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When Mom Hates Her body

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

A friend recently sent me a post called “When Your Mother Says She’s Fat” by author Kasey Edwards.

The post was hard for me to read – painful, too.

This is because I had a similar experience with my own mom growing up.

One night she and my dad were going to a party, and she looked sooooo pretty to me! So I told her, “Mom, you are beautiful!”

Her response was less than reassuring. While I don’t remember the exact words she used, I did get the distinct sense that she disagreed with me – that perhaps I had even somehow embarrassed myself with my lack of correct perception.

In my assertion that I saw my mom as beautiful, I had made myself vulnerable, and received criticism rather than appreciation in return.

It was also jarring to realize that, as her daughter, this meant I was not beautiful either – or at least, I was destined not to be as I grew up into a woman.

As a girl I loved to copy drawings of beautiful faces and clothes line-for-line out of the magazines, relishing my ability to recreate loveliness on paper.

But after that night, my girlish art hobby soon turned from a source of sensory delight into a fretful fantasy that maybe one day, if I just changed enough about myself, I might be the gorgeous woman being drawn instead of the copy artist.

I never did manage to achieve that goal.

Instead, I got sick, and then sicker. And then I grew up and realized that “beauty,” like talent and intelligence and all the rest, is both an inside job and a wholly subjective assessment. I also realized it was a choice I would have to make for myself – whether or not to see “me” as “beautiful.”

Understanding the “Anorexic Brain”

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

forkJust the fact that there is such a phrase in use today – the “anorexic brain” – makes me realize how far medical science has come since I first contracted anorexia as an 11 year-old in 1981.

Those were dark days – no longer was a person who refused food automatically incarcerated in a general psych ward – but neither were they ushered straightaway into treatments tailored to their specific needs.

This, of course, was because there were no treatments tailored to the needs of anorexics….or bulimics, for that matter, or persons suffering from binge eating disorder or eating disorders not otherwise specified or any types of eating issues.

But today, thanks in large part to the work of Dr. Walter Kaye at the University of California-San Diego, and Dr. James Locke at Stanford University, we are staring into the face of an exciting (and long awaited) new era.

With the help of brain imaging research, we are beginning to understand what kinds of treatments make the most sense to help people heal from irregular eating patterns. This imaging research shows clear differences in brain activity when the brains of persons who have suffered from eating disorders are compared against the brains of non-eating disorders persons.

Jenni Schaefer Book Giveaway and LIVE Podcast: In Honor of NEDAwareness Week 2014

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

LifeWithoutEd_10thAnniversaryAuthor, speaker, and eating disorders survivor Jenni Schaefer is a longtime friend and collaborator of mine.

She always motivates me to give my very best – and then to give even more.

10 years ago this month, Jenni accomplished a huge personal goal when she published the now-bestselling book Life Without Ed: how one woman declared independence from her eating disorder and you can too.

This month, “Life Without Ed” celebrates its 10th anniversary, and we celebrate Jenni, her recovery, and all she has done for others who are still struggling to recover.

On Wednesday, February 12th, Jenni will speak about her work and her recovery in a FREE MentorCONNECT teleconference.

This event is a part of our plans to raise awareness of eating disorders during NEDAwareness Week 2014.

==> You can RSVP for the free live teleconference (call in) event HERE.

==> If you can’t attend the live event, you can listen to the free podcast (once it is posted) HERE (or in iTunes).

==> You can participate in NEDA & MentorCONNECT’s 4th Annual Virtual Walk for eating disorders awareness by offering a donation or sharing this link with your social media networks (or both)!

You can also enter to win a free book right now, today – it is simple to enter!

To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is CLICK HERE TO READ  Jenni’s “DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE FROM ED.”

Then post a comment stating your commitment to declare your own independence from your eating disorder.

Two books – both signed anniversary editions of “Life Without Ed” – will be given away and winners will be chosen at random (using a random number generator Jenni suggested- this will be a real first for me!) :-)

Good Luck!

==> CLICK HERE TO READ Jenni’s “Declaration of Independence from ED,” post your commitment in a comment below, and enter to win a …

How to Deal When Someone Rejects Your Love

Monday, January 27th, 2014

oceanWhoo boy.

NOT my favorite topic, this one.

There are just so many issues with it. First of all, definitions. For instance, defining “rejection.” How does one know exactly that what they have received is rejection?

Or defining “love.” What is love, versus need, greed, codependency, etc.?

