So here’s the thing about eating disorder recovery.
It is so freaking hard to write about.
I’ve started out posts multiple times with some tips or some techniques I’ve learned but then I realize that it’s impossible to describe how I’ve implemented them into my life because some of them have only worked once and some of them work always but I ignore them on purpose because I’m kind of messed up in the head like that and I don’t want to lead anyone astray.
But now I’m just kind of like, fuck it.
As long as you know that the information below is only my personal experience, and I’m certainly no doctah, and what you read could also trigger you into a binge or a relapse, then I’ll write it. Read at your discretion and know that I’m not here with any concrete answers, only the things that have worked for moi.
So here goes.
First of all – let me just fill you in on what I’m actually recovering from. I started secretly bingeing at age fifteen. I hit puberty at age fourteen on a family cruise to Alaska where I was too afraid to try tampons and thus spent the entire week staying out of the hot tub. It was fantastic.
At fifteen, I was no longer wearing cute little size three flares and tube tops from Wal-mart. I ballooned to a size nine within minutes it seemed. My dance teacher was less than thrilled with my “pooch pouch” that was forming below my belly button because it meant that two piece costumes at competition were out of the question. While the older girls in class were still able to wear low-cut jazz pants and sports bras to class, I was stuffing myself into leotards and covering them up with jazz pants and then another shirt on top of that. I guess “thick” would be a good word to describe my fifteen-year-old self. Dancing twenty hours a week in front of mirrors made it impossible for me to deny that that my body was changing rapidly.
I was just so sad that this was all happening. I didn’t know what to do about my expanding hips and my soft back fat and my stretch marked thighs, so I ate to forget. My parents would leave me home alone because I was old enough and I would eat all the Ritz crackers with jelly. All the chocolate peanut butter chips – straight from the bag. All the cheese, all the ice cream, all the pickles. Oh my God and the Better Cheddars. We were ALWAYS out of Better Cheddars. Sorry.
Take this story all over the east coast – from Pennsylvania to Virginia (college) to New York City (auditioning) to New Jersey (boyfriend) to Hilton Head (performing job) to Albany to Fort Lauderdale and all the way back to Washington Heights, NYC where everything came crashing down around me, finally, a decade after I first learned how to eat myself into a coma.
I came to find that I was an emotional eater. A compulsive eater. A secret eater. A food addict. And an extremely disordered eating female with depression and anxiety and no way to get help through my measly health insurance.
And through reading and my own tweaks and my own journaling, this is what I’ve learned.
- I have to keep all the food in the house. Fuck this Weight Watchers “keep your environment safe” bullshit. I need to have the Nutella and the ice cream and the cheese and the pesto and the cookies and the pizza and the beer in the house. For ten years I kept it all OUT of the house and spent nearly $40,000 on binges where I’d go and get it anyway, bring it in, eat it all up, and throw the containers in the garbage outside so that in my mind I could say “it was never inside”. For me to feel safe, I need all of it IN my environment. Now when I started doing this, yea, the ice cream disappeared within hours. But a month into it, I kept a carton of cookies ‘n’ cream in the house for an entire two weeks. Six months later, and I kept it in the freezer so long I forgot about it (community housing – it got hidden behind everyone else’s stuff and I totally forgot it was there). A year later, and I can bring multiple flavors into the house and they can be in there anywhere between one day and one month. It depends on my PMS and how hot it is outside, but it no longer scares me to have it in there. I need to know it’s there for my convenience at any time, and all of a sudden, it doesn’t consume my thoughts anymore. Hence why we’ve had two monstrous containers of Nutella from Costco in our pantry for over a month and I’ve only eaten an eighth of one jar. (I was going to show a picture but HELLO triggers – not appropriate today.)
- When I’m hungry, I need to eat NOW. I spent ten years ignoring hunger signals and only eating carbs for breakfast but never dinner and always before 7pm and every three hours and not at all and counting points and when I finally hit that rock bottom, I learned to listen to my body. My beautiful intuitive body that I never gave any credit to. My body tells me when I’m hungry and I listen now. It took me a year to figure out exactly what those signals are – the hunger signals and the full signals and the “i need protein” signals – but it was worth all the listening because I’m not one of those people that wakes up every day at the same time and can eat oatmeal for breakfast for the rest of my life. I need change and I need options and I need to eat when my body is ready – not before or after. Diets never taught me any of these things, and it was only after I stopped dieting that I could really spend time with my own body and learn the way it speaks. And it took me A YEAR y’all. As in, TWELVE MONTHS. As in, A WHILE. It did not, I repeat, IT DID NOT happen overnight.
- Oh my God the triggers. None of this “Healthy is the new skinny” shit on Facebook and no recipes. Nooooo recipes. No Women’s Health, no Glamour, no Cosmo. Twitter is a constant trigger no matter who I unfollow so I just stay off it altogether unless I post. Facebook has a mind of it’s own so I choose to follow Astrology writers and Ram Dass and “I Fucking Love Science” instead of all this Mind Body Green shit. I can’t see lists of things to eat and things not to eat and not be triggered. Know your triggers. Does seeing a list of things to do with chia seeds trigger you? Unfollow. Do ads for beer or weight loss or life coaching trigger you? Unfollow. Unfriend. Unlike. Immediately. Like it or not, social media is a humungous part of our lives. It’s how I’ve reached all of you. Thank God. I fucking love you and would not trade this for the world. But know your triggers – even if it’s me and my page – and cut them out.
- Friendship/Significant Others/Family: Be straight up. Don’t tiptoe. This might not be your style, so perhaps emailing them one of these articles could be helpful as well.*
Table for Three: You, Me and My Eating Disorder (a straight up guide for friends and loved ones)
Tips for Family (from the Renfrew site)
*There are many many many like TOO MANY articles on how to stage an intervention and how to try to get help for a person with an eating disorder but not nearly enough articles on what to do once they are in recovery and are seeking help. Especially for significant others. This is something I am determined to work on and will post as soon as it comes. If you know of one, please post it in the comments below so we can spread it far and wide. Mahalo.
With friends, family, and loved ones, do not be afraid to tell them exactly what you need. My family, well, those who understand anyway (grandparents don’t count – they forget and they don’t understand and they really just want to “fatten” us all up with cookies and how can you get mad at that?), knows to not say a word about my eating choices. When I eat, what I eat, and how I eat it (yes, mom, sometimes I wrap cheese around a pickle like a pregnant woman and put sriracha on it and I don’t even have an answer for why) is off the table for comments. It took them a few years to fully commit to this but this summer with my seven weeks home really helped them understand. Not eating at dinner because I’m not hungry? Sorry mom, that pasta looks delicous, but I might not be ready to eat it til 9pm tonight when you’ve already cleaned up. And I say, that’s okay because of where I’m at on my journey.
When it comes to loved ones, ask and you shall receive, for the most part. My mom was amazing and understanding and never once pushed me this summer when I ate at weird times with weird condiments. My dad is still learning, but he’ll get there and he’s aware and that’s what matters. Talk to your friends and your cousins and your girlfriend and your hubby and be as straight up as possible.
“I need to keep this nine dollar jar of organic pecan butter in the house and I need you to not comment on it’s price, it’s size, or it’s taste. It is my choice right now and it’s part of my recovery and I need you to support me.”
“I need you to pick the place for dinner tonight, and if you say it and I wrinkle up my nose because it doesn’t sound good to me, I need you to not get frustrated. I realize that I am frustrating you but I am not in a place to make decisions because I don’t know what I want and I would really appreciate your patience in this decision making process tonight.”
Okay, whatever it is, there is no harm in asking. And if your friend/boy/mom can’t understand why this is, I ask you to also be patient with them. They may accidentally make a judgemental face that they have no control over when they see you pouring animal crackers on top of a bowl of ice cream and they may accidentally ask you why you need to order pizza AND pasta AND salad AND dessert and the more patient you are with them, the more patient they will get with you. It’s a give give situation here. No one is perfect and this is a touchy subject that needs care and compassion from all sides – including yours.
5. Know your other “vices”. Cigarettes and TV are mine. When I am emotional and want to binge, I don’t reach for the beer so much as I crave a smoke and an SVU marathon. And you know what, I fully accept that laying on the couch on a beautiful beach day and choosing Olivia and Elliot over the sunshine is absolutely part of my healing process and a choice that I make when I don’t have the energy to go live life in the sand today. It’s a distraction, it’s a simple comfort, but you know what? It’s not a jar of Nutella and as long as I’m aware of it, I carry on with my marathon and do my best to forgive myself. The cigarettes – not so much, because I’m a role model for my students and I had such a hard time quitting that buying a pack would just send me into hardcore reverse. But occasionally I’ll bum one and feel satisfied and I do my best not to feel shitty about that too. I’m in recovery from an addictive habit – and most disordered eating is addictive if you really think about it – so knowing what you are using instead of eating/refraining from eating as your new vice is super crucial to your recovery and a healthy life. Forgive yourself for the replacements and give yourself a little credit for being aware and just do your best today. That’s all you, or anyone else, can ask for.
6. Therapy. Finding a therapist isn’t easy. Depending on where you live, you might be lucky enough to have an eating disorder clinic in your area that offers outpatient therapy. If you’re not so lucky, and you live in Hawaii like me and there is absolutely NOTHING pertaining to eating disorders at all (on the Big Island anyway), ask your health care provider for a list of counselors in your community and buck up and give them a call. I called around today, yes literally today before typing this up, and talked to some “therapists” that didn’t even ask my full name or what I was looking to get out of counseling. NEXT PLEASE. Then, when I was about to give up, I called a woman that has a PhD and asked appropriate questions and has already sent me forms to fill out so I can show up and just have a relaxing appointment. Shopping around is clutch – it’s like finding an agent as an actress – they are working for you, not the other way around. Trying them on for size takes time and is a real pain in the ass, but at the end, the payoff is something healthy for YOU. You get to take away the benefits of therapy and apply it towards a happier healthier life.
Holy shit, my arm hurts from typing this so fast. But you know, it’s been calling to be written for months now and I can’t keep putting it off until I find the right pictures or the right title or the right statistics to offer you. Please, for the love of all things healthy, pick up a copy of When Food is Love by Geneen Roth and allow yourself to become aware of your patterns. Or start from the very beginning and find solace in others like you in Feeding The Hungry Heart. I don’t love Geneen so much anymore because she charges you for everything and doesn’t really like to communicate with her fans but you know what the bitch can write and she writes it all and she helped me and I can’t deny that for a second.
Body love is a whole nother topic in this whole recovery thing and I’ll be on it very soon. It’s actually a huge gigantic amazing fabulous component that deserves a post all of its own.
I hope this list helps and I hope you find something here that sheds some light. Share it with someone who needs it. Print it out and put it in an inspiring place. YOU CAN DO THIS. I HAVE FAITH IN YOU. YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU REALIZE. YOUR LIFE IS YOURS AND YOURS ALONE. I AM YELLING AND I AM SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I BELIEVE ALL THESE THINGS TO BE TRUE. YOU ARE FUCKING AMAZING AND YOU DESERVE RECOVERY AND THERAPY AND LIGHT AND BREATH AND SANITY AND FEELINGS OF SAFETY AND CONTENT.
AND, last but not least, you know you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and concerns.
All my love and support and congratulations for being open to help and doing what you can to recover –
I have never been proud to be a woman.
I grew up in a family of farmers, cowboys, and lawnmower salesmen. My aunt is a star mechanic. My cousin Amy won more rodeo championships than anyone I know. Girls and boys were never separated in the Trusty activities – we all rode horses, forewheelers, and sleds together. My snowsuit was never purple or pink. My riding boots were brown just like my boy cousins’. I know what sparkplugs are. I mean we were just never told any different.
So I don’t know that I ever cared about being a girl.
I’ve never thought about it really – I just continued to participate in activities without realizing being a girl is bad or good or even all that different. I wasn’t aware that it was a big deal.
Years later, I still have moments where I don’t realize I’m a woman until I’m riding behind my man on the moped and my boobs hit his back at a stop sign before the rest of me does, as ignorant as that sounds, it’s true – sometimes it really does take me by surprise. And of course on my yearly gynecological visit, I have a very ridiculous moment where I realize I am part of the only gender that ever goes to such a doctor and experiences the annual duckbill party. But other than that, in my brief lifespan, I haven’t given much thought to the fact that I’m a woman.
I know that this makes me sooooooo not a feminist.
But does it really?
I’ve lived my whole life thinking that I’m an equal human being.
I pursued dance, which I suppose is often considered a “girl’s thing”, because my mom put me in dance at age
three. My first leotard was royal blue. I had a good memory and I was well-behaved and I continued to progress each year because I had a sensible attention span. I played soccer during this time, which was more of a “boy’s thing” I guess. I hated the running, but loved the oranges at half-time and adored being part of a team. At age nine, we moved to a different dance studio and someone saw potential in me and by age twelve I was competing with dance and no longer playing soccer and I don’t know that I ever did not want to dance, but I
don’t know that at age twelve I was obsessed with it either. It was just what I was doing and I did not hate it and so it all just kept happening.
Again, I was not aware that I was a “dancer”. I just identified as a human being who went to school, rode horses, played with cows on the weekends, and also flap ball-changed in mascara and purple sequins sometimes. Grounds for teasing of course, being a “farmgirl” and a “girly dancer”, but I guess I didn’t realize that teasing wasn’t a normal thing at that age – I thought everyone got teased at school.
By age thirteen I was auditioning for the school musical because that’s what other dancers at my dance studio were doing and because why wouldn’t I if I totally sang in church from age four to four and a half, said my mom. In no time, I was being fitted for a Hot Box Girl costume. There were approximately 97 hot box girls on stage in Southern Junior High’s production of Guys & Dolls, Jr. Talk about a musical that separates the sexes; it’s right there in the title. However I didn’t really notice the separation and just went along with all the things. I was just another face in the crowd and I just happened to already own tap shoes before auditions and so I was tagged as a tap dancer and thus started the journey that lead me to tap dancing in my underwear fifteen years later for millions to see…I guess.
After my big breakout in Guys & Dolls, Jr., years passed. High school happened, viciously and painstakingly slow. Freshman year of college came.
The cast list went up for The Will Rogers Follies, a tap dance show for showgirls. Knowing my experience – tapping since I was three and performing for like ever, I knew my name would be on the list.
Um. It wasn’t there.
I looked again.
It wasn’t there.
A bunch of non-tapping ladies were certainly typed up, first name and last name in Times New Roman, size 16. But my name just, was not there.
Later I found out that during the feedback session with the director, weight and body type were discussed. Showgirls and tap dancers have certain body types and in musical theatre, we had to learn about this sort of thing so that’s why casting in college would be super specific and “just like the real world.”
Suuuuuuper not aware that I was too big to be cast in the tap dance musical that I had studied, listened to, and prepared for during my first semester. Suuuuuuuper not aware that as a woman, my size mattered – not my talent or my work ethic.
It sort of shaped the next nine years for me. I mean that’s when Weight Watchers became the most significant relationship in my life, and when I started dating really bad, bad, just baaaaad men, but I still wasn’t aware that it was because I was a confused and broken woman with low self-esteem and body issues.
I just thought that I was an outcast with an amazing skill for failing. Which is of course, an oxymoron in itself.
And so I don’t know that I was aware that women could be so strong and speak up and change things. I honestly just wasn’t paying attention.
I was very caught up in my own little world. I was getting by, but I wasn’t proud of who I was. I was fat, a dancer, and a failure. And I don’t even know that I was that embarrassed by these things so much as I just felt that they defined me. Like that’s just who I was now. A fat failed dancer.
When I was younger, I never identified as any of these things. I was just a kid that thought I was a kid who did a lot of different things.
Something changed in my twenties that caused me to believe that I was only what I could describe myself as – a fat failed dancer – nothing more.
And because of my lack of awareness of the world around me, I didn’t know that any of those things could be used to my advantage, or that any of those things were the reason that I was put on this planet.
Until June 17th, 2013.
When I published my first blog post about eating disorders and weight struggles in the showgirl, show business, show-me-what-your-body-looks-like world that I’ve been living in since my freshman year of college, I realized I had unleashed something larger than myself. When my voice went viral via the internet, I realized that the only person who could speak on these issues was a woman who had been there and experienced it.
Specifically, a woman like me.
It took me 26 years to realize that being a woman is a very big deal, and it is only now, in my 27th year on earth, that I realize how proud I am to be different.
Yes. I said proud. Proud to be different. Proud to be a farmgirl and a girly dancer. Proud to be a fucking curvy, sexy, loud, outspoken woman.
Because of this.
There are certain impacts that women can make in this world that would not be as powerful if done by men.
For instance, Roar. A man stripping down to his underwear and peeling off masking taped words of “fat” and “cellulite” on areas of the body that women’s magazines label “flawed” and “troubling”, would not have the same affect on the human race as a woman who actually bares those “flawed” and “troubling” areas doing the same thing.
A man teaching young girls how to hold themselves in dance class and embrace what it’s like to dance as a female, is not the same as a female dancer – who can be a female role model for the young girls for a lifetime – teaching those exact same things.
A letter to a (maybe) daughter from a mother’s point of view is an entirely different letter than what her potential daddy might write. Not in a good way or a bad way, just an insanely different way.
And these things are what I choose to see if we must be labeled as different.
I don’t have time to sit here and focus on why men have it easier in show business. Or why I, a female, got banned on Facebook for sharing The Militant Baker’s Expose project but I’ve had men with their balls as their profile picture try to friend me after Roar went viral with no repercussions.
We could sit here and make lists of the differences and inequalities between men and women and grow old and gray as we run out of paper and continue to list them on our fingers.
Or we could stand up proudly, as women, and own what we can do.
Which is influence the young women, and men, of the next generation.
