Tag Archives: Eating disorders

Staying Strong: Our Favorite Quotes from Demi Lovato’s New Book

Demi TattooMost people know Demi Lovato from her stint as a Disney Channel princess (no really, she did play a princess in one of their Disney Channel original movies – Princess Protection Program) or you recognize her as a judge on FOX’s X-Factor. What you might not know is that a couple of years ago the pop singer entered a rehabilitation clinic to battle her issues with self-harm and an eating disorder. When she emerged from treatment she had the words “Stay Strong” tattooed on her wrists to help remind her of the strength she has to overcome the personal demons she was battling.

Demi has been vocal about her struggles, sharing quotes and advice to her 20 million Twitter and Facebook followers. She’s an advocate against bullying and works constantly to provide support services and positive outlooks for young people that struggle with the same issues that she has had to face. Her latest effort to bring support and positivity into the lives of teens dealing with depression and eating disorders is a new book “Staying Strong” which is a collection of 365 quotes and meditations that Demi has personally used to help motivate herself and bring her out of dark places. We are giving out five copies of the book this week from Intent Blog and Intent.com so make sure you comment below for your chance to get one!

In celebration of Demi’s recovery and in honor of her work in trying to provide a bright light for those struggling with the same things we have compiled a few of our favorite quotes from “Staying Strong.” We hope that if you are dealing with any darkness that they empower you to seek help and your own light to find your inner strength.

On sharing and communityListen to other people’s stories and find the strength and beauty in their actions

Demi: I love to hear my fans’ stories because they are so inspiring. They tell me how they have overcome bullying, eating disorders, addictions, cutting and it’s amazing how much strength we each have inside us. I also believe that when you share your story the strength in you grows and the inspirational effect you have on others multiplies. It takes courage to open up to others.

On positive influences: “You’re only as strong as your weakest member; you’re only as positive as your most negative friend” – Kelly Rowland

Demi: It’s important to remember how our friends have such a powerful influence on us and vice versa. This can be a great thing as long as your friends surround you with love, loyalty, respect and positivity.

On jealousy“Don’t torment yourself with jealousy. It’s a silly illusion that someone’s life is better than yours when the truth is that each one of us is on a different path.”

Demi: There are times in my life when I let myself get consumed with jealously for someone else’s life, their body, their wardrobe, their talent. They call it the green-eyed monster for a reason. It’s a self destructive and when it’s in the room, it consumes you. Be strong and don’t focus on what other people have.

On giving: “Give what you want to receive. If you want happiness, make others happy.” – Russell Simmons

Demi: It’s a simple law of attraction that you get back what you put out into the universe. The more love you give, the more love you attract. The more love you attract, the more love you receive. WHen we put good energy into the world, we feel good. We make those around us feel good.

On peace: “If you and I are having a single thought of violence or hatred against anyone in the world at this moment, we are contributing to the wounding of the world” – Deepak Chopra

Demi: Violence is the easy way out and it only leads to more violence. We need people in this world who are willing to find solutions through peace, through communication, honesty and diplomacy. World peace may seem impossible, but it’s worth aiming for.

On creativity: “And all the colors I am inside have not been invented yet.” – Shel Silverstein

Creativity is so much more than just producing art. It also allows you to purge toxic emotions and thoughts in a positive, healthy way. For me, it’s singing and playing music. When I perform I’m able to express my emotions without engaging in self-destructive behaviors.

On fear“I am not fearless. I get scared plenty. But I have also learned how to channel that emotion to sharpen me” – Bear Grylls

Demi: All fear has ever done is hold me back. I have so many things I want to accomplish in my life. For myself and for the world. Fear is useless; it just gets in the way of accomplishing everything Overcome fear today and and confront one of your phobias.

If you have a favorite quote share it in the comments below!

Demi Lovato’s “Staying Strong” was published via Macmillan Publishers on Nov. 19, 2013. Comment below to win a copy or purchase from any major book retailers. 

#OccupyYouAreBeautiful: Why I’m Camped Out On A Rooftop Yoga Mat

Right now I’m sitting on a yoga mat on the rooftop of 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. Just below me is a giant red wall painted with the words “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL,” and there are two ten-foot tall inflatable dancing man balloons blowing in the wind beside me. There are men and women walking by on the sidewalk below, a beautiful community garden across the street. The ocean is just visible in the distance. This is #OccupyYouAreBeautiful.

Between today and Wednesday, September 18, this yoga mat will be my home. I will stay here all day and all night — I will eat here, sleep here, and I will be joined by yoga teachers, musicians, speakers, and other members of the community.

#OccupyYouAreBeautiful is a public demonstration of solidarity with people who struggle with food and body image issues on all ends of the spectrum. Together, we are taking a stand – for life, for happiness, and for the right for all people to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

The statistics around eating disorders in this country are discouraging. Nearly 24 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, and millions of others struggle with food and body image issues at a sub-clinical level. This disease kills nearly half a million people every year – daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, and spouses. That’s not okay. 32-year-olds shouldn’t be dying of starvation. 8-year-olds shouldn’t be vomiting to lose weight. This is not the kind of society I want to raise my kids in.

