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.

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The List

Living ‘List-free’, as told by Liberty Bain!


While away on a girl’s trip a few weeks ago, my phone broke. After the shock of the shattering subsided, I accepted no access to my online world, and experienced one of the best weekends of my life.  On the drive home my sister and two sIL’s commented on how different I’d been during our stay.  As we talked we realized not having my phone played a huge part in being totally free to experience whatever the weekend brought.

And it held a ton of goodies waiting to say yes to:

Reading and sun? check.
Plenty of time to float in restorative salty water? yes.
No time limits, have to’s or should’s? yep.
Oyster shooters? I’ll take another.
Then I got home and encountered my nemesis: The List.  The List decrees what’s important and what needs to be accomplished in a day.  And after being at the beach for several days Everything Item on The List Demanded my Full attention.  There’s only one problem with my to-do list: it doesn’t make me happy or help me stay present at all.  It keeps me active and spinning, co-dependent and Super Busy, but not happy or free.   And I noticed it all because of the broken phone.  Because of all the space created by not having a phone I actually felt how bad and rigid having a list makes me feel.  When I remain tied to that to-do monster and stuck in accomplishing  and performing mode, I stay disconnected from myself, from others and from God.
Having the very recent data about how much I thrived without the tether of my phone, I chose to take it one step further and break my to-do list.  The seed began as a suggestion from my therapist and is blossoming into a a whole new awakened way of life.  No more check lists, grocery lists, any kind of list.
My desire’s to be connected to my own heart throughout the day, and what the day has for me is much more at the surface now.  When I have a thought like “today would be a great day to go pick pears and make a pie…” I don’t immediately try hard to fit it in somewhere on next week’s to-do list.  I just pull over and pick.
Not having a list is also making me way more human.  No more super-woman I can do/remember/be everything. I actually told one of my children, “I really don’t know if I’ll be able to pick up the bread, because my list broke.  But I will try.”  Doesn’t that sound healthy and human?!?! Also – it’s surrender.  If it’s important it will happen, and if not, then it will come around again. Or not.  What is ‘it’anyway? Without a list, I feel like I have more choices and choices equal possibility and possibility equals expansion for life to be something I cannot anticipate, control or explain!
Here’s how it played out in real life on Wednesday night:
I had picked the pears and I was enjoying peeling them, sampling them and singing!  I noticed how juicy each pear was from all the rain we’ve had this year, when I heard my 10 year old calling me from outside.  His voice was distressed as he pointed to the field where we keep the chicken pens.  “Mom, Look! all the chickens are out!!” As I squinted into the almost-setting sun, I saw countless white and brown birds pecking their way through the field. Un-contained chickens are not my specialty, so I called my super farmer brother, Justin.  He said he’d be over in 10 minutes so I whisked thru my pie making, sliding it into the oven just as he fishtailed into the driveway.
I walked quickly out to the field and noticed that he’d thought to bring a helper too: his 2 1/2 year old son, Henry. We figured out that herding the chickens into the lanes created by the line of pens made catching the birds pretty easy.  I love birds in general,  but am a bit squeamish about touching live chickens, so it was a stretch for me.  At first I was just a herder, getting them into position for West and Justin to catch.  But towards the end I got much better at grabbing those quick creatures.  We caught  1 bird, then 2, then 5, 10 (there were well over 200 to catch and re-contain)  as we worked, Henry began calling out from his place in the field.
“Look, Dad! Look, Aunt Liberty! Look, West! The Sun! It’s going away!  No I mean it really look!! Look! Look, Dad! it’s going down! Look! Look! Aunt Liberty!” Every few minutes another reminder to check out the flaming orange, purple and fuscia sky.  Every few minutes calling out his heart’s desire for us to join him in enjoying the beauty we were standing knee deep in.
After we got done with the catching and before we had all the tools to repair the pens, I took a break, sat down and just listened.  I heard West and Henry wrestling in the deep grass. I heard the soft cheeping of all those birds we’d just caught. I heard the symphony of crickets and cicadas and I marveled the last sprays of a stunning sunset. I felt myself really alive and connected to this valuable moment.
Being dialed into my heart, I recognized that without a list I was savoring the entire experience. I was truly present.  Not busy spinning and wondering how I would get everything else done, in fact I wasn’t thinking of ‘everything else’ at all.
The interruption, the great chicken escape had turned out to be an evening I couldn’t quite explain.  The evening ended up full of connection to myself, to West, justin and Henry and the One who created all the beauty around me.  It ended up being more positive data on living without a List, without all the (supposed!) have to’s and should’s.  So many goodies to say yes to!!
West and I walked home at dusk thru tall grass and the oven timer was going off – the pear pie was ready.  And one of my best friends was standing in my kitchen waiting to know where I’d been.  After I explained the chicken adventure, she asked if we could take a walk together. I felt so happy to be free enough to accept her invitation.
Liberty

#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 22: Are you really better?

aka What does freedom mean?

aka Do you still think of yourself as disordered?

I answered this question for the interview I did with FABIK (aka Fucking Awesome Bulimics [Angela Barnett] Knows) and in my typical vacillating fashion, my answer was sometimes no, sometimes yes.

I’ll explain.

