The Library That Saved My Life

I’ll never forget the way I was sitting on my bed last May in my underwear – left leg tucked, right leg straight, cookies and cream container stuck between my thighs –  when I first read  this excerpt from Geneen Roth’s When Food Is Love:

“From a journal entry, October 10, 1978. Today I ate:

1/3 package graham crackers (100 calories)

1 salad with dressing (300 calories)

1/8 lb. carob chips (200 calories)

1 cookie (75 calories)

1/4 lb. granola (300 calories)

4 tbsp. cashew butter (300 calories)

32 ounces apple juice (300 calories)

1/2 Wayfarer’s bread (250 calories)

5 tbsp. hummus (300 calories)

1 ice cream sandwich (400 calories)

1 apple (76 calories)

1 fudge bar (200 calories)

1 package brown rice crackers (200 calories)

1 tbsp. peanut butter (75 calories)

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream (2000 calories)

DAY’S TOTAL CALORIES: 5176

October 11, 1978, 3 A.M.: I awaken with an image of myself slashing each organ in my body to pieces. With each strike I say, “Good. Again. Harder.” I want to destroy myself. I want to eat until I die. The pain seems so deserving. It is the only way I am comfortable. Not sleeping, eating uncontrollably, driving myself to the edge, this feels right. I want to get in my car and go to Albertson’s. 3 A.M. Bright lights. Eat ice cream. Be totally mad and fling myself into the ocean. Get rid of myself. I hate this creature that I am. Good. Again. Harder.”

When I read that, and realized that I was not the only one in the world that did such things – that ate like that, that hated myself at 3 A.M. like that, that wanted to go out and get more ice cream even after all that – I was overwhelmed with relief, and grief, and a sick happiness, and the daunting question of “well shit, now what?”

The only way to answer my question was to keep reading. And I never stopped. Over the past nine months I have read myself sane. I have read myself happy. I have read myself healthy. Not 100% sane, or 100% happy, and not even close to 100% healthy, but I’m a lot closer today than I was last May, covered in sticky ice cream and chocolate sprinkles.

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My library is a compilation of used books, borrowed books, yard sale books, and Kindle purchases all based off of loving friends’ recommendations or my own random discoveries or even gifts from strangers who I met at the yoga retreat.

I want to share my personal library with you because you never know what might strike a chord with you. I’m currently going on a JOURNEY with Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating, thanks to my aunt who sent it to me for Christmas. Books are my therapy, dude, seriously. My life is constantly changing because of what I read and how I apply it to my life.

Just like people, no book is ever perfect. I’ve learned to take what I need and leave the rest. Sometimes, only one chapter applies to me at the time, and I know that at a later point, I’ll understand the rest of the book. I read Eat, Pray, Love when I was 23, and again when I was 25, and each time was extremely different. A lot can happen in two years. So I encourage you to check out these books now – and if they don’t speak to you, keep them on your list for the future.

One last thing – you’ll notice that each book is directly linked to Amazon.com where you can purchase it directly. I personally support used book stores and local business before I ever buy a book online, but sometimes, you see the description for a book and you’re just like, “I NEED TO READ THAT RIGHT NOW.”

The books listed below are not just for emotional eaters or for women who struggle with body image. There’s something here for everybody – the anxious, the depressed, the confused, the performer, the creator, the lover – or the friend of an anxious, depressed, confused, performer-creator-lover. You might find insight on people you love, even if it doesn’t relate to you. I want to help, inspire, and encourage you and your loved ones. I hope that what you find below suits your needs.

Ready? Here we go. My library, in the order that I read them this past year. Each bulletpoint includes the title with a link to Amazon, the author, and my description of the book or an excerpt from the book in italics (sometimes, the book needs to do the talking):