Which is continue to participate in movements that mean something to us even when they aren’t necessarily well-liked or easy to participate in.
Which is to set a great example for our children and students by keeping the smack talk about our bodies at bay and owning our strength, intuition, and compassion.
And to stand up tall and be proud to be a human being who also has the pleasure of being a woman at the same time, and owning whatever that means to us.
I don’t know that I was ever proud to be a woman until I realized what an incredible opportunity it is.
But hey sister, better late than never, I’m coming to find.
I will continue to use my body and my voice to raise awareness on the issues that matter to me. And that includes every venue possible. From the internet to the dance studio to the jungle in Hawaii where I will change the way women think about their bodies to my home in Pennsylvania when I explain to my grandmother what body love is.
As a woman, I have a body and a gift that could be looked at as objective and outspoken, and in my opinion – that’s the best fucking part. I see that oppression and that misogyny my dearest world, and I challenge you to a duel where you cannot begin to be prepared for the things in my toolbox that will cut you down to size.
Today I proudly say, yea, I’m a woman. And you better watch out if you don’t think that’s a big deal, because when you least suspect it, I will show up for myself, and others, and speak with a voice made up of thousands.
The discovery of my feminine pride has been a huge stepping stone for me, and I wish it for everyone. Everyone.
And I just want to remind all the women out there who have lost their pride, or have struggled with their feminism, or are battling something hard and fierce, that “well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Girlfriend, you are so brave that you might not even know what you are capable of until you try it. But when you’re ready to, I know a hundred women who will be right there with you saying, “let’s do this shit.”
*This article is in no way dismissing feminism, dismissing the impact men have on this world, or dismissing the fact that there are women in all parts of the world struggling with issues that are way more dangerous than being a showgirl in a Broadway musical. I also do not dismiss the fact that show business’s version of “fat” is very different than what the rest of the world sees as “fat”, which I realize is controversial in itself. These are my personal struggles and personal discoveries as a woman in show business and also as an advocate for the body love movement. Everything is relative in this life, and I did not write this piece to minimize women’s issues in any way. May women everywhere benefit from one more woman stepping into her power and owning everything that she is – I am proud to be an empowered woman today and every day and I wish it for everyone.
My dearest daughter,
I’m writing this to you at age 27, at which point I still don’t know how to change a diaper.
And I have to tell you right away, I live in a world where planes crash unexpectedly, and love doesn’t always win, and I eat pesticides for breakfast. My neighbors fight when they’re drunk and my friends have cancer and twelve-year-old students sell pot out of their lockers at school. I’m sorry darling, but this world is no place for a child.
I’m looking at a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the kitchen table that your potential daddy bought me three days ago and they’re wilted because I forgot to change the water. The sink is dirty and the recycling bin smells like sour milk and Coca-Cola. My home is no place for a child to grow.
But goodness it would be so gorgeous to meet you. See, I know what your room colors will be, and I know your middle name. I know what font I’ll use on your birth announcement and I know you’ll be loved by more people than you’ll have time to meet. I just don’t know if we should, darling…
Because I don’t know how to change a diaper and planes are crashing down all around us and I just don’t know if I’ll remember to change the water in the flowers and sleep enough and pick you up from soccer practice and that’s so terrifying. I just don’t know if we should meet like this.
I mean, I do know that we would bake chocolate messes together and I would never make you eat soggy cereal.
I certainly know that you will have curly hair, because my mommy and daddy have curly hair, and so did their mommies and daddies, and four generations later, not a one of us knows how to manage it. So of course I will teach you very young how to look in the mirror and love all the tresses that are out of place. I will stop at nothing to make you see a strong little girl with beautiful wild hair instead of a weak little girl with hair made for teasing.
Oh darling, I think I would compliment you every day. Maybe 67 times in a row one morning. Maybe just once before you drift off to sleep.
I think I would let you give me manicures and always let you pick the color. Chartreuse and old lady pink and electric blue. Anything you want.
I think I would put you in tap shoes before you could walk, but then I would fear that you would love it and that you would end up like me.
And you see darling, that’s really why I know we shouldn’t meet. Because I’ve made such a mess. Such a mess that I don’t want you to see or feel or crawl inside. Little girls shouldn’t grow up in their mommy’s messes. I have years of cleaning and sorting and scrubbing to do before my life will ever be good enough for you to walk around inside it.
See darling, I got pushed down the stairs in elementary school by a boy who always made fun of me for liking school. And so that’s when I stopped liking school.
I got teased for my big butt and my big hair from seventh grade on up. That’s when I started hating my body and hiding my hair under tight ponytail holders and scores of bobby pins. How could I possibly allow you into this world if there’s even the smallest chance you would have to endure this too?
I was told I was too chunky to play Kathy in Singin’ In The Rain (which is a movie you and I would watch over and over and over until Gene Kelly would be the only man you’d ever think was good enough for you) and because I had tap shoes on at age three, I always thought I’d be in Singin’ In The Rain. I didn’t know that someone could tell me no just because of what I looked like.
And my beautiful young daughter, that’s why I stopped eating.
I stopped eating so often that I would get really hungry. And when my mommy and daddy weren’t around, I would eat everything I could find to make sure I wasn’t hungry anymore. Hours of candy and toast with jelly and marshmallow fluff. Oreos and peanut butter and cheese on Ritz crackers. Things that I would be scared to bring in the house now. Things that I would be scared to introduce you to.
I’m sure that I would let you eat whatever you want, when you want to eat it because I would never want you to end up like me. Yes, I’m sure of it. We would eat when you want, what you want, how you want, so that you feel that food is abundant and available and never forbidden. You can eat anything at all and I will never say no. Unless it’s McDonald’s. Or non-organic lettuce. Or Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches.
I think I wouldn’t make dessert too often so you don’t get hooked like I did even though the recipe for chocolate cake from your great-grandmother will blow your mind on every birthday that you have. I think I would teach you how fun it is to walk, to play, to swim, to shoot hoops. I think I will always buy you clothes that will fit you and make you feel comfortable. I think I won’t keep any fashion magazines in the house. I think I will never insult myself in front of you so that you don’t think that it is something women do.
I think I would make a vow to never talk badly about myself in front of you. To never insult my body or my hair or my choices in front of you. But surely I’ll slip one day and you’ll learn that women are supposed to insult themselves and you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your life because of my bad decisions.
And while I’m thinking of it, I mean I think that I would always tell you how beautiful you are, but what if one day I forgot? What if that one day was the day the boy at school told you how ugly and fat you are and pushed you down the stairs? And what if I was too busy having a parent teacher conference later that day to remind you again of how wonderfully beautifully gorgeous you are? That’s when I would start to fail.
I would start failing and never stop. Just like I start eating and never stop. I just would never stop failing and how could you ever forgive me for failing you?
See darling, it just isn’t logical for us to meet.
Oh it’s true, I know we would have such fun shopping for mascara when you’re 40 and I finally let you put makeup on those beautiful long eyelashes you inherited from your grandmother. And I know we would tease your daddy about how little hair he has and we would re-decorate your room all leopard print and we would, of course, watch crime shows together right before bed.
But what if we didn’t? What if I was so bad at being your mother that you forgot all about me?
And what if we never got to know each other, and you ate soggy cereal and thought that I didn’t care, and you started to hate what you see in the mirror because I can’t get through to you in time to convince you that you’re perfect?
This is why we can’t meet, darling. Because the world is a terrible place and there will be drugs in the locker next to yours and your science teacher might like kiddy porn and the school lunches are made with terrible preservatives and you might not get the lead in the school play and a football player might break your heart or worse and why would I want to put you through that?
Your twenties will consist of credit card debt and student loans and dead end jobs and terrible men and multiple roach-infested apartments and you’ll push me away even though I want to help you and I won’t know where you are in the middle of the night or if you’re driving drunk or if you’re sleeping in a ditch on the side of the highway. I won’t know and then I can’t keep you safe and that’s my job and so many times in my life I didn’t get a job because of circumstances out of my control and this time I got a job that I really really wanted but it turns out I’m simply not cut out for it because I’m a terrible mother and I don’t know where you are and you’re 28 years old and I can’t protect you and I’ve failed.
I want to tell you darling, that if I’ve learned anything in my 27 years on this earth, it’s that no one else can make you happy unless you’re already happy inside. Isn’t that the funniest thing? I never would have thought it to be true until I got older and started thinking about the first time you and I would meet. See, where ever you are, there you are, yes, and if you’re not happy inside your own sweet body, how can you be happy if the circumstances around you continue to change? You must find the inner peace, the inner strength, the inner love within yourself before you can go around giving away all your peace and love to anybody else. You cannot rely on someone else to complete you, or make you happy, or heal your sadness. And goodness darling, I guess that means I can’t rely on you to complete me, or make me happy, or heal my sadness. That would be quite a job for you in all your tinyness and I’m smart enough to know that it just wouldn’t be fair.
