Eating Disorder Recovery – Tips That Helped Me Take My Life Back

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.

So I read. I read and read and read and read and read. Geneen Roth mainly, and addiction books, and Marianne Williamson, and all the things on Renfrew’s site.

And through reading and my own tweaks and my own journaling, this is what I’ve learned.

  1. 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.)
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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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.

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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 roarmovement@gmail.com with questions and concerns.

All my love and support and congratulations for being open to help and doing what you can to recover –

Trusty

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Dating a Woman with an Eating Disorder – What I’ve Learned

So last week, I wrote about Johnny.

This week, he wrote about me. He even came up with this week’s title. Ladies and gents, a guest blog post from the man I’m dating, Johnny Burkhart.

Beauty & The Beast

What It’s Like To Date A Woman Recovering From An Eating Disorder

When Amanda asked me to write a guest blog, I was hesitant to say the least. Could I really be honest about what it’s like to date a woman with a binge eating disorder and would she still love me afterwards? I pray that the latter part is true.

Another reason I was hesitant was because she wanted me to respond to an article entitled 5 Reasons To Date A Girl With An Eating Disorder written by an anonymous guy on the misogynistic website “Return of Kings”. The author of the article, who writes under an alias (ahem, coward), claims to “specialize in dating culture and social intelligence”. Before I read the article, I glanced at the comments below it which were strewn with hate for this anonymous guy and disgust for the article. Alrighty then, this oughta be great. After I read the actual article, I realized this guy had no idea what he was talking about. The article did not contain any intelligence, but was possibly his attempt at humor? One can only hope.

Apparently any idiot can spew out a bunch of nonsense and have it posted on the internet. So why shouldn’t I give it a shot?

This post is in no way a response to that article, and if you have any sense at all, you will totally ignore that article and not give it any more energy than it has already received. What I have written below is simply my experience dating Amanda and is not a blanket statement about what it’s like to date women with eating disorders or specifically binge eating disorders.

Honestly Though! – One of the things that most attracted me to Amanda was her honesty. I don’t think we would be together today if it weren’t for her brutal honesty. I read her blog before we ever went on our first date, so I knew what kind of craziness I was signing up for. I was in awe of how honest she was in her blog, and even face to face with people. It’s truly inspiring and sometimes a little scary, especially when she writes about me in her blog.

Something that came to me after reading her blog was that I had grown up with a binge eater. I had never called it that or thought of it in the terms she puts it in, but my mother was/is a binge eater. I watched her slowly put on the pounds as I grew up and saw the toll that it took on her body. She is now in recovery for it and working on getting healthier which I am incredibly proud of her for.

This realization caught me off guard, and I was afraid that if Amanda found out, she wouldn’t want to date me. I was afraid that she might think that I was trying to heal some old shit with my mother – which could be true, let’s face it – and that she wouldn’t want any part of it. I mean, we did meet when we were at a retreat center where she came to do some major healing around her ED. But I knew that honesty was the only course of action here, so I told her.

Honesty plays a big role in our relationship today and it has to. It has to go both ways. We have to be honest with each other. That could be said for any relationship really, but when you’re dating a binge eater that is especially true. Even when it’s hard and I feel that pit in the bottom of my stomach, no pun intended, I know that I have to be honest with Amanda. So bear with me as I get real honest about some shit here.

Shame vs. Accountability “You ate all the cookies?!!”  – When we first started dating, Amanda told me that I couldn’t say “anything” to her about her food decisions. I understand that shame plays a big role with women who have ED’s, I get it! But there’s a fine line between shame and accountability when you date/live with a woman who is a binge eater.

There are times when I bite my tongue because I don’t want risk her feeling shamed by me. Look, I don’t want to sound like her mother or anything. But we do share food and expenses, so there does need to be some form of accountability for what we consume. So when I ask where all the Fudge Mint Cookies are, I am not trying to shame her. I just want some fucking cookies!

I have learned to know when to pick my battles. Sometimes you can’t win, no matter what, you just can’t! When she does eat all the cookies, I know better than to say “why did you eat all the cookies, what were you thinking?” That would be shaming. I have also learned that if she buys cupcakes and there’s only one left, I better not eat it without asking her first or there will be hell to pay.

Now, when she asks if we can go get some ice cream, I know better than to say to her, “Really? Ice cream? Is that such a great choice right now?” I either say “Yeah, let’s go get some ice cream”, or “No thanks.” It can be that simple. I know better than to try and play her mom and monitor her food choices – I think that’s part of the reason we’re in this whole mess in the first place. That’s not my job nor do I ever want that job. My job is to love her no matter what her food choices are that day or that moment and to try to encourage her to be the best she can be.

The Emotional Roller Coaster Ride – They say that women are ruled by their emotions, and having an eating disorder just adds to that equation. Dating a woman with an ED can be quite the emotional roller coaster. The ups and downs, good decisions followed by bad decisions, craziness and uncertainty make for some interesting times.

There are days when she feels good about herself and she makes good decisions. She’s confident and it seems nothing can get in her way. Those are the days when she loves me and I can do nothing wrong, she’s supportive and nonjudgmental. Even if I say the wrong thing to her she can just laugh it off.

Then there are the days when she doesn’t want to get out of bed, let alone get dressed. She makes unhealthy decisions, like eating cake just before going to sleep. She has zero confidence in herself or what she’s doing in life. Those are the days when if I make the slightest comment about anything she wants to kill me and I would rather be anywhere else but by her side. Thankfully there are less of these days and more of the good days or I might have to reconsider the situation.

Amanda is one of the most ambitious and positive people I have ever met or had the pleasure of being in a relationship with. But when she has bad days, there’s not much I can say or do to bring her out of it. As much as possible, I try and let her find her own solutions to things and encourage her to look inside at what’s really going on. I know from experience that people need to really sit in their shit and feel it before they are ready to come out of it.

The same fire that fuels her passion for dance and performing is also at the heart of her addiction in some way.

“It is a beast, this thing that stirs in the core of her being, but it is also the star of her innermost nature. We have to care for this suffering with extreme reverence so that, in our fear and anger at the beast, we do not overlook the star.” – Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

Body Image & Sex – When I was 19 years old, I told my live-in girlfriend that if she got fat that I would leave her. OK, OK, put down your weapons ladies! That was a long time ago and I have learned to be more compassionate. I’d also like to think I’ve gotten a lot smarter about how to talk to women. Key word, “think”.

Many years later, I find myself in a relationship with a woman whose weight has slowly but steadily increased since we began dating. Now I would never say anything to her about this because it really doesn’t matter to me anymore. I find her just as sexy and attractive as when we first began dating.

Sexy to me isn’t about being rail thin or starving yourself or working out 8 hours a day. Sexy to me is about how you carry yourself, the love that you share with others and being emotionally present. Amanda has that; I mean did you see her Roar performance? This woman has got that attitude and drive that just does it for me and it doesn’t matter what the number on the scale says.

Amanda has asked me before if I think she is fat or has gained weight but I don’t take the bait. I’m not going to stand over her shoulder as she steps on the scale either. It’s not my job or place to say if she’s gained weight or needs to lose a few pounds. Again, my job is to love her just the way she is, fat, thin, clear skin, or broken out.

I’m not saying it’s always easy because it’s not. Having sex with someone who just engulfed a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate chips doesn’t exactly do it for me. Then there’s the days she wants to make out in the morning with a huge whitehead on her upper lip from binging on chocolate the night before. “Um… hey babe maybe you uh… can you take care of that before we uh… um I mean have you uh… oh boy!” Thankfully those times are the exceptions and not the rule.