Over the past several years, I’ve built my life and career around helping others recover from this illness. I believe yoga can be a game-changer in the fight against eating disorders, and more importantly, I believe it can help shift the sociocultural dynamics that contribute to eating disorders to begin with. Yoga teaches critical skills for developing a healthy relationship with food and one’s body (which many of us never learn as children), and it can equip those who struggle with these issues with skills that pharmaceuticals, talk therapy, and other traditional forms of treatment simply do not provide.

That’s why I developed Yoga for Eating Disorders — to teach people who struggle with eating disorders practical tools for using yoga in their recovery. Specifically, the program teaches yoga-derived exercises for tuning into hunger and fullness signals, coping with difficult emotions, and learning to relate to the body as an ally rather than an enemy. The average cost of eating disorder treatment is $1,250 per day, and even at that rate over half of patients relapse after discharge. Eating disorders — from anorexia to binge eating — take a huge toll on our healthcare system. Yoga is a cost-effective way to teach those who struggle with these issues skills for long term recovery, potentially shortening treatment, reducing relapse, and ultimately saving lives.

On July 30th (my 24th birthday), I launched a crowd-funding campaign with the ambitious goal of raising $50K to take Yoga for Eating Disorders to treatment centers around the country at no charge, collect data for an evidence based study on its effectiveness in treatment, and offer pro-bono talks about eating disorder prevention at local schools in each city where the program is offered. We’ve raised almost $30K so far, but with only 4 days left in the campaign it’s time for something a little more drastic. It’s time to Occupy.

Inspired by my friend Will Baxter of the Don’t Let Will Die campaign, I am demonstrating my solidarity with eating disorder sufferers around the world by taking a stand. I invite you to take a stand with me – for life, for freedom, and for the belief that all people have the right to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

With less than 100 hours left in our campaign, I need your help. I will not let this campaign fail. This yoga mat saved my life once, and I’m not getting off it until other have the same opportunity.

Stand with me by donating today!

You can stand in solidarity with Chelsea and #OccupyYouAreBeautiful by making a donation, sharing this campaign with your friends and family, commenting on this page and visiting her at 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. There is no reason this has to be the only #OccupyYouAreBeautiful. Host one in your own community!

A Mom to Her Young Daughter: You are not ugly. God doesn’t do ugly.

We'll Forsake Our Ages and Pretend We Are ChildrenMy first grader and I were snuggling at bedtime when she confessed:

“Mommy, I don’t like my face.”

She told me she thinks she’s ugly, that she hates her body, “The girls at school don’t want me in their group because my face doesn’t look pretty like their faces.”

Ummmm… Whhaaaaaaat?

She’s too young for self image issues. I was 12 before I started feeling insecure about my body, which is sad enough, but to be feeling this way at age 6?

How does a mother respond to that? Give a pep talk? Borrow a library book about self-esteem? Make a call to the school psychologist? And after I do all that, then what?

Carrying the burden of an unhealthy self image is like being an addict. You know it’s wrong, but no one can convince you of subscribing to another way of functioning until you’re ready. You’ve got to beat yourself up long enough to learn that accepting garbage into your life makes you feel like, well, like garbage – until finally you explode, “Okay, okay enough already! I want better for myself! I’m ready to make a change! Help me!!!”

My 6 year old is not ready for change because she doesn’t realize there’s a problem. Poor self image is her normal.

She doesn’t understand where her feelings are coming from. And honestly, I don’t either. A challenge from a past life? A side-effect of American culture? A chemical imbalance? I just don’t know. But ugly is her truth.

I can’t force her to believe that physical attractiveness is unimportant. No lecture can convince her that she was born perfect and complete. She needs to learn those things on her own. But she chose me as her mother for a reason – and I happened to be equipped with some pretty helpful tools with which she can empower herself and start fixing the bits she doesn’t know are broken.

To start, I talked to her about challenges, a familiar topic in my household and in my writing. I explained that we’re all born with a set of challenges, and it’s our job in life to figure out how to work through them. Challenges are sneaky. They feel like they’re real, but actually they’re more like a series of magic tricks. Smoke and mirrors. Divine booby traps set up to see if we can figure our ways past them and learn a lesson in the process. If challenges didn’t exist, life would be so boring that we wouldn’t exist either. So we deal with them – even welcome them – so we can continue to learn about love and life on this amazing planet.

Some challenges we can embrace and some challenges we can balance. The challenge that my baby girl is facing is one that requires a little of both of these actions. She needs to work on embracing, or lovingly accepting, her body just the way it is and balancing the way she feels about herself, inside and out, so that she can feel happy when she’s playing with other kids.