And of course, of course, I know that I could bring you into this world and love the shit out of you, love you and do everything I can to make you happy, but when you leave me at 18, at 28, at 40, I’ll revert right back to my 27-year-old self who wasn’t quite happy inside before you came along. And without you I’ll fail miserably at managing my own life, facing my own fears, loving my own body that once housed you. And I can’t come to you for help because you’ll be raising your own tiny thing, and although I’ll want to give you advice and say, “No! Don’t have her, don’t do it, spend your life alone, tap dancing, avoiding food, figuring out how to be happy”, you’ll hate me for my advice and of course I’ll glue my lips shut and stay in the car while you register for strollers and bouncy chairs.
No, I simply cannot have you, because I know how happy you would make me and I think that I might smother you with compliments and hair barettes. I think that I might brag about my professional manicurist who paints my nails chartreuse and old lady pink and electric blue and I think it would bring me great joy to brag. I think that I would teach you to tap dance in a little studio I’d have your daddy build for you with mirrors and lavender paint. I think that you would make the best mother’s day gifts. I think you would be able to change the world if you wanted to.
And what I wish for you darling, whether we meet or not, is that you find beauty in yourself regardless of what anyone else tells you. What I wish for you, is to follow your heart even when TV and boys and magazines tell you otherwise. What I wish for you, is that when you’re 27, you actually know what you want, and you don’t feel like a nomad with too many ideas that you don’t have the funds to carry out.
Most of all, I wish for you to forgive me for everything I’m probably not going to do. Because if you can forgive me now for all the lunches I forget to pack, or the shoelaces I forget to buy, or the rules I’m going to give you to keep you safe, you’ll have a much happier life and you won’t need as much therapy as I did when I was your age, my love.
Forgive me now for the mistakes I will make, and the things I will say in the heat of the moment, and the things I will never say because I’m too scared to see your eyes well up when I say them. Forgive me for fighting with your father about your sweetheart neck prom dress, your grades, your outfit choices in 7th grade.
I don’t ask for forgiveness for my sake. I can live with or without it. But you can’t.
Forgive me for your sake. Forgive me so that you don’t carry anger on your shoulders like a backpack full of remorse. Forgive me so you don’t find yourself writing a letter like this one day to a daughter you’re too scared to meet. Forgive me so that you can learn from my mistakes.
Oh holy hell, look at me talking to you as though you’re already on your way! That wouldn’t be a good thing because I still haven’t changed the water in the flowers and I still haven’t quite figured out how to stop eating all the chocolate chips.
You know, your potential father always tells me to make my decisions based in love, never fear. Easier said than done, am I right? Yes, you’ll find he’s wise. Unfortunately, he makes so much sense sometimes that it drives me bonkers. But I mean seriously, I’m writing you this letter because I love you, and I’m pretty sure that we shouldn’t meet because I love you so much that I cannot bear to let you experience any pain or heartbreak or disappointment.
Which I suppose your potential father would say is actually a letter based in fear.
Which I suppose means I’ve made a mess in my head again and I won’t have time to sort it out until I get home from work on Friday and finish doing all the dishes I left from the week of stale sandwiches and bowls of sickening ice cream.
I suppose at the bottom of the sink I’ll find a blurry reflection of myself, huddled over the dirty sponge in a mess of fear and sadness that I am choosing not to meet you because I love you too much.
I suppose in my reflection I’ll see a face that would very much look like yours and cheeks that once got pinched by a loving aunt and eyelashes that I inherited from your grandmother.
I suppose I would want you to experience that loving pinch from your aunt and your grandmother in every sense of who she is and I suppose I would want all those people that I talked about to meet you and love you and join me in telling you how fucking amazing you are.
And I suppose that your potential daddy is right. There are a million and one reasons to avoid meeting you, based in fear.
The only reason, and I mean the ONLY reason I would say it’s acceptable for us to even consider meeting, is love.
So, we’ll see darling. I’m not saying it’s a yes. I’m saying that it’s a maybe. Don’t argue with me young lady, I said I’ll think about it. I have some cleaning up to do and some soul sorting and some flower water to change and the list goes on but I’m overwhelmed so I’ll stick with my maybe. And until I am in the right mind to make a decision, I ask your forgiveness for what happens between now and that potential meeting.
Because I love you and I already love my chartreuse manicure and your tiny feet and your laugh and it hurts my heart like crazy to think this world is too messy to keep me from ever hearing your laugh but out of fear, I must protect you from it and thus the cycle starts all over again and I’m so confused about what I want and what you might want and what sort of relationship we can even have in such a place where the planes are always crashing down.
But I would love the fucking shit out of you. So I’ll keep thinking on it.
You room colors would be baby turquoise and rich plum and your middle name would be my grandmother’s – Janet.
Holy shit darling, I love you more than you will ever comprehend.
*I wrote this on behalf of the inner monologue that goes on inside my head when I see a baby at the diner, on behalf of all women who don’t know what they want, and on behalf of my girlfriends who voice fears like mine when we stay up late drinking wine and wondering if we’re doing it all wrong. This letter is my voice paired with hundreds of others.
I totally get it. It’s a weird thing to bring up. Addiction. Eating disorders. Depression.
But enough with the tiptoes.
It takes balls to open up about such personal and damaging issues. Those of us who have been diagnosed or have been to rehab or who are in therapy are struggling to keep our head above water sometimes. But that doesn’t mean the whole process is a sad, tragic, terrible thing. Out of disaster can come beauty. Out of heartbreak can come freedom. And if we are lucky to have friends that stick by us in every step of the transformation, then there will come times to laugh and to reminisce and to celebrate.
Friendship is about sticking out the bad and rejoicing over the good and being there for each other even when nothing makes sense and the tissue box is empty. I know that my friends know and believe this as strongly as I do, but I have experienced a lot of tiptoeing around the topic of my binge-eating disorder since I’ve been home this summer. Naturally, New York City is where the majority of my friends are based, and where many of my bad habits formed, but my compulsive and unhealthy eating habits started long before I boarded the Bieber Bus to Port Authority. My issues started at my dance studio in Pennsylvania, and in high school, and although there are many factors that caused my issues to accelerate when I was young, my eating disorder is not anyone’s fault. It’s everyone’s fault and it’s society’s fault and it’s my fault and it’s nobody’s fault all at the same time. But it’s not YOUR fault. And that’s why I want to raise awareness on how to keep friendship as strong and mighty as it was before the eating disorder, before the addiction, before the “coming out”, before it was all real and gross and honest and nitty and gritty and on the table for all to see.
I hate preaching, and I hate speaking for a group of people. These thoughts I offer you are based on my personal experience and my personal journey. But I can bet on my pantry of Reese’s Oreos that some of your friends are experiencing the same things that I am on their journey to recovery and self-discovery. I speak for myself, but as always, I speak for all of us. So please take a deep breath in and let out an audible sigh of relief. We can move forward and frolick and eat and laugh and hail cabs at 4am just like we used to – just with a little more awareness.
After all, awareness is the salt of life. You can live without it, but it makes almost everything better.
1) To start, I know that it’s hard to understand what food addiction even is. Addiction is rarely on purpose, and I look at it as a coping mechanism that gets out of hand. It’s an unfortunate sickness that affects millions of people. Put simply, most people find themselves addicted to things that they started using occasionally to fill a void, or to distract from pain, or to find comfort. These occasional habits escalate and become the only way the addict knows how to deal with stress, depression, or anger. Stress-eating or emotional eating are common terms associated with food addiction because they are habits that escalate beyond the addict’s control. Food addiction and eating disorders are often very intertwined. In my case, they go hand in hand. Other times, it’s the addiction to avoiding food that becomes the issue.
Food addiction becomes a little tricky once the recovery process begins. First of all, it’s food addiction. It’s not meth. Although addiction is addiction is addiction, people can’t just give up food cold turkey – it’s our fuel and life source. Most food addicts have to completely re-learn how to listen to the hunger signals that we’ve ignored for so long. Either we’ve been dieting for so many years that we learned long ago to only eat certain things at certain times, or we eat when we’re emotional and struggling. For me, it was a combo of both. Sometimes, I would end up eating eight meals in one day. Sometimes, I didn’t eat a single one. Regardless, what I was eating and when I was eating it has had nothing to do with actual hunger for over a decade. Overcoming a compulsive eating habit of any sort requires a trust in my body that I somehow lost in the madness long ago.
2) It is completely okay if you do not understand what binge eating disorder is. The Renfrew Center defines it as this:
“People with binge eating disorder suffer from episodes of uncontrolled eating or bingeing followed by periods of guilt and depression. A binge is marked by the consumption of large amounts of food, sometimes accompanied by a pressured, “frenzied” feeling. Frequently, a compulsive overeater continues to eat even after she becomes uncomfortably full. Those identified as having Binge Eating Disorder generally do not purge. Although many who meet the criteria for this category are larger than average, many are of average size and weight.
Binge eating can lead to serious medical problems including high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and depression.”
This list of symptoms (also from The Renfrew Center) was the story of my life for my entire professional performing career, long before I went off to college for musical theatre.
- Eat large amounts of food when not physically hungry.
- Eat much more rapidly than normal.