The “D” Word – Recently Amanda asked me if I would be willing to do an Intolerance Test with her. Not sure what she was talking about I asked her to explain what that meant. She proceeded to tell me how you weren’t allowed to have any gluten, dairy, corn, sugar, bread, processed foods, or bananas for 3 weeks. Oh, and no eating out at restaurants either, my personal favorite. “Well,” I said, “as fun as that sounds, I don’t really like doing Diets!”. Then the earth actually stopped spinning for a few seconds and she said “IT’S NOT A DIET! It’s an intolerance test don’t call it a Diet!” Yep, I actually said the “D” word to a binger, my bad.

Not realizing what the “D” word meant to someone with an eating disorder, I had some back peddling to do here. I proceeded to tell her that I would help support her in any way I could without actually doing the intolerance test with her the whole time. I’m willing to try some new recipes and things but giving all that up for 3 weeks basically amounted to torture to me. I’m of the philosophy of everything in moderation.

Amanda used to tell me about her experiences with trying to cut out sugar and desserts and how that would just lead to more bingeing. So I wasn’t so gung ho about this intolerance test to begin with. She would always say that it’s better to have some of her favorite foods around just in case the cravings came on and she could try and hit them off at the pass before full bingeing mode kicked in.

So a few days later she started her “intolerance test” and the fun began. I really should have seen it coming. It hit me like that magical visit from Aunt Flo each month. When you take away sugar and all the deliciousness of most foods away from a binger, it’s not a pretty picture at first. Luckily that only lasted a couple days.

I was surprised that she even wanted to try it, given her history of trying food restriction, and I was honestly skeptical of the whole thing. She eventually settled into it though and seems to be hitting her stride now. She really is handling it amazingly well. It speaks volumes for her recovery that she is able to stick with it, and I am so proud of her for that.

So #Blessed – One of our closest friends, John Reardon, was the catalyst for our relationship. He is always saying to me how blessed Amanda is to have me in her life. I can literally feel Amanda’s eyes roll back in her skull and cringe every time he says this or texts it to me. But like, it’s true. Some of you know or have experienced what it’s like to be in a relationship where you don’t feel supported by the other person OR their behavior just seems to trigger you into doing things you shouldn’t. When you find the “right” person, they should lift you up and encourage you, not trigger your bad habits and addictions. I think, (again, key word, “think”), that I lift Amanda up instead of triggering her, and that’s why John always says how blessed she is to have me in her life.

I am also so blessed to have Amanda in my life. Her love and enthusiasm for life are infectious and I am so inspired by her. So much so, that I agreed to learn a duet tap dance with her for the May recital with the dance studio she’s teaching at – in front of an actual audience. I have mixed feelings about this decision, but it’s all happening now, so I’m just gonna go with it. I was also inspired by her to write this post and put it out there to you all. All of her passion and love for life make all of the craziness of her ED seem so insignificant.

“The uniqueness of a person is made up of the insane and twisted as much as it is of the rational and normal.” Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

You see, Amanda and I are both a little twisted and insane, but in a way that supports each other. And for that, we are both so blessed.

Seriously Though! – Dating a woman who is recovering from an eating disorder isn’t as scary as it might seem. As I started out saying here, the key is really all about honesty. Like Amanda always says, “everyone has their shit” that they are dealing with – some more than others. But if you’re honest about your shit, it makes all the difference in the world. Hiding your shit really only makes things worse in the end.

So ladies and gents, if you think that hiding an eating disorder or an addiction from the person you are dating is a good thing, or the safe thing, I want you to reconsider. I strongly encourage you to share your shit with your partner. It may help explain some of the crazy shit you do from time to time. I know that if I didn’t know what Amanda was dealing with, I would have been out the door a long time ago. Knowing what she’s going through allows me to be more compassionate with her when she’s acting like a crazy bitch. Seriously though!

I don’t try and heal Amanda. That’s not the intention here. You are honest not so your partner can help fix you, but to bear witness to what you are going through. I’ve dated, and was even married, to women who were a closed book and would never reveal what was really going on, not even to a therapist. They carried a lot of extra baggage around to basically try and save some face. It eventually catches up to all of us at some point. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m thankful everyday for Amanda’s honesty – even when things are rough between us – because it’s the foundation of our relationship and the reason our love is so strong to this day.

Let me just remind you – like I remind Amanda often – of the second agreement of The Four Agreements: Don’t make assumptions. You cannot assume what your friends or your significant other will think if you open up to them about your issues. Never assume. And if you open up to them, and they make an ass out of you, then seriously though, they are NOT worth your time.

Well, I think I covered all the ground I wanted to here. I’ve been trying to come up with a good way to close this all up, but I’m a little stuck, so I’m just gonna let Bob Marley do the talking.

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Lots of aloha from Hawaii,

Johnny

Next Week’s Posting:

I’m not sure but I’m sure Amanda has something good to say


Finding Gratitude for all the Things That Got Me to Rock Bottom

Everyone keeps asking me what my aha moment was. To write this blog, to start living, to start healing, to re-surface.

I don’t believe that my “aha” moment was this big bolt of lightning that struck me on my way to Schmackary’s for my second red velvet cookie of the day. No one gave me the “aha” moment in a gift-wrapped bag. No quote on Pinterest inspired it.

It was sort of just, another little moment in time, just like the rest of my previous moments in time, that was way more profound than all the others.

Sometimes, your moments have to lead you to a very dark place before the next moment can come along and change everything.

And my God, have I had quite a variety of little moments that have added up over the years.

So I think I want to explain the timeline of my personal little moments, in hopes that it will inspire you to turn around and think about your own. I actually wrote this timeline on August 1st, 2013, on my six hour plane ride from Phoenix, Arizona to Honolulu, Hawaii. I have all sorts of documents on this computer of mine, meant for blog posts at a later date, and this one hasn’t seemed appropriate until now. Because, as I begin to retrace my own steps with my beloved Geneen Roth books, since I’ve been finding myself sneaking entire bags of mint milano cookies (Karen Walker’s favorite!) during momentary setbacks this week, I feel that now is the best time to share what got me to this point.

I hope that this week’s post helps those who are looking for answers, or looking for someone to relate to. And if you yourself don’t need this help, I hope it invokes empathy in you for someone you love who may be stuggling with similar timeline events to mine. As unbelievably therapeutic, and occasionally hilarious this was for me to write, I encourage you, my strong, courageous, ferocious readers, to consider doing the same for yourself. It’s okay to embrace our funny and sad and ironic and amazing pasts so that we can learn from them, find gratitude for them, and then look to the future with hope. Because remember, my friends: all the little moments, the teeniest, tiniest of moments, have added up in their own unique ways to get all of us to right here, where we are right now.

Ladies and gentlemen, a story.

Once upon a time and all that jazz, sometime around the age of 18, a girl found herself in a land called Rock Bottom. Girl has never been quite sure how she got there, but all of a sudden, it was her new home. A home that she didn’t feel at home in.

Girl had freckles, blue eyes, unmanageable curly hair, and a tiny indent of a scar on the very tip of her nose from a chicken pox scab that she scratched when she was 4. She started dancing when she was three years old, around the time that she learned how to sing “Ten Little Angels” in church. She grew up riding forewheelers and horses in Pennsylvania. She always loved the winter because it meant hot chocolate and sledding on huge hills on her grandfather’s farm with her cousins.

Through many series of events, girl came to love food. The comfort of it. The memories it could bring back to life. The holes that it filled during times of confusion, loneliness, insecurity, emptiness.

Without her realizing it, a lot of moments in Girl’s life led her to her new home in Rock Bottom. Some of it was growing up in a dance studio, comparing herself to the other prettier, skinnier, more talented girls in full length mirrors every day. Some of it was being a band nerd instead of a cheerleader. Some of it was dating a gay man who didn’t know he was gay. Some of it was just part of growing up.

