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.

What I found in my journey to boredom

“Sounds like your homework for the week is to allow yourself to be bored and note what comes up for you,” my therapist told me last week. “That’s gonna be a tough one,” I respond back. “I don’t know how to be bored,” I continued as if there is a playbook on how to be bored! My old self would have Googled “how to be bored,” searching for the “right” way to be bored. Yet I am not my old self anymore, so that is not something I did after my appointment.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

I sat with that homework assignment for a bit before “doing” anything about it. I thought about what my good friend Heather said to me a few years ago,

“What if it was always supposed to be that way?”

Her poignant question bothered me at the time she asked. It bothered me because I was complaining how I was bored at work. I had just stepped down from being a leader of people that had been my identity for about ten years. I was now “only” leading projects and improvements for the company instead. My identity was wrapped around being constantly busy, never having a moment to gather my own thoughts, and yet having tons of time to listen to everyone else’s problems and figure out how to solve them. I didn’t want my good friend trying to tell me that the slower pace was acceptable. It was a sign of a lazy person I thought at the time.

Since that conversation with Heather, I’ve done a bunch of internal work with my therapist and life coach. Over time, I learned that my identity was not my title. I learned that my identity was also not my mom or wife role. I learned that it was so much more than that. Yet, despite learning that my identity was not tied to a role I played in the office or the ones at home, I am still working on overcoming my identity of an overachiever. I’m still a work in progress when it comes to sitting still and being okay with boredom.

Back to the assignment from my therapist. After sitting and sulking a bit (I know, I know, not healthy, yet I am human after all and a work in progress), about how I was destined to be an overachiever forever (that all or nothing thinking still gets me sometimes), I caught myself in the middle of another homework assignment that aligned to what my therapist had just assigned. Earlier in the month, I started a class for coaches around Positive Intelligence. Our instructor, Shirzad Chamine, introduced us to understanding our top Saboteurs (a few of my top ones were Pleaser and Hyper-Achiever, go figure!) and an alternative response to them called PQ reps. Each time we recognize that we are taken over by one of our Saboteurs (to keep working or keep pleasing others, for example), we are to stop, call out the Saboteur, and try a few PQ reps. My favorite PQ rep has become rubbing my thumb and index finger together until I can feel the ridges of both fingers and am in tune to only that for two minutes. This past week, we were to focus on our top Saboteur, so I chose my Hyper-Achiever. Gosh, did I learn how often I want to keep going at the sake of my own health during this past week. I learned how I really did feel about boredom.

Before this assignment, I thought there were so many benefits to my daily twenty minutes of morning meditation, that I didn’t think this “extra” stuff was important. That is, until I realized that my Hyper-Achiever is not exactly coming out very loud at 5:30 am when I am doing my twenty minutes of meditation because no one is disturbing me or I don’t have a looming deadline to meet on a task I was just assigned by my boss ten minutes ago. What I learned is that my Hyper-Achiever comes out at all hours of the day, especially when I am in the middle of something and think I need to keep going to finish instead of taking a break to get up and stretch or to simply understand where my stress level is for just a minute. I am learning how my Hyper-Achiever is leading me to higher levels of stress and how my friend was really on to something those few years ago – how a slower pace and tuning in to what’s going on is good food for the soul.

Now, Heather’s question is something I am asking my clients when they talk about not liking the slower pace of what Covid has brought to their life and yet saying that they were burned out before. “What if it was always supposed to be like this?” really makes people think. What if you slowed down enough to be bored for a few minutes and took an assessment of your stress level? What magic can you bring to your life by slowing dow? Let’s hear about what you found in your journey to boredom.

A Love Letter To My Body

“One of the last things to go with an eating disorder is body image issues, ” my treatment team used to tell me often. I didn’t know what that meant until now. Body shaming and general body image issues hang on tight, even when you feel like you have the food relationship mostly healed. You may no longer compare what’s on your plate to what’s on the plate of your friends or loved ones, and yet you still size up your body with them in subtle ways. It’s almost like an unconscious thing that happens. You suddenly feel icky and you don’t know why. Then you remember that you were looking at your social media feed hours earlier and saw your friend who you think looks thinner in the face than you do. Then it clicks. The lightbulb goes off. I feel icky because I was comparing my face to my friend’s face only a few hours ago, which is leading me to fat shame myself while I stand in front of the mirror after a shower and I notice all the curves of my body. Suddenly, it dawns on you. You are hanging on to comparing your body to others still. And the sad news is, you don’t need to be suffering from an eating disorder to have body image issues. It is something that many women suffer from.

This relationship with your body remains tumultuous until you are willing to let go. Let go of what other people think. Let go of what society deems as beautiful. Let go of what society believes is an acceptable body. Let go of your own biases against size and shape of a body. And let go of comparing yourself to superstars and your own friends! Once you start practicing this, it becomes a little easier to stay in your own body while others around you are hell-bent on changing theirs. Is it easy? Hell no. Is it rewarding? Hell YES!!

One way I have done my own work in this space was to write a love letter to my body. My body has endured a lot and it is the only body I will ever get here on earth. I can love it or continue to ostracize it, which will start a shaming fest, which will trigger my old wounds to eat for comfort. Here’s my love letter to my body. I encourage you to write one yourself, even if you are not ready to love every bone in your body, because you have to start somewhere before you can heal inside.