- Eat until the point of feeling uncomfortably full.
- Often eat alone because of shame or embarrassment.
- Have feelings of depression, disgust or guilt after eating.
- Have a history of marked weight fluctuations
A lot of compulsive eaters go through periods of dieting and extreme eating limitations only to then “fail” at these impossible rules, which is when the real danger of bingeing comes into play. Bingeing alone, stealing food, and stuffing my face with it faster than I could swallow were very common habits in my late teens and early twenties. Binge eating disorder is the reason that I have gained and lost over 700 pounds in my lifetime. I share this with you so that if you share these symptoms, or know someone who does, that anyone who needs it can get help.
Moving on to more social matters…
3) Ignoring the fact that I was diagnosed with an eating disorder last May, was severely depressed, moved to Hawaii, fell in love, haven’t auditioned in a year, started teaching dance, and am forty pounds heavier than when I left, is awkward for everyone. Especially if we are extremely close, you have seen me eat an entire ice cream cake, and/or you’ve seen that beautiful yellow purse that I ruined by carrying around a jar of Nutella with me for all of audition season in 2012. For some people, addiction and eating disorders are extremely private and a very sensitive subject. I on the other hand have been blogging about it for over a year.
If we are friends, and if we have been friends for as long as some of us have been friends, let’s just get it out in the open. Ask me the questions that you want to ask. Ask me how I would like to deal with it in our friendship. Ask me if there’s anything that’s too personal (with me? impossible) and ask me what I need from you in terms of support.
I’m speaking for myself of course, but if you are close friends with someone who is dealing with an eating disorder or an addiction and they’ve filled you in on their struggles, my suggestion is to ask them what they need from you. Maybe all they need is to know that you’re there when they have a funny story about rehab. It’s not all tears all the time, believe it or not. Things come up in therapy that you just have to laugh at, once you’re done crying over them. Friendship is friendship is friendship. Don’t let the eating disorder or the fear of saying the wrong thing come between you.
4) Asking me to lunch is not the same as asking a recovering alcoholic for a drink. Again, once someone quits drinking, they can survive without it for the rest of their life once they overcome their addiction to alcohol through rehab and counseling. Although food is my drug, I gotta eat sometime, or we’re gonna have a new issue to work out. There’s no need to feel weird or uncomfortable when you’re asking me to dinner. You can even suggest a restaurant we used to frequent. It’s okay. You won’t throw me into relapse. None of this ever was, or ever will be, your fault, and I don’t want you to fear saying or suggesting the wrong thing. Ever.
5) Asking me to make the decision where to eat, personally, is sometimes too stressful, mainly because I’ve been away
from NYC for a year and there’s 45 billion restaurants to choose from and I get overwhelmed just picking which 99 cent pizza place to order from. As you can see, I get very overwhelmed when I have too many choices. So suggest away. I appreciate it. No need to tip toe.
6) It’s possible that something about a particular restaurant (or food truck, or bakery, or coffeeshop) will trigger something in me, which is a) very important for me to observe and b) going to happen for the rest of my life and something that I have to continue to deal with on my journey. That trigger is not normally about how they give you two pieces of chicken parm instead of one, or about how rich the chocolate soufflé is. The trigger is not about the actual food. The trigger is the memory associated with the place you may suggest. Maybe it’s the place we ended up after Stallion broke up with me, or the place where we celebrated my first off-Broadway gig. The trigger could be a devastating memory or a happy memory, but it’s important for me to experience the trigger and then feel the emotions that come up instead of eating to make them go away.
7) I’m still deciphering what it’s like to eat for pleasure and what it’s like to eat my feelings. This may seem like an insane concept, but I deal with it every day. Obviously, I’m known for my obsession with Nutella.
I used to eat jars of Nutella when things got really bad, and unfortunately, I still associate Nutella with pain, sadness, and heartbreak. I love the taste of Nutella, but sometimes it’s hard for me to know when I eat it for pleasure or eat it for comfort. The same applies to Numero 28 pizza and Two Little Red Hens Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes and the pistachio tart at Le Pain. I overthink the process at this point.
On one hand, I’m in New York City for a limited amount of time, and leaving the city without spending time at my favorite bakeries and coffeeshops makes no sense to me. Sometimes, I can walk in to Amy’s Bread with a friend and know exactly what I want, and I order exactly what I want because it tastes good, and eating can be pleasurable, and there’s no harm in that if it’s every once and a while. On the other hand, I used to do this multiple times a day when I wasn’t hungry, when I needed copious amounts of sugar to calm me down and keep me company in times of stress, worry, or self-doubt. So even though I know when I walk into Schmackary’s with Bronson that there’s nothing wrong with getting a cookie for the sheer enjoyment and pleasure that comes along with it, I do start to second guess myself since I used to eat that S’mores cookie to deal with a bad day.
This is a really great place to be in my recovery, and things could be a lot worse, but this might help explain why I don’t always know what I want to eat when you ask me, or why I say no to our old haunts. Sometimes, I just don’t really crave that pie right now. Maybe, I never really did, but it was there in times of sorrow and it helped me deal. Maybe I’ll never crave it again. And that wouldn’t be bad or good, it would just be another learning lesson for me to take in.
8) You don’t have to filter yourself around me. It’s more awkward to listen to you talk in circles to avoid sensitive topics than it is if you just fill me in on your life regardless of what it entails. First of all, I’m not going to diagnose you with an eating disorder just because you only ordered coffee on our lunch date. Does it break my heart when you tell me you can’t eat this week because Spamalot auditions are on Friday? Absolutely. Do I understand and empathize with you? More than you will ever, ever, EVER know. It might be a sensitive subject that I left the business (for now) because I couldn’t maintain a small enough body size (without going to extreme measures) to continue on the same career path that I started. But you’re still in the business, and you have to deal with these issues, and maybe they don’t affect you the same way they affected me.
The same applies for the opposite end of the spectrum. If it comes up that you got cut from an audition because your body wasn’t right, or if it comes up that your director asked you to lose fifteen pounds before rehearsals, I’m not going to preach at you to leave the business. I know what showgirls have to look like. I know what baseball players have to look like. Drink your protein powder and run your miles and just do you. Please my darling, don’t avoid any topics of conversation because of me. Everyone has a different journey. Mine is mine and yours is yours and although I’m here for you if you are concerned about your lifestyle and want to ask advice or questions, I’m not trying to be your therapist or your doctor or your mom. We can talk story just like we always have. The bottom line is, you shouldn’t have to filter yourself around me.
What I’m saying, above all, is that it’s okay to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room sitting across the table from us at Veneiro’s. An eating disorder is now present in my day to day life and it’s going to be a part of my journey forever. That’s not a morbid thing, it’s just a thing. It’s forever a part of my medical history and my emotional development and although I refuse to let it define me, it is a part of me. And as a friend, I would rather you acknowledge this and remind me of how far I’ve come when I’m feeling discouraged, than ignore it completely and pretend that everything is fine when it’s not.
Friend, I want you to know that my life up until this point has been a twisted path lined with chocolate covered obstacles and hidden speakers blasting showtunes. Yes, I’ve tripped and I’ve scraped my knees on my travels, but I’ve also belted along with the music and learned that 90% cacao is disgusting. I’ve learned and I’ve grown and I’ve fallen and I’ve always found my way back onto my feet even if my clothing is forever stained with sweat, tears, and melted ice cream. Your path might be more well-paved than mine, or you might have said “fuck it” to the rocky road ahead of you and just started bulldozing the forest to your left. If we have been friends this long, it doesn’t matter what our paths look like, as long as they intersect when we need them to. You don’t have to walk a mile in my shoes to understand what I’m going through – just tie your own real tight and let’s take a walk together. No filters, no sidestepping, and for goodness sake, no tiptoes.
*If you or someone you know thinks they may be suffering from food addiction or disordered eating, speak to your doctor or family member. Please visit The Renfrew Center’s “Do I Have An Eating Disorder” page if you want to do some private research before seeking help. And as always, I’m always here to answer questions at email@example.com.
I’m here. I’m in New York. My thighs are chafed, my backpack straps are saturated in sweat, and I had a $23 salad for lunch yesterday. I’m back. And apparently, I’m on island time.
I stood in tap class on Tuesday watching the eager young college grads, decked in stylish leotards and tap skirts, frantically try to figure out what Randy Skinner (most well known for his 42nd Street choreography on Broadway) was saying in his soft voice while a few of us veterans stood in the back hugging each other and delighting in the random encounters that occur in this city when we least expect them.
My friend Robert came up to me halfway through class and said, “Girl, you’re on Hawaii time.”
“What does that mean?!” I joked.
He smiled. “Honey, I just got back from a month in Puerto Rico. When you return from a laid back place, you carry an easy energy that can affect the whole room. I can see it in you. You’re just here for the party. You ain’t tryin’ to impress nobody anymore.”