When Girl arrived in Rock Bottom, she knew that it was a place she wanted to leave immediately. So for the next six years, she came and went a lot. No really, like, a lot.

First, she went to college. For musical theatre. Some might say that was the first mistake. Looking back, it really was just all part of the journey.

She left Rock Bottom with a suitcase packed with t-shirts from every show she ever did, Abercrombie & Fitch tank tops that were too tight and too short in the stomach, pink tips at the bottom of her waist-length hair, and a broken heart. Not only did she get rejected from NYU’s Cap21 Musical Theatre program, she was dumped by her high school boyfriend that you met in Blog Post 5. So she arrived in Winchester, Virginia at Shenandoah University in August 2005, where she hung her dance pictures (aka cut-outs from ballet calendars, thank you for your time) on her closet door and decked out her entire side of the dorm room in Little Mermaid garb. Basically, Girl was nailing it. In every way.

While at Shenandoah, she discovered she couldn’t sing well enough to be in the fall musical, Sweeney Todd. So, she decided that the spring musical – the tap-dancing, showgirl-packed The Will Roger’s Follies – would definitely be where she would get her chance to shine.

Too bad there were five months in there to steal pie from the dessert bar in the cafeteria. Too bad there were no parents around to tell her not to eat peanut butter out of the jar. Too bad she discovered her tolerance for Natty Light straight from the keg.

Too bad that by the time auditions for The Will Roger’s Follies rolled around, she weighed 189 pounds. Showgirls do not weigh 189 pounds. Girl did not get a chance to shine once while at Shenandoah. Too bad, so sad.

Somewhere in there she talked to her friend Christine from high school and found out about AMDA – The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. It was a two year musical theatre program in New York City. It was her ticket out of Virginia. And after all, she really only ever wanted to be in New York City. This was it. It felt right.

So, after just one year, she left her friends and her chance at a four-year college experience at Shenandoah behind.

Just want to throw in there the near-death car accident Girl had on July 8th, 2006 which made her immobile for most of the summer before her transfer to AMDA – helping her maintain the 189 pounds with flying colors.

Girl moved to New York City in October of 2006. AMDA happened. It was great, at the time, for what it was. Are there things that could have been better? Absolutely. Were there teachers who promoted staying fit in order to make it in the business? Yes. Did Girl take those teachers seriously? Yes. Could Girl control her binge-eating, knowing that if she could stop binging she had a better chance at being cast? She tried. She really tried you guys. But no.

At this point, Girl had done Weight Watchers twice – once after her car accident and once during her second semester at AMDA in 2007. Full out, no marking, Weight Watchers program. Tracking points, losing 25 pounds, keeping it off for a hot minute, and binging it back on in a matter of days.

Girl was struggling. Trying. Trying. Boy, did that bitch try to keep that weight off.

Graduation came. There Girl was. Freshly 21. Freshly graduated. Freshly clueless. In New York City.

Over the next few years, she made frequent trips back to Rock Bottom but always left as soon as she had the chance. She was given a lot of opportunity to run away from Rock Bottom and she always, ALWAYS, took the opportunity. But she also, always returned to it. She was always so unclear on how she got there to start with, but at some point, it just became her permanent home base.

Life after AMDA looked like this:

May 25th, 2008: Girl graduates from AMDA. 160 pounds. This is fifteen pounds heavier than she was two months before when she auditioned for her senior showcase.

May 26th, 2008: Girl says good-bye to her best girlfriend from AMDA who goes home to New Jersey for the summer…and stays there.

May 27th, 2008: Girl starts bartending at Broadway theatres for survival job. Pounds are being gained.

July 2008: Girl and fellow AMDA alumni start talking about doing an all AMDA-alum production in the city.

August 2008: Girl gets drunk and meets the chef from Peru, who we shall call, The Little One, who strung her along for a year and a half.

September 2008: Girl starts working at Jake’s Dilemma, a frat-boy bar on the Upper West Side of NYC. Girl continues going home with The Little One after working all night. She also starts rehearsals for the AMDA-alum production. Pounds are being gained. Cigarettes are being smoked. Beer is becoming a staple.

October 2008: Girl, age 21 at this point, produces and choreographs Lucky Stiff in Times Square, and forms a non-profit theatre company while cocktail waitressing and trying not to piss off every friend she’s ever made with her insane mood swings and binge-drinking. What the fuck? Too much stress. Too much stress.

November 2008: Girl starts guest bartending at McFadden’s (Douchebag Central, 42nd Street and 2nd) and Turtle Bay (Douchbag Central Overflow, 51st and 2nd).

January 2009: Girl starts working at Equinox Fitness at the spa in order to get a free gym membership. 170 pounds.

Sometime in 2009: Girl’s only female cousin gets engaged.

Sometime in 2009: Girl realizes she has to sing in front of people in a bridesmaid dress. Girl gets a personal trainer through Equinox. Girl drinks a lot of Carnation Instant Breakfast and eats a lot of tomatoes with salt and pepper.

June 2009: Girl gets a sweet job working at Poco, a new restaurant downtown in the east village. Spanish tapas. Sweet, specialty cocktails. Pounds are gained.

August 2009: Girl is making so much money as a waitress and bartender. Auditions? What auditions?

Labor Day Weekend 2009: The Little One fucks up royally and girl finally cuts him out of her life before heading to New Jersey to visit previously mentioned girlfriend who was bestie at AMDA.

Labor Day Weekend 2009 continued: While visiting best girlfriend in New Jersey, Girl sleeps with the man she will proceed to date for the next two and a half years. His name in this blog is New Jersey. I know. The cleverness.

October 2009: Girl continues working at Poco. New Jersey comes to visit a few weekends and between that and a lot of phone dates they decide they are official. Cousin’s wedding comes and goes. 160 pounds. The thinnest Girl has been since March of 2008.

October 31st, 2009: New Jersey tells Girl he loves her.

Thanksgiving, 2009: New Jersey meets Girl’s family for the first time.

January 1st, 2010: Girl starts Weight Watchers for the third time.

Audition season, 2010: Girl gets called back for everything she auditions for. She is still working with personal trainer. She gives up her mild attempt at following Weight Watchers and just eats 1100 calories a day. And a lot of Splenda. She weighs 148 pounds and she is ripped.

May 2010, right before Girl’s mother’s birthday: Girl books her first professional gig at an Equity theatre. Damn Yankees. Happy birthday, Mom.

Night after booking first professional job: Girl starts a two week binge period that takes her weight from 148 to 157 in mere days.

June 2010: Girl goes to get measurements done for her Damn Yankees costumes. She tells the girls (who are dear, dear friends now) that she has just returned from vacation and they should take an inch off of all the measurements because she never weighs this much. Girl was lying.

July 2010: Girl starts rehearsals for Damn Yankees AND moves apartments during tech. Strong life choices.

August 2010: Girl closes Damn Yankees and goes to live with New Jersey for a month while doing next professional job – Anything Goes. She arrives for the first day of rehearsal 15 pounds heavier than when she auditioned. New Jersey does not ever want to have sex.

October 2010: Girl is sitting on the couch eating a pint of blueberry ice cream and gets a call that she booked Mame in Florida.

November 2010: Girl finds out New Jersey has a porn addiction. Girl drinks a lot of alcohol and looks at herself in the mirror naked a lot.

December 2010: Girl goes to Florida. Rehearses for Mame. Keeps porn addicted boyfriend a secret until halfway through the contract. Meets some of her best friends in life.

February 2011: Girl returns to New York from Florida.

March 2011: Girl goes to upstate New York to play Fraulein Kost in Cabaret. Costume designer is disgusted by how curvy all the women in the show are. Costume designer makes sarcastic comments about the size of corset all the Kit Kat girls need.

