This blog is for anyone who could use a little shift in perspective. Teaching yoga and dance has been a great healer in my life, but like we all know, there is always more to learn, more to accept and love, and there is always more work to be done. Please reach out to me with your feedback, questions, and ideas. I would love to hear from you!
"Information Left Unshared Becomes a Burden."
- Gail Larson
This piece was started over 2 weeks ago. It was abandoned and rewritten multiple times, so forgive any time hop confusion. It simply took me many attempts to regain composure, soften my shame, and free my voice about this specific leg of my ED (eating disorder for those of you who aren't hip to the acronym) journey. This entry may not seem like such a big deal to you, but herein lies my utmost shame. My goal is to unite, practice self-love, spread compassion to everyone (and I mean everyone), help us remember that we are all human, we all experience things and thoughts that we don’t want anyone to know about or talk about. I am here to tell you, you are not alone and it is so going to be okay.
Okay, take a deep breath.
Yesterday, I unknowingly fell back on, got lost in, and regressed into a habit that has never served to bring me anything but hurt. It's an action that reigns supreme as the oldest pattern my spirit knows. Saturday was the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur, a time of atonement, sending love to those whom have passed, and fasting for quiet reflection. It is a sacred experience and a transformational one when respected and honored. I chose to fast, just as I had the year before in recognition of the tradition and support of my loved ones. What I realize now, with enough time having passed, having space and room to breathe, in retrospect, under those choices was a deeper decision, a subconscious and secret longing, that in fasting, I would be able to also reset my body and my hunger, restrict, remember my will power and my strength, and maybe, just maybe, be more in command of how I have been intaking food. Hello, once again, my dear friend, ED.
Talk about unraveling the marvelous self-care, self-acceptance, and self-love practice I've been cherishing for the last two years. It was not a pretty sight.
I didn’t mean to go there like this. I didn’t mean to restrict. I didn’t mean to let my ego take the wheel. But that is exactly what happened. I fasted. I exercised hard. And then I binged.
I binged hard. And the shame that enters, floods, and drowns you in a binge is some of the most wretched evil there is.
If you have never binged before, let me take you on a quick walk through what’s it’s like physically and emotionally. I do think everyone’s experience with their drug of choice and how they use it is different. But let me help you understand what it’s like in my world.
Saturday 9/30/2017 4PM EST
I haven’t eaten for about 20 hours. Something is going on below the surface, but I may or may not even know it. There’s some kind of misalignment, confusion, or pain that is scratching at me emotionally, but I have subconsciously already made the move to disconnect. I don’t even realize that I have disconnected. This is before the binge, maybe before the starve. It just comes so naturally that I don’t even seem to be aware. It is a total disconnect.
I haven’t eaten for about 20 hours. I am happy and clear and feel like I am on top of the world. I’m feeling even happier, joyful, and abundant than I have in awhile. Everything is so good. I am proud of myself for holding out so long, but simultaneously I am also having a below the exterior of my smile freak the fuck out. It’s a tiny anxiety attack in the back of my mind yelling, “what the fuck are you doing!!!??.”
And then it’s time to eat because I just can't wait any longer. And I’m alone. And maybe I’m too hungry to even cook. Yeah, that’s it, I’m too hungry to cook, to be patient, to wait, to be calm. I open the fridge and take out the first thing that calls to me. Peanut butter, yes, (I keep all nut butters in my fridge because I like them a little cold), (don’t judge...how hilarious is the thought of judging for cold peanut butter when I am just now sharing my biggest source of shame since I can remember..oye vey!)
Oh peanut butter how I love you so! You are just right. You are salty and just sweet and just smooth enough for me to smear on a crisp, perfectly ripe and juicy Gala apple! I dig into the jar with a spoon. I am standing at my counter top, not thinking at all. I have disconnected from my physical body emotionally. I am just moving like a puppet being controlled. I don’t need my brain, my hands and arms know what to do. I have experience with this. I am being moved. I am eating now. Chewing and eating and chewing and crunching and feeling the food and tasting the sweetness, but not really connected to the act. It is just happening. It happens for a long time. 2 apples down now and I don’t even know how many spoonfuls of peanut butter. Half of the jar is gone, but I can't remember how much was in there when I began. Did I just eat 7 servings of peanut butter? Fuck. I open the fridge again. Leftovers from yesterday. Mmmm yes, I remember that chicken. Protein I think to myself. Protein! Then it’s gone. I’ve eaten it so fast that I didn’t even get to really taste it. Shit. I don’t feel satisfied or satiated and I want more. I feel like I am a bottomless black hole of hunger and I can eat forever. My mom calls and I take 5 to connect, but my head isn’t in it and I want to get off the phone. I want to eat more and this is interrupting the process. I start eating again. On the phone! What do I care. Eating. That’s what’s on my schedule right now. I need to eat. I haven’t eaten in so long and I worked out so hard, I need to eat. I open the fridge. I find rice pudding. Omg yes! Perfect! Sweet, sweet, Sugar, my old friend who I ostracized so long ago, sugar, I never eat sugar! I need it. Eat. It’s everything I hoped it would be. It feels so good in my mouth. Mushy, perfect, creamy. Cinnamon, nutmeg. Perfection. Yes, eat this. I stop. I don't even realize what I've done until it's over and then...the dread sets in.