What an incredible way of putting it. Robert was 2000% correct. I’d gone to Randy’s class for years in my tap skirt and my magenta halter top leotard, nervous that he could see me struggle or that I wasn’t thin enough to be one of his girls. Years of knowing that the class wasn’t an audition but still treating it that way.
To stand there in my larger-than-it’s-ever-been body and enjoy the class for what it was, in my capri pants and my tank top, was a goshdamn relief. I didn’t “try” once. I just took class. I barely even looked in the mirror – I was too busy playing and laughing with my friend Topher who was also there to enjoy class on his birthday. Neither of us felt like “trying” or “working” or “auditioning”. We were just there because Randy gives a really excellent tap class.
Which brings me to my ultimate point. If you need a break from being a New Yorker, you can take one – while living in New York. Here is how, I think, I’m avoiding being a New Yorker while in New York this summer.
1) Stop trying so damn hard. I mean, it’s the culture. It’s what we do. We try to walk faster, we try to work harder, we try to give up gluten, we try to look better, we try to get it (whatever “it” is) faster than the next person. But like, where’s it gonna get us? I mean, don’t be late for work or anything but stop trying so damn hard. At the end of the day, will your sprint-life moves through the crowd on 34th Street really bring you a richer life? I know. Easy for me to say. I don’t live here right now, I’m just frolicking through Central Park in my tap shoes. I know. I don’t have to try. But I’m telling you because all I used to do was try. I would book it from one end of Manhattan to another with fifteen minutes to spare, not without using many profanities for each and every tourist that got in my way, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere any more special than you, other than almost in the looney bin.
Lululemon has a quote on all of their shopping bags that has always stuck with me. It’s something like, “replace the words ‘wish’, ‘should’, and ‘try’, with ‘I will”. I also say, replace the word “try” with “do”, or “enjoy”, or “live”. Because you know, it was just so interesting to take tap class this week with an acclaimed Broadway choreographer and not try for anything – but just simply watch and learn. You know, like what you’re supposed to do when you take a class. It was amazing last night to take Shrink Session with Olivia and not try – but just simply to move. Which is really what exercise is all about isn’t it? To move your body. All this burning calories and toning up and losing fat came along with magazines and diet books but if we go back to ancient times, people moved their body for joy, and for endorphins, and for celebration. An exercise class can be just those things if we stop reading Women’s Health all the time. Just consider it. Because I’m saying that all this “trying” I’ve done over the past eight years has given me the ability to walk very fast and swear very loudly, but other than that, I don’t have much to show for it.
2) Accept the heat. I swear the more we complain about it, the bigger the pool of sweat in our cleavage becomes. It’s summer. It’s New York. The heat sits on the streets like a protective mother hen sitting on her eggs. And aye aye aye, hens are known to sit for a while. Be thankful for the days the hen gets up and we gain a breezy day with cloud cover. Have a moment where you accept Mother Nature and her moods. Try to wear clothing that does not touch your body whatsoever. Cold showers seventeen times a day. No soup. Seriously why are you eating chili? No underwires. Comfortable flip-flops. Hair up. This is how I’ve dealt with extreme humidity, constant sweating, and curly hair adventures for the past year. At some point, we have to find the gratitude in the situation. After all, didn’t y’all just go through a polar vortex or some shit?
3) Walk everywhere. As Restore Your Roar superstar Olivia would say, “wwwwwhat?” Yes. I walk everywhere whenever possible. I am going to sweat whether I stand underground at West 4th waiting for the F or if I walk those 24 blocks, so why not walk in the open air with the pooping dogs and the screaming old ladies? Much more visual stimulation and for the same amount of sweat, I get to walk by the very air-conditioned GAP and/or Balducci’s and/or how much do we love the shops at Columbus Circle this time of year. It’s not even about saving subway fare as much as it’s about spending as little time underground as possible. It’s the best thing you can do for your well-being this summer, I swear to Buddha.
4) Make coffee at home. Do you know how many messages I’ve received from readers saying that $975 is out of the budget and there’s no way they can come to Restore Your Roar in Hawaii? When Olivia and I came up with the hard costs that we needed to cover to make the retreat happen, I was determined to keep it under a thousand dollars. Because I knew, that in just one week in New York City, I can easily spend $100 on Starbucks and two lunches at Whole Foods. I knew, that if I was living here, and I wanted to go to Hawaii, (which last year at this time, I did), that if I made my coffee at home and packed my own hummus and carrots six days out of seven, that I could save $900 in nine weeks.
Restore Your Roar is six months away. Imagine the money we can all save if we skip the morning latte. I mean this isn’t news, people have been writing about skipping the morning macchiatto for years, but when you have a REASON, a WANT, a NEED, or a GOAL that you’re working towards, making the coffee at home seems more important. It carries more weight because you know that it’s money saved, which equals money spent on a trip that you deserve and have worked hard for. You can literally GIVE yourself money if you really want to. This coming from the woman who has spent over $40,000 (not an exaggeration) in binge-eating and social-eating habits in just the past four years, let me tell you. If you want to make that money stay in your savings for a trip to Hawaii to change your life, you can do it. I am living proof.
5) Quit buying what you’re supposed to. Now maybe I’m absolutely biased, but darling, I have so many sundresses from Urban Outfitters that are gathering dust in my closet in Hawaii that I just HAD TO HAVE because they have a bow on them or because they are “my colors” or because they are “so me”. Funny how every single season, a new slew of dresses comes out at H&M that are just SO ME. These dusty dresses aren’t even going out on the town anytime soon because they were impulse buys and they quite simply just do not cover my ass. A short sundress on you is a long shirt on me. My thighs rub together painfully when I wear a dress in this city and I have to hold it down when I walk over the grates and so unless I hold a dinner party in a breezeless room, these dresses have no opportunity to dance or twirl in public anytime soon.
If I could take all of these dresses back to the stores from which they came, I’m sure I’d have at least $1500 on my hands and that’s just since 2012 when I tried to turn my binge-eating habit into a binge-shopping habit. Not only did that little trade not work the way it was supposed to, but I’ve always had an obsession with buying clothes in the size I WANT to be rather than the size that I ACTUALLY AM and so I am the lucky owner of four billion sundresses in a size four or six. If you’d like to raid my closet, you’re more than welcome to join me in Hawaii this coming year and I’ll send you home with anything you might want to take along but until then, quit buying those dresses if you’re never going to wear them. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to abide by fashion rules. Sorry Carrie Bradshaw’s, but it’s what I believe. I wore Lululemon Groove Shorts and a baggy tee that said “Normal Is Boring” all day long yesterday, even to a fancy lunch at The Smith, (sorry about that KM), and it’s the most comfortable I’ve been in a New York summer since 2007.
Wear what you need to. Don’t buy what you won’t wear – even if it is SO TOTALLY YOU. And even though this topic needs a blog post all it’s own, the greatest piece of advice I can ever give you is to buy clothes in your size. Your current size. You know it never works to buy a dress two sizes down. You and I both know it makes you feel like shit eternally. Eternal shit. If you are legit a size 12 right now, there is nothing wrong with buying a damn sexy shirt that is a size 12 and looks perfect on your body. If you’re gonna spend the money, buy something that you can wear RIGHT NOW. You never know where you’re going to end up tomorrow, and it’s not mentally or emotional fair to your well-being to buy something that you can only wear if you drop twenty pounds immediately.
6) Find gratitude for New York. This is the last thing I’m going to say because it’s the most important one. Whether you moved here for a job or you moved here for an adventure, there has got to be something here that you appreciate. For me, my closest friends and family live right here in these five boroughs, or in a neighboring state. But for years I hated everything about the city. The audition buildings and the tourists and the lack of open space and the expensive groceries. Now, living 5,000 miles away, I long for the $23 salads and the hour long commutes to my friend’s Brooklyn loft. Once you move away, those commutes to Brooklyn become a lot longer. There’s no dollar pizza or 24-hour Duane Reade or Billy Porter sightings in Hawaii. There’s no Broadway Bares or Al Blackstone classes or Po-ta-topia. We have luscious jungle and crystal clear water and beautiful men but my goodness do I appreciate even the smallest things in New York now that I’m here soaking as much of it up as I can before I head back west. There’s probably a reason why you are here right now, and if you really can’t remember why that is, then it might be time to move on, but take it from me – cherish everything about the city now, because you have no idea how much you will miss the little things once you have moved on. I know the trek to Astoria sucks if you live in Washington Heights but like, do it anyway. The 45 minute M60 trip has nothing on an 11 hour plane ride.
Now pardon me while enjoy my eighth cup of coffee with perfect New York tap water and the sound of sirens in my dear friend Ruthie’s downtown apartment. It’s good to be home.
One thing I do know is that every word that comes out of our mouths goes straight into the universe. We can never take it back. What’s said has been said and it’s something we can never undo. Kind of fucking scary if you really think about it.
I’ve destroyed more relationships, friendships, and did I mention relationships? with my sharp tongue and word vomit than I probably even realize.
But I never realized, until recently, that I also destroy myself with that same word vomit.
Words are powerful things. Negative words are really powerful. But the good news is, so are positive ones.
