way it works, even though I get out breath quicker than I used to.

I’m also aware that the shape and size of my body is generally seen as attractive by the world’s standards, and so I  often wonder, how will I feel about my body if and when I put on weight again.

My answer is: I don’t know. But I hope that, so long as I still stay connected to my body, that I will still love it.

And I know I will be reminding myself of how my body got me to where I am today.

Of how it knew best about what I needed to let go of control, over the years.  Of how it has adapted to different levels of physical activity since then, and how it seems to intuitively know what kind of movement it needs on any given day, including some days where there is very little movement at all.

The word trust comes to mind:

I can’t say how I’ll feel, but I will continue to trust my body.

Whatever shape or size.


Something to think about: What is your relationship to your body like? What do you want it to be like? How can you let go of some control over it and let it do its thing? What does trusting your body mean?

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 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.

 

Meet Rachel: A fiery adventuress

Rachel is my spunky red-head friend who coyly christened Shame as Mr Dick. Rachel has more wisdom buried inside her than you and me put together, except that when I first met her, she didn’t know it.

When I met Rachel 6 months ago, she was caught up in that binge/purge cycle that stops you from realizing your self-worth. She was beating herself up for her every move. For doing the job she loved, for living in a part of the country she loved, for moving back home, for being a mess, for trying to clean up the mess but not doing a good enough job.

Yesterday, Rachel sent me an email that rocked my world. She was answering the question, ‘What’s been your favourite adventure in life so far?’

Her answer: Finding love for herself through her bulimia journey.

Say what?

6 months ago Rachel was despising her bulimia journey. Rejecting it as we usually do, like a tumour attached to us that we can’t wait to cut off.

Except, as she found out, the only way to get rid of this tumour is to melt it away with an adventure of finding true love.

And, as she learned, you have to look no further than the tip of your nose.

Rachel never ceases to amaze me. Like the time she walked into our session carrying a book of poems she had recently written.

She was a poet and she didn’t even know it.

As Rachel has gone on her True You adventure, I have seen her creative expression blossom. This girl’s got talent.

Watch out world. The show’s about to start.


‘A Hidden Treasure’ – by Rachel Grayson

 

In the dusty planes of the African Savannah,

Lived Boris the bison and a hyena called Hannah.

Now Boris the bison was a musical fellow-

He could sing and break dance, and even play cello

 

Hyena Hannah always had to convey

to Boris how wonderfully he played

and as he grew cocky she started to ponder,

“What am I good at?” she couldn’t help wonder.

 

But one boiling summer the sun was so hot

the Savannah animals nearly lost the plot!

They’d ran out of sun cream and the lake nearly dried,

“What are we going to do, we’ll die!”

 

Boris, too thirsty to break dance or sing,

Sat in a dusty heap wondering

why Hannah Hyena was sniffing and straining,

why digging a big hole was so entertaining.

 

As she dug and dug at the dusty ground,

nobody bothered to check what she’d found.

But one scorching day she came bounding to take

them to see what she’d found- “CRIKEY, A LAKE!”

 

You see Hannah hyena dug such a deep hole

that water had filled it from down below.

The animals drank, and cheered “To Hannah!

Thank you for saving us from the Savannah!”

 

Now Boris could sing and dance again,

he realised he’d not been a very good friend.

He’d underestimated her and made her feel small.

“I’m so sorry my dear, and thanks for our pool.”

 

So they swam and played and surfed and floated

and the modest hyena not once gloated.

She’d saved her friends, she’d helped them through it

and they loved her, unconditionally, she knew it.

#bu29days: Day 24: The Layer Cake

aka What do you mean, the experience can be different but the feelings the same?

aka Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with your cake.

I started out writing this post with one end in mind, but the story took a twist in the middle, so now there’s a couple different endings you can choose. Just like my favourite detective books when I was a kid 🙂

So here’s a concept to think about: eating disorders and disordered eating live within a spectrum. At a certain point, the mindset, feelings and behaviours, add up to a diagnosable eating disorder.

But that doesn’t mean that less extreme mindset, feelings, and behaviours in the rest of the spectrum are ‘off the hook’. As I was saying yesterday, the external behaviour and experience might look different, but there can be room for healing in the core thoughts and feelings.

Here is my creatively expressed version of what exists at the core within the disordered eating spectrum. And since we’re talking about food here, you’re looking at the picture of a layer cake.

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At the bottom you’ve got You. A source for love and connection to all creatures great and small, but that isn’t always connected.

The next layer of Shame, Fear and Vulnerability that I’ve been going on about for the past 3 weeks is a given.

However, here you could potentially start building one of two cakes.

If you haven’t learned healthy responses to these basic human experiences, you end up in the green layer, doing the trying and hiding dance. It’s a survival mechanism. An adaptation of yourself to create certainty in life and for your identity. It’s where the seeds of the good/bad mentality are planted.

Stick with that for long enough, and it manifests into the yellow layer. This is where the deprivation of desires, wants, and needs, lives; even in little things like not replacing underwear with holes and threadbare socks, or always buying the wine that’s on sale even though you really want the bottle that’s only £1 more.

It’s where it’s difficult to find the words to say what you want, when you want, to who you want, without spending a number of stomach-wrenching hours on the email.

It’s where the idea of spending time on anything other than work-related, achievement oriented, tasks seems frivolous.

And it’s where you are never happy with what, and who, you see in the mirror.

If you’ve never experienced this, there’s a lot of tension in that yellow layer.

And after awhile it busts itself out and oozes all around the cake as an attractive looking orange color of icing (OK, to be fair, I’ve never seen an attractive looking orange-iced layer cake, but that’s what happens when you create like your 5-year-old self used to. Purple elephants can fly!)

The orange icing is where the behaviours with food live. This layer tries to make the rest of the cake taste good, except that all the tension, the deprive/indulge, the good/bad, and the controlling and comforting going on underneath, manifests itself with food, and while it initially tastes sweet, there’s a bitter after taste.

Depending on how caught up you are in the mire of the blue layer, will determine the shade of orange icing; where you fall in the disordered eating spectrum.

In my book, if you are eating any of this cake, you might want to put the fork down, push the plate away, and go look for a different kind of cake.

I’ve looked at my mom’s life and I’ve always assumed she was eating this cake.

While she was nowhere near any of the extremes of an eating disorder, her outside relationship to food and body looked like this:

-Count calories and try to eat ‘healthy’. She would make conscious food choices about which brand of cereal to buy that had the least amount of sugar etc and her not-so-secret vice was and always will be chocolate. A lot of controlling and depriving with occasional indulgences.

-She wished she could be a few pounds lighter but after me and my sister was born, didn’t have time to prioritize that. But we always knew she wished she were lighter. In recent years she’s been going to spin class and pilates and we know she chagrins her ‘old lady arms’. Evidence of body-dissatisfaction.

This actually sounds quite normal, right?. Don’t most women wish they were 5 lbs lighter and could stop the love affair with chocolate?

But here’s what else I picked up on when I was a kid.

Identity & Self-worth: My mom met my dad when she was 15, she was married at 20. Her self-worth and identity during some critical formative years was heavily influenced by her relationship with my dad. They are still happily married, but even she will tell you that it took years for her to begin to see herself as separate from my dad.

Self-expression: I remember my mom saying things like, ‘I wish I could talk with you about this better.’ ‘I don’t really feel equipped to have this conversation with you.’ To be fair that is a vulnerable truth of hers that she was able to express so to that end, she was self-expressing what was true for her, eating bites of a healthier cake. But she still felt blocked from communicating freely in a way that she wanted. A lot of times she would channel my dad too. His decisions outweighed her opinion in our family. Sometimes when I look back at who mom was in our family dynamic, she was the executor. She executed on decisions to make the family run smoothly, but you never really knew how much of that was her true self, or was she just doing her job?