May 2011: Girl returns to same theatre to dance captain Crazy For You. Cheats on New Jersey. Dates new guy from contract. Weighs 170 pounds.

June 2011: Girl breaks things off with new guy. Girl is a total asshole about the breaking off. Girl is confused. Girl is fat. Girl can’t book any jobs because she is fat and she is a dancer and there are no fat dancers in 42nd Street.

July 2011: Girl starts talking to New Jersey again.

August 2011: Girl bartends the US Open. So. Much. Grey Goose.

September 11th, 2011: Girl moves to New Jersey to be with New Jersey for three months. Understudies a role at a theatre near his house for Equity points.

September 29th, 2011: Girl starts Weight Watchers for the 4th and final time.

December 6th, 2011: Girl gets new headshots at 155 pounds.

January 1st, 2012: Girl and New Jersey break up. For the last time. It’s really over.

February, 2012: Girl is nailing it and weighs in at Weight Watchers at 143 pounds. Girl is doing an off-Broadway show. Forty-eight of Girl’s friends come to see the show. A rich guy starts courting Girl and turns her life around, or so it seems, for two months. Life is good.

February 19th, 2012, 1pm: Girl receives an offer for How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying in Hilton Head, SC.

February 19th, 2012, 10pm: Girl starts a two week binge that just, never ends, that gets her up to 150 pounds by the time she leaves for Hilton Head on April 2nd.

April 2nd, 2012: Girl goes to Hilton Head at 152 pounds. Battles a ten pound window for most of the contract. Living with boys doesn’t help.

Two hours before invited dress rehearsal on April 24th: Rich dude tells Girl he’s not in love with her and cuts all contact. Fries are ordered. Ice cream is inhaled.

Beginning of May, 2012: Girl finds out she booked another contract, George M!, immediately following this current one. Only thing is, she auditioned for it at 12 pounds lighter than she is now. Now what?

May 22nd, 2012: Girl cuts out sugar, carbs, and alcohol for the last week of her Hilton Head contract in order to drop weight quickly for her next contract.

May 28th, 2012: Girl starts rehearsals for George M! and tries not to let anyone see her eat. Ever.

Sometime in May, 2012: Girl starts sleeping with a man who is in a relationship.

July 1st, 2012: Contract ends. Girl orders Bareburger delivery a lot. Continues sleeping with taken man. Gains back all weight she lost during contract.

August 15th, 2012: Girl meets Stallion. The man who will distract her from her depression, binging, and anxiety for the next 8 months.

August 15th, 2012 – March 12th, 2013: Life happens. But Stallion is in it. Life is like, kind of good. Girl choreographs two shows. Does Les Miserables in Illinois. Eats ice cream out of half gallon containers with Stallion.

March 12th – March 22nd, 2013: Stallion says he needs a break. Girl doesn’t eat. Girl wants to look fierce when they have the final “talk”.

March 22nd, 2013: Stallion admits to being depressed and emotionally unavailable. Girl looks fierce though. 150 pounds. The relationship ends.

March 28th, 2013: Girl’s birthday. Single. Unemployed. Many croissants are eaten.

April 2013: Out of all the callbacks Girl has in 2013, nada one works out.

April 14th, 2013: Girl looks great. Hasn’t been eating carbs or sugar. Goes to pick up things she left at Stallion’s house.

April 15th, 2013: The worst of the binging over the years begins.

Beginning of May 2013: Girl returns to Rock Bottom. And stays. Lays there in her gray little bed. Looking at her gray little ceiling. Pretzel crumbs on one side. A Yeungling bottle on the nightstand. Many a “not feeling well, can’t make it to your party/thing/birthday/lunch/housewarming tonight” text is sent.

May 9th, 2013: Girl goes to see her friend, Rachel. Rachel gives her two books, including Geneen Roth’s When Food Is Love.

May 10th, 2013: Girl goes home for Mother’s Day and brother’s graduation from college. Brother graduates with a degree in Landscape Architecture. Girl feels really great about her Associate’s Degree in Musical Theatre.

May 12th, 2013 at 1pm: Girl starts reading When Food Is Love on a bus back to New York City after brother’s graduation.

May 12th, 2013 at 5pm: Life is changed forever.

The story doesn’t end there. The story, this story, my story that you read every week, actually started there. A new, difficult, eye-opening story began there. Somewhere between May 12th, 2013 and May 31st, 2013, it all started happening. The calling Renfrew Center and the eating disorder diagnosis, the taking it all in and accepting and sharing of the news with friends and family, some friends being weird about it – some friends being awesome about it – some friends only finding out months later via the blog, the application and the acceptance to volunteer in Hawaii, and, the decision to share it all on the internet, with you.

I’ve had so many moments that have led me to my “aha” moment that are not the obvious. I listed pretty many of them for you.

I’d say, that there wouldn’t have been an “aha” moment without all the little moments leading up to Rachel handing me that book. I had to really be in a place where I couldn’t stand on my own two feet anymore in order for that book to speak to me.

When I opened that book, and realized that all these years, my binging was not a personal flaw, everything changed. I was using food as a drug and I had no idea. I always thought I was just really weak and had no self control and just didn’t want to be on Broadway bad enough to give up ice cream cake forever.

Sometimes, your “aha” moment will come when you least expect it. In Weight Watchers meetings, ironically enough, they ask new members what their “aha” moment was. Some ladies say it was seeing a picture at their son’s high school graduation and seeing how wide their hips were. Some say it was when they found themselves binging on their kid’s after school snacks while making dinner for the family. Some say that their doctor told them they needed to lose weight or face serious health issues for the rest of their lives.

I guess I didn’t realize that all these years, I didn’t have to be doing Weight Watchers to have an “aha” moment. Because this “aha” moment for me, in May of 2013, was the most important of them all, and it took place on a dirty bus on a Sunday afternoon coming into Port Authority after a weekend at home in PA.

I just want to say, that I think that it’s okay for us to embrace every little moment, no matter how small and trivial, with love and acceptance. Because all of those small moments make up our life. They are what makes each of our journeys unique to us. And without the shitty moments, the great moments wouldn’t stand out so much, don’t you agree?

I don’t really know what I’m doing. One day I want to choreograph, one day I want to write music, one day I want to keep Nutella in the house, one day I’m terrified of walking down the grocery aisle that even holds the Nutella, one day I want to be a vegan, one day I want to move back to New York even though there’s two feet of snow, one day I want to open a theatre in Hawaii. I am constantly changing my mind. I cry a lot. I laugh a lot. I drink too much coffee. I confuse my boyfriend constantly. But if I look back at my past, which half of my self-help books completely ban, I am reminded that I’ve had a lot of moments where I’ve changed my mind or I’ve been utterly confused. Where I’ve drank too much and where I’ve made, ahem, interesting, decisions. But I’ve still landed on my feet.

I might be 178 pounds at the moment. I might not be a showgirl at the moment. But I’m learning from my mistakes, and I’m recording them so I can look back on them when I need reminding. I’m alive and breathing. I can stop at one beer. I can keep chocolate chips in the house for over two months. And at 26, approaching 27, after a year of frightening health scares and depressive periods that scared my nearest and dearest, I’m thankful to be here – not just surviving – but learning, growing, living, loving, crying, laughing, and recovering, one day at a time.

May your personal timeline reveal to you what you need to see, learn, or revisit at this moment in your life. May your personal journal entries and recorded moments inspire you to embrace your mistakes and your successes, your gains and your losses, your failures and your lessons. I said it once, I said it twice, I’ll say it again and again – we all have our shit, dude, and that’s why we have to keep spreading the love to each other. We’re not alone. We’re all in this together, and we got this.

