Control Much?

I developed a disordered relationship with food practically from birth.

Food and eating have long since been very complicated for me.

Food was never just food. Sustenance. A source of energy.

The act of eating was never just a means to satisfy physical hunger, fuel the machine, fill the tank.

It was security. A best friend. My lover. My mother. My father.

Relief. Comfort. Excitement. Joy. A distraction.

A way to protect my self. A weapon. A protest sign. A lockable door. A “Fuck you, world.”

It gave me a sense of well-being. It gave me something that felt essential to my very ability to exist on this planet.

But above all else, and most importantly, it have me an illusion of control.

And this, above all, was crucial to me.

As a child, my world was out-of-control. Everyone in it seemed out-of-control. Every thing happening seemed out of my control.

Inside of me, good gravy, things certainly felt out of control. Feelings, thoughts. Wants. Needs. All felt huge and to a small person who felt they had no voice and no power, they were simply more than I could comprehend or cope with.

Enter food.

The one area I felt I had any say in was with food. What I ate and how much.

Especially how much. Any hint of the slightest suggestion that I might begin to think about considering becoming open to the idea of portion control still brings up a deep revolution within me. A protest begins without my having to even rally the troops. Big signs flashes in my head: “Fuck you!” “Over my dead body!” “Not while there is still breath in my body!”

You’ve got to be kidding. I’m supposed to let someone else tell me how much I am allowed to eat? What?!

Seriously, I get so defiantly enraged at the concept I literally feel nauseaus.

To a non-disordered person, it may be very hard to comprehend. It may seem or sound absurd.

But trust me when I say that my being able to eat or not eat what, when, and how much of something I wanted was (and sometimes still is) of incredible importance to me.

Almost feels life and death to me to be able to choose and act as I want in this one area of my life. It looks very much like addiction and obsessive-compulsive behavior because it is very much both of those things.

As you can imagine, such a relationship is doomed from the start. It is not healthy. It is instincts gone awry. It is a coping mechanism that brings an initial and momentary satisfaction followed by an ever-deeper, never-to-be-satisfied longing.

Such a relationship with food and eating skews all other relationships. It is a poor substitute for a real solution to the problem. And the problem, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the food or eating. They are merely the symptom.

So the solution, for me, has not and never will be portion control. I do not weigh and measure my food. (That still sends waves of dread through my body.) I do not label foods good or bad, or blame dieting or fad diets for my problem. Fad diets and the “diet” industry are only potential triggers or tools for my own kinked relationship to food and eating.

The problem was not and never will be my willpower.

The problem is how the funky-ass relationship to food and eating developed the first place. What was missing that led to the kink in my connection to regular eating?

There were circumstances. Maybe something ancestral, genetic, sure. But truly, there were circumstances and my response to them. My best solution for coping happened to be really distorted and led to many years of suffering.

Around all of that, I have done a great deal of work. But in terms of healing, it has come  down to this: addressing the part of me that developed such a relationship in the first place.

What did that part really need? How can I help that part trust other ways of meeting those needs? (The second question is almost more important and takes a great deal of patience to answer and to implement.)

I began asking these questions, and learned to really listen for and then to the answers.

The needs and wants came first.

The answer I heard most is that part of me wanting something for herself, just for her, that no one and nothing can interfere with. In unlimited amounts.

This seemed key to the whole thing, this need.

This longing for something just for me, that no one else can have, that only I can have, that no one can take away, mess with or hurt.

Woah. Logically, it is clear when I really lay it out like that that food and eating never had a chance at solving that problem. They do not contain the ability to solve it.

But that part of me was working from a different logic that makes total sense to the information it had at the time. Given the limited resources and the level of maturity of that part of me at that time, I can see how the dots were connected to the one thing that was available and that seemed to work.

Problem is, that part is hungry for something that food and eating can never satiate.

But that is where the real work lies. But as in all things, hard work does pay off. Yes, it does suck to have to do anything at all about a problem that I wish had never started in the first place. But that is just reality and once I accepted that, things began to get better.

That is my job now. To give myself that indefinable…something…and to give it in unlimited amounts.

Sometimes it is my own attention. Support. Kindness. Comfort. Bolstering. Appreciation. Soothing. Excitement. Stimulation. Fulfillment. Fullness. Rest. Recovery. Quiet. Peace. Stillness. A sense of being ok. Safe. Whole just as I am.

These I can give myself whenever, however I want in whatever quantities that part demands, cries for, deserves. I get to pour unlimited amounts of these things into myself, and no one and nothing can interfere or mess with that.