Then there is reconciliation – as in, reconciling what are often our mixed inner motives for offering our “love” in the first place – aka, what we were hoping/expecting/feeling entitled to receive back in return for our “gift.” Was it really love at all – what we were offering to the other person? Or was it a bargaining chip, a power play, a quid-pro-quo?

If we can sort these preliminary issues out, we might be on our way to really understanding why giving and receiving love feels so death-defyingly frightening…and often so nearly impossible to achieve.

One of my favorite authors, Don Miguel Ruiz, does a great job talking about these issues – me, not quite so much.

But since a sweet reader commented on a previous post and specifically asked me to answer her question (and I would very much like to answer it for myself as well) I will try.

Her question is, “I am still afraid to love other people openly and generously, because I am afraid that love will be rejected, and I will feel like an idiot. How do I overcome that?”

When I first read this question, I thought, “Good question!”

Then I started to think about how often we relate “love” to “romantic love,” kind of forgetting or discounting all the other kinds of love we feel and often demonstrate with more ease and peace. Love for family members, children, pets, community members, those who have fallen on hard times – all of these kinds of love are equally valid and worth exploring and expressing.

I also pondered that previous post – the one that prompted her question – and remembered yet again how Don Miguel Ruiz says that when we reject ourselves, we cannot offer authentic love to others, because we don’t perceive that what we have to offer has any real value.

So, given Ruiz’ wise counsel, and because I am a linear, flow-chart kind of person and I like step-by-step processes very much, it would then seem we might start to solve the problem by proceeding as follows:

It’s Lonely at the Bottom Too

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I spent many of my younger years playing bluegrass music competitively.

At one point in my teen years, I was a national mandolin champ, complete with the big four-foot trophy, the photo ops, and the total red-faced teenage embarrassment.

In fact, as long as I steered clear of known hazards such as cooking and sports and stuck to what I knew, I could pretty much count on succeeding at whatever I put my mind to… least when it came to setting and achieving the kinds of goals that were measured with ribbons, trophies, and write-ups in the local paper.

Drawing. Songwriting. Starting a new concept nonprofit. Publishing a book. Launching my parrot, Pearl, into fame and (hope hope hope) fortune.

These “top moments” have been grand. Fleeting, but grand while they lasted – and more than a bit daunting too.

Daunting because I’ve also had a generous share of what I call “bottom moments”….and these are a lot harder to forget. 

Win a Book by Jenni Schaefer and Attend Her Live Free Teleconference!

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

AlmostAnorexicbookMy dear friend and colleague Jenni Schaefer and her co-author, Jennifer J. Thomas, PhD, have been kind enough to share this great Top 10 list to help us all prepare for the holiday season.

At the end of the list, you will be invited to enter to win a CD or book from Jenni – absolutely FREE!

Please also note that Jenni & Jenny will be speaking LIVE in a FREE MentorCONNECT teleconference on Wed, December 4th.

You can RSVP for the live event HERE, or listen to the podcast (once it is posted) HERE (or in iTunes).

Good luck, future winners – and enjoy this great Top 10 List from Jenni & Jenny!

Top Ten Ways to Move from “Almost Eating Disordered” to “Recovered”

By Authors of Almost Anorexic, Jennifer J. Thomas, Ph.D. and Jenni Schaefer

1. Know the five main categories of eating disorder symptoms. Determine if any of these are a problem—or “almost” a problem—for you (or your loved one).

2. Know the difference between “barely recovered” and “fully recovered.”

3. Believe “fully recovered” is possible

Comprehending Grace

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

unmistakable-touchGrace is not an easily digestible concept for me.

The fact that it is still largely a concept in my mind is probably also not ideal.

Yet one of my all-time favorite books for absolutely years now is called “The Unmistakable Touch of Grace” by Cheryl Richardson.

In the past, Cheryl was on Oprah – for a whole year – talking about this book. She has also been in some other very high-profile places sharing her insights about grace.

This tells me that, a) other people also struggle to comprehend grace like I do, and b) Cheryl truly believes grace is real – alive – aka not just a concept.

I am happy about this. “Grace” is a beautiful word – one I resonate with and wish to keep company with. I am just not sure yet if my desire is reciprocated.

One particular grace-related challenge I am having is to decipher in my mind (my heart doesn’t seem to care about these sorts of semantics) whether or not grace is merit-based. Since so much else in our society seems to be, and we are largely educated, trained, and paid on a merit-based system, finding a pathway to accept non-merit based happy handouts is a challenge.

Replacing Anxiety with Faith

Monday, November 11th, 2013

nunMore and more lately I have contemplated a documentary film I watched last year on the life of Mother Teresa.

I can’t remember the film’s name (probably something catchy like “Mother Teresa”) but I remember oh-so-clearly what she said when asked about her fundraising efforts to support her worldwide ministry.

In one segment of the film, a young man asks for her permission to do some formal fundraising on her organization’s behalf. Unbelievably, Mother Teresa declines. She explains that when she needs money, she prays, and that has always seemed to work well.

I love this so much. Here is why.

My method when fundraising for the nonprofit I founded, MentorCONNECT, is typically to worry myself sick, then vent to our board about how we need cash, then have several doomsday dreams about running out of funds, all the while muttering indistinct prayer-type requests to whomever happens to be within earshot (seen or unseen) and eventually thanking our lucky stars when funding inevitably flows in from some totally unexpected source.

Recently it occurred to me that if I take out all the worrying, the venting and the doomsday prophecies, what I am left with is faith. Shallow and shot through with anxiety though it may be, still the seeds of faith are clearly there. 

Steve Jobs, Mentor

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Recently I watched the movie “Jobs.”

Despite being an enthusiastic Apple customer (phone, laptop) I didn’t know much about Steve Jobs’ life. I remained blissfully ignorant during the startup phase, the hostile takeover, the reinstatement, and even the initial diagnosis of cancer.

In fact, it wasn’t until I watched the film that I realized how marvelously mentor-like Jobs is. Was. Our loss.

I watched the entire film wondering, “Is this a bunch of fabrications or the real story?” To find out, I requested the book by the same name by Walter Isaacson, only to discover upon its arrival that there are 571 pages in it. So I did what I always do with extra-long books I only thought I wanted to read – flipped through until I found the pictures section.

There was this one part of the movie that has stuck with me – when Jobs was sitting alone in a sound booth in front of a microphone, speaking. The words he spoke were so profound, so inspiring. Listening to him, I felt like less of a misfit for having such trouble fitting in….for feeling endlessly compelled to attempt to carve out niches for myself where none appear to exist – as if they exist only in my imagination (or perhaps my fantasy).

On the very page after all the photos ended I found the passage from the movie (it is on page 329 for those of you who also think 571 pages is a bit, er, ambitious):

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

The book tells us that …

Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Monday, September 30th, 2013

teddybearA friend recently sent me an article with the intriguing title “The Trauma of Being Alive.”

I was on board with an enthusiastic endorsement before I even started reading.

Personally, I think that’s why we each came pre-installed with a “survival instinct,” that small, skinny, perennially anxious inner assistant that absolutely insists on warning us about things that haven’t even happened yet.

Only the writer of this particular article, a psychiatrist named Mark Epstein, didn’t call it a survival instinct. He called it “pre-traumatic stress syndrome.” What he actually said was:

Trauma is not just the result of major disasters. It does not happen to only some people. An undercurrent of trauma runs through ordinary life, shot through as it is with the poignancy of impermanence. I like to say that if we are not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, we are suffering from pre-traumatic stress disorder. There is no way to be alive without being conscious of the potential for disaster. One way or another, death (and its cousins: old age, illness, accidents, separation and loss) hangs over all of us. Nobody is immune. Our world is unstable and unpredictable, and operates, to a great degree and despite incredible scientific advancement, outside our ability to control it.

I really appreciate Mr. Epstein’s honesty. Whereas mainstream society is all too tempted to marginalize, categorize, segment and sequester experiences of trauma and grief, here is a fresh and much more accurate assessment of what is really going on in each and every life being lived today. We all have moments of mental illness and mental health, physical illness and physical health, triumph and disaster, trauma and joy.

In other words, we all at times suffer from the effects of choosing to get up again this morning. This is because we are all alive.


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Recent Comments
  • Shannon Cutts: You are so welcome, Mark – thank you for sharing your experience of reading and contemplating!
  • Mark1: Thanks for the encouragement and thanks for the great post. Who would of thought a simple truth like this...
  • Shannon Cutts: I am confident you would too, Mark – and that we all would. In these situations it has always...
  • Mark1: The alcoholic prayer (Serenity prayer) encourages people to do just that. God, grant me the serenity to accept...
  • Shannon Cutts: That is a very good point, Raymond! There is some part of our “survival instinct” that...
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