Peace, love, and aloha.

aha-moment


Finding Forgiveness for Show Business in Eating Disorder Recovery

This week, my best friend Melissa said the most amazing thing to me. She texted me and said, “I have to say. I was blow drying my hair today in my underwear and I looked up myself for the first time in a long time and felt really proud of myself. I’m not tiny but I love the way my body looks right now. It looks connected to how hard I’ve been working with my running and the gym. So I felt really peaceful and happy.”

“[My body] looks connected to how hard I’ve been working…”

I fucking love that.

It got me thinking about forgiveness. Melissa totally forgives herself for whatever has happened in the past with her body and she’s open to loving it for what it is right now.

Forgiving myself for what my body has been, what my body is now, and what my body will be in the future has been a really difficult part of this whole healing process. Remember the process? I said it like 18 times the other week? Recovery is a process. Aghhhhh the process. The process. But hey, listen, I feel what she’s saying for the first time in my life. And it feels so good to feel that connection to my body. And in the joy of that connection, I legit do not have time for hating myself for what’s happened in the past.

So basically, this brings me to this thing called Facebook. And, the thing about Facebook, is that its really easy to flip through your past and look at everything that’s led you up until now.

College frat parties. Throwback Thursday. Opening night parties. Ladies nights at Brother Jimmy’s. Holidays when my mother makes my brother and I take Christmas pictures in front of the tree, with the year written in sharpie on a piece of printer paper, before 8am. You know, the joyous occasions of yesteryear.

Facebook allows us to look back at pictures of ourselves like this:

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Dear God just look at that tiny waist! And this:

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No arm flab! And in turn we then hate ourselves because we now look like this:

rosie the riverter

And this:

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Curvacious. Bodacious. Bootylicious.

See the thing is, the second weight, is not actually that bad. It’s actually pretty great. I mean look at the muscles on that Rosie the Riveter picture up there – mahalo for your time. But the thing is, is that it ain’t showgirl weight. And that’s what I’ve been beating myself up for.

At the “lighter” weight, I was booking jobs, dating a rich man who used me as his toy, and being called back for Jersey Boys and Mary Poppins.

At the “heavier” weight, I’m living in Hawaii, dating a man who is absolutely in love with me (who I maybe manifested in blog post 10?), and performing tap numbers in burlesque cabarets to raise money for Hawaiian Gay Pride.

The “heavier” weight isn’t actually that bad. It’s just…different.

Two very different lives all in the span of two years.

And I have to stop hating myself for that. Each of those lives is mine, and each of those lives are different and lovely in their own way. And so this post, is about forgiveness.

It’s taken me months, but I forgive myself for not looking like that anymore.

This is me now.

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Happy, healthy, free, emotionally stable, kind of sane, and strong.

Let me say that again for my own sake.

Dear World, this is me now. Thirty pounds heavier than I’ve ever been during any audition season. More sane, and more happy, than I’ve ever been during a week where I’m starving myself for a showgirl call. Stronger than I have ever been doing any sort of Weight Watchers business where I’m consumed by points but take no time to work out. And healthier than I have been since I’m about twelve years old. This is me now. I accept it. And I forgive myself for no longer looking the way I once did while I was striving for a goal, but not taking care of myself.

“Our job…is to seek a greater capacity for love and forgiveness within ourselves. We do this through a “selective remembering,” a conscious decision to remember only loving thoughts and let go of any fearful ones. ‘To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you. All the rest must be forgotten.” – Marianne Williamson, Return to Love

UM, HELLO. MUCH EASIER SAID THAN DONE MS. WILLIAMSON.

Homegirl is telling me to let go of the anger, fear, and animosity I have for myself because I’ve gained weight back and I have to restart life and find a new way to take a stand in my career. It ain’t easy. But she’s totally onto something. Instead of focusing on those past thoughts of Weight Watchers and failure and wearing a different size pant every three days, she’s just saying that maybe it would be more helpful to let that go and just focus on the love I had during that time, even amidst the failure, and the love I have now, even amidst hardships of the recovery process.

Here’s how I’ve been working on it.

I wrote it all out. And I hope I inspire you to do the same.

Here are the ways I have been letting go, and moving on, and forgiving.

  • I cry sometimes when I think of the comfort that food still brings me. Knowing that through my recovery, I will one day be at a place where I never again fully indulge in a box of Cheez-its, a carton of OJ, a box of Bagel Bites, and a half gallon of cookies ‘n’ cream is hard. Sometimes I just want to finish a bag of Reese’s and be done with it. I forgive myself for that, even though my ego slips in and tells me it’s disgusting.
  • I forgive my friends for saying things like “are you sure you wanna eat that” and “you’re stronger than food” because they didn’t know that things like that only made me want to rebel against my own disorder.
  • I forgive the teachers in college for pretending to be brutal about physicality but not actually being brutal about physicality. As 19 and 20 year old girls, we were never really properly warned about what lied ahead in showgirl land.
  • I forgive the director that taught dance to me in college who will never be down with a curvy girl. I am so sorry that I was never skinny enough to dance in your company. I feel like you are missing out on some excellent skillz, but I finally let that go.
  • I forgive the casting directors for the looks on their faces when my weight fluctuated every time I went in to sing for them.
  • I forgive the agents at Actor’s Connection for never calling me in after my initial meeting with them. Although I come across “confident in who I am” and “completely comfortable in my own skin”, I also lied about my weight and wore two pairs of Spanx to meet them.
  • I forgive the musical theatre world for what it has done to my body, heart, and soul. It’s really not show business’ fault. I’ve been allowing myself to be controlled by it for so long and I was unaware. At the end of the day, the choice is mine. I decide where I fit in. I decide how my body type will fit in. I decide the way my career goes.

I feel like I’m a bit all over the place this week in my writing but I’m just on fire lately. Like, dude, there is a fire under my ass that has pushed me to new edges in the past two weeks and progress is happening and love is happening and acceptance is happening and courage is happening and inspiration is happening and changes are happening and basically…

…this is what I have to say for myself.

When I return to New York City, I will actually be unstoppable. To have let go of all pent up frustration, hatred, and negativity towards show business has turned my entire world around. To forgive the business for what it is, has opened my heart to whatever comes next, and I will embrace it with open arms, a graceful bevel, and full beat. Like my sisterfriend Brooke says, “We knew what we signed up for. We just have to figure out how to be happy within the perimeters.”

There is a strong possibility that I will not be cast as a showgirl, a secretary in How To Succeed in Business…, or a chorus girl in 42nd Street for the rest of my life. But there’s also a strong possibility that after a year of healing, the passion I have for performing will be so ferocious and pent up that when I unleash it on Auditionland I will land exactly where I am supposed to land. And I am willing to let it all go, in order to see where exactly that is. The unknown is so exciting in that sense. I have no idea where I belong in show business these days, but that’s like, totally cool, because all I know is that I belong and that’s all that matters right now.

Take a deep breath and feel whatever frustration, hatred, and negativity that has been built up in your heart around what you really love to do and see if you can figure out the root of it. Can you forgive? Can you really forgive, and then completely and totally let it go?

I wrote a post about three weeks ago forgiving all my ex-boyfriends. The reward for forgiving all of them, and dealing with my emotional baggage since I’ve been in Hawaii, has been absolutely, balls to the wall, fantastically beautiful.

So I suppose this week’s post is the letter forgiving show business. Because you know what? It is what it is. And this is what we signed up for.

Either we drive ourselves crazy trying to fit the mold, or we take a step back and remember that just like any job in the whole wide world, this career does not have to run our lives. I know that it seems like it has to – what we eat, what we wear, what color our hair is, when we sleep, who we are nice to, etc. etc. etc. And most of the time, all of that is true. But the key words are, most of the time. You are allowed to be you within all the guidelines and you are allowed to take the time you need to heal yourself from whatever you may have put yourself through to survive in the biz, or in the city, or in the passion of it all.