But what about the act of eating? What about that part of it all? That part of me wants to consume, wants to be filled, wants to take in and become one with something.

No, I cannot actually physically have the experience of filling myself with something, taking a substance into my body and becoming one with it.

That is the physical aspect of the whole, and there is another series of solutions to address that part. That I can satisfy in other ways. That is a different blog for another day, perhaps.

But the rest of it, I got in spades to give. Unlimited amounts.

It took some experimentation to help that part of me trust that letting go of the old mechanism for the chance that something new would ultimately be better and actually, really work, for real. That is where patience and gentleness and compassion pay off.

But it is all worth it. The meeting of those needs of my self by myself — that, my friends,  I am in control of.

At long last, I have the power that I have so craved.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: portion

For JC and anyone else who hates the idea of fucking “portions.”

Altered

The course of my life was irreversibly altered in miraculous ways on a Wednesday night in January 2011.

The dictionary defines the word “alter” as the following: change or cause to change in character or composition, typically in a comparatively small but significant way.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you may have noticed that I am very interested in (aka obsessed with) the seemingly small moments that occur in life that often end up holding huge significance. Meanings that are unknowable at the time later reveal themselves. The course of history is changed in those small moments, the sometimes seemingly random decisions we make.

This is the story of one of those moments for me.

I had been having a tough time in the latter third of 2010. The whirlwind of my wedding and its aftermath had finally settled down, and the events of the years leading up to the wedding finally really hit me. I’d lost my mother, my brother and my father in succession, and I just sort of imploded.

That December, somehow, an email made its way through my inbox. (To this day, I am not sure how). Perhaps the angels sent it to me. It was about a movement class taught by someone named Erin Stutland. I had been unable to get myself to the gym for a year or so, and felt as awful physically as I did emotionally. Something in the description of the class spoke to me. It wasn’t just your typical workout class. There were affirmations involved. What?!

Something made me sign up. And on that Wednesday night of January six years ago, I went. Little did I know that meeting Erin would be the gift that just keeps on giving. Erin believes that movement in your body creates movement in your life and that all good things flow out of a deep self-love. I have seen and experienced firsthand the power of her philosophy in action.

Not only did Erin’s class start me on a new course in terms of movement for my body, but it helped me begin to make shifts in my relationship to how I thought about so many things.

And if that weren’t enough, I was welcomed into a community of women and men there, amazing people, many of whom I am still in contact with today. The work we did with Erin created powerful change for so many of us.

I have watched as people in that community made their dreams become reality. Major life changes such as weight loss (one woman lost 100+ pounds), career path changes (one woman fulfilled a dream she uncovered while in the class of becoming a minister), recording artist dreams realized, dream roles acted on stage and film, cross-country moves to dream jobs and cities, dream soul mates, marriages and babies born, and more.

One of my goals in the class was to find my inner athlete. Two NYC marathons and countless half marathons later, I can say I found her. It has been a deeply gratifying journey that continues.

My other goals had to do with my career as an actress, and finding more belief in my talents, in what I had to say through my art. I can actually say that the creation of this blog had its seeds in her class. Much of the positive movements I have made in the last 6 years grew forth from the mindset and the tools I found there, and were supported and nourished by the community there. That support and that community continues to this day.

I am so grateful for having met this beautiful, extraordinary and dynamic teacher, and for all of the gifts she has given to me.

I want to introduce you to her, too, because she is on the rise, and someone you should know. I am so proud of her and excited for her! (And for the many, many more people who will soon be benefitting from her expertise.)

You can find out more about Erin at her website here.

Erin is now a co-host on an exciting new show called Altar’d (perfect name!) that is set to debut this week!

Altar’d follows 6 couples who are looking to not only transform their bodies, but more importantly adopt healthy lifestyles and habits before they come together for the most important day of their lives, their wedding.

The first episode will be airing THIS TUESDAY, JAN 17th at 8pm on Z Living. You can read more about this show here. Take a look at the trailer below:

Here’s how you can tune in! To make sure Z Living is available through your cable provider, click here.

I cannot wait to see how this remarkable woman helps to shape the worlds of so many more as she gains exposure and continues to co-create the platforms to share her gifts.

I celebrate the growth and movement I have made in my life with Erin’s help since wandering into her class that fateful evening six years ago. I took a chance and I am so glad I did.

#erinstutland #altar’d #powefulchange #takeachance #loveisthekey

Fat is Not Funny (to Me)

My whole life I’ve been confused as to why people laugh at fat people.

You see it everywhere. Greeting cards with pictures on the front of a fat lady in a bikini or some big man holding a sandwich or something.

