The Diagnosis – Chapter 1

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.

Restless Energy Comes in 24 oz Bottles

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?

Setting Resolutions or Living Values?

Happy 2021! If you are like most in this pandemic-stricken world, you woke up today feeling a little hopeful for what may come this year. And because it was 2020 and we are still in a pandemic, you celebrated last night at home. In your living room. With immediate family only. For some, 2020 was a year that is gladly behind them with all it’s curveballs and loop-de-loops. For others, like me, it was a year of new growth in areas not anticipated going into the year of 2020. Will this year be the same as last year for you? Or will you go about and do something a little differently this year?

As I was in my early days of my recovery journey at the end of 2017, our group did a values exercise that I still rely on today. Before that day, I had not considered what my most important values were at the time. Each year since then, they tweak a little depending on what feels most important to live out that upcoming year. In 2018, the five most important values for me were:

  • Inner Peace: to experience personal peace
  • Romance: to have intense, exciting love in my life
  • Self-Esteem: to feel good about myself
  • Simplicity: to love my life simply, with minimal needs
  • Genuineness: to act in a manner that is true to who I am

And now this year (2021) they are:

  • Leisure: to take time to relax and enjoy
  • Mindfulness: to live conscious and mindful of the present moment
  • Adventure: to have new and exciting experiences
  • Growth: to keep changing and growing
  • Contribution: to make a lasting contribution in the world

Before this exercise, I would make a few New Year’s resolutions, mostly centered on body size and confidence, and then become frustrated with myself at year’s end when nothing had changed. I had little to no empathy or compassion for myself. I was living my life on a hamster wheel – day in and day out expecting something to change when my body size changed. Each year as I cycled up and down in weight, my happiness remained low because it was centered on what I looked like and how I felt about myself. I was truly unhappy and thought that the answer lied in the next diet or weight-loss program which was being touted on the TV the week leading up to the New Year.

Through a lot of inner work and coaching on what I really wanted in life, I became further and further removed from wanting to change my body size with the next diet. Once I made that determination, it was easier to find the space to allow compassion to come in. Then came the empathy to see myself as worthy no matter my size.

It can be hard to find the values you want to truly live by when society is telling you that there is something wrong with your body the way it is, yet this is an important step on your road towards compassion and empathy towards yourself. Try this same values exercise found here and let me know what you think. And if you’d like to further your acceptance of your body as it is, let’s schedule some time to chat further. Will this year be all about resolutions to change your body or values to live your life?

To Be vs. To Do Lists

Last Sunday, I had a laundry list of to do’s I wanted to get done. Because I wanted to be cognizant of my time, I even time-boxed them! Christmas cards will be 1 hour. Decorating the tree will be 2 hours. This coaching call will be 1 hour. And the list went on and on. I had more than 12 hours of time-boxed to do’s for Sunday. It was way more than I had time in the day if I was honest. It felt exhausting to think about, yet I was on a mission and hell-bent on getting it all done. It highlighted the fact that the achiever saboteur was lurking in me that day. That list screamed doing was more important than being that day.

I went about my to-do list that day. Coaching call done in one hour. Check. Christmas cards done in one hour. Check. I was checking stuff off my list. Check. Check. Check.

Then, a very good thing happened that pulled me away from my to do list in the middle of one of my to-do’s for the day. I was putting up Christmas ornaments on the tree around 1:15 in the afternoon when a good friend of mine texted me. She said she was decorating her tree and couldn’t find this one ornament that was near and dear to her family. I texted that I had too much stuff and could not find a certain decoration myself.

Then, the magic happened. She picked up the phone and called me! And we had a lovely nearly hour and a half long conversation! We hadn’t talked in a while. We covered a lot of ground in those 90 minutes. I didn’t even think about my to do list in those 90 minutes. I was doing something I 100% loved – having a deep conversation with a dear person. It also meant I was being a friend, and being a listener, and being a supporter, and being an inspiration all in one.

Having this deep conversation meant an hour and a half of planned to do’s didn’t get done.

And that’s ok because it reminded me that sometimes we create unnecessary burden for ourselves. We fill our days with to do’s rather than to be’s. We fill our days with things that really don’t matter in the end.