So where does that leave us? Well, I’m thinking, if we catch ourselves now and then, before we let our negative mantras out into the universe, we’ll take back some of our own power and turn our course towards the positive. Towards the hopeful. Towards the light. Here are five phrases I’d like to take out of my vocabulary, from here on out.
1.) I should. You should. We should. He should. My mom should. Should.
My friend Melissa told me to cut the word “should” out of my vocabulary on July 2nd, 2012. I remember the exact date because a show I was in had just closed the day before outside the city, and I had those all too familiar post-show blues. Back to the job pool. Back to the grind. Back to unemployment. Back to that comforting, yet ugly voice in the back of my head saying “you might not be good enough to work again.” So I walked to I Melissa’s on July 2nd for a few beers, and we started talking life. We weren’t even that close then, but she offered me the one piece of advice that’s stuck with me ever since – even though I constantly forget to follow it. Cut the word “should” out of your vocabulary.
We should do a lotta things. We should do laundry. We should cut our hair. We should watch the news. We should vote. We should take baths. We should be thankful. We should count our blessings. We should eat organic lettuce. Yea, we should do a lot of things. Do any of those things sound tempting to you when the word “should” is in front of them? Not really. “Should” is like a mixture between a grandmother’s scolding and a personal guilt trip (like the kind you get after lying, or eating your roommate’s Nutella) and the smell of garbage when it needs to be taken out. See? Garbage NEEDS to be taken out. “Should” is not a strong enough word for garbage. NEED is the word for stinky garbage. That shit needs to be taken care of. So why not replace “should” with words like “need”, “want”, “could”, “will”, or “try” in all the other areas of our life?
should could do laundry today, but I need a day of rest. So I’ll try to wash my jeans tomorrow, but until then, I want to rest.”
should could go to that party and network with a bunch of bigwigs, but I will have a better week if I spend some quality time with my best friend tonight and catch up on life.”
“Should” sucks. You shouldn’t do anything. You could do it. You might need to do it. But “shoulding” the task at hand isn’t going to get you anywhere closer to finishing it. Take the garbage, and the word “should”, out to the curb where it belongs.
2.) Well, it can’t get any worse.
Oh but like, it can. It can though. This week alone, I missed a phone hearing that I knew nothing about with NY State, I locked myself out of my apartment for the first time ever in my life LIKE EVER IN NINE YEARS OF LIVING ON MY OWN, my car doesn’t start, I burst into tears in front of my boss over a scheduling conflict, and I had an emotional breakdown on Friday night that lasted so long I blew snot into an entire roll of toilet paper. It rained every day in Hawai’i this week. I kept saying, “hey, it can’t get any worse.” And IT JUST KEPT GETTING WORSE. And my worst, is like not even close to being some of the world’s worst. There’s a lot worse than what my worst was this week. But it still didn’t feel great.
I think by saying “it can’t get any worse”, we are almost challenging the universe to send us more things to make us appreciate how good we really have it. Locking ourselves out of our apartment is not the worst that can happen. Instead of focusing on how terrible life is when we have no way of getting back into the house to pee, we could say to the universe, “it can only get better from here.” This is a constructive, positive affirmation we can use to reassure ourselves – because chances are, no one’s around to hug us (because we just left our apartment) and like, who’s home at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon? We better just take this moment to reassure ourselves (while we try to unlock the door with a credit card for the fourth time) that it can only get better from here. It’s almost a moment of taking back our power. We could surrender to the feeling of failure and loss with the phrase, “well, it can’t get any worse”, or we could find the gratitude in the humbling moment at hand and remember that it can only get better from here. Thinking in this manner will only help us in the end.
It might sound cheesy, but choosing to look up and notice the sunshine while we’re locked out of the house waiting for a ride to work, thanking God we didn’t leave the hair straightener on, instead of crying over the snacks we were really looking forward to later even though we don’t know how the hell we’re going to get inside to eat them, is literally a life-saving form of mind over matter. Mind over matter, dude. I’m terrible at it 99% of the time but I KNOW it’s a thing. It’s a thing that can save us all. Positive mind over negative matter will win every time if we just fucking LET it. Say it with me. No matter what has happened this morning, this week, this month, this decade, IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER FROM HERE.
3.) It’s always something.
I think maybe this has been my mantra since I’m 19. It’s a joking statement that flies out of my mouth whenever things don’t go my way. Whether I almost get run over by a car on 44th and 9th because I’m talking shit on my cell phone about my last audition and walking through traffic, or I get another letter from NY State about my unemployment claim from 2009, my mantra has always been, “it’s always something.” Because it is, right? I mean everyone’s getting engaged or pregant and I’m just over here 5,000 miles away like, I love to tap dance and hike volcanoes with my boyfriend, and every time I scroll Facebook I say to him “it’s always something.” I fight with my mom, or I get a guilt trip from a friend I haven’t caught up with in too long and I get off the phone and I mutter, “it’s always something.” My car breaks down, or more likely, I forget to get gas before work, and I’m just like, “it’s always fucking something.” The profanity makes me feel a little more in control of my sarcastic mantra, you know? Really inspiring. Because it’s ALWAYS SOMETHING.
But the more I say that, the more I realize that I’m inviting, well, something more to come along and ALWAYS be there. I’m inviting something to always happen because I’m literally stating, in a sentence, that “it is always something.” I’m stating that, out loud, literally inviting the universe to make sure there is always something. Do I deal with pain and inconvenience and hardship with humor? Absolutely. Always have. But if I can just figure out how to turn my mantra into something like “I am strong enough to handle this situation right now because I have no idea if anything else will happen to me that will require such strength and so for now I will focus on the situation at hand and get through it with my determination that’s gotten me through everything up until this point” and then figure out an appropriate acronym to tattoo it on my wrist for reminding, I think life would seem a lot more handle-able. And fun. And like, uplifting.
It’s a work in progress for me, this one, but I do know that I’ll see change in my life immediately once I stop feeling sorry for myself and calling out “it’s always something” whenever I fall down, trip, or break out in excema on my right eye. There might always be “something”, but focusing on the “somethings” instead of the “right now things” is going to cause all of us to miss out, worry too much, and totally miss the party that the three-year-olds are having in my pre-ballet class whenever I play Frozen. Seriously you guys. Enough with the “always something” pity party. It’s time to let it go. (Get it?)
4.) I don’t know.
Okay, hear me out on this one before you lecture me. “I don’t know”, has become the new “like” and “um”. Every time I have an idea, I say “I don’t know” about forty-six times before I spout out my idea as fast as possible in hopes that the person listening won’t actually be able to understand my English. My “I don’t know’s” come from a place of insecurities more often than I actually do not know something. You know what I’m saying? We do it when friends ask us to hang out. They’re like, “Let’s go to this way too expensive restaurant with mixed Yelp reviews for dinner, ya?” and inside, you’re like, “That sounds terrible”, and yet what comes out is, “I don’t know, maybe”.
Now, when friends ask me what’s next in life, I honestly say “I don’t know.” I don’t know what I want, I don’t know where I am in my journey, and I don’t know what’s next. But that doesn’t mean I have to be shy about it. Saying “I don’t know” and owning it, literally admitting that I do not know, is almost a relief. A beautiful release of admittal and fear.
I’ve learned that this is different, however, than the “I don’t know’s” I use during a brainstorming session with my Restore Your Roar partner, Olivia, or with my boss at the dance studio. Those “I don’t knows” come from a place of “this idea sounded good this morning but coming out of my mouth right now I feel like you’re totally going to think I’m so crazy”. And I think that this kind of shielding and filtering – this “I don’t know” guard we keep putting up – is holding us back from the innovation that this world so desperately needs right now.
Saying “I don’t know” because we are afraid that our idea sucks, or our decision is boring, or our words are not what another person wants to hear, is treading a dangerous track in my opinion. We mask our fear with “I don’t know” instead of just blurting out the honest facts and ideas. In reality, what is brainstorming but a place to present crazy, impossible, ridiculous ideas? Why is the “I don’t know” shield even necessary in such a session? Does that make sense? I just think we should all be aware of it. I just think crazy, impossible, and ridiculous is absolutely beautiful, and that the “I don’t know’s” taints that unique beauty. That’s all I have to say about that.
5.) I wanna do that someday.
“There are seven days in a week. Someday is not one of them.” One of my favorite quotes. Not so easy to live out when there are things like expensive flights to Thailand, work schedules, and noncommital boyfriends in the mix right? Like, Johnny, I’m not specifically talking about you, but like, your work schedule is killing me and I feel like I will never save enough money for us to go to Thailand and so like let’s save our ideas for a rainy day. Like NO. No.
My friend Mandi saved money for six months and her ass is leading elephants around Thailand RIGHT NOW. My friend Carly saved her money for four months and flew her ass to Hawai’i to visit me for nine days and we hiked through a lava tube and chanted and drank so much liquid aloha at Kona Brewing we were hula’ing in the back seat of the car ride home. There are people out there who turn their “someday’s” into “right now’s”. I still don’t know how to be one of them, but I really am interested in learning.
