It’s been quiet in this space of my blog – I published the last one over 10 months ago in December 2021. Most likely, whatever “audience” or “following” I may have had here up to that point, has faded or vanished altogether. My old self would have beaten me up inside for that lack of “keeping at something.” My new self steps back and asks, ever so gently, why is it you have been away so long?What is keeping you from doing something you naturally love – writing?
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
-Stephen R. Covey
The past nine months have been spent on things that are most important to me – family, friends, rest, rejuvenation, and bringing “my baby” (aka my memoir) to life and to the world (she is out there if you want to pick up your copy on Amazon today – both paperback and Kindle versions). These were my strategic priorities so to speak. And I am not ashamed of them. They were needed after powering through nearly 5 years of healing and recovering, and a little grieving too, of the old life and the old self that once was. I was still suffering from so much achieving and striving for accolades, that I needed to shift away from that in the past year too. I needed to honor what I was so easily coaching clients to do. I needed to set my priorities accordingly.
I’m glad I am offering myself a tremendous amount of self-love these days. Everyone needs it, because we are all taught that the way to achievement is all about beating ourselves up and allowing for no softening of the heart if you want to win. This no longer fits me. It no longer is something that I chase after or actively pursue. Sure, I like to achieve no differently than you or the next person next to you. Yet, my pursuit of achievements these days are more strategic in mind. They are not achievements at all costs – those that used to allow no time for down time, creative thinking time, rest, hobbies, relaxation, or even, sadly, celebration. Achievements in the past were to be celebrated for only brief moments as there were more achievements to go after as soon as the latest achievement ended its pomp and cirmcumstance. I now realize that those days no longer serve me and my best interests.
I am thankful I focused these last 9 months where I needed to. I have no regrets, even though my business has taken a hit because of it. My core and foundation is more centered now, and can allow for new strategic priorities as we entered into a new year soon.
As you look forward to the upcoming year, what do you want to strategically prioritize? Has there been a way of life you have been putting off for someday that you want to start prioritizing? Is there a skill you have always wanted to learn but have put on the back burner all these years? Is there a sense of calmness you want to create in your life that seems impossible right now? What is tugging at your heart that wants to be prioritized for this upcoming year? Let’s take some time to get the creative juices flowing together to determine what is coming forward for you. Without that awareness, your priorities will go to the wayside for yet another year. Let’s change that this year and work together to make your someday into today!
Everyone has their own set of rules for their life. And each person’s rules become their standards. We rarely question these rules and standards. Yet, did you know that most likely, your rules and standards were created at an early age?
Somehow, this memory led you to create a rule that your body must look a certain way to be acceptable. You internalized the comment the person made and it has guided your thoughts that something is wrong with you and your body, and that you must change. The message: You and your body are the problem.
I have a distinct memory of this happening to me. Picture a blossoming young, pubescent eleven year old girl on the playground at an elementary school track and field day in the late spring of the year. I was not the athletic type and was typically selected nearly last for any team during gym class. I wanted to do my best at this event. I even wore my favorite matching short set and pig-tails. I went up to bat to kick the kickball and the boys, who I had a crush on at the time, yelled, “Here comes Tick Tock Titty!” I was mortified. They were teasing me about my blossoming chest (that may not have been in the most supportive bra ever). I wanted to run and hide, rather than kick the ball. In that moment, I suddenly realized that my body was different than most girls in my grade on that kick-ball field. I was larger chested, and my thighs we bigger too. That must be the problem. I must change myself so that I am never humiliated about my body again.
Unfortunately, less than fifteen months later, at the start of the seventh grade, I started my first diet. My pubescent body was sticking out too much and I needed to change it. I wanted the boys to like me. I wanted to simply “fit in” and be liked. The rule was still there – the problem is you and your body. Boys don’t like girls in bodies like yours.
Soon, these struggles with my body bled into other rules and standards. If my body wasn’t good enough, I thought the next best thing was my brain. Enter in a new rule – perfect grades are a must. When in the work world as an adult, it meant obtaining an “Exceeds” on my performance rating each year. The rule was that you must achieve at all costs, to prove you are worthy. I lived with the belief about my body and my worth for years as an adult.
