Shannon Cutts Articles

Celebrating Plumpness

Thursday, November 20th, 2014
The soft, plump, round seals of Cape Cod.

The soft, plump, round seals of Cape Cod basking in the warm morning sun.

Not so long ago, I found myself standing on a warm, sunny, sandy beach in my very favorite place on earth.

My folks and I were passing a pair of binoculars between us.

The focus of our avid interest?

Soft round brown harbor seals.

After struggling through half a mile of soft sand on foot, we burst over the top of the High Head dunes on Cape Cod to discover them by the hundreds, basking on the warm sand and bobbing happily in the surf with just their plump sweet noses upturned towards the sun.

We were riveted.

So soft!

So CUTE!

So round!

Soft, round, brown, cute, blubbery harbor seals. -Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Soft, round, brown, cute, blubbery harbor seals. -Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Suddenly I heard myself exclaim, “I love seals and all their round soft cute rolls of blubbery goodness!”

Huh? What?

Did I really just utter the equivalent of “I love blubber?”

Yup.

Yet there I was, standing on the beach beside them, feeling uncomfortably, well, blubbery, myself. 


‘Honest Signals’ as Our Mating Mentor

Monday, November 17th, 2014

WildConnectionsBookMy latest favorite read is called “Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us About Human Relationships.”

Written by scientist Jennifer L. Verdolin, the book’s fundamental query is simple:

What can studying animal relationships teach us about our own?

Right from the start I identified with the author, who described her early experiences with the opposite sex as “a puzzle I couldn’t quite figure out.”

In the opening pages, she shares, “I realized that I knew the ins and outs of the mating behavior of the animals I studied, but I knew very little about my own species or even about myself.

Hear, hear.

From the first chapter, years of confusion, frustration, and disillusionment about how my own species dates and mates began to melt away. I began to understand why things often feel so messed up – so complicated when they “should” be so simple.

I felt validated as well – if only through realizing I’m not the only human being who just “doesn’t get” how our species facilitates romance.

Here is one example.


Finding Your “Formula”

Monday, November 10th, 2014

shutterstock_74587597The older I get, the more perspective I gain about what works for me – and also what doesn’t.

For instance, trying to manage the stressors of life by using eating disordered behaviors doesn’t work.

Drinking caffeine all day to keep my energy level at a consistent “high” doesn’t work.

Ruminating excessively on all possible “worst case scenario” outcomes doesn’t work.

Taking handfuls of over-the-counter mood management supplements doesn’t work.

These are just a few examples.

What works for me is quite simple: medication + meditation.

Specifically in that order.

Meditation without medication offers some benefits, as does medication without meditation.

But together, they have forged an alliance that has given me a quality of life I had no thought possible.


Who Wouldn’t Love This?

Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Promotional poster for the The Sapphires - the hit Australian movie of 2012. (Credit: Hopscotch Films)

Promotional poster for the The Sapphires – the hit Australian movie of 2012. (Credit: Hopscotch Films)

Such goes my favorite line from one of my new favorite movies, “The Sapphires” (2012).

The film is based on the true story of an all-girl singing troupe who entertained the troops during the Vietnam war.

As aborigines living in their native Australia, the girls were marginalized – even hated. They were not even classified as people by their own government, but instead were considered part of the “flora and fauna.”

A chance meeting with a white talent scout puts them on the road to stardom, but even before this occurs, it is so clear they already have what many stars-in-the-making (and people, for that matter) will never have – a solid foundation of self-esteem to live from.

In fact, when the film opens, one of the future girl singers has just been left at the altar. Even while crying it out in the presence of her mom and sisters, she looks at her face in a hand mirror and bravely says to her mother, “Who wouldn’t love this?” (technically, she names her former fiancé here, but one can substitute any name with the same effect).

And throughout the film, in similar fashion, the girls pull no punches with one another, their scout-turned-manager, or themselves.

They may be young….they may be inexperienced in the ways of the world….but they are not letting any of that get under their skin. 


How to Be Important

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

shutterstock_220487410Recently, I happened across a post on marine ecologist and author Carl Safina’s website called “How to Be Important After Graduation (Anytime Really).”

I wish I could remember anything – even a single word – our commencement speaker shared the day I graduated.

If any of the words had been these words, I know I would still remember them.

Carl begins his speech by saying “graduation is always a joyful time.”

It wasn’t joyful for me.

It was scary, and strange, and artificial.

I felt lonely and very much unprepared.

I wasn’t ready for any of it, but it wouldn’t wait any longer. I could hear it in the background stamping its increasingly impatient little foot, telling me I’d better hurry up and get ready….”or else.”

Terrifying.


Your Body is Worth Getting to Know

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Nothing feels quite so wonderful as suddenly discovering the power of your own WINGS!

Nothing feels quite so wonderful as suddenly discovering the power of your own WINGS!

I was in my late 20′s, and well into my struggles with anorexia and bulimia, before I began to perceive a tangible difference between “my body” and “me.”

After so many years of casually speaking about “my body,” “my mind,” “my heart,” “my spirit,” I finally started to wonder just who the “my” was who claimed all of these things.

Who owned “my body?”

Who was in charge of “my mind?”

Who sensed the presence of “my heart?”

Who was it who spoke of “my spirit” with such confidence?

Well, it must be …. “me.”

All at once, I became deeply curious about just who this “me” was who rated a body, a mind, a heart, a spirit all her own.


How to Dodge Despair and Lure Hope

Monday, October 27th, 2014

shutterstock_165376283With this post, I return again to that literal tome of life wisdom, “Voyage of the Turtle” by Carl Safina.