Popular culture is flooded with fat jokes and humor.

Character actors and comedians have made careers out of making fun of their own fat: John Candy, Roseanne, Homer, Fred Flintstone, the King of Queens, to name just a few.

Some of these people lost weight at some point in their careers and actually had trouble finding their new audience dynamic because so much of their appeal centered around their being fat.

People love to laugh at fat people.

I never thought fat was very funny.

Maybe because I was a heavy kid who was teased and bullied mercilessly in elementary and junior high schools for being overweight.

If you were ever that kid, you know it’s not funny.

Maybe because I grew up loving one of the greatest men I’ll ever know, my brother, who also happened to be obese. I’ve always been incredibly sensitive to jokes made at the expense of the overweight.

If you have ever had an obese relative, and know the suffering it creates for the relative and for the family and friends who love them…if you’ve witnessed first-hand the looks, the comments and mean behaviors of strangers…you don’t think fat is funny.

Fat shaming is a thing now. It has a name. It has been debated heatedly as something good.  (Shame as a motivational tool? Really?) And as something bad. (Fat people say that they are being discriminated against and just want to be accepted as they are regardless of a physical attribute, such as color or size of body.)

That fat shaming exists as an issue at all to me illustrates the total lack of understanding around the issue of being overweight. The issue of fat.

There are no greeting cards with junkies on the front. Or anorexic women or men. Why do we laugh at fat people? Why is there so little empathy for people struggling to lose weight?

Is it because generally most people think being overweight is someone’s fault and so the person deserves to be laughed at? Whereas there’s more room for forgiveness for a drug addict or some other more acceptable person who is afflicted by disease?

Is is because it is tied into the idea of sin? Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, also known as capital vices or cardinal sins. That goes way, way back into our social and cultural psyche…maybe it is encoded into our DNA so deeply that it has created a blind spot in our ability to have empathy or even understand what fat is.

Someone carrying extra weight is seen as a lazy loser, lacking will power, with too much appetite. Gluttonous. Lacking character and immoral. Disgusting.

I posit that most people, despite the over-saturation of information on dieting and other weight loss products that is out there, still view the issue of extra weight as a pure willpower issue.

Overweight or fat people are not commonly seen as a person who suffers from a disease, a food disorder, a reflection of an emotional disorder. As someone who learned to use food as a way to cope with life, in the same way an alcoholic or a heroin addict or a debtor uses those substances to handle their lives, in a disordered way.

I have a theory. I think that when people laugh at fat people, it is because on some level they are so uncomfortable at the literal evidence of pain that fat people are wearing. It cannot be hidden, the way an alcoholic’s or a bulimic’s or anorexic can. It’s out in plain view for all to see, a suit of pain, and on some level it reminds us of things maybe we also do not want to look at in our own lives. Our own appetites that we’ve learned to suppress. Our own uncomfortable feelings that we have not yet found a healthy outlet for.

We laugh because we see someone who is living out some revolution against something or someone on their own body landscape, and on some level it pisses us off because the person is not “towing the line” and keeping those feelings and desires stuffed down where we, as a society, have agreed such things should go.

So we express a cruelty towards these people in ways that in any other situation would be totally unacceptable and perhaps even unthinkable to us.

Why don’t we see fat people as people in pain? People who need help dealing with life differently? As people with a chronic disease?

Why do we still watch shows like The Biggest Loser that only address and promote the cosmetic issues of weight loss and not the underlying causes of the eating disorder: the person’s disordered behavior with food, a reflection of a disordered relationship to being in the world?

Why do we only want to get Physical Education back into schools when we need more than just “better eating” and to get kids moving to deal with the ever-growing numbers of obese children in this country? Those things are needed too, yes. But those things alone are not solving the issue. So they appear to not be working.

(Of course, this lack of understanding, this mis-education, is great for the diet product industry. It makes people constantly in search of the next big fad, the magic pill, the quick fix. Google and explore how much people spend each year on diets and pills and fads and you will see who benefits from the results of this misunderstanding towards fat and overweight.)

When will fat be treated as an emotional, behavioral issue, not a purely biological one?

As a disease like any other. Not a party joke. Not a greeting card.

I don’t know what to do to help this situation, to help educate and inform and shift the attitude towards fat, but I know something needs to be done.

Fat is not funny to me. When my brother died at 47 from complications of his obesity, I promise you, nothing about it was funny. He was a brilliant man with a wicked sense of humor and a huge, sweet heart. I will never stop grieving his death, and I miss him every single day.