Thankfully, I have been on a self-love journey for over four years now and I am breaking down these old rules that no longer serve me. I am coming up with a new set of rules and standards. I had to re-wire my brain so that these new set of rules and standards could take shape. It takes time and patience, and A LOT of grace! You can do this too. These old beliefs are no longer serving you. Let’s work together to re-wire your brain and thought patterns. It’s time to show this world just how worthy you are. Let’s start with you first!
This week, I’m learning a heck of A LOT about my own anxiety. I really didn’t realize how bad mine was until a dear friend of mine told me about the Daring to Lead podcast with Brene Brown and Amy Cuddy last week. I listened to it and highly recommended if you haven’t listened and have anxiety. They talked about “pandemic flux,” which Amy wrote about in a Washington Post article.
Amy talked about how anxiety often makes us want to escape out of situations that make us uncomfortable. And our anxiety makes us think that life will be so much better in a different scenario (a better job, a better neighborhood, a better relationship, etc), yet studies show that we aren’t as happy as we think we will be when we make the actual change.
This really connected with me. It’s like I’d been hearing this for the first time, even though I was diagnosed with anxiety years ago and have been in therapy for it along the way! Dots were connected for me. It explains why I’d often say, “I hate my job,” and then obsessively start looking for a new one. My anxiety had convinced me in the past that a new job would be better off than the current level of anxiety I was feeling in the moment of a tough day. I can honestly say anxiety was a contributing factor of why I chose to leave my last corporate employer after ten really good years there. The going was getting tougher and my anxiety convinced me that I could not take it anymore and another job would be greener on the other side. It’s also why when I got to my next corporate employer and realized things weren’t as greener on the other side as I had envisioned, I instantly wanted to go back to the comfort of the company I had just left (I did not by the way and can now see the good in that decision not to go back).
Fast forward to today. My boss, at my corporate job, asked me to have lunch with him since he was in town. We had originally planned for tomorrow, yet he reached out at 10 am today to ask if I could make it today instead. I said sure. From the point I agreed until I left my house, I really couldn’t concentrate. This was the first time I was going downtown since Monday, March 9, 2020. What will I wear? Where will I park in downtown? How safe will I be? What will I order on the menu? All kinds of anxious thoughts popped up. I even thought my boss was having lunch with me to give me a pink slip (I know, can you believe that craziness?)! My anxiety convinced me that there was truth to that because I was recently promoted and feel out of my comfort zone. Like big time.
My instant reaction as I started to feel more and more anxious, was to put on my running shoes and escape (meaning, come up with a reason I can no longer make it and let my boss know). My anxiety had me use running shoes before. I could use them again.
As I got in the car to drive, I could feel a heightened sense of anxiety. I fell into my body and really felt where it was showing up. As I drove closer to downtown, I felt this push against my shoulders. It was almost like my anxiety was trying to protect me and hold me down, saying, “Turn around. Go back to comfort. Your running shoes know the way. It’s a familiar path that has been traveled many times.”
I tuned into these feelings in my body. It’s the first time I really did that during an anxiety “episode”. I drove slower as I approached downtown. It was like I was trying to slow the pace of my beating heart. I was calming myself with a slower speed. The last time I drove this route over eighteen months ago, I was driving really fast with music blared to tune out any sensations in my body. I was a stress ball of anxiety and didn’t want to feel it or hold space for it. I realized that on my drive in silence today when going at a slower pace (i.e. the speed limit).
As I turned down the familiar street that leads me right into the heart of downtown, I started to tune into my surroundings. I tried to be present. I noticed new things on that road. The yellow leaves on the tree. The fountain flowing with water in the sunshine. The beauty of an old building. The beauty of the cobblestone street in a portion of the road. The beautiful flowers outside the one hotel. These were there before. I just never noticed because I was purposely avoiding the present moment before.
Being present as I drove, allowed me not to “sweat it” when I got into the parking ramp and realized I made an immediate wrong turn, which forced me out to the street again. I had to drive around the block, but some streets were closed and under construction, so it literally took me ten minutes to get back to the parking ramp entrance. I arrived at my parking spot just before 12 noon. We agreed to meet at noon. As I walked from my car, my boss texted me to say he was at the restaurant. “It took longer than I expected to park so I’ll be there shortly,” I responded without any worry. And I was off.