I know it’s time to stop. My brain has finally cued into my stomach. The signals are finally being sent. This is good. I know I need to stop because I can remember what happens when I fully engage in a binge. When I fully engage (or let’s call this disengaging) I am rendered completely useless. Dead. It’s like I’ve poured cement down my throat and it’s hardened into every limb and every cell. During times like these I feel like I am no longer human. Like the sweet, playful, courageous, and fun loving girl who once existed is now dead. It feels like she will never return and that life is over as she knows it. After a full binge I cannot move. I have to lay down, in pain, and wait. For the next day, or the next week to feel normal again. After a full binge I watch hours of television. Numb, useless. Dead to the world. If you know me, you wouldn’t recognize this side of me. The weight keeps me stuck, pulled down to earth, to numb out to whatever was creeping below the surface. After a full binge, I starve for a couple of days to find “equilibrium”. After a full binge I want to hide in shame forever. I want to die and when I was younger, that thought would seem like true bliss. A way out of the shame. A way out of being seen again. The ultimate hide. A way to still be accepted. "No one is going to love you ever," I would think to myself.
This was not a full on want-to-die kind of binge. But it was farther than I wanted to go and it felt like a relapse. Was it a relapse? After this experience, something in me shifted. I realize that I’d “lost control” and subconsciously put myself in a state of (undeserving) suffering.
For the next few days (3 to be exact) I see-sawed back and forth between feeling like a hopeless failure and knowing that I have come so far from where I once was, that I couldn’t and shouldn’t put myself through the guilt and shame that I was currently enduring.
I guess this is the reality of being human. There are mistakes we make that we learn from and sometimes we think we have learned a lesson, but it hasn’t been fully flushed out from every angle. There is still some piece of that lesson that is lurking, it’s a darkness in ourselves that we haven’t yet acknowledged that is still sticking around, waiting to be prodded and poked and stirred. There is still a piece of us that we have ignored and it wants to be heard. Like a sleeping bear that will eventually wake out of its hibernation. I will never forget hearing, “what you resist, persists” from my ED specialist nutritionist last year. It was both horrifying and relieving to hear. I had ignored my hunger, my body shame, and emotional trauma for too long and it was not going anywhere. I could not “pretend everything is okay” it away. I had to step up to my pain and confront it, head on, or it would follow me forever. We all have these lessons, these mysteries, and pain that keep showing up in our lives. Lessons we haven’t fully embraced. Pieces of ourselves we haven’t fully accepted that, when suppressed too long, will bubble up, surface, and demand to be heard.
What I know to be truer and more real than anything else, is that this darkness must be met with compassion. I’ve met the darkness with anger, guilt, and mistrust before and all that results is stronger, more intensified darkness. It needs light, it needs love, and it needs to be softly and sweetly accepted and heard. The darkness is pointing us in the direction we need to go. It is showing us places that haven’t been fully loved. When we don’t love and accept ourselves at every angle, the full spectrum of our own personal color wheel, we are met with a backlash from our soul selves. Our soul, the part of us that goes deeper than our surface aesthetics, our desires, our human qualities, needs to be honored and it needs to shine in order for us to embrace the full experience of our lives. We must show up in totality or it is like not showing up at all. The older I get, the more I am able to recognize that this is exactly what authenticity is. It is the human experience of not hiding, not shaming, but instead, stepping forward into your truth as painful and uncomfortable as it may seem. This truth is who you are and these lessons are what we came here to learn, understand, and heal because our personal lessons are also collective ones. We are not unique in the shame we have, oh no, quite the contrary. As much as we are “special” and different from everyone else, we are also exactly the same. We all have darkness and we all make the choice to hide it away for no one to see, to let it encompass us in its blanket of pain, or to come forward into the light with love, to instead be folded, wrapped, and held in the faith and warmth of the universe, to treat our shame with ultimate kindness, and in doing so, heal the collective consciousness. We are each other. We are not alone.
7 Magical Steps To Letting that Shit Go
I have come a long way from just surviving my pain. My secrets once ran the show. They kept me trapped and controlled my actions. My fear (literally) kept me small, it kept me from love, it kept me from me. I am no longer afraid of myself. I am no longer limited. I am no longer afraid to be alone. No longer afraid to trust myself. I have come a long way from starving and control and with every ounce of truth, I thank the universe for these lessons I was brought here to learn. I am only love. Love is my truth. Love is me and I will stop at nothing to shine as my authentic, real, food confused, childhood traumatized, curious, sassy, fabulous, