Food and Heart and Self – Overcoming Emotional Eating

Edouard Manet - La Toilette 1876

One of my favorite things to look for when I go to museums is classical paintings that depict women’s natural body shapes.  It’s one of the most comforting things to a girl who’s mostly recovered from disordered eating.  I find it fascinating how a hundred or two hundred years ago the curves and fullness of a woman’s body were natural and portrayed as the highest standard of beauty.  (I’m trying my best to stay off my soap box about how much the present day beauty industry and media screw women over.  Remember this Dove ad about pressure on young girls to be beautiful?  I really liked the thought behind it, but then again Dove’s sister brand is Axe…)

I have a sordid past with eating and body image.  In my late teens I struggled with anorexia, that morphed into binge eating by the time I reached college.  In the anorexia years, I lived on a morning latte, a turkey sandwich on a bagel for lunch and yogurt and cheerios with skim milk for dinner.  It was always right around 1200 calories.  I learned that was the bare minimum you could eat without sending your body into starvation mode.  Somehow I managed to keep training on the field hockey and track teams each year. By the time I hit college, I was ready to “rebel” and I swung to the other end of the spectrum.  Saying f*ck it and eating as much as I could swallow.  The more I ate, the more I hated myself, and the more I kept on eating.  I reached a turning point somewhere, where I realized that in a way I was killing myself, somewhat passively, but killing myself all the same.

Eating disorders are an all consuming disease, each and every minute is consumed by thoughts of food, eating it, not eating, what’s healthy, what’s not.  The hardest part is your sense of self worth gets completely warped, tied into this notion of being good enough at an eating disorder.  Crazy, huh? Some therapy and Geneen Roth’s wise books on emotional eating saved me.  It took about seven years to emerge on the other side, loving my self, accepting my body, and creating a healthy relationship with food.  In those really dark days, I didn’t think I’d ever make it there.  Along the way,  I learned that what you eat and what you weigh don’t define who you are.  You can eat for nourishment.  Eating is not about restricting, but giving to yourself.  Food has an emotional component, and when you want something warm, and filling, and nourishing, a cracker just ain’t going to do it.  Listening to those inclinations, within reason, and also learning my body’s signals for hunger and fullness, are working for me. Some days more than others.  Overall I feel healthier though.

Lately though, I’ve fallen into old habits.  Like alcoholism, disordered eating, never goes away or is cured.  The problem with eating disorders is that there is no abstinence.  Abstinence means death.  You just learn your triggers, you learn new ways to cope with food that get your through hard patches.  I seem to be in the middle of one right now.  The insidious thing is I can figure out something is up because my eating habits are out of whack, but I can’t put my finger on what’s bothering me. To cope in the meantime, I’ll remember to love my body for all that it can do every day.  I’ll also remember to check my thoughts on body image, and think of the beauty of the women captured in those classical paintings I love.

Showing Up for Yourself

Bloom (C) Open Hearted All Rights Reserved

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

I’m so not in the mood to write anything at all right now.  Pretty ironic since I want to write about the importance of showing up for yourself.  I got a very nice reminder about how achieving your dreams is really up to you, it’s not magic. It came in the form of a post from Positively Present.  (It’s hard not to link to that blog in every single post I write…)

I find myself feeling envious when I watch other people quit their day jobs, to pursue full-time writing, or land an amazing book deal.  I get this strange feeling that there’s not enough room for me to be successful, that there are “enough” writers out there already.  I’m not sure where that feeling comes from. I know truthfully that the idea is just plain silly.  There’s plenty of room for me to succeed too, if I really work hard at it.

If I show up for myself, then my dreams are in my reach.  Making it real, making it happen is up to me.  The universe will meet me halfway, but I need to figure out how to get across my half.

Part of it is moving out of my comfort zone.  When people ask me what I do, for example, I’ll try owning that I am a writer.  I’m also incredibly fearful about sharing my work with other people, making up any excuse to revise to avoid showing it.  I’m afraid of sending it out into the world, with my name attached to it.   To tackle that fear, I’ve outlined some baby steps for submitting my work over the next month. Taking new risks will help get me there.  Starting this blog and keeping it up has been one of those risks that feels pretty good on the other side.

Expecting more from myself is another thing I’m working on.  I’m possibly the world’s best procrastinator.  I can come up with an excuse for anything.  I’ve started trying to develop new habits with Creative Recovery.  Through the process I’m hoping to remove some the of creative blocks I’ve developed.

Most importantly I’m trying to shift my attitude.  When I procrastinate I can get stuck in this self-defeating cycle.  Say I’m watching TV instead of writing.  When I realize I should be writing, this super negative, critical voice comes up.  It points out that I’m lazy, and worthless, making me.  I feel more depressed, and get more and more stuck on the couch.  I’m trying to change my attitude. When I realize I’m berating myself, I’m trying to shift to a more gentle, nurturing, encouraging voice.   That’s the only thing that really gets me off the couch.

Reminding myself that my dreams are important, and that the little things I do add up puts those dreams back in reach again.  I owe it myself to honor those hopes, wishes and desires.  Well here I am showing up today.

Side note: The quote above might seem a little out of place.  I included it though because this whole process of showing up, feels a little like blooming.

Creative Recovery: Day 0


I’m going into creative rehab today.  Creative recovery is a term that I read about in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a brilliant book about uncovering your creativity and artistic inspiration.  One part of her introduction really hooked me, and I thought, “Oh god that’s me too.”  It was in the introduction. She hints at her issues with alcoholism.  What I understood from her writing was that she came to a point where she had to make a choice between alcohol and art.  She realized the two couldn’t coexist.

At the time I read that, I felt like I wasn’t really ready to make a change.  I wasn’t convinced that I needed to.  Sitting where I am today I feel like it’s time.  I choose writing.  I choose my art.  I choose the difficulty and discomfort of facing and sorting through my raw feelings.  I’ve written before about how I tend to run from difficult emotions afraid that they’ll gobble me up.  I run, by self-soothing with food, wine and TV, numbing out from the world around me.  You cannot selectively numb, as I’ve learned from Brene Brown. If you numb the bad, you numb the good.  When I finally drag myself to my desk to write, I’m left with nothing inside to write from.

I have this great habit of getting all excited to start a new program, or lifestyle, or endeavor, and never make it through dinner of the same day.  Posting here, is way of holding myself accountable.  Though no one’s watching, I’ll feel like someone’s watching.  A nice kick in the pants to stick to somtehing for once.  I’m trying to go day by day and leave it at that.

Daily Creative Recovery:

  • Morning Pages (See Julia Cameron’s book for this one)
  • Healthy Diet (Sugar, Caffeine, Gluten, Alchol, Dairy Free)
  • Enough Sleep
  • Fresh Air
  • Excercise
  • Open Hearted Post

Removing some of the crutches I cling to, a glass of wine, comfort eating, and so forth, I take away the layer I normally use to cover over whatever I’m feeling or thinking.  This is an experiment in learning to live without those buffers.  At the very least I hope I get a better understanding of myself.  I also hope my health and energy levels improve.  Most importantly though, when I sit down to write I want to know that I’m doing all I can, working my ass off to haul up my own star. (Have to thank APW for that little gem of wisdom.)


Self-indulgent overflow of any and all feelings follows below, woah boy.

I feel so hopeless sometimes. Like there’s nothing, nothing I can do to make myself feel better.  I numb, and I numb, and I numb, and I know I should stop.  But I’m more afraid of what will happen if I stop numbing.  What feelings are laying in wait for me to swallow me whole.

I just feel sad and tearful and I can’t think of any reason why.   I’m lonely a bit for a friend, a girl friend.  I still don’t really have any in this city.  I’m also so stuck with my writing.  My dream is to become a full time writer, and part of me knows I’ve got what it takes, but the other part is stuck.  I get so frustrated.   I wonder why the hell do I think I could be successful? I wonder why the hell I think I should be successful if I can’t even get my ass off the couch, and write a few sentences.   And I know in my heart the truth is that I won’t achieve my dreams if I don’t try to.  But I’m so paralyzed right now.

I’m afraid I’ll finish this book that I’m writing and it will be crap.  I’m afraid that I’ll never find anyone who will want to publish it.  I’m afraid the book publishing industry is falling apart so there will never be any space for me to succeed anyway.  I’m afraid that even if it’s published I don’t have the marketing platform to sell any copies.  I’m afraid I will fail in full force.  I’m afraid I will burst the bubble on my own dream, realize I can’t really make it happen after I’ve tried.  That I’ll be stuck forever in a corporate job, doing what “responsible” people do. Then I’m afraid that having any of these fears means that I don’t believe in myself.  How are you supposed to succeed when you don’t believe in yourself?

One glass of wine and I stopped tonight. I really, really wanted that second drink. I wanted to numb out and check out and not deal with anything.  But then all of the sudden the desire to feel something, anything was greater than my urge for a drink.  And I made a cup of tea.  I’ve been having that second drink for weeks.  So whatever I’m feeling hasn’t caught up with me.  The tears are coming and I’m not sure entirely why.

I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to make any of my dreams come true.  That I don’t deserve any of them. I used to feel that way about finding someone who would love me for all of me.  But if I look now, I see that I have a wonderful husband, who loves me and see me for all of me.  He believes in me more than I do sometimes, and inspires me.  He comes home and comforts me and helps me see the light again.

I feel some hope, because I’m sitting here feeling these feelings tonight.  I’ve spilled them out there.   With love, I learned a lot about needing to love myself before I found someone who loves me they I deserve to be loved.  So I’m going through a growing stage with writing I guess.  I trust that I’m where I need to be right now.  I will still show up though.  If I show up and do my best for the day, that’s all I can ask. At the end of it all, I love writing and if I follow that nudge of intuition I can’t fail.  I can only grow.

Funny how those feelings of doubt and despair, when I finally open them up, and named them, they move right through me.  All it took was the end of this post to get them all down.  I still have those fears and doubts but they’re not holding me hostage anymore.  I will need to relearn this lesson over and over and over, but when you acknowledge the feelings they loosen their grip on you.  Thank God for that!

Heart Heroes – Adele

I’ve been listening to a lot of Adele lately.  Her voice is beautiful and strong, her lyrics honest, and I get wrapped up in it anytime I listen.  I didn’t watch the grammys, but it made my heart happy that she won six of them.  After watching her interview on 60 Minutes, I definitely had to add her to my list of heart heroes.  Anderson Cooper gets into a little of the bullshit and drama that media always get into (overhyping small details), but some favorite quotes:

“I wanted to be a singer forever, but it’s not really my cup of tea having the whole world know who you are.”

“It was for myself…It was about trying to convince myself that I will meet someone else and I will be happy.” (about why she wrote Someone Like You)

“[My nerves] have gotten worse as I’ve become more successful. Just because I think there’s a bit more pressure and people are expecting a bit more from me.” “So what’s that fear?” “That I’m not going to deliver… that people aren’t going to enjoy it. That I’ll ruin their love for my songs by doing them live.”

What inspires me most about her, is despite her fears that she mentions, she just keeps moving forward.  She also seems very much at ease with herself, and confident in being that person.  Oh one day, how I hope I can do that with ease.

Adele Grammys 2012 - Via Allure


You Can Change or Stay the Same

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – Benjamin Button

I was reminded of this quote by a post on Positively Present a few weeks ago.  The reminder came exactly at the right time.  I see so many people who’ve published already, who followed their dreams to write much earlier than I have.  Why I compare, I’m not sure.  There’s no need to.  There’s enough room for us all.  It’s not too late for me.  It’s not too late for you either.  Be who you were meant to be, not who you think you’re supposed to be. That’s what I’ll hold on to today.



A Weekend in a Dream

View from the Cabin

A few weekends ago I had a chance to live a weekend from my dream life, the life I would lead if I had no responsibilities and could do as my heart desired each moment of the day.  Ahh I wish.

I work for an environmental organization that helps protect beautiful open spaces.  My husband and I got to spend a weekend at a cabin on one of those preserves, on the coast of Northern California.  It was built in the 1950s or 1960 by a man who was a sailor and then later a writer.

Chunked into the side of a cliff, the little place is surrounded on three sides by oceans views.  It was simply stunning.  The cabin was pretty much a wooden shack, with two walls of plexiglass windows. We had the bare necessities to get by over the weekend, galley kitchen, closet bathroom, fireplace and cot.  That was all we needed.

The sun was shining, it was warm for February and the whole place was simply gorgeous.  H and I couldn’t stop smiling at each other, we were so overcome with giddiness. “This is ours, for the whole weekend?”

The original owner’s presence was definitely there.  His books lined the bookshelves, not a splinter had been changed since he built the place.  It was a nice feeling, not a sinister one.  Kind of like a pushy notion to remember that life is short.  (He died suddenly in his sixties while working on what he felt would be his best book.)  I stayed up late that night scribbing away in my notebook, writing more than I had in the past two months combined.  It was magic.  All of the sudden it felt like my dreams were in reach again. That yes, if I actually did something, made some moevement towards what I wanted, it was possible.

It’s amazing what a change in your every day scenery can do.  If only I could live in the cabin every day… I’m trying to find little ways to recapture some of that joy and freedom I felt – taking a walk outside in the sun, trying to notice small details around me and be very present.  It’s tough to get back to the grind of everyday and maintain any of that creativity.  It was a kick in the pants reminding me that I need to take action, do something. Intention is great and all, but you’ve got to make a move towards what you want.