I was proud of myself for today’s adventure. It made me realize how these small little wins are really big for me. It made me realize that it’s important for me to tune into my body even more. It made me realize how important it is to understand the effects of my anxiety on my life and my decisions. It made me realize it’s important for me to realize when my anxiety is at play and what’s going on.
I learned so much in this adventure today. While my anxiety tells me that I should look for another job because of the tough things my boss is asking for me to do, my body tells me that it will feel heavy, yet the answer is not in finding a new job at this point. That’s no longer the answer. The answer is to tune in and lean in, no matter how hard it will be to do so. The more I show up for myself and do the opposite of what my anxiety tells me, the more confident I’ll become! It is absolutely time to throw out those old running shoes and stay put in the discomfort!
What will change in your life if you were to lean into the discomfort of your anxiety?
Those six words were whispered ever so sweetly from a dear friend of mine just yesterday. After briefly exchanging text messages about figuring out a time we could connect, she picked up the phone and called me. It amazes me how some people can just tell you need them. It still gives me chills today that our souls were connecting on a deeper level yesterday – hers was understanding that mine was in need ever so much.
In that moment of her calling me, she connected with my soul somehow and knew I was in need. She said, “What do you need, Dear One?” After my analytical/rational mind starting thinking and therefore, responding, “I think I need….,” my Sage (wise) mind took over and started to cry. It was the emotional release I needed after several weeks of pent up feelings and thinking I “just” needed to get my sh*t together. My Sage mind knew I needed so much more than what my rational mind was spilling out in words. Don’t get me wrong. My rational mind was on to something when it was trying to think my way out of what I needed. It’s just that my dear friend had a way of getting my Sage mind to take over and allow the emotions to be released in that moment so that I could get to the core of what it is I needed.
After letting weeks of pent up feelings and stress release out of me in that cry (to which my dear friend held space for me and sat quietly on the other end), I clearly knew what I needed. I needed rest. I needed relaxation. I needed to take care of me as much as I coach to my clients about their own self-care. It seems so logical to take care of yourself, yet oh so hard to put into practice if you have hyper-achiever tendencies in which you are recovering from.
Today, I had a planned day off from my Corporate job, so I am taking great care to incorporate lots of rest and relaxation in my day. Even though I am a creature of great habit, I joyously chose to turn off my Apple watch alarm when some thunderstorms and high winds wreaked havoc on my neighborhood around 3 am and we lost power. It felt good to sleep in and not rush myself to getting in the shower, journaling, meditating, eating, walking and then logging on to a 7:30 am meeting. Instead, I arose just before 7 am. I sat around in my pajamas for a while. I then leisurely ate some breakfast with my husband – something I have not done in ages. I laid on the couch after eating breakfast and read a portion of a new book. When the hyper-achiever thoughts of “I should go here” or “I should do this” came as I read my book, I politely reminded myself that while those all sound rational on a day off, today’s intention was to rest and relax. It’s what I have needed for over a month now.
Sometimes, we have to chose ourselves over all else in this world. That is not selfish. That is being human. If I were to choose to be busy and do, do, do today as my hyper-achiever tendencies want me to do, I would have been faced with some severe consequences later. Maybe those consequences would not have shown up today, yet they would eventually show up. I’m glad I chose myself today and what it is I needed. What is it that you need, Dear One? How can I help you prioritize your needs and recover from your own hyper-achiever tendencies?
You can heal your relationship with your body, have joyful moments, and not obsess over what your body looks like. It’s not an overnight miracle and takes a lot of commitment on your part, yet it is so worth it. This very recent experience of mine highlights how worth it is!
I spent the day with my husband on Sunday. We took time to bring my mom some groceries and then headed south of town, winding down the road next to the Mississippi River, on the lookout for bald eagles. When we pulled into the small town along the way, we spied one in a tree. We stood in awe of this massive bird as he took off from the tree and soared over the river. We snapped photos of him, and then turned the camera towards ourselves and snapped a few selfies of ourselves. My husband even snapped a few shots of me. I eventually posted these photos on social media, with no anguish or shaming about how I looked. I actually thought I looked radiant, joyful, at peace.