This idea is sort of lofty so we broke it down, talking about the divineness and perfection of her soul energy and decided together that she looks exactly the way the universe designed her to look. God doesn’t do ugly, only perfect. And there’s no arguing with God.

We also enlisted the support of my 6 year old’s personal hero – her big sister. Self esteem is cultivated safely at home, the perfect training ground for the outside world. We talk a lot about the power of our family and the strength that we emote through the way we love each other. Big sister agrees to help set the pace (as best she can) to help little sister with her challenge. She can help to provide safe harbor for her little sister by showing her kindness, affection, and forgiveness.

In Buddhism it is believed that a beautiful face is a gift from a previous lifetime of demonstrating kindness. But whether or not you believe in past lives, we can probably all agree that kindness and love manifest physically in people. We say things like, “I don’t know what it is. There’s just something about that person.” Or maybe you’ve heard the saying that by the time we’re 50 we get the face that we deserve. It’s rooted in the same idea – kindness IS beauty.

Insecurity isn’t about physical appearance. It’s about a deficiency in love and my family has no shortage of love to give my little girl.

So for another layer of healing, we coupled our breathing and meditation practice with Wayne Dyer’s “I Am” statements to program her brain with affirmations at bedtime saying, “I am loving. I am loved. I am compassionate. I am bright. I am kind. I am helpful. I am caring. I am good.” And she marinates in those words while she sleeps.

Notice that I do not use the affirmation, “I am beautiful.” I decided deliberately not to use that word because her current definition of beauty is solely external. Instead we focus on intangibles.

I’d like to tell you that we did this and it worked and my daughter is now a confident, carefree young girl. But that’s not the case. We keep bestowing our love while practicing our breathing and affirmations, and she continues to feel unsure about the meaning of beauty and her place in the social spectrum. I’m confident, however, that with time and mindful commitment, the momentum will shift and she will start to feel the peace that comes with finding balance and acceptance of her life as it is, just like her Mommy did.

Redefining Beauty and Brains as a Middle-Aged Hippie

WBeverley-online-Ghen I was much younger people saw me as being so beautiful or so smart. Some who knew me very well, actually saw both. I strove at all costs to have my intellect be recognized as my principle asset and, heaven forbid, someone would relate to me as ‘just another pretty face.”

To some degree that worked. I left high school early and went to play with a large group of boys at university, who were all eager to make their mark in the big bad world of business, as was I. At graduation, I was awarded the gold medal as the outstanding graduate from a class of 400 business students. Not bad considering only ten of us were women. Times have definitely changed.

Now that I’m older, I’d like to think that I’m still smart. My mother at least confirms this for me by telling me “You’re too smart for your own good.” Although I’ve never quite figured out what that means, I am going to take it as a compliment. The beauty issue is quite another story. Actually, it is in fact intertwined with many, many of my life stories, which are chronicled in my upcoming memoir Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie, to be published this summer.

Up until a week ago, the picture that lives of me in cyberspace, (although only two-and-a-half-years old), apparently looks to some people like I am a lot younger than I am. One man told me I look like a single woman still in the dating scene who is in her late 20s or early 30s. Yikes! I immediately booked a photo session, as I wanted a fresh new authentic author photo that represents who I am today. Having always photographed well, I’m grateful that most of the time, I do look good in pictures. However, I admit that like many aging women, I questioned how real would be real enough to accurately represent me now. Tough question indeed.

My life, as I write about in my book, has been a journey to shift paradigms and show what is truly possible. Pretty much in most areas of my life. I know that through the magic of Photoshop or air brushing, it is quite easy to appear flawless and young. Does what I represent in my stories and how I live my life mean my author photo needs to be au naturel and show that I truly walk my talk?

As a highly visual person, (with a very strong Venus influence in my astrological chart) I openly confess that I love beauty. Youthful, innocent, flawless beauty. Beauty of course is a very subjective topic, yet for me, I sometimes wonder if having been young and beautiful might have been totally wasted on me back when I was. People still tell me I am beautiful. Somehow I hear the subtext “for your age” in the statement, even though it isn’t spoken. I understand that this might seem to be shallow and I confess it might be.

As a wise cousin once said to me “When you grow up as the pretty one, you learn to walk through the world differently than those of us (meaning her) who aren’t as pretty.” I guess that’s true, however, I can’t know her experience, as I haven’t walked in her shoes. Although technically I did, as I had to borrow her shoes to get married in, because my four-inch platform heals were vetoed before the wedding ceremony. Full story in the book.

Not only do I love beauty, but I find thin plus beautiful even more attractive. Coming from a family who are generally plump or zaftig, I figured out a clever (remember I’m smart) way to get thin, by creating a very mysterious gastrointestinal illness that led to me malabsorbing mostly everything I ate (sometimes up to 4000 calories a day), resulting in me becoming painfully thin. I write about all this in my book, exposing myself in a very raw and vulnerable way, in hopes that it might be of some help to others. I even include a picture of me at 89 pounds looking like a walking skeleton, when my health was so bad that people didn’t think I would make it. But I did. In my case, pictures have always been worth way more than the proverbial thousand words.

Having spent almost an entire decade at an abnormally and unhealthy low weight, I have no idea what I would have aged like, as I moved into middle-age. My fall was so dramatic, that I had truly all but lost hope of ever looking “pretty” again or even getting above 95 pounds. I did emerge after a very long and arduous climb back. Maybe that is partly why this issue is so emotionally charged for me.

Even after all I’ve been through in my life, when the photographer asked if I was nervous about the shoot, I had to admit that the idea of having a new picture taken still surprisingly excites me. After all, I’ve had men become totally enamored with me (before even meeting me) just from my picture, intrigued by my eyes and smile and hopefully, the way I express myself. These might not be the “smart” men that are still out there.

So this middle-aged hippie took the plunge and had a photo shoot done. I’m ecstatic to report that it turned out wonderfully. We left most of the lines in my lower face and around my eyes, but not all of them. Some of the pictures are still pretty scary to me, however, and I won’t make those public. Many are exceptional. When I posted one of these new pictures on Facebook, the comments were incredible. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Radiant. Captured your shining inner spirit. One person asked how long ago the picture had been taken? Three days ago. They thought it was from when I was much younger. Hmm.

I’m still working on accepting the beauty I’ve grown into at this current age. I understand that, especially in North America, we have set warped and unattainable standards because of our obsession with youthful beauty. Times are changing. They have to, if we want to encourage young women to love and accept themselves as they are, so they are equipped to reach their full potential. It is imperative to foster their self-esteem, so they don’t diminish themselves by attempting to be something that is unrealistic and unobtainable for most.

I’d like to be someone who sets an example of what is possible relating to aging. It felt wonderful when a young thirty-year-old friend commented that when she clicked on my new picture online, she was delighted to see I wasn’t trying to look like a 40 or 50-something line-free, flawlessly Photoshopped woman. That I look beautiful and still represent my older age. A great affirmation for me.

Beauty is still an incredibly sensitive subject for me. I know that true beauty does come from inside. It radiates out from the soul. Hopefully my life experiences are shining through and I can continue to contribute to this ongoing conversation about aging gracefully, especially in a time when women feel compelled to have all kinds of “work” done to their faces in an effort to look young. Much of the time, ending up not even looking like who they are, but some fake virtually unrecognizable version of themselves. Each to their own. My vote goes to real and authentic.

All any of us truly wants is to be seen. So with Mother’s Day approaching, I encourage us all to shift the way we look and “see” the true beauty in everyone — regardless of age.

Love to hear your thoughts on women, aging and beauty.

Visit me at: www.beverleygolden.com   or follow me on Twitter: @goldenbeverley

Males with Eating Disorders? It’s Worse Than You Think

url-1 You’ve seen the telltale signs of anorexia: the emaciated frame, the hollow eyes, the social withdrawal. You’ve seen more pictures of skeletal celebrities and supermodels than you can count. You may even have friends or relatives whom you’ve watched spiral into self-starvation or bingeing and purging as you looked on helplessly. In fact, considering that some eight million Americans suffer from eating disorders, it’s hard to find anyone in this country who hasn’t witnessed or been a victim of one of these devastating illnesses.

Too often, however, we assume that eating disorders are a female problem, largely the domain of insecure adolescent girls and aspiring starlets. Our society has become so focused on protecting this vulnerable demographic from anorexia, bulimia, and other unhealthy relationships with food that we often fail to notice a phenomenon that’s happening right before our eyes: boys across the United States—as many as 25 percent of all people with eating disorders, according to some estimates—are falling prey to these very same diseases. If you or someone you love is part of this group, learn how to begin the healing process.

Recognizing a Silent Killer
Until the turn of the millennium, the general consensus within the medical community was that only 10 percent of disordered eaters were male, although researchers did concede that males were more reluctant than females were to report their abnormal behavior to a mental-health professional. However, a 2007 Harvard study found that this statistic might be misrepresenting the extent of the problem: of three thousand adults surveyed, a full 25 percent of the respondents with eating disorders and 40 percent of binge eaters were male.

Within the male population, specific groups are at greater risk of developing eating disorders than others—namely, athletes (especially those expected to display their bodies prominently as part of their sport, such as bodybuilders, wrestlers, swimmers, and skaters); men who make regular public appearances (models, actors, musicians, and so on); homosexuals; men who were teased as children for being overweight; men who endure extreme parental pressure; and men attempting to avoid weight- and nutrition-related medical conditions to which they are genetically predisposed.

The roots of boys’ eating disorders are wide-ranging; some are similar to the possible reasons girls become anorexic or bulimic (such as depression, control issues, and emerging sexuality), but the primary cause is male-specific: while girls are inundated with media images of the waiflike bodies of female “role models,” archetypes of which include Kate Moss and Nicole Richie, and put undue pressure on themselves to look like those women, boys are receiving their own set of societal signals about what constitutes an “ideal” male body—and those criteria are becoming harder and harder for the average guy to meet.

To prove this point, a Good Housekeeping article about boys and eating disorders describes a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor named Harrison Pope lining up three G.I. Joe action figures side by side—one from the mid-1960s, one from the mid-1970s, and one from 1992. With each successive iteration of the figure, G.I. Joe’s muscles have become more defined, to the point that the most recent version has six-pack abs and no visible body fat. Dr. Pope, who coauthored a book entitled The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession, believes that these updates to the figure’s physique reflect a marked shift in the dominant public perception of masculine physical attractiveness. As these largely unattainable standards become more and more mainstream, is it any wonder that an increasing number of males, particularly teenage boys, are limiting themselves to five-hundred-calorie-per-day diets or losing themselves in vicious bingeing-and-purging cycles?

Reading the Warning Signs
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, a whole host of telltale signals—physical, emotional, and behavioral—can help people identify disordered eaters. These include:

Behavioral Characteristics

  • Restricted diet; excessive dieting; fasting
  • Food-related rituals; preoccupation with food
  • Compulsive exercising
  • Body dysmorphia; disgust with body size or shape
  • Difficulty eating with others; lying about consumption
  • Insomnia

Physical Characteristics

  • Low body weight (at least 15 percent below average for age, height, and activity level)
  • Lack of energy; fatigue
  • Muscular weakness
  • Thinning hair or hair loss; lanugo (downy growth of body hair)
  • Decreased balance; unsteady gait
  • Lowered body temperature, pulse, and/or blood pressure
  • Lowered testosterone levels
  • Heart arrhythmia

Emotional Characteristics

  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Depression; social isolation
  • Perfectionistic; strong need to be in control
  • Decreased sexual interest or increased sexual fear
  • Possible conflict over gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Difficulty expressing feelings or concentrating
  • Irritability; denial (belief that others are overreacting to low weight or restrictive eating habits)

Eating disorders are serious physical and mental afflictions that won’t simply go away on their own. The longer they’re left unchecked, the more detrimental they’ll become—and in the most extreme cases, they can even be fatal. So if you’re a male who displays some of the symptoms listed above, or if you’re a family member or friend who’s observed these red flags in someone you know, don’t delay in seeking treatment—both medical and psychological.

Getting Help
Fortunately, as societal awareness of male eating disorders grows, support groups with the express purpose of preventing these devastating illnesses are cropping up nationwide. The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders (N.A.M.E.D.) is one such organization; it offers the following preventive tips for parents striving to promote healthy eating habits and positive self-image in their sons:

  • Understand that males are as susceptible to eating disorders as females are.
  • Learn to recognize the physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of an eating disorder.
  • Realize that if you approach a male about his eating disorder, he’s likely to deny that he has a problem, attempt to dismiss his dietary regimen as an attempt to be “healthy” or “fit,” and have difficulty expressing his emotions.
  • Protect your child from coaches who endorse extreme athletic regimens, such as excessive weight-control tactics or bodybuilding routines, and promote the idea of healthy eating and moderate exercise as a means of achieving optimal physical performance.
  • Be aware that traumatic events or transitions can trigger an eating disorder—for instance, sexual, emotional, or physical abuse; a sexual-identity crisis; or the death of a loved one.
  • Help males recognize that they are just as vulnerable to the same physical objectification and media manipulation that females are subjected to, and that those influences have a pronounced, and often deleterious, impact on their body image.
  • Encourage boys to be themselves; affirm their special qualities, even if those characteristics fall outside the traditional realm of “masculinity”; seek to develop open avenues of communication with boys that will make them feel emotionally supported and at liberty to express their feelings.
  • Urge males of any age to view therapy as a positive addition to their lives, not as a shameful secret.

You Aren’t What You Eat
As mounting evidence underscores that eating disorders are far from being an exclusively female issue, a growing number of adolescent boys and men have begun to openly discuss their firsthand struggles with anorexia and bulimia. Even some male celebrities have come forward: Billy Bob Thornton has confessed to being anorexic, as has Dennis Quaid (who coined the term “manorexia” to describe his condition), and Sir Elton John has admitted to bouts of bulimia. As helpful as it is for male disordered eaters to know that they’re not alone in their illness, equal weight should be given to preventing eating disorders before they arise. And by doing our part to achieve this goal through public-awareness campaigns, vigilant parenting, supportive friendship, and nonjudgmental attitudes, we just might succeed.

Originally published in 2010

Get in the Flow

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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor and former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, has been working with a concept he calls “flow.” The process of flow occurs when your consciousness matches your goals, allowing psychic energy to flow smoothly. For 40 years, Csikszentmihalyi has been studying what makes people happy, and has found that happiness comes from being in the flow in your life.

You can listen to a talk he gave about this idea of flow here. In it, he says, “There are seven conditions that seem to be there when a person is in flow. There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity, you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other, you get immediate feedback. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though it’s difficult. And a sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. Once those conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.”

When you are in the flow, your actions are natural, fluid, and graceful. Everything just feels “right.” So, of course, it’s not possible when you are behaving in a way that makes you feel guilt, shame, anxiety, or fearfulness. You can’t be caught up in addiction and be in the flow. And you can’t be caught up in blame or denial or frustration or anger.

When you’re in the flow, in tune with your creative energies and your purpose, you feel it’s worth spending your life doing things for which you don’t expect either fame or fortune—as long as those things make your life meaningful. He writes in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, “It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were.”

Flow comes about when you are challenged by something in an exciting way, and you feel your skills are up to the task. So it’s not about just sitting back and being comfortable; it’s about pushing yourself a little bit. He says being in a state of arousal is actually good,

“Because you are over-challenged there. Your skills are not quite as high as they should be, but you can move into flow fairly easily by just developing a little more skill. So arousal is the area where most people learn from, because that’s where they’re pushed beyond their comfort zone and … develop higher skills.”

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Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life & Recovery Coach is featured Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Connect with her and download free E books at http://www.sherrygaba.com/

Chelsea Roff: How I Went From 58 Pounds & Nearly Dead to Healthy, Happy, & Loving Life

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” — Maya Angelou 

Fifteen-year-olds aren’t supposed to have strokes. At least that’s what I thought. I try not to think about it too much. Even now, I only have bits and pieces; shards of memories that somehow remained intact even through the trauma my brain endured that day…

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When I arrived at Children’s Medical Center, I weighed just 58 pounds. After a five-year battle with Anorexia Nervosa, my body had reached its breaking point. Nearly every system in my body was shutting down. All four valves in my heart were leaking. My skin was yellow from liver failure. I hadn’t taken a shit in over a month. I was dying.

The first emotion I remember is rage. It was a violent, fire-in-your-veins, so angry-you-could-kill-someone kind of rage. I wanted out. I wanted the pain to be over. I wanted to die. I was mad at myself for not having the courage to just do it quickly, angry at the hospital staff for thwarting my masked attempt. I was convinced that I was “meant to” endure this, that my long drawn-out starving to death would prove my willpower to God. In the days prior to my stroke, I’d had vivid hallucinations – of Jesus on a wooden cross outside my bedroom window and a satanic figure sneaking up under my bedroom covers to suffocate me at night. I thought I was meant to be a martyr.

I thought God wanted me to die.

As the fury subsided, delirium set in. I became confused, defiant, and completely irrational. I told the other patients that my Mom would be there to pick me up and take me home any day now. I argued with the doctors that they couldn’t possibly keep me overnight, because we didn’t have insurance or money to pay. When a cardiologist told me she wasn’t sure if I’d live another week, I told her she was full of shit. I hid the food they were trying to make me eat in my underwear, in flowerpots, even in my cheeks like a chipmunk – convinced no one would notice. I didn’t want to get better. I was convinced nothing was wrong.

I remember having nurses turn me over in the middle of the night to tend to the bed sores on my behind, places where the skin was so thin that my tail bone was starting to protrude through the flesh. I remember waking up to discover I’d wet the bed nearly every morning for the first three months I was there. I was ashamed, disgusted. I’d lost control of the muscles in my bladder; I was like an infant all over again. I remember shooting a nurse the bird when she told me I couldn’t walk, only to fall to pieces on the floor when I angrily pushed the wheelchair away to give it a try.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my arrival at the hospital had launched an investigation by Child Protective Services back at my home in Austin. The caseworkers deemed my mother an “unfit parent,” and my sister and I were placed under custodianship of the State. My care was left to the doctors and nurses at Children’s, while my sister was officially placed in foster care and sent to live with our godparents. My mother, herself an alcoholic and anorexic, had literally drank herself into oblivion.

I spent the next sixteen months of my life in that hospital. I completed my junior and senior years of high school through a distance education program, talked my way through hundreds of hours of individual and group therapy, and slowly, painfully worked to bring my body and mind back to life.

Over the next few months, as my body grew accustomed to having nourishment again, my temperament and personality began to change. I became quieter, more submissive, more trusting of the staff in charge of my care. One night, one of my nurses, Miss Connie, pulled me gingerly from my wheelchair and into her lap in a chair next to the window. Her curly blonde locks brushed my sunken cheekbones as we gazed out at the distant sunset together. “Just keep your eyes on that horizon, honey.” she said.

“You’re going to survive this.”

When Medicaid finally pulled the plug on funding for my treatment almost a year and a half later, I was unrecognizable from the day I’d walked in. I’d gained nearly forty pounds, and the feisty, fiercely independent spirit I’d been known for as a child was on her way back in (close to) full force. Although I was still significantly underweight and terrified to leave the security of the hospital, my medical team still managed to convince the caseworkers to grant me emancipation. At seventeen, I re-entered the “real world” as a legally recognized adult.