No, from the point of view that when it comes to food, I can hand on heart say that my relationship with food is not disordered. I no longer look at a buffet table in simultaneous fear of what it will do to my thighs, and longing salivation, as a dog drools over a bone.

I am excited by food, curious about food, enjoy food.

It doesn’t control my thoughts and my life anymore.

I feel ‘normal’ with food, whatever that actually means.

I suppose more importantly, I feel free.

Free to be able to stand in my kitchen and munch on a bag of crisps that my husband left open when I get home later than planned and haven’t eaten since breakfast.

Free to be able to have three meals a day with a few in between snacks.

Free to have cheese and crackers and wine for dinner; no veg in sight.

That feels damn good.

I wouldn’t claim that my eating habits are ‘perfect’. They don’t follow any rules out there. But to be honest, I’m glad my eating habits aren’t ‘perfect’ because if they were, it would mean I am once again more worried about someone else’s version of life, and I’m disconnecting from what is true for me.

Right now I’m connected to when I’m hungry, when I’m not, whether or not something actually looks appetizing, what I’m in the mood for, what my body is asking for, and why I’m eating something.

If I strive for perfection, I lose that connection.

So Yes, I really am better. I really am not controlled by food anymore, and No my relationship to food is not disordered anymore.

For those of you reading this who can’t say that, have hope. Freedom really, truly, is possible.

On the flip side, when I look at all the layers that lie beneath disordered eating, the underlying causes and the sister disorders, I am very much still a Work In Progress.

Shame rears it’s ugly head more often than I wish to admit. Even in preparing to write this blog series, Mr. Dick took on the persona of the cross-examining prosecuting lawyer from My Cousin Vinny:

Shame: Does being an ex-bulimic necessarily qualify you as being an expert on eating disorders?

Me: No, thank you. Good-bye.

But then that other firm, deep voice from within, the ultimate judge said, ‘Sit down and stay there until you’re told to leave.’

And the voice of Truth spoke: Your Honor, her expertise is in general life knowledge. It is in this area that her testimony will be applicable. Now if Mr. Dick wishes to voir dire the witness as to the extent of her expertise in this area, I’m sure he’s gonna be more than satisfied.

Once again My Cousin Vinny’ explains my life.

Embracing the truth of ‘I am Enough as I am’… It’s one of those things that I know it in my head. Believing it in my heart? I’m not 100% there yet.

Fear? I still freeze or flight at first glance. It takes me time to work up the courage to make the phone call to the newspaper editor, put a date in the calendar for the workshop, get business cards made.

And that’s because I’m still learning to dance with vulnerability. We’re still stepping on each other’s toes.

The worst is when I’m face to face with someone.

‘What do you do?’ ‘What’s the event for?’ Nightmare.

I have no problem hanging a poster on a wall. But TALKING to someone face to face about my work? INVITING someone in the moment?

I clam up, stutter over my words, look down at my shoes or at the wall. Talk really quickly and try to wrap up the conversation as soon as possible.

No dialogue, questions, engagement or connection.

That whole, Free to Be Me thing? Flies right out of my head.

‘What do I say? What will they think?’… that takes over instead.

I’m learning to forget about me, and in the moment, hold on to the truth that I am Here to Shine; (So turn on the friggin light girl!)

It takes practice to undo years of ‘I am here to be Perfect’ conditioning.

While a work in progress, the beauty is that in these moments, I’m not running to the kitchen anymore. Nor am I running through the park for an endorphin high or stress release.

I’m feeling the feelings. Putting a name to them. And then practicing responding in a way that puts love and truth front and center.

Some other manifestations of the Tom, Dick, and Harry trio that I am working through:

  • People-pleasing
  • Setting healthy boundaries
  • Receiving beauty and abundance into my life
  • Fully expressing myself, including creatively and sexually
  • And I’m still working towards balancing the Nourish and Pleasure pair of scales instead of the Binge & Purge, Deprive & Indulge cycles across many areas of my life.

That’s the short list.

But unlike 10 and 12 years ago when I had those life-changing bathroom floor moments, I’m not trying to ‘fix’ myself.

I’ve learned that we can approach our faults with some grace. Instead of rejecting that part of me, beating myself up when I get it wrong, and putting it on the top of the to-do list, I’m learning to surrender.

And with that, comes freedom.

Yes, I wish I was more articulate on the fly when there is a difference of opinion. Yes, I wish I could find the words to take a stronger stand for what I want. And for sure, it would be nice not to say no to money when people offer it to me (I know, that seems like a no-brainer. I’m workin’ on it.)

But this is where I’m at. The surrender is to keep accepting that I am Enough as I am, even at this point. Even at ‘not perfect’.

It was easy for me to say that I’m glad I’m not perfect with food. It’s harder for me to say I’m glad I’m not getting it perfect in the rest of my life. While I can accept that’s not the point, another part still wants to ‘get it right’.

When I can wholeheartedly stop worrying about ‘getting it right’, when I can fully surrender, that is when I am free from the ‘disorder’.

I find that it is not a permanent state of being. I’m not sure that’s meant to be in this lifetime.

But when it happens, I hold on to the moments, celebrate, and have hope that there are more to come.


Something to think about: Do you believe that it is possible to 100% be free from an eating disorder? What does freedom mean to you? What does recovery mean to you? How easy is it to accept that you are enough as you are?

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. A place to explore and accept all of you. Join us this February.