Not once during the day did I think about my body nor about changing it. Yes, you read that right. Not once. Yet, it was not too long ago that my day would have gone something like this:
I would have spent a lot of time trying on multiple outfits to wear before leaving the house with my husband. “Nothing” looked good. I would bash my body in the mirror for some hated body part – my breasts were too big, my thighs were too wide or the fat on my back was too noticeable underneath my shirt. It would then turn into conversations in my head about how I just can’t lose weight and control my body. I would start to shut down and numb from feeling anything. I would have been so upset about the experience in the mirror that I’d not be fully present to experience the moments throughout the day. My inner judge would have capitalized on the episode in the mirror and shamed me the whole car ride to our destination. I’d be mentally exhausted by the time we reached our destination because the judge would convince me that I needed another diet. Somehow I wasn’t good enough the judge would convince me.
Then, as we stood to take photos, I would have refused to post any online because my chin was too big or some other body part wasn’t good enough. The internal bashing would continue on the car ride home. I’d be mentally absent for my husband and emotionally empty for myself. My husband would notice that something was off and I may have even snapped at him about something he said or did, all because of my experience earlier in front of the mirror. Feeling like I needed to change my body made me unable to experience life to its fullest. Any waking hour was spent agonizing over my body, my weight, and how to change it. I had no space for living my life.
It’s no wonder my relationships were unfulfilling. I didn’t have space for love. I didn’t have space for empathy. My judge convinced me I wasn’t good enough if I didn’t look a certain way or weigh a certain weight. When I’d get home, I’d seek out comfort with food. I couldn’t take all the internal bashing. I craved so much love that I sought it out in the foods I ate or the unhealthy boundaries I didn’t set with others. Because I couldn’t give myself the love I needed, I gave it away freely to others.
Does this sound like you? If so, my heart goes out to you. It is so hard to feel anything but shameful about yourself when this dialogue runs your life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. You CAN heal your relationship with your body and food. I am living proof. I got dressed in what felt comfortable to me in the morning. I didn’t bash in the mirror. I didn’t have dialogue running in my head about how I could change my body. I stayed in the moment during the time with my husband. I felt joy. Real joy. The joy you feel when you know you are worthy and aren’t chasing after changing your body. It’s a wonderful feeling. You can feel this way too!
Recently, someone asked me what body acceptance coaching is all about and why I feel so passionate about it. I think a couple You Tube videos help me explain my passion. One is the sketching of adult women by a forensic artist and another the interviewing of young girls between the ages of six and eighteen .
I’d like to introduce you to those videos. This first one is very moving. The forensic artist asks women to describe themselves to him as he sketches them behind a curtain. Then, he asks strangers to describe those same women as he sketches that version of her. The results are amazing. When I first saw this video eight years ago, I was moved to tears. I still am today.
How many times do you tell someone all the things “wrong” with your face, chin, eyes, hair or other body part and yet someone else compliments you on those very same features?
This is one of the reasons I do what I do. I used to be one of these women. I would point out my double chin, full cheeks and the bags under my eyes in any picture I had taken of me. If it was a picture with a full body view, I would point out how “fat” I was and vow to go on another diet. The cycle was vicious. I could never seem to find anything right with my body. If someone complimented me, I found fault in that compliment.
Another reason I do what I do is because I want the women I coach to show up compassionately for themselves and the daughters they are raising. These young daughters are so impressionable. They watch your every move and are keen on your own battle with your body. They pick up on your queues – mom is dieting. She must have something wrong with her. Mom fights back the compliments people give her so I too must find fault in any that are given to me.
I only wish I would have worked with a coach in my early twenties to fully accept my changing young adult body so as to offer it acceptance and compassion. My now 22 year old daughter witnessed me try diet after diet, never accepting the body God has graced me with. She also heard me turn down compliment after compliment, only pointing out what was wrong with my body.
As I watch the video below of the young girls talking about how they wear black leggings to look small or how they feel larger in comparison to their circle of friends, my heart aches. I do what I do to help change that, one woman at a time. Unfortunately, much of what these girls are saying in this video are common thoughts of adult women – there is something inherently “wrong” with me. It saddens me. I was one of these girls and it bled into most of my adulthood until a few years ago.