I know it’s not easy people. I couldn’t fly to Thailand right now – I can barely afford to buy a Thai lunch special – but I do believe there’s a difference between daydreaming and doing. I’m not exactly putting money away in a “Thailand Trip” piggy bank. I get distracted by tattoos, and new tap shoes, and tapestries for our new apartment and before I know it, I’m eating carrots and blue cheese for dinner because that’s all that’s left in the house and a trip to the grocery store is just not in the budget today.
I believe there is a WAY to make our “somedays” into plans, I just think we haven’t developed the skills to do so yet. At least I know that I haven’t. In many ways, I’m stubborn and I think I know everything and that applying for a new credit card will fix all the things. But I do know that people like my thrifty boyfriend, my elephant-loving friend Mandi, and my money-genius friend Carly have picked up on some skills over the years that have allowed them to do things I might never get to do if I don’t start asking questions and learning from them. You wanna make your somedays into right nows? Ask questions. Be humble. Be open to feeling dumb. Be open to money lectures. Be open to help. Be open to a second job. Be open to praying, and positive language, and cutting the word “should” out of your diet. Sorry, did I say diet? I meant vocabulary. It’s just engrained in me to have “should” and “diet” in the same sentence. Again, something I’m working on.
Someday, I mean, I don’t know, I just think, things can’t get any worse, we should could all, I don’t know, take control of our words and our thoughts when we can, I don’t know, there’s always gonna be something that keeps us from doing so, because that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? I don’t know, I just think that, I don’t know, all these “mean” and “stressful” and “unfair” obstacles, are teaching us everything we’ve ever needed to know, and if we just started accepting them, and if we start to look at them with some gratitude, things should could get better. I don’t know. I don’t always know what I’m talking about, and I don’t always follow my own advice, and I don’t always feel empowered, or fully alive, or even fully sane, but I feel like it’s time to embrace my flaws and start to bring a new mantra in my life.
Here are two phrases that are making me smile more, and reach for the Nutella less.
Everything is temporary. A mantra that has gotten me through this week in particular.
And in the words of my dear friend Rachel Shane Brannen, I will make better mistakes, tomorrow. A mantra that allows me to laugh at myself a little bit for taking life so damn seriously. It has that lovely twinge of sarcasm that I love so much, but it’s a hell of a lot more comforting than my normal pity party chant, “it’s always something.”
So excuse me, while I take my pessimistic, “should-this-should-that-I-don’t-know-but-it’s-always-something” attitude, and this nasty smelling garbage, out to the dumpster where it belongs.
If you don’t know the story of how I ended up in Hawai’i, let me just fill you in quickly. I needed a retreat. I needed rejuvenation. I needed a second chance at life. But I didn’t have $2500 to dish out to Geneen Roth for five days of therapy. The only opportunity I had for healing was to volunteer at a retreat center. In exchange for my service, my housing, meals, and yoga classes were provided for me. This amazing opportunity allowed me to quite literally, re-boot.
Volunteering at Kalani Oceanside Retreat on the Big Island of Hawai’i changed my life forever. The beautiful people, the aloha spirit, and the freaking apple-bananas have opened my eyes to a life that I will forever claim as my own. Food, depression, and New York winters do not have a hold on me as much as they used to. I have restored my sanity, self-love, and confidence, and I am inviting you to do the same.
It’s time for you to restore your roar. It’s time to dance your joy, face your fears, and fall in love with the skin you’re in right now.
It’s time. This is re-boot camp. And we are calling all souldiers.
When you arrive on the Big Island of Hawai’i on January 15th, 2015, you’ll be greeted by premiere Shrink Session sweat therapist, Olivia Petzy, and of course, yours truly. You’ll find yourself surrounded by magic. Known for some of the cleanest air in the world and lush, colorful jungle that you have to see to believe, the Big Island is known for it’s healing powers. After all, that’s why I ended up here in the first place, and look how far I’ve come.
What will we be doing for six days in Hawai’i? (Besides picking fresh mangoes and getting a tan?) You can expect daily movement sessions, featuring Shrink Session and other creative, accessible, and empowering forms of movement designed to express your unique sense of self and sensuality. We will spend time in guided writing exercises and journaling as we dig deeper into cultivating self-love, for both what we see in the mirror, and how we feel when we move our perfect-as-they-are bodies. You’ll have plenty of time to release and rejuvenate by relaxing and taking advantage of Kalani’s pools, yoga classes, spa experiences, Hawaiian culture classes, and more.
There’s something I want you to know. Do not let the words “shrink sesson” scare you. By all means, we aren’t trying to shrink anything about you – except maybe fears or insecurities that have held you back. Shrink Session is an alchemical mix of cardio-dance, yoga grooves, kick-boxing and positive phraseology/mantras. You’ve literally never experienced a high like this in your life. This magical combination increases the effectiveness of your workout while you step into a more empowered and confident version of yourself. You’ll tone and tighten every part of your body, while you lift your mind, body and spirit. This experience is not about losing weight or a number on a scale. It’s not about looking like Beyoncé when you dance. It’s about looking in the mirror and loving what you see – today. It’s about feeling the freedom to move with joy – in your unique way.
Who is Olivia?
Olivia Petzy is a premiere Shrink Session sweat therapist, having trained directly with Shrink Session creator Erin Stutland. Olivia specializes in leading group fitness classes that allow and empower every person present to fully express themselves through movement regardless of their level of dance skill or athleticism. She loves to move her body, in any style or type of class. However, this wasn’t always the case– she used to be hugely insecure in her body and the way it moved. Four years at a conservatory program renowned for its dance program did nothing for her self-confidence, and she felt deep despair over her dance ability. She would literally be in tears before every dance class– and with up to four dance classes a day, that’s a lot of tears. There was no joy, no freedom, only insecurity and shame. After to moving to New York City, she stumbled into a cardio dance class that, no surprise, left her in tears. For the first time, though, they weren’t tears of frustration. They were tears of freedom and excitement. Addicted to the feeling of joy in movement, Olivia knew she had to share this bliss with others. Five years later, the girl who hid in the bathroom to avoid dance class spends her days not only teaching dance through Shrink Session, but loving every perfectly imperfect shimmy and shake. With a degree in musical theater, Olivia is an actor, improviser, writer and group fitness leader certified by AFAA.
Okay, great, now how much is this all gonna cost?
Because of my experience with the starving artist life, and my inability to ever attend Geneen Roth’s workshops due to the high cost, it is of utmost importance to me that this Restore Your Roar workshop is accessible to people like me. Twentysomethings who aren’t the best at saving money. Thirtysomethings who are saving for their kids’ college educations. Fortysomethings who need a break but don’t want to dish out $4000 right now. I want you to experience Hawai’i. I want you to be able to join Olivia’s inspirational classes, and eat fresh pineapple, and try Kona coffee, and hike the side of a real, live, active volcano. And like I said last week, I ain’t tryna get rich off it.
So you, my blog readers and Roar movers and dancers and New Yorkers and Australians and mothers and sisters and women of all sizes and ages (sorry boys, this time around is just the ladies), are receiving the Roar Rate. The Roar Rate of $985 covers your six day/five night stay, your three meals a day, your Kona coffee, your fresh fruit grown on Kalani property, your volcano hike, your classes with Olivia, your discussions with me, and a life-changing week of healing with other women who you will forever remember as your re-boot camp ohana. We are even throwing in a bonus so you can take your experience home with you and continue to cultivate your roar. Every participant will receive membership to the Shrink Session Digital Program, valued at $99.
I encourage you to watch this video, so you can get a taste for the Kalani experience before you even board your plane.
One last thing before you register. This workshop is about you. It’s about what you need. You’ll be surprised at what the spectacular views, the smell of the ocean, and the power of nature can do for your soul. So you can cater your week here to your needs. Attend our classes, ask questions, book a massage, take a nature walk, swim naked, and immerse yourself in aloha. I can guarantee you that you will return home a changed woman. And the reason I can guarantee that, is because I’ve been there. Trust me.
Restore your roar in 2015. I can’t wait to get the party started.
To register, and for more descriptive details, including Olivia’s bio, sample menus at Kalani, spa services, and more, click here. To view the itinerary we have specially planned for YOU, yes YOU my love, click here. And of course, for a very detailed list of Frequently Asked Questions, including travel advice and what to pack, click here!
*Space is limited to 14 participants. As of September 5th, there are only six spots left.
**Note: The Roar Rate is not listed on Kalani’s website. When you register, you must mention the Roar Rate in your email. The Roar Rate has been extended until September 15th, 2014. After September 15th, the Roar Rate goes up to $1085.
***There is also a Roar 2 Rate, because we believe in celebrating friendship. (Get it? Roar 2: The Celebration?) When you register with a friend, each of your Roar Rates drop to $925. After September 15th, each of your Roar Rates will be $1025 (down from $1085.)
****As always, you can email me questions at any time: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week’s posting:
How I Cured My Excema Without Cancer-Causing Creams