Body Love: As I shared before, it was as if a whisper of a wish was always hanging in the air when it came to her body. She was always striving to improve it. And I only remember one time when she put on a sun dress one summer evening before my dad came home where I remember thinking, ‘Wow, mom looks really pretty in that.’ It must have been their anniversary. Normally mom was in cleaning clothes or church clothes. Neither which are very sexy. Practicality and the household budget was the driving force behind clothes shopping.

Food rules: You could tell she had her own paradigm to live by. In addition to counting calories, she’d always serve herself the smallest portion at dinner, take the smallest slice of cake, comment on what she had for breakfast ‘I only had a yogurt and an apple for breakfast so I guess I’ll have one more cookie.’ It was as if she had to earn the right to have a treat.

Her story has a lot of necessary precursors for an eating disorder. I talked with her about all of this and asked her why she thought this combo didn’t turn into one.

Her answer was this:

  1. She didn’t know it was an option. (Wow, that really makes me think about how to go about raising awareness and how eating disorders are talked about because perhaps the less you know, the better!)
  2. She recognized that there is only so much in life that she could control. She embraced the belief that we regardless of what happens around you, we only have control over our reactions. And I guess she chose to react with a Pollyanna smile. 
  3. Pre-pregnancy she was happy with her shape. She didn’t internalize comments about her teen body as shaming. She took them as motivation to be healthy. Post-pregnancy, at first she worked to get her pre-pregnancy body back but at some point accepted that it was ‘OK’ as it was.
  4. She knew that a sense of humour fixes everything and laughter is the best medicine out there. Even better than chocolate.

While I see a lot of external overlap between my mom’s relationship with food and body, and mine, I’ve also noticed the differences at the core.

There is a presence of more self-acceptance and love for herself and a penchant for joy. The blue layer of her cake wasn’t as big.

Another big difference is that part of her quintessential self has led her to behaviours that look similar to disordered eating behaviours.

This year at Christmas, we all took an abridged version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test (yes, I do geek out on this stuff), and it was no surprise when my mom’s Type description came out as ‘content to enforce “the rules,” often dictated by tradition or handed down from a higher authority.’

Following the rules feels natural to her. (Get this, she even wanted to get the facts straight for a fictional short story she is writing. I had to remind her about little thing called IMAGINATION 🙂 )

I’m realizing that some of my mom’s behaviours with food and her body were a reflection of her ‘True You’; the following the food rules, and advice from authority figures about her body. That is just her being her quintessential self vs her trying to control.

The opposite of yesterday’s message, today’s message is: You can have similar experiences, but different feelings on the inside.

I come out as a much different personality type on the Myers-Briggs scale; more of a rules, schmules kind of person.

Understanding the innate differences between me and the rest of my family has helped facilitate healing.

To understand that what I saw modelled as a child was never going to be right for me, has given me some space to breathe.

Duh, there is going to be some disconnect when they are all J’s, and I am a P!’

It also explains some of the trying I’ve experienced in the layer cake. I can stop trying to be my parents.

I’m sharing this example about my mom for the following reasons:

  1. Don’t underestimate the influence that your parents have on you as an adult. You are not your parents. How you live your life, clean your house, relate to your partner, and parent your own kids, is best done when you are being You, not channelling them.
  2. You can not change your parents. Their quintessential selves are not going to change just because you feel you need them to.
  3. The most important thing about your relationship to food and your body is that it reflects your True You. If you count calories because that is just how you naturally think, and not because it’s a behaviour being driven by shame, fear, or control, then go for it.

So here’s the two endings to the story that you get to pick. If you’re looking at the layer cake and are noticing some behaviours that fall into that spectrum, ask yourself why.

Is it because like me, they are rooted in the blue layer and you were doing the green trying and hiding dance? (If yes, turn to Day 29.)

Or because like my mom, that’s part of being your quintessential self? (If yes, The End.)


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.