My doctor at Children’s helped me make arrangements to move into a garage apartment with a close family friend who lived close to the hospital. I also managed to get a job at a local Starbucks earning just above minimum wage. By the grace of who-knows-what, the psychologist who had been the one to squeeze my hand that first day at Children’s offered me nearly-free weekly therapy. I was lucky. I was blessed. I had enough resources to begin to put the fragments of my broken life back together.

*****

Several months after my discharge, I took my first yoga class. Looking back on it now, I still find it hard to believe that I managed to find my way into that studio, with that teacher, at that moment in my life.  I mean, really, what was I thinking – a recovering anorexic, barely able to feed herself – trying out a yoga class marketed to women wanting to lose weight?

I wish I could say I went to yoga because I had some inkling that it would offer me something deeper, because there was an inexplicable spiritual tug, because I was looking to reconnect with my body and begin the real process of healing. Quite the contrary. My motivations for trying yoga were almost entirely pathological. I was looking for a quick fix, a sneaky way to burn calories without arousing the suspicions of my treatment team. So it should be no surprise that I went straight to a “power yoga” class.

It seems almost laughable now, but my first teacher was this big, voluptuous black woman . . .  one fucking powerhouse of a human being. She emanated strength, beauty, and grace like no one I’d ever met before. On the evening of my first class, I timidly walked into the studio and heard this loud and bellowing voice sing out “Well, hello there!” from inside the practice room. Her feet thumped with confidence as she trotted toward me on the hardwood floor. I was completely mesmerized by the way she carried herself, how she softly but powerfully filled the space.

For years, I’d been starving myself in order to take up LESS space in the world. I’d been taught by my own mother that strength came from mastering the wild whims of the body, controlling your instinctual urges, from proving you were stronger than others through stubborn will. And here was Diana . . .  a woman who could hold all two-hundred pounds of her sweet self up in handstand with ease. A woman who inhabited her life-given figure with confidence, compassion, and fierce femininity.

Diana not only stood counter to the traditional image of yoga I’d seen plastered on fitness magazines, but looking back I realize that she was hilariously non-traditional in the way she led class…

 

 To read the rest of this essay, purchase the book HERE.

This article is an excerpt of my chapter in the newly published anthology, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, and Practice, edited by Carol Horton and Roseanne Harvey. In the remainder of the essay, I chronicle my personal journey, focusing on yoga’s central and at times challenging role in healing from an eating disorder. I invite you to read the rest my chapter, as well as the eleven other phenomenal essays in this book, which discuss contemporary North American yoga and its relationship to issues including recovery, body image, and spirituality. You can learn more about 21st Century Yoga by visiting the website, and purchase a copy either in print or Kindle edition.

Photo Credit: WebMD

Chelsea Roff: Vogue Pledges Not to Work with Anorexic and Underage Models

Finally, finally, we are beginning to see waves of change ripple through the fashion industry. It began with one. It is becoming many. This is how a movement starts.

Vogue editors from across the world came together last month to establish guidelines to address the problem of eating disorders, underage modeling, and general ill-health in the fashion industry. British Vogue’s June issue unveils an unprecedented Health Initiative, which aims to directly address unhealthy body image and eating behaviors amongst models.

The initiative, agreed upon by all 19 Vogue editors-in-chief, outlines a six point pledge:

1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image

2. We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows and campaigns.

3. We will help to structure mentoring programmes where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative.

4. We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.

5. We encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.

6. We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.

The points of the initiative closely align closely with the CFDA’s Health Guidelines, which include a minimum age requirement (16 years) and commitment to eating disorder preventative education. Vogue’s initiative, however, takes the CFDA’s efforts one step further by extending the guidelines to photoshoots as well as the runway.

Yes, the language is a little soft… The phrases “we encourage,” “we will ask,” and “in our view” are just a tad slippery, if you ask me. But you know what? It’s a start. It’s a big deal for the editors of arguably the highest-profile fashion magazine in the world to take a public stance against modeling standards that encourage eating disorders. And as far as I can tell, they did so without any mandate from outside regulation.

The one thing I was very disappointed to see completely glossed over in the initiative was the issue of photoshopping. As long as magazines like Vogue continue to airbrush those over-16, non-anorexic models… well, how much are you really doing to promote healthy and realistic body image among girls and women?

Perhaps a pledge to limit Photoshop, as Glamour and other magazines have made, will be next on Vogue‘s agenda?

It’s Not a Woman’s BMI that Makes Her Feel Fat

Did you know that only about 50% of women like their bodies? And if a woman doesn’t like her body, then she is less likely to eat healthy, exercise and take care of herself. This increases the likelihood of weight gain, fatigue, depression and poor muscle tone which will fuel the negative cycle.