If you can relate to any of the women or young girls in these two You Tube videos, you are not alone, yet you can change your belief system. You can learn to accept the body you are in and show up authentically. You will feel freer, like a big weight has been lifted from you. You will be happier because you are no longer spending a bulk of your energy on figuring out how to change your body. You will have a better relationship with those closest to you because you are now offering yourself the love and compassion you were searching for them to give you.
I am here to help you. Let’s talk about where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. There is a better way and you are so worthy of it!
If you’re like most people, every once in a while you start to show signs of fatigue or even burnout. When we do, we often slip back into habits we thought we outgrew – getting less sleep, drinking more soda (or wine), or scrolling mindlessly on social media. Instead of scolding or shaming yourself for the habit that’s crept back in, what if you took a step back and offered yourself compassion by asking, “what is it I really need? What are these habits giving me that I’m not freely giving myself right now?”
This is what happened to me late last week. I was running on empty and thought the best response was to keep going full throttle because I had a lot of important “stuff” to do. The week prior, I had been taking care of my mom after her hip replacement surgery for seven days straight. I didn’t get much rest. I was physically and mentally exhausted, yet I went back to my full time job and running my coaching practice on Monday, as if I was super woman somehow. “I don’t need any time off. I can do it,” is what my head was telling me on repeat. Old habits started to creep back in. I was drinking a lot more soda than usual. I was spending more time than usual on social media. I was staying awake later than usual and skipping some good sleep hygiene practices. I started shaming myself for these habits.
I shamed and scolded myself for these habits until I had an appointment with a new dietician to talk about incorporating heart health into my intuitive eating practice. During that appointment she reminded me that when old habits creep in, it’s time to offer compassion and curiosity rather than shame and scolding. What is it I need? What are these habits giving me that I’m not giving myself? A-ha!!!! Lightbulb moment! It’s not like I didn’t know this intellectually before that appointment. It’s that I didn’t take the time to recognize and believe that in my heart. I was too busy staying in my head.
What I soon realized is that I was craving comfort because I was overwhelmed and feeling exhausted. I needed to offer myself some space and comfort in healthy ways. I needed some planned downtime.
That very night after my appointment, I did exactly that. I planned to do nothing after my work day. I took a hot bath and put my pajamas on early. I read. I listened to a recent favorite podcast. I went to bed on time. I was feeling better in the morning yet knew that it was not a once and done thing. I signed off early from my full time job the next day and simply rested. It was after that rest that I felt even better. I’d given myself what I needed two days in a row.
I’m sure there will be another time when I need to remember this because we are only human and life is all about the journey not the destination of “figuring it out” for good.
Every habit is an opportunity for extreme compassion and curiosity. Next time you start creeping back into old habits, ask yourself what it is you truly need. Chances are the old habit is giving you something you need and you are not giving yourself freely.
Continuing where I left off in my previous blogpost about my book, here is more on the day of my eating disorder diagnosis from Chapter One. I really felt so much shame that day, as if I had done something wrong. It would take many months of treatment to realize that I had done nothing wrong and this was not about another weight loss program.
I signed in at the front desk nearly 30 minutes before my appointment that Friday. I was given a ton of paperwork to complete, which included a variety of assessments. How often do you eat more than what others would consider normal? How often have you weighed yourself in the last 7 days? How often do you…..All kinds of questions. I finished the paperwork at the table they had me sit at and turned it in at the front desk. Then, I headed to the bathroom.
I came back and sat in the waiting room. The tables were all covered with jigsaw puzzles. I had a lot of time to kill since I arrived well in advance of my appointment. I wasn’t sure about the road conditions with the snowfall happening that morning and the route was one I hadn’t travelled during rush hour before. I absently read a Suze Orman article in a Money magazine I brought with to kill the time. I don’t even remember any of what I read. I put the magazine down and sat in silence, wondering what was ahead of me. A young girl checked in with her mat for yoga and said she didn’t have a co-pay when asked by the woman at the front desk. Another young girl checked in and sat down nearby. She started working on the puzzle on the table in front of her. I remember thinking if only I could relax and do a puzzle. I love puzzles. She looks like she is totally enjoying herself over there.