Auditionland is always gonna be there. But your life passes by every day and no one else is going to force you to take the time to live it but you. Take it from me. Look where I fucking live right now:

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Forgiving people and events of the past has put me in the most loving, supportive place I have ever been in my entire life. Look at my fucking face dude:

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Just an average morning in Hawaii, FaceTiming with my best friends. The most supportive, beautiful, compassionate, amazing friends in the whole world. Sending me love every day and encouraging me through my journey. I am blessed. I am strong. And I am on the right path to recovery because I forgive whatever has happened in the past and I’m ready and waiting, with open (and very tan) arms, for whatever is next!

Mahalo for your time! Now go forgive someone! Ahh! Life is good!

Next week’s post:

How To Change Everything In Five Days


Using Mindful Eating in Eating Disorder Recovery

Silence.

The most deafening fucking sound in the world.

When was the last time you were alone somewhere with yourself?

I don’t mean right now, when you’re reading this waiting for last night’s OkCupid date to text even though you didn’t even think he was that cute.

And I don’t mean while you’re laying in bed listening to Sara Bareilles trying to find the motivation to go sign up for the Mamma Mia ECC.

I mean you – sans headphones, books, music, phone, computer, people. I mean you…and your thoughts.

Alone. Silent.

AHHHH! FUCKING SCARY, EH?

Welcome to the healing process.

In one week, I have gone from pretty low (re: last week’s post) to feeling pretty free.

I don’t mean entirely free from binging. Or entirely free from anxiety.

But I feel more free than I did last week when I think binging took over my life for a few days all over again.

My boss, Annalisa, actually instilled a new practice here at the yoga retreat where I’m volunteering.

Silent Sundays.

Coming from a background with Vipassana retreats (10 days of silent meditation), Annalisa started offering us a chance to wear a white sash that alerts the community that we are taking a silent day. No one bothers us, looks us in the eye, or tries us to get to talk. The rules are simple. No communication. No electronics. Minimal reading and writing.

The point? To get to know yourself. To feel shit. To allow thoughts to come and go, observe them, but not dwell on them. To feel your breath. Hell, just to feel your heartbeat. When was the last time you gave your heart some credit for beating? Too busy beating yourself up for putting mayo on your burger? We have to stop that. Put your damn hands on your heart and give yourself a fucking break. Everyone puts mayo on shit, man. And if they don’t, they totally have an obsession with barbeque sauce instead. It’s always something.

Regardless of your condiment choice, you’ll find that you’re still breathing. Your heart is still beating. And your brain still works.

From Silent Sundays came all kinds of revelations for me. To share them would be selling them short, because some of them are special enough to me to just hold on to for now, but they created a safe space for me where I know that everything’s gonna be okay. I sure do forget sometimes, but if I take a minute, and close my eyes, and put my hands on my heart, and calm the fuck down, I can go back to that place where I remember I live in Hawaii. I’m healing. I’m tan. On the surface, life is pretty stress-free, considering.

I offer you all of this recent personal experience with silence in order to get to my main point.

Mindful eating.

Yea. Those people you see sometimes who eat a bite of food, sit back in their chair, put their fork down, and enjoy the bite?

I hate them too.

They look so pretentious. I literally want to rip the fork out of their hand and shove their plate in their face.

And now I’m one of them.

I learned about mindful eating from Annalisa on my first Silent Sunday. I totally didn’t do it. Like, I think I did the opposite and ate even faster.

But after last week’s relapse I decided to go back to basics and give it a fucking try.

Oh, my loves.

I have already completely revolutionized my attack on bingeing by eating at the silent table we have here for every meal in just one week. At the silent table, I practice mindful eating.

Now, I can’t take credit for any of this, okay? I’m just sharing what’s working for me. And I feel like I need to do so because you know my dirty binging habits, and I feel like if I tell you something is working for me, there’s a chance you will try it.

Because if you read that someone who was as out of control as I was, has found something that is helping everything come back to neutral, maybe you will feel inspired.

At the bottom of this week’s blog post you will find a link to Headspace.com’s tips for Mindful Eating. I find them to be the simplest, and the most sensible. It’s worth a read, my dearies.

To put it simply, it’s this concept where you breathe before you eat, appreciate your food, focus on each bite, actually taste the food, rest between bites, and notice your body’s reaction to all of it. I eat way less because I sometimes just need one taste of the cheesy noodles or the macadamia nut caramel bar. (Still haven’t gotten to that place with chocolate, but I mean seriously, baby steps, am I right?) When I pay attention to one bite, it means so much more than the shoveling action I’m used to. I also notice when my body is actually hungry, and then when it is actually comfortable and satisfied. That bloated feeling when you eat fast and you’re full and you can’t suck it in? Ain’t no thang no more with this mindful eating crap. It’s like, so cool.

I’ve only been doing this for one week, okay? I don’t know if I follow the rules correctly. I can only tell you what I’ve been doing. Very simply, let me just say, if you get overwhelmed by reading the article, just try eating one meal this week silently. Slowly. Putting your fork down between bites, and stopping eating when you take that big breath where you’re like, satisfied but not full. You know that breath. If you’re like me, you ignore it and just eat faster normally. But it’s something to be valued. And if you just try it once this week, your body might just love you for it.

So there’s that. That whole actually breathing and tasting your food thing. And it comes along with silence dude. Like, no TV while you eat. No book. No music. No social eating.

Silence.

Besides the mindful eating, I encourage you to take the time off for yourself to have a silent day in the next week or so. No, really! Listen to me. It is so much worth your time. No TV. No texting. No…music. Shut your mouth, and find some courage deep within you that I totally know is there, and try it.

It would be so nice of you to take the time to listen to your body. Is it tired? Thirsty? Hungry? Or is it just fucking content the way it is?

Are you bored? Or are you just scared to hear what is gonna pop up?

Are you over it? Or are you totally not down with getting to know your innermost thoughts and fears right now?

Look. If you’re reading this, there’s a 65% chance you live in New York City. I understand that there is no such thing as silence there. But I’m not asking you to find a silent spot where you live. I’m asking you to take silence into your own hands and create it yourself by being the silence.

Make sure you have a journal handy. You’re gonna wanna write your revelations down. So much shit came up for me. Some joyous, and some not so joyous. It’s not all pretty. But like Annalisa says, it’s actually really pretty. Because you’re giving yourself time and space to feel pain or joy and really feel it and then let it go. And that’s really beautiful.

Turn your damn phone on airplane mode. Let the laundry go just one day. Don’t look in the mirror for the first half of the day. Then, maybe take some time and look at yourself and really take it in. Figure out what you love about what you see. Then maybe next week, you can join me on this quest where I look at the parts of me that I avoid with my eyes in order to find what I can love and accept about it. IT’S GONNA BE GREAT FUN YOU GUYS SERIOUSLY I JUST CAN’T WAIT TO LOOK AT ALL THE THINGS I’VE AVOIDED FOR ALL THIS TIME SERIOUSLY IT’S GONNA BE SO GREAT. Just. So. Great.

Anyways. Can I just end on one more positive, inspiring note?

I have a new habit.

Even when I found myself out to dinner this week celebrating a month of amazingness with a beautiful man here in Hawaii, I still put my fork down between each bite. I learned that from mindful eating at the silent table this week and it stuck.

For once, good things are sticking. This is EVERYTHING. Good things are sticking!

Everything’s gonna be okay. I’m just so happy to be living proof for the “baby steps” mantra.

Baby fucking steps. You got this. I got this. One baby step at a time.