It feels good checking things off a list. Yet, nothing feels better than having a deep conversation with someone and having it be unplanned to boot! It reminds you how important it is to be more than it is to do.

Next time you have a lengthy to do list, ask yourself what’s really important and cross some things off the list and replace them with “to be”items. Will you replace some to do’s with to be inspiring? To be relaxed? To be in the moment? What will be one of you to be items?

Prioritize You Before Stress Demands an Automatic Restart

Ever get the blue screen of death on your computer? I recently had that happen to me and thought how easily the message that appeared could be applied to our own lives – “your PC (body) ran into a problem and needs a restart.” When we get this blue screen of death on our computers, it forces us to instantly shut down and restart. There are no other options.

So let’s think about this and apply it to our own bodies. What problem will you run into if you don’t intentionally prioritize your own self care? Are you running on empty and feeling like you are about to shut down? Are you looking to please everyone else on Santa’s list this holiday season and you are no where on that list? Do you have more to-do’s than time in your day?

If you are not careful, running on empty will eventually lead to burnout and will leave you with no choice than to take care of yourself – probably longer than spending several minutes a day over the next month on self care and probably when you least expect it. I have had this happen to me so I know firsthand. My diagnosis of an eating disorder three years ago forced a significant restart of my approach to life. And it took me quite a while to heal and recover. I’m not saying you will have something that significant happen. It can be something like sudden headaches or increased anxiety. It’s your body’s subtle way of saying take care of me before I give you the blue screen of death.

What problem will cause you to hit pause and restart if you don’t intentionally prioritize yourself today? As we enter this last month of 2020, why not prioritize yourself for a few minutes each day? Take two minutes each at 9 am, 12 pm , 3 pm and 6 pm (or whatever cadence feels best for you) to check in with how you are feeling. Walk away from your desk. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. And another. And another. Wiggles your toes so you can feel each of your ten toes individually. Wiggle them a bit more. Then rub your thumb and index finger together on one hand with such attention that you can feel the ridges of each finger rubbing against each other. Keep doing this for a bit. Then, bring your hands to your chest and say something loving to yourself. Take another deep breath. Let it all out with a sigh. Thank yourself for taking two minutes to get in touch with yourself. Open your eyes.

Would love to hear how this worked for you! It’s a practice that I try to do during the day myself and have seen significant changes. Let me know your experience in the comments below!

What will you say when you look in the mirror?

A few months into my eating disorder recovery journey, I looked in the mirror and said, “I love you” and then I winked at myself. I journaled about that experience afterwards. I truly felt like a million dollars when I said that in the mirror. It was because I had always bashed my body when I looked in the mirror before. Sometimes I avoided the mirror. I’d cover my body when bathing in the tub. I was too ashamed of my body.

Then, I started offering myself an ounce of kindness like this every once in a while. It didn’t always stick. Some days, it was a bash fest for sure. Some days I avoided the mirror all together. And I never looked at myself naked in a mirror. Then one day I stood in front of the mirror naked and sobbed. I was so ashamed. Yet as I cried (the kind where snot rolls down your face along with the tears), I realized that I was actually crying because deep down, I knew there was a little girl in there who deserved to be loved.

It would take a lot of reframing of the stories I told myself in my head and when I look in the mirror. Your body responds to what you tell it. If you tell yourself that your body doesn’t deserve to be loved, your body will respond accordingly. Your soul kinda dies along with it.

I have days where I battle a bit with my body, yet I’ve come to know and believe that I am that same little girl who was once 7 years old and I deserve all the love that I so freely gave her back then. If you’re not comfortable in your own body yet, try reframing what you say and realize that you too have a 7 year old girl inside of you too ♥️

Your Body Can Make Wonderful Decisions

That’s right. Your body can make wonderful decisions. If you tune in to it and allow it to. You may have noticed that I’ve not posted a blog since August 31, the last full week before I had major surgery on September 9. Leading up to my surgery, I was a complete stress ball. Things I was coaching my clients through could have easily been things I would have benefitted sorting through with my coach too. Instead of making decisions with my body, I was letting my stress and anxiety drive the bus for my decisions.