  • When Food Is Love by Geneen Roth: The excerpt that opened this blog post is from this book. This is the first book I read when I hit rock bottom.  It started my journey with Geneen Roth, whose books literally saved my life. It brought awareness to the way I use food as a drug, and the way I have used dating, addiction, and failure as distractions.
  • Breaking Free from Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth: “By the time I was twenty-eight I knew how many calories were in any food that was presented to me. I knew how to lose weight and how to gain weight. I knew how to maintain my weight. I knew how to diet and how to binge. But I didn’t know when I was hungry. More painful, I didn’t know it was okay to be hungry. No one ever told me, or if they did, I had forgotten that being hungry was natural. My body was the enemy.” I learned how to eat, when I’m hungry, and not feel completely consumed by diet, food, or compulsion from this book. This book is my bible – still, to this day.
  • Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth: “There are many ways to bolt. Walking out the door. Renting a helicopter. Distracting yourself from your pain by doing a thousand different things: thinking about something else, blaming your mother, blaming someone else, getting into a fight, comparing yourself to other people, dreaming about life in the future, recalling life in the past, never getting deeply involved. Eating. Spending your life trying to lose weight or figure it all out…Staying where you are with what you are feeling or seeing or sensing is the first step in ending the obsession with food. And although it seems as if ending the obsession is what we all want to do, we actually want to keep it more…Obsession gives you something to do besides having your heart shattered by heart-shattering events.”
  • How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: I had no idea that the most simple acts of really remembering someone’s name and smiling in public could change my entire life. I can deal with anyone now – and I have truly become, a people person. I read this book right before I went to New Orleans last June and was hit on by every single attractive man I set my eyes on. Something about it must have worked, I’m telling you.
  • How To Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie: I have had anxiety my entire life. This common sense approach to overcome worry and anxiety has calmed me down and put everything in perspective. I constantly go back to it for gentle reminding that it’s all gonna be okay.
  • Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction by Thomas and Beverly Bien: This book totally cleared my vision after reading all of Geneen Roth’s books. Once I battled the actual eating disorder, I could take a step back and look at the addiction part of my eating disorder. This book can help anyone who has ever used cigarettes, weed, alcohol, sex, drugs, or food to fill the void in the past. You don’t have to be a serious addict to appreciate the amazing help this book provides – it can shed light on things regardless of your past.
  • Return To Love by Marianne Williamson: This book completely overhauled my thinking in terms of what “love” is. There really aren’t enough words in the English language to define all the ways love affects us, but this book taught me to surrender what is out of my control and truly open myself up for the goodness that the universe provides. Ms. Williamson writes sort of like I do – very down to earth and honest, and I like that. She writes like a human – not a psychology professor.
  • The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz: My life is forever changed because of these four simple principles. If the entire world read this book, there wouldn’t be guilt, anger, insecurity, or confrontation. By reading this book, you are contributing to a better world. I also wrote out the four agreements in relation to the audition world – if you are a performer, or an artist, please read this book – or at least check out my recent blog post about it.
  • The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp: Finding this in a used book store last month is the best thing that’s happened to me in 2014. Even if you are by no means in the creative or entertainment industry – this book is a must-read for a reminder that everyone is human, everyone struggles, and there are small ways to work through it and improve the way you find order and happiness in your daily life.
  • Feeding The Hungry Heart by Geneen Roth: I read this months after I read the first three Geneen Roth books and I wish I had read it first in a way. It’s concise, personal, and makes me feel completely not alone in this journey of mine. It’s a mix between Geneen’s advice and a compilation of different people who have dealt with emotional eating and eating disorders, telling their stories honestly and openly. I HIGHLY recommend reading this even if you aren’t an emotional eater – it will clue you into what some of your loved ones may be going through.
  • Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge: After doing months and months of reading on emotional and compulsive eating, sometimes you just need to read something else. My aunt sent me this book and I was skeptical because I don’t identify with Christianity – and Stasi Eldredge is a Christian-based author. However, I went on a JOURNEY with this book – every woman should read this and whoever you believe in, regardless if it’s God or Jesus or just good, old-fashioned love – you’ll find what you need in this book.
  • Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge: This book’s caption is “unveiling the mystery of a woman’s soul”. I’m three-quarters done with this book and I feel extremely vulnerable, but thank God. Again, this husband/wife team writes Christianity-based books, but I still identify with what this book is saying, regardless of my religion. I’m opening up and stepping back and looking at old wounds, old hurts, old battle scars, and really taking the time to accept them, process them, see how they’ve affected who I am today. This book is taking me into a journey of forgiveness, self-discovery, and self-trust.

These are the books that have profoundly shaped my past year. I quote them in my posts, on my vision boards, and in emails to friends. They are the best therapists I’ve ever known and none of them have ever asked to see my health insurance card.

I have to close with this quote that made me smile from ear to ear today while on my short plane ride from Maui to Kona:

“The word mother is more powerful when used as a verb than as a noun. All women are not mothers, but all women are called to mother. To mother is to nurture, to train, to educate, to rear…all women are uniquely gifted to help others in their lives become more of who they truly are – to encourage, nurture, and mother them toward their true selves. All women are called to mother. And all women are called to give birth. Women give birth to all kinds of things – to books (it’s nearly as hard as a child, believe me), to churches, to movements. Women give birth to ideas, to creative expressions, to ministries. A woman is not less of a woman because she is not a wife or has not physically borne a child…When we enter into our world and into the lives of those we love and offer our tender and strong feminine hearts, we cannot help but mother them.” –  John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating

If you’re reading this and you aren’t married, and you don’t have kids (like me), I hope this makes you smile too. My Facebook newsfeed might be full of newborn babies and engagement announcements each morning, but reading a quote like that reminds me that we’re all on different paths, and mine is mine for a reason. I’d like to think that I gave birth to the Roar movement, or the masking tape movement – which is what I’ll eventually have to call it when Katy Perry’s lawyers finally catch wind – and I have always had a tendency to mother my nearest and dearest. And today, while reading, I had a beautiful moment of realizing, accepting, and loving that about myself.

I hope one or more of these books offers you the same sort of moments.

Aloha and happy reading!

STAY TUNED FRIDAY, MARCH 28TH FOR THE RELEASE OF ROAR 2! I’M SO EXCITED I’M SO EXCITED I’M SO EXCITED I’M SO EXCITED!

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