The problem is that women are social creatures who are competitive. They tend to like their bodies if the people in their social group accept them for who they are and interact positively with them. However, if there is a mean girl spirit in their social network or a family member who makes them feel inadequate physically, then they will internalize the criticism and lose their personal empowerment. Once this happens a woman can develop eating disorders, get addicted to cosmetic surgery and aesthetic procedures or self-soothe with junk food.

How to like your body- really!

* Find your social niche where you can shine. Your friends should lift you up not trample on your self-esteem. Good friends can give you a reality check when you feel less than as they will remind you of the things you do well.

* Forget the affirmations in front of the mirror: “I am beautiful inside and out.”  Research studies show these affirmations don’t work because you don’t really believe them. In fact, they can be counterproductive. Instead do something affirming for your body – on the inside. Eat a healthy meal, get a health screening or move into physical activity.

* Consider cultivating these beautiful attributes:  a sense of style, authenticity, and freshness and novelty for the element of surprise. What is the personal story that you are communicating to others?

* Even though society is prejudiced towards the young and beautiful, opening doors to jobs and relationships for them according to a data analysis culled from several studies performed by economists from the University of Texas-Austin, you can become more beautiful to others when you share your inner light. While superficial beauty opens the door, if substance is lacking, there is a wide-open exit door. However, your intellect, positivism and kindness once revealed will give you staying power. The key is to show your authentic self.

* Take your cue from what your body is capable of doing today. If you are of childbearing years, you can create life. If you are older and past this time, look at what your body can still do in terms of communicating wisdom, helping others, feeling sexual/ vital and creating art or a legacy.

Tracy Tylka, associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University, claims that Body Mass Index does not affect women’s like or dislike of their body as much as previously thought.  The culprit here is family, friends and the media. I wish to add, “No one can trivialize you, but you. Inevitably some people will line up behind you while others won’t. What’s important is that you are in good alignment. Make your activities and relationships self affirming.”

Fat, Feelings and Freedom to Love Yourself

 I have learned much by living with and then overcoming an eating disorder. Such disorders involve amazingly complex behaviors that bring body, mind, emotions and spirit all into play at the same time. And every time you think you have a handle on just what is going on with your eating or not eating, you discover that it’s even more complex than you first thought.

Like many of you who commented on my last blog about emotional fillers, I, too, knew when I was in the middle of destructive behavior; it was whenever I was eating to fill an empty place, eating to make whatever was hurting feel better, or just eating to numb myself all together. I knew that no matter what I ate (in one particular case, Oreos), or how much I ate, (in that particular case, way too much) that when I finally stopped, the empty place would not be filled and the pain would probably be worse.

But did I stop? No. Could I reason myself out of it when I was trying to fill the hole inside? No. That’s because it’s not just a matter of reason. Even though I knew the pain wasn’t being caused by something in the moment but by something that may have started a long time ago, I was still stuffing or trying to numb out. And even though I knew that my body was yelling at me to stop, nothing was more important at that moment than quenching the emotional fire that was burning me alive from the inside out.

I was touched by an email from a reader who related that during his last stuffing episode, he felt "… like Rotten Luck Willie in Paint Your Wagon. I felt so lost, so gone and lost, not even God can find me." I’ve had those feelings as well. And it was precisely at those times that I needed me more than ever, for it was me that I couldn’t find. I needed me to love me, just the way I was, even with Oreo crumbs still on the corners of my mouth. Even with my stomach getting bigger and thinking, "I just can’t do this any more." Even when judging myself to be the worst me I could be.

Believing I was unworthy of love and ready to give in and give up on me, I needed to love every aspect of me. And if I couldn’t do it all on my own, I would be open to asking Spirit or God (or whatever you may call it) to assist me. This was the time to look beyond my behavior, past my physical appearance, acknowledge my emotions for the passing feelings that they are and pour out my love and acceptance all over me.

I realize there are a lot of cynics who dismiss the concept of self-love and acceptance, but they are most probably people who do not or did not enter into self-loathing or have addictive issues. Don’t allow them or anyone else (including yourself) to discourage you from taking whatever steps you can to love yourself. Take a few minutes each day to look into a mirror and tell yourself simply, "I love you." Even if you don’t believe it, or don’t believe that it will have a positive effect, believe me, a part of you will hear it and will start to resonate to it.

As for self-acceptance and self-love, it may be a chicken and egg issue. But it doesn’t matter which comes first, because they both come together. I wrote a poem, called "My Mansion," at 350 pounds, as I was starting my journey toward recognizing my wholeness and discovering and loving whatever I found inside of myself. It is just as important to me today, a decade later, as I continue to maintain my 200-pound weight loss. It is my pleasure to share it with you as one of the keys that worked for me.

Enter beloved and discover what looms

My house is a house with many rooms

Some closed up and lacking care

Some well lit and full of air

Some expansive

Some quite small

Here is the key

Explore them all

Do tread freely, beloved guest

My love resides here, I bid you rest

 

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