A short time later, the young girl doing the puzzle was called back. The therapist picking her up made small talk asking her how she was doing and what puzzle she was working on. The therapist was so kind and friendly I thought. Another girl came up from the lower level and stopped at the front desk. She was upset when asking about the package her mom mailed her as she had not yet received it. Her mom told her she sent it, but it did not have a tracking number, so there was no saying where that package was at this point. All I knew was that this girl really wanted her package from home. My heart ached for her. And her mom.
Finally, my time of waiting was up. Jessica called me back. “Teresa?” she would say as if wondering if that was me. “My name is Jessica. I am filling in for Julie, one of the intake therapists who is out sick today.” Jessica led me back to her office that overlooked the parking lot in the back. I could see the snow sticking to the grass as I sat in the chair. After telling me that she reviewed the assessments I took, she started asking a lot of questions. What brought you here? What was your childhood like? How close are you with your mom? Dad? Siblings? What would it feel like if you gained 5 pounds? What would it feel like if you never lost weight again? How do you view your body? We spent an hour and a half together. The tears just kept flowing. I kept apologizing for crying. Jessica kept telling me that most patients say the same thing and there is no reason to apologize.
At the end of our conversation, she told me I had binge eating disorder and that I needed Intensive Outpatient Programming. I had not heard of binge eating disorder before. My extent of eating disorders was anorexia and bulimia. I knew what those meant in general, and yet had not really heard of binge eating disorder. She said they were starting up programming in Woodbury and that it was very similar to the one at the Como location. You either meet from 9-12 noon or 5-8 pm in the evening. It was four days a week.
Looking back, this was the first acknowledgment of my eating disorder throwing a fit. We don’t need treatment, you need me to survive, he’d say. In hindsight, this was the best news I had received in a long time. My life was spinning out of control and I thought if only I’d lose more weight, I wouldn’t be depressed, I could love my body and I’d be more confident. This of course wasn’t true and yet it was where I was at in my journey.
I came home in the cold and snow. I stopped at the McDonald’s drive thru on the way home to escape the news I’d just heard. How can I have an eating disorder? I must have answered a couple questions incorrectly or she heard me wrong when we were talking about my life. It couldn’t be. I just needed something to numb the pain and food was the cure. I felt so alone, so ashamed. How could you let this happen? If only you would have learned something when on the appetite suppressant prescribed in 2016, you wouldn’t be this way right now. Only now do I realize that my eating disorder (often referred to as “Ed” by many with an eating disorder) was putting on one big, fat shame sh*t-fest as “we” went through the drive-thru.
I felt even more alone when I told my husband later that day at home. He was sitting at the kitchen table, attempting to wake up with a cup of coffee after working the night shift. I told him I needed a hug because I was just diagnosed with binge eating disorder. He asked me what I needed from him. I responded, “Nothing” as I didn’t really know what I needed at that time and quite honestly, it was a typical response for me as I didn’t ask for help. In actuality, I was numb. I was ashamed. I felt so alone. Like a failure. I have a good job, make good money, have two beautiful children and I can’t get my sh*t together when it comes to food. What is wrong with me?
It took a lot of courage to tell my husband. The story I made up in my head was that he isn’t one who seeks out therapy for himself, so he will think I am looking for an excuse. It got louder and louder – “you just are looking for an excuse to be fat. We Schmitz’s don’t roll like that.” Louder, louder, louder.
I felt even more ashamed after that interaction. Only in programming would I learn about “Dear Man” and being assertive in telling Dale, and others, what I really needed. That would take time and practice. And I’d get there eventually. Being assertive or confronting anyone, especially my husband, wasn’t anything remotely possible at this point in my life. You kept everything inside and ate your feelings with soothing food later. Numb. I’ll just numb later and escape the conflict now. Ed was always with me in these early days, dictating my every move without my awareness. I had no idea this wasn’t my voice. It would take lots of therapy to discover that these stories, these words, were all coming from Ed.
Looking back on this diagnosis and the weeks leading up to it, my authentic self seemed to be on to something. I just didn’t know it. Just 40 days before my diagnosis, I sat in my bedroom in my glider rocking chair, the one we still had from when I was first pregnant with Kaitlyn, my oldest. It’s green and does not go at all with the red paint on the bedroom walls, yet it provides a sense of comfort, a sense of familiarity; a sense of simpler times. The following was my journal entry on Sunday, 9/17/17 at 2:59 pm:
Later in this same journal entry, I say:
At this point in time, I would not know the magnitude of the change that was coming in just a matter of days, not years. I was so focused on losing weight and changing my body leading up to my diagnosis. If only I changed my body and was the “perfect” size, life would fall into place, is what I thought at the time. How so far from the truth….