Here is the article that puts Mindful Eating quite simply: Mindful Eating by Headspace

Next week’s posting:

Forgiveness


The Power of Friendship in Eating Disorder Awareness

On a Thursday in May, my friend Christina called me to check on me.

Christina and I go way back. She knows a lot about me.

She knew I was in rough shape. Homegirl’s got instincts.

I didn’t book a job for the summer. First time since 2010.

I didn’t have a boyfriend. First time since 2009.

I was not aware that I have always used both those of things as my sole source of happiness.

Without a gig or a man, I didn’t have anything to distract me from my depression.

And when all my friends left for the summer to go to their summerstock gigs and their medical school residencies and their teaching jobs in LA, I was left here alone. Single. Unemployed. Unmotivated. And seriously bingeing.

On that Thursday when Christina called, she talked to me for an hour, giving me this clarity that no one has ever given to me before. She basically slapped me in the face with this awareness – I have always found my joy in a performing job or in a boyfriend. I’ve never figured out how to find the joy in just, living life.

I had never really been aware that this was a real issue for me. Until she explained it quite simply in common language and decorative curse words.

It was one of the first “aha!” moments that I had in my journey. It was a spark that helped start the fire under my ass to find help and figure my shit out.

When we got off the phone that day, she texted this picture to me.

Image

Ladies and gentleman, this post is about how friendship, and sometimes the lack thereof, can change your life.

I mentioned in last week’s post that eating is a very social activity.

Okay, for me, it’s a VERY fucking social activity.

I live in New York City.

When I want to hang out with my best friend who lives in Astoria, but I live in Washington Heights, and I have no idea how to use the M60 bus, we’re probably just going to meet in midtown for lunch. Or dinner. Or drinks. Or brunch. Because neither one of us wants to transfer trains and go alllllll the way to the other’s neighborhood.

Dude, food keeps friendships alive in this town.

That being said, let me just fill you in on what happened when the five closest people who I socially eat with THE MOST, peaced out of my life for a few months. These five people are my best friends. The people with whom I spend the majority of my time. My inner circle. The people that I text “good morning” to when I wake up at 2 in the afternoon.

We all have these people in our lives. All five of MY people just happened to leave the city for different jobs in different places at the EXACT SAME TIME.

So they leave. I’m here alone. Now what?

Well, I cried a bit. I drank a bit. I ate a SHIT ton of cookies ‘n’ cream with chocolate sprinkles.

And then I hit rock bottom.

Rock bottom was always looming in the distance. But up until my inner circle of friends left the city in May, I was able to distract myself by spending all of my free time with them – socially eating and socially drinking – and keeping my binging a secret.

I should clarify something. I have a lot of wonderful friends in this city. I wasn’t literally “left alone”. But in my world, everyone is coming and going all the time. There is a natural ebb and flow that occurs when working in a big city, and in a business that takes people all over the country at any given time. So friendships are constantly shifting. I become closer to certain people during certain times in life, and although it always seems to be exactly what I need in the end, I don’t recognize the positivity of the situation when it’s happening to me. And I do believe that the coming and going of friends in this life is a beautiful thing. But everyone has their core group of people that they go to no matter where they are on the map.

Point being, when dealing with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder, I tend to hibernate. I retract from the people outside of my inner circle. I fall off the radar, if you will.

I ended up very alone, on my own accord.

During this awful, alone time, my friend Rachel was moving out of her apartment and clearing clutter. She gave me a book to read. This was the first of many books that helped me begin a very slow ascent back to sanity, happiness, and awareness. Rachel gave me a tool that has changed my life forever.

Granted, even with that first book, and the love of my friends, I have had to struggle through a very dark, low time before finding energy to take that first step toward freedom.

But eventually, I just, started to do it. One foot in front of the other. Melissa – one of those five best friends currently out of town – always says to me, “baby steps”. It is absolutely my favorite mantra right now.

Baby steps.

I tell you all this, because in addition to my friend Rachel looking at me ten weeks ago and handing me that book with a fierce determination in her eyes, a very large part of my recovery as a binge-eater came in the past few weeks when all of my best friends were out of town performing at regional theatres.

I mean, my friends haven’t been around to hit up Brother Jimmy’s on a Thursday night. They haven’t been here to order Domino’s and stress-eat through yet another tragic episode of SMASH. Nor have they been here to go for a run across the GWB, and then stop on the way home to grab a half-gallon of Breyer’s Peach ice cream (seriously? peach?) and a six-pack of Shocktop to have for dinner.

Basically, unless I wanted to take some picklebacks on my own, I wasn’t going out as much as I used to while my nearest and dearest were out of town.

So I stayed home. And read. And faced my shit.

I cried. I binged. I read some more. I cried. I binged. I kept on reading. Writing. Praying. Reading more. I cried every day. And then…one day, I binged a little less. And a little less. And a little less.

Baby steps.

I had to face my shit, figure out how to fight through it, and come out alive. All by myself.

My closest friends and I agree, that the alone time I’ve had in the past few weeks, has actually been the best thing that could have ever happened for me.

Everything happens for a reason. Their timing was perfect.

I want to take an opportunity to say that thoughout this process, my friends, both in town and out of town, have offered me multitudes of encouragement and love.

I know that for years, it has broken their hearts to see me hurting because of the way my weight controls my entire life.

For years, they watched my mood change when the numbers on the scale went up and down.

For years, they looked at me with confusion on their faces when I abruptly got up and left social gatherings. They had no idea that I was leaving to go get food to take home with me for a binge. They never knew what was going on. It was just typical me – flaking on plans again.

For years, they listened to me turn down the Trader Joe’s Sea Salt Caramel bar that they keep in their kitchen cabinet for me for when I have a “chocolate attack”. And for years, they never said one judgemental word when eventually I gave in, ate the whole bar in one sitting, and bitched about it the rest of the night.

My friends do not give a SHIT what I weigh. Or what I eat. They just, love me. For being me.

If I could see myself through their eyes, I would beat myself up so much less and love myself so much more.

I’m willing to bet that your friends don’t give a shit what you weigh either. They just fucking love you.

Ladies and gentleman, when your friends look at you, I bet they see a lot of things that you don’t see in the mirror every morning. They see your grace. Your humor. Your ability to solve problems. Your loyalty. Your wit. Your compassion.

But that’s not something that they will always remember to tell you.

Sometimes, we just forget to tell our friends that they are funny, intelligent, warm, talented, creative, hard-working, and amazing.

I feel like it’s not very common for people to go walking around, reminding their friends of how wonderful they are. Sure, friends will compliment a trendy bracelet, a new haircut, a fierce pair of shoes. But complimenting personality traits, or the things that make us who we are – no matter what our weight is and no matter what color our hair is at the moment – is not really a thing.

So…let’s make it make it a thing.

Seriously, what would happen if we all started telling our friends how fucking awesome they are?

And while we’re at it, let’s just go balls to the wall and tell our friends how fucking gorgeous they are. Whether your friend is skinnier than they want to be or they are heavier than they want to be, tell them how beautiful they are, whenever you can.

There’s nothing like that rush of surprise that you feel when your best friend tells you that you look hot.

I believe that the moral of my story is, give your friends a little extra love this week.

A compliment from a friend is unexpected, and special, and goes a really long way.

I, for one, am extremely lucky to have the most loving, compassionate people as my best friends. They tell me I’m beautiful when I’m in pin curls. After I wash my make-up off. At a hungover brunch the day after an opening night party. And never once, has my weight affected the way they love me.

Never forget that the same applies to you and your friendships too.

The number on the scale is never going to make your best friends love you any less.

Hey. Hey YOU. Did you hear that?

The number on the scale is NEVER going to make your best friends love you any less.

Have a great week with your friends 🙂


On Dating and Dieting in Show Business

Dating.