I have always learned so much from my animal companions….and continue to do so each and every day.

I also love watching nature documentaries that follow animals during their day-to-day lives so I can learn.

Sometimes while I’m watching these programs I think, “Oh, no, I could never eat termites for lunch!” and that is that.

At other times, the documentary reveals something so profound….a shared sense of deep and timeless, well, humanity – only the species I share it in common with is not technically “human.”

At a particular point in Safina’s book, he is describing the despair researchers have often felt as they have battled against humanity, global warming, inertia (from the general public, interested parties, and other scientists), and the suffering of the sea turtles themselves to maintain the hope for species regeneration.

He writes:

All the senior professionals…..they all work from hope. They’re not the types to gloss over problems or look through rose-tinted lenses. Quite the opposite; they’ve been the first to sound alarms. They’ve felt despair and fought despite it. I’ve learned this by observing the real professionals who go the distance. You dodge despair by not taking the deluge of problems full-bore. You focus on what can work, what can help, or what you can do, and you seize it, and then – you don’t let go. What they see, and what I’ve come to see, is the possibility of making things better. That’s what hope is: the belief that things can get better. The world belongs to people who don’t give up. (emphasis added)

But wait – it gets even better:


Mentoring – a Proven Resource for Extra Recovery Support

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
mentor connect

MentorCONNECT is the first global nonprofit eating disorders mentoring community – and the subject of a 2010 Texas A&M-sponsored research survey into the efficacy of mentoring for eating disorders recovery.

If you’ve been following this blog for longer than five minutes, you already know I’m a staunch champion of mentoring (plus the blog title kind of gives it away).

And not just for eating disorders recovery, either, or even for recovery in general – I’m also a huge fan of mentoring just for living life.

Mentoring (like feathers) makes everything better.

From the moment I met my first mentor, the alienation I had always felt from everyone and everything else began to fade.

At last, another being SAW me.

A single other soul really LOOKED at me – into me – noticed me.

I felt known – like my name suddenly took on greater meaning, and so did my life.

If I tripped and fell, someone else would care (and bring a band-aid and antiseptic wipes).

If I had a great day (or even a great minute) someone would cheer and celebrate with me.

The gift of mentoring changed my life – my whole world.

Since founding MentorCONNECT in 2009, I have been working with a wonderful researcher, Dr. Marisol Perez, and her team at Texas A&M University to quantify the value of mentoring as a source of support during the eating disorders recovery process.


Pinups of the Past (and What They Teach Us Today)

Thursday, October 9th, 2014
May 1934 from "Pinups of the Past" (from E. Phillips/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

May 1934 from “Pinups of the Past” (from E. Phillips/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

I wonder if there has ever been a time in history when human beings have not been fascinated by the human body – our own and others’.

According to various sources, the “mirror” was invented sometime around the first century.

Depending on how you define “camera,” the first one was invented either in 1000 A.D., 1827, or still later.

All that to say, human beings have had access to the means for examining our visual selves for thousands of years.

Even before mirrors or cameras (let alone “selfies”), there were ponds and paintings, poetry and prose.

Recently I came across a photo montage entitled “Rare Pinups: Vintage Bikini Models.”

The montage contains images from as early as 1902 – just a few decades after the camera itself became widely accessible.

Some of the models’  costumes must be seen to be believed. It is hard to imagine bathing in these outfits – even walking in some of them must have been difficult.

Alongside the usual assortment of film and show stars are un-named models. Very few appear to be re-touched after the fact (aka the widespread use of tools like Photoshop today).

The two photos that most captivated me are #30 and #34 (just scroll through the montage – each photo is numbered).

I noticed a few key things after I completed my viewing of the full montage.

  • I remembered #30 and #34 the best – and felt most moved by and connected to these images.
  • I felt more comfortable in my own skin.
  • I felt more body confidence.
  • I felt happier.

In a way, the montage had gently mentored me without me even realizing it – giving me a glimpse of what it might be like to live in a culture where beauty ideals more closely match my own body.

There was a time in my life when I thought my worth 100% relied upon my body shape and size. 


Selfies: What’s All the Fuss About?

Monday, October 6th, 2014

In late 2013, the word “selfie” won “Word of the Year” – a somewhat dubious award given out annually by the Oxford English Dictionary.

The selfie – at least as it is recognized today – is also totally dependent on photography.

In other words, no camera, no selfie.

Interestingly, a “selfie friendly” camera has only been available to the masses (i.e. people like me with no photographic talent) since 2010, when Apple released the iPhone 4 with its turnaround front-facing camera feature.

Yet, just a few short years later, opinions about selfies are so polarized that, on any given day, we have an entire country scrabbling for founder’s rights, journalists claiming selfies are already on their way out in pop culture, and a French photographer named JR installing his 4,000 portrait tribute to selfies in none other than Paris’ Pantheon.

“French photographer JR thinks selfies can change the world,” a Time magazine headline proclaims.

At first the photographer (who sticks to his initials and won’t reveal any personal details beyond his French nationality) participated as bio-photographer in capturing people’s “selfie” images … a move which technically violates the spirit of what selfies are all about.

However, once he received TED funding ($100,000 worth), his role shifted firmly into one of documenting independently-snapped selfies voluntarily uploaded to his website.

JR believes selfies help us connect face to face and empathize with one another in a world that feels increasingly wide and impersonal.

On that note, in the spirit of writing a balanced post (gotta love being a writer) I did a little online sleuthing using the term “selfie.” 


 

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