****If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, please seek out professional care with an Eating Disorder treatment provider like The Emily Program. I am not a therapist. I just so happened to be fully recovered from an eating disorder and am now a coach who empowers women to show up authentically in their bodies no matter their size.It wasn’t until I recovered that I could see the beauty of my body no matter its size.
Over the Christmas holidays, I finished the first draft of my memoir. I started writing it in May when the first several chapters just flowed out of me night after night. Then, I put it on hold as I got stuck while talking about the middle of the journey into my eating disorder recovery. It sat untouched for about three or four months until I picked it up again in late November. I set aside time first thing in the morning to work on it and finished while on two weeks of vacation from my Corporate job in late December.
I am currently working to get feedback from others on the flow and then will work to publish it this year. A friend of mine suggested that I start to post portions of it (it is a total of 65,000 + words right now before any professional editing) so here is a portion of my first few hundred words (some chucks of content were removed to be more conducive to a blog), so let’s hear what you think.
If you think about it, God (or the universe if you don’t believe in God) has a way of giving you gifts in the most peculiar of situations. We may not realize it at the time. Sometimes, we need to be far removed from the situation (i.e. years) to realize the gift or gifts that we received. That was the case of my eating disorder diagnosis. It was not until I was far into recovery that I realized the gifts of which God had blessed me when giving me an eating disorder at mid-life. At the height of my eating disorder and body image issues, I was slowly killing myself. I didn’t see it that way, even though the doctors told me I had an unhealthy relationship with food. They even asked if I would keep my life the same if I knew the stress of my life and job would kill me in ten years. Despite these warnings, I didn’t see my eating disorder or my lifestyle as a problem. My eating disorder was a way to cope with all the stressors in my life, and my lifestyle was a way to show the world that I was worthy.
For so many years, my identity was my job title. Since I didn’t feel good enough as a mom when my kids were younger (my own mom was “better” because she was a stay-at-home mom), I poured my identity into my job title. My worth was equated with how much my paycheck was, and how much recognition I received at work. I spent years accumulating “stuff”―more projects, more people to manage, more recognition for exceeding expectations year over year, more material things for our home―all to define my own self-worth. I soon surpassed my husband and became the breadwinner of our family. I thought I was going places. Then, over the course of three years, my “worth” from my job unraveled, and the only thing to fall back on (my “mom role”) had already decreased in value, since my oldest child was now an adult and my youngest was soon there himself. I thought I had nothing left to define me. My fallback was gone. I was in a middle-aged woman’s body, seeing my value whipped out from me in what felt like overnight. Looking at my body evoked shame. My internal world had collapsed. I spent years trying to control everything in front of me―every last detail. Then came the eating disorder diagnosis that felt like a blow to everything I had worked so hard to secure.
Leading up to the diagnosis, I kept thinking,
“I don’t have a problem. I just can’t seem to lose weight on my own. I am fat. I eat when I am not even hungry, and I eat in secret. I am stressed from my job. What’s so wrong with that?”
Most of my former Weight Watcher dieters would say the same thing when they would notice a gain on the scale. It was a letdown. I kept thinking, “I am a failure at losing weight.” On the flip side, it was a score when you could go on a binge after a “successful” Weight Watchers weigh-in―a weigh-in that included a gold star and a round of applause from the group. I remember dreaming of the binge that was about to happen when that scale showed a loss. I would dream of cheeseburgers, French fries, Diet Coke (it was always about diet soda when on the Weight Watchers (WW) plan because it was zero points and I could drink as much as I wanted―sometimes thirty-two to sixty-four ounces in a day), chips, cookies, popcorn, cake, and whatever else I could find. I deserved a buffet of food for all the restricting I did the week before to obtain that approval from the WW staff, and the group at large. I would eat until beyond full, and then search for more in private later.
Food. It was always on my mind. What am I going to have for lunch? Let’s go out for dinner tonight. I deserve it as I’ve had a long day at work, or my boss was stressing me out. Then, when we got home, let me binge on popcorn, chips, cake, cookies, and whatever else I could eat when the kids were in bed and Dale, my husband, was off at work. I would hide “my food” behind other containers in the cupboards and fridge and get mad when someone else ate “my food.” It was mine. Didn’t they know I was going to escape with that later that night? It had my name written all over it, and I had been dreaming about the quick fix and escape since the 9:00 a.m. meeting with my boss earlier that day.
Despite all of this, I would still be in denial when the diagnosis came on October 27, 2017. I thought,
“I must have answered a question or two incorrectly on the assessments or the intake therapist heard me wrong on some of the questions she asked me in that hour and a half session.”
Looking back, this was the first acknowledgment of my eating disorder throwing a fit. “We don’t need treatment. You need me to survive,” he’d say. In hindsight, this diagnosis was the best news I had received in a long time. My life was spinning out of control and I thought if only I’d lose more weight, I wouldn’t be depressed, I could love my body and I’d be more confident. This of course wasn’t true and yet it was where I was at in my journey.
It’s 11:58 pm on a Thursday night. And I can’t sleep. I’ve tossed and turned for over three straight hours. I was overly exhausted as I headed to bed tonight. I even took a hot bath and climbed into bed early. It’s been an extra long week – lots of work at my 9 to 5 corporate job, a lot of time in my off hours toward my coaching practice, attending my mom’s orthopedic surgeon appointment with her, my daughter’s birthday on Tuesday, and the last week where my family of four will be under the same roof until May (both kids head back to college).
Being awake at this hour, I now realize what caffeine is truly doing to my mind and body. In 2019 (that seems like forever ago, doesn’t it?), I read “The Chemistry of Calm” by Dr. Henry Emmons at the recommendation of my dietician, Katherine. It was all about how certain chemicals make us more anxious and restless. Caffeine was one of them. I didn’t believe that, even though I’d been a devote consumer of “Big Gulp” sized sodas at the height of my eating disorder. I’d vow to give up caffeine, suffering through the withdrawal headaches as I quit cold turkey. And then, there would come a time when I didn’t get enough sleep and wake up tired. The lure of needing to be “awake” would bring me back face to face with a caffeinated soda. “Just this one morning,” I’d say. Then, slowly over time, I’d be addicted to caffeine when one morning became a daily or twice daily habit again.
During my eating disorder recovery journey I’d come to realize what a pedestal that soda had been placed on for me. It became an instant cure of a sluggish morning. It took the edge off the morning when what my body really needed was more sleep. It took the edge off the anxiety of needing to have a crucial conversation. Yet, I didn’t realize the complete ramifications of it at that time.
Now, I sit here feeling very far removed from those experiences of my past and yet so close to being sucked back in. I’m wide awake. At 11:58 pm. My “normal” bedtime is between 8:30 and 9:30 pm. I didn’t sleep well last night so I sucked down a Mt. Dew this morning after my first few meetings. Then, feeling a little stressed, I chose to get a Dr Pepper with my lunch we ordered in. And I was still drinking it at 1:30 this afternoon, ever so mindlessly.
And now, some nearly 10 hours later, I am paying the ultimate price. I can now see how Dr Emmons was so right. Caffeine has riled my brain – made it extremely restless when sleep is what it really needs. I’ve been on this self-induced rampage of restless energy since 5:30 tonight when all the caffeine consumption caught up to me. I now see what I debunked as hogwash in 2019 is actually true. Caffeine is affecting me far more than I had ever thought. I am more restless on the days I have it. I try to be like the Energizer Bunny going about my day on those days it is consumed. I find it hard to relax. Hard to stay calm. It only took me one and a half years to come to terms with its impact when wide awake and physically feeling the restlessness in my body.
Now, the challenge will be to kick my caffeine habit again. And to offer extreme empathy to myself in this moment. The easy thing to do is to bash myself for drinking so much soda today. The empathic thing to do is to say, “Dear one, you are stressed. You are tired. We all make mistakes when we are stressed and tired. What is it you truly need for yourself now?” And then go do that. Even at 12:15 am!
Have you ever noticed the impact caffeine has on you? What will you do to start noticing if you haven’t already?