Actually, the combination of dating and eating. Sometimes, it doubly affects those of us in the entertainment industry.

Isn’t it crazy how…

When you date a person who could care less about food, all you do is wish they understood your love for food – whether you’re eating in their absence, or as you eat in right in front of them?

So that when you say, “baby, let’s go get ice cream”, and they say, “nah, i’m not hungry”, something inside of you clenches up. You feel guilty, embarrassed, sad, and mad all at the same time. Guilty and embarrassed for asking and wanting ice cream. Sad that they aren’t just like you when it comes to food. Mad that it even matters.

But THEN…

When you date a person who loves food, you’re half pissed and half happy that it gives you an excuse to eat more food. And you feel guilty and embarrassed for loving the person even more because they want to eat when you want to eat. You’re sad that it matters to you so much. Maybe even mad that this is such an important thing to you when you look for a partner.

So the good news is, when it comes to dating, you’re damned if you find someone who’s hungry and you’re damned if you find someone who’s not.

AMAZING.

A prime example is when I first met Stallion last year. My 37-year-old, very sexy, very funny, emotionally unavailable Italian-American boyfriend of 8 months. I wrote this about him in a file I had started on my laptop named “My Fucking Memoirs”:

October 9th, 2012

I met a man who eats ice cream out of the actual half gallon container and lets me put sprinkles and whipped cream on it. He eats it with a fork. I love him. He understands sleeping in and not showering and clothes on the floor. Like seriously thank you for your time. It’s about time. I have never seen him in a shirt and tie and I don’t really want to because his jersey shore wife beater style is so much better for me. I hate businessman. I don’t want to date businessman. They don’t know anything about girls like me and I have no interest in hearing about their lives. Like their lives are not anything I want a part of except their money and even then I just don’t want to have to unbutton that many buttons just to thank them for the expensive dinner I shouldn’t have eaten cuz it was covered in truffle oil and special fucking sheep cheese and shit that I now have deduct from my Weight Watchers points that are strictly meant for Nutella.

You may notice I was going through a phase where I just didn’t like to use punctuation.

You may also notice that I felt so comfortable around Stallion because he loved food. He would never turn me down when I wanted to eat. He could eat and eat and eat just like I could. You see how much I fell for this man just because he was the kind known to eat dollar pizza as an appetizer before we even went for dinner?

Food links us to people. It is a social activity, especially in New York. And especially in what we do for a living. You audition all day – you go to happy hour. Your friend returns from a year on the road – you go for dinner. You had a great callback – you celebrate with a cupcake. You had a bad callback – you treat yourself to a cupcake. We convene over coffee, lunches, and drinks whenever there is a birthday, engagement, or good-bye party. It’s what we do.

The most social eating of all though, comes with dating. The first date is normally some drinks. Dinner if it goes well. And this happens for a few dates because let’s be honest here – I live in New York City. Here, we have to be extra careful when we meet these people out on dates – we have no idea what level of crazy we might be dealing with. We’ve seen Law & Order: SVU and we aren’t trying to bring homeboy back to the apartment right away. It might be cheaper to grab a bottle of wine and a Trader Joe’s Penne Arrabiata and cook for two at home, but honey, I am a starving artist who doesn’t always have the opportunity to go to the fancy places. Why would I not want someone to take me to the 90 dollar dinner, with drinks, at the newest, darkest cocktail bar below 14th Street? It might be the only time we get to try said cocktail bar before it’s turned over into a new hookah bar featuring Spanish/Chinese/African/American Bistro fusion food with a Thai Mexican flair.

And so, if you’re on any sort of diet regimen during all of this time when you’re trying very hard to figure out if this OkCupid situation is a bust or not, you’re also counting calories, only drinking clear liquor, and turning down the most delicious chocolate cake you’re ever fucking seen during your dates because, surprise, surprise, you have to be in a leotard and tights for A CHORUS LINE call at 10am tomorrow.

That’s a lot of things to focus on when all you really should be doing is going for drinks with someone who might make you laugh, or tell you’re beautiful, if you could just get out of your head for a few minutes and enjoy the moment.

When I was watching my weight, aka, what I’ve been doing every day since I’m 16, I was so fucking concerned about the fact that if I wanted more than one beer on a date, I’d have to pay for it at the gym the whole next day. This automatically made me focus on all the beers I couldn’t have, instead of the cold, frothy one right in front of me. So I missed out on the great conversation, and the taste of that nine dollar beer that this gorgeous dude was buying me, because my mind was pre-occupied. I was racing to come up with excuses as to why I wouldn’t want an order of fries in a few minutes, or why I was about to switch to Bud Light for 99 calories.

And people wonder why my ring finger is naked.

HELLO. I’VE NEVER GIVEN ANYONE THE TIME OF DAY BECAUSE I’VE BEEN TOO WORRIED ABOUT THE CALORIES IN A FUCKING BEER ON A DATE.

But listen! In this career, sometimes that’s life.

Where do we draw the line between going out and meeting Mr. Comedian With The Blue Eyes for some drinks and tapas, or going home and going to bed, knowing that we have to be in shape for an audition every day in March? Because the summer season is fast approaching and this is the month that determines whether we have to wait tables for a summer or if we get wigged and costumed for a summer. 

At what point do we get to stop going crazy about having dessert on our third date with Mr. English Accent With The Tattoos but then feeling like we should say no to a nightcap because we have to take ballet at 9am with that teacher who is also choreographing HELLO DOLLY in July?

It’s so hard to say.

Do I have all of the answers? Well. Kind of.

First of all, obsessing over it is definitely not the answer.

But how the fuck are we NOT supposed to obsess over it?

As my gay husband, B, is always telling me, we have to live in the moment.

However, as I used to constantly whine back to him, dieting does not ALLOW us to live in the moment. Because we are always planning, planning, planning the next thing we can or cannot have.

Soooo, what am I telling you to do exactly?

Stop dieting?

Well, I mean, that’s what I’ve done. That’s what has gotten me here. But you don’t have to. Live your life and take what I say and use it in whatever capacity you want to as you continue your own journey.

But in regards to living in the moment, let me say this.

If you go on a date this week, or next week, or if you are already dating someone wonderful, or even mediocre, could you please try just this once, to go out with them and simply…have a beer? Sit and listen to them while you sip that beer, and really focus on what they are saying.  This will actually keep you from thinking about the next beer, or the french fries, or the pizza you want to binge on when you get home from this date, that you have already assumed won’t end well, even though you don’t even know that yet. Because guess what? You just sat down to the FIRST beer. And he JUST started telling you the whereabouts of his apartment in Brooklyn. And you’re trying to figure out what the hell he means when he says he takes the “G Train”. And if you engage with him as he lights up about his rescued dog and his orange bike that he’s had since college, and you continue to ask questions to really find out a little more about him, you might notice that the first beer disappears a little less quickly. And the second beer might just come along because you’re having a really nice time. And it might take an extra long time to finish the second beer because now he’s asking YOU a bunch of questions. You’re so busy telling him about how much you love to sing covers of Amy Winehouse with your band that breaks up once a month that rehearses in Brooklyn (nowhere near the G train obviously), that you haven’t even had time to finish your second beer before you both realize this has been really nice, and it’s getting late, but perhaps you can do it again another time when you both don’t have early mornings. And you might just find yourself smiling on that very local train ride home. And you might not even remember that the pizza is in the fridge, and you might even just go to bed, perfectly content – not hating yourself (or your diet, or your career choice) for the amount of beers you had on the date with Mr. G Train.

Just try it.

It could be just the thing you need to re-vamp everything that you’ve trained yourself to do for all these years.

It could be a small attempt at living in the moment.

And it could be really awesome.