Dear Body,

You sure have endured a lot over the years. You’ve given birth to two beautiful children. You’ve attempted to pass three kidney stones on your own. You’ve successfully reworked the gallbladder’s job when it had to be removed. You recovered from chicken pox, diverticulosis, a sprained wrist, an ankle run over by a vehicle, vertigo, an ulcer, a fissure, extraction of wisdom teeth, and a swollen leg (that was not a blood clot thank goodness!).  You are preparing for an upcoming hysterectomy and I am sure you will allow me to recover nicely from that too. You are gracefully recovering from an eating disorder in mid-life, which most likely started after years of putting you through diet after diet.  You continue to work your best through bouts of occasional headaches and migraines, plantar fasciitis, anxiety, depression, asthma, menopause and arthritis.  And you allow me to take nearly 20,000 breaths of air each day. That is simply amazing!

I want you to know how much I appreciate you. You have endured a lot. From the moment you were teased on the playground in the 5th grade, you started to be something that needed to be changed. I didn’t know how to offer self-compassion to you when those boys teased me. It turned in to years of putting you down and trying to change you. I called you names. I pinched you in places I hated. I shamed you in the mirror. And some days, I could not even look at you in the mirror. I covered you with a washcloth whenever naked in the tub. I didn’t think you were good enough. I thought the more I criticized you, the more you’d work to shed the weight. I was never happy with you. At the height of my eating disorder, I was completely ashamed of you.  I allowed others to determine what beauty looked like.

And for all of this, I am truly and deeply sorry. You didn’t deserve any of this. You simply deserved my utmost respect. You are the vessel that is getting me through this life on earth. That is a huge job with so many external factors outside of your control. You’ve endured much and I’ve not been grateful for any of it. Until now. From now on, I vow to give you nothing but respect. And compassion. I want to smother you with respect and compassion because this might help erase an ounce of the harm I’ve caused you. 

Thank you for all you’ve done for me. With much love and gratitude for you, XOXO Teresa.

What would you tell other women?

I was recently invited to share my eating disorder recovery story on The Emily Program’s podcast “Peace Meal” (it will be posting shortly, so make sure to be on the lookout wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts). I was both nervous and excited. Nervous because I’d not shared my specific story details publicly before. Excited because I wanted other women who may be experiencing body image issues or disordered eating or an actual eating disorder in mid-life to have an ounce of hope. It would be best if it was more like an overflowing cup of hope and yet, I’d take an ounce.

On the day of the recording, Jillian and Angie both put me at ease from the moment they said hello. It felt like I’d known these ladies since my journey began at The Emily Program some two and a half years earlier, and yet I’d only met Angie a few weeks prior and Jillian earlier in the day when we talked about my ideas around the coaching space for those in eating disorder recovery.

The recording of the podcast could not have gone better. For starters, my pooch did not bark once during the recording! On top of that, I wasn’t nervous or anxious. I was confident. I was excited. I was beyond ready to share and say no to shame. It wasn’t long before, that all of this would have seemed impossible. One of the last questions Jillian asked me before we called it a wrap was what I would tell other women in mid-life who may be struggling and just think they don’t have the time to commit to treatment right now.

Such a beautiful question. I thought about how I wished I had someone like me to share their story with me when I was first diagnosed. I didn’t know anyone or have anyone else who had paved the way before me who was sharing their story with me. Since I like to read and learn from others, I tried to find books and didn’t find much at the time of my diagnosis. I could only take the words of my treatment team. It hit me hard. I remember hearing the intake therapist tell me that I needed to start IOP (Intensive Outpatient Programming) which meant four nights a week from 5-8 pm. Say what? You know I have a full time job, a new puppy at home, a husband who works an opposite shift as me, a daughter away at college and a teenage son at home, right? Committing to three hours a night for four nights a week is a lot. It’s like having an extra part time job.

And yet, I decided it was my turn to focus on my health once and for all. I needed it. My health was important enough to me that I was going to do this. I’d spent years focusing on everything else but myself. I took a back-burner to my marriage, my parenting, and my career. When I looked in the mirror, I hated the body I saw. My soul was quickly dying and I knew it. I knew I could only keep going on fumes for so much longer before I collapsed from complete exhaustion of maintaining an eating disorder. I knew this was a gift and I needed to accept it as such. In that moment, everything else became minor in comparison. This was what the doctors were ordering for me. If not now, when I thought. I gave in to all the negative emotions going on at the time and all the eating disorder voices to give myself a gift, a gift I had no idea would be as wonderful as it was.

So, for all you middle-aged women out there who are faced with an eating disorder diagnosis at mid-life, I’d tell you that your future self will thank you for prioritizing yourself above everyone and everything else. You will gain so much freedom by prioritizing your health. Your body will finally breathe after the years of shame that had been previously associated with it. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. If you were diagnosed with cancer and your doctor told you chemotherapy once a week for twelve weeks would save your live, would you do it? Treat your mental health no different than your physical health. Treat your eating disorder diagnosis no different. Your future self will thank you profusely. And an added bonus is that you will show up as a better mom, friend, wife/partner, daughter, sister, aunt, and worker because of it. Who doesn’t want that?

This journey will be hard, no doubt. You will uncover things about your past and yourself that might be shameful to admit at first. And yet, it’s the only way towards true freedom. Taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, will all add up in the end. Keep track of your progress in a journal. You’ll be happy you did when you look back in a year or two and celebrate how far you have come. It will also come in handy when you too want to share your story in a podcast or book.

Once you get yourself into a specialized eating disorder treatment program, like The Emily Program, and on a path towards recovery, a compliment to your treatment team of therapists and dietician is a life coach. When I connected with a life coach and focused on my life goals, I saw such tremendous progress in creating a life I wanted to thrive in. Let’s connect for a free complimentary discovery call to talk about your life goals.