My surgery was planned well in advance. I was having symptoms back in January. By April, it was determined that I needed to have surgery. By May, my surgery was set for September 9. Originally, I thought about all the things I could do towards my business during my recovery period. I wasn’t thinking about what my body would need. I’d place it on the back burner it seemed.

Then, the surgery came. It went well and I was released from the hospital on the same day. That was a good sign. Yet, a week later, I would develop an infection. And a week after that, my doctor would not authorize me to return to work. My body was not healed and I needed more time. I cried. Why does this always happen, I thought. I need to go back to work. Yet, my body was sending alert signals. It is not time, it said. You need more time to heal, it said further.

My doctor reminded me that I’d just had major surgery and not every body bounces back in the same amount of time. She put me on an additional three weeks of leave. This way, your body will heal and we won’t have to deal with prolonged healing or complications, she said.

When I left her office, I felt a lightness in my shoulders that I’d not felt in a very long time. That lightness said, it’s ok. You’ll get the rest you need and won’t have to make decisions based on anxiety that you’ll regret later. At the time, this lightness felt strange to me because having a longer leave meant I’d have to pass on an opportunity that came about right as I went out on leave. I would not be back in time to make it happen. I was devastated. I wanted this opportunity. And I couldn’t have it now.

I went home from my appointment and pouted for a bit before I realized this situation was actually a gift, even though the outcome was not what I wanted or expected. It was the first time my body showed up, gave me an alert, and I paid attention to what it was telling me. I did not try to force my body to align with the hyper-achiever thoughts that were going through my mind at the time. Too many times, I make decisions with my head that I regret later, because that head is in a space of anxiety and stress.

Ever since I listened to my body and allowed myself to come to terms with the outcome, I’ve realized how important it is to make decisions with your body. It truly knows the best answer. You just need to listen closely. For the remainder of my leave, I chose to focus on healing my body and nothing else. My body has responded nicely and now I’m back to work. I want to carry this forward as I see how good it feels when your decisions are aligned with your body.

How have you listened to your body? What gifts do you receive when you do? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Reminder: Take Care of Yourself Too

This past weekend, I fell ill on Saturday afternoon. I tried to push through it, ignoring that anything was wrong. I kept pushing, even making dinner for my family – a family favorite, chicken parmesan. It was at that point, when I could barely stand that I decided to listen to my body. It was saying, “Enough is enough.” I could no longer push through it.

I threw dinner in the oven and went to lay down. It was what my body was trying to get me to do throughout making dinner, yet I felt like I “must” finish making this dinner, even though I would not be eating it. My family was expecting it. It was their favorite. I could not disappoint them. I was not listening to my own body, nor my own advice that I write about sometimes. Funny how that works, huh?

When I woke on Sunday and still felt ill, I decided to take full care of myself. I laid on the couch. I read. I napped. I played Solitaire on my phone. I napped some more. I read some more (if you have not read Glennon Doyle’s book “Untamed,” I highly recommend). I napped some more. I daydreamed out the window a bit. It was the opposite of what I did on Saturday, and yet I did not feel guilty for doing any of it. It was what my body was yelling at the top of her lungs at me to do. So I listened.

And because I listened, my body feels better this morning. I usually have a swollen left foot, and yet this morning for the first time in months, it was not swollen. I can see the bones in that foot. It is a simple reminder from my body that when you take care of yourself, your body responds accordingly. Every once in awhile, we need to remind ourselves how important self-care really is. We are quick to tell everyone else how important it is, yet we need that message every once in a while too. Don’t forget to take care of your own needs too. Your body will thank you.

Photo by Maycon Marmo on

You Are More Than a Mom

This past week, we moved my daughter back to college. She’s entering her fourth year and is living off campus with some friends this year. She has grown up so fast. It seems like just yesterday she was playing with her favorite baby doll Nah-ne (how she pronounced Natalie when she was just learning to talk) in her play kitchen. Now, she’s off making real food in her real kitchen!

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

While the day we moved her in last week was exciting, it was not long ago that I was a hot mess when we dropped her off at college for the first time. I cried for days leading up to dropping her off. I had this countdown going – 15 more days with Kaitlyn, 14, 13, 12…..It was as if she was leaving for good, yet she was planning to come home to visit at times on the weekends. I got so wrapped up in her leaving, that I didn’t realize how much goodness I still had.

At the time, it felt like a part of me was dying. My oldest didn’t need me anymore. She was old enough to make decisions without me. Long gone were the days of my daughter feeding her Nah-ne a bottle and rocking her to “sleep” as she mimicked me rocking her brother to sleep the same way. This was a hard pill for me to swallow. An identity was fading and it felt like I didn’t have any others to fall back on. My identity as a leader of people had already been shattered about nine months prior when I decided to step into a different role at work. My once youthful body was in full-on menopause, so it felt like that identity was gone too.

I noticed everything that I didn’t have at this time. I fell into depression. I used food to cope even more than I already had. I could not see all that I did have. I still had a 15 year-old son living at home. I still had a husband. I still had a job. I still had a new puppy. I had a lot to be thankful for, yet I could only see what I had lost.

It took a lot of internal work to realize that I am more than a mom. I am more than a wife. I am more than an IT professional. I am more than a coach. I am a beautiful soul who loves the beach and worships the sun. I am a beautiful soul who loves to notice beauty in nature. I am a beautiful soul who loves to put together a puzzle or solve a good mystery. I am a beautiful soul who loves to learn and is constantly looking for another good book to read. I am a beautiful soul who loves to have a deep conversation with someone, the kind where you lose track of time. I am a beautiful soul who is on this planet for a very short period of time in the grand scheme of things.

The list could go on and on about all the things I am. I am so much more than a mom, or a wife, or a coach. When I found out who I really was behind all the identities or titles I had over the years, I realized who I was at the core. I realized that no matter what identity or role I take on in this thing called life, I was still someone who loved the beach and the sun and beauty in nature and a good book. Those things are what make me, me. I will have those “things” no matter what role I am in.

Now, I try to stay focused on being present so that I can realize those goodies that my life has to offer me in the moment. I realize I have a lot to be thankful for and that life is so much more than an identity.

What permission do you need to give yourself?

I remember the first time one of my therapists on my treatment team asked me this question:

“What permission do you need to give yourself?”

Say what? Permission. I give myself permission every day, I thought. I don’t know what this lady is talking about.

As she probed a little more, I realized I did need to give myself permission. A lot of permission in fact. I needed to give myself permission to disappoint others. I’d worked so hard to keep a “clean cut” image to everyone that I was killing myself and I hadn’t realized it before this question was asked. I was so busy pleasing others and keeping the image that I excelled at everything asked of me that I didn’t realize I needed permission to disappoint others. I mean really disappoint them. The kind where you get a little uncomfortable at first because you are not used to it kind.

Since then, I’ve disappointed a lot of people. I disappointed my mother earlier this year when I chose to keep the overdue self-care appointment I’d made with myself on her birthday. I did plan to visit her another day. She expected it to be on her birthday though. Sure, there was a bit of guilt on my part and yet not any resentment like I would have had if I cancelled my plans with myself and went to her house instead. Because resentment happens when you live a life of pleasing everyone else but yourself.

I disappointed my boss when she asked me to take on more than I had time to complete in my work week. Sure, I felt a little uncomfortable having the conversation, yet there was no resentment from working longer hours each week because I couldn’t set healthy boundaries with her.

I disappointed my husband when I said no to going out to eat at a restaurant when Covid restrictions were lifted in early June and we could eat inside a restaurant for the first time in three months. It hurt saying no to his excitement, yet there was no resentment for me saying yes to something I didn’t feel comfortable doing. I proposed a homemade picnic outdoors as an alternate, which he declined. It’s okay. No one had any resentments because we didn’t do something we didn’t want to do at that moment.

Most likely, I have disappointed many others since first giving myself permission to do so. And, it’s also likely that I’ve still said yes when I meant to say no because I’m still human and am a recovering people pleaser. It’s going to be a lifelong journey I figure. Because you don’t just wake up one day and are people pleaser free!

What do you need to give yourself permission to do? I’d love to hear in the comments below. And if you’re ready to start on your own journey of saying no to people pleasing and yes to healthy boundaries and self-care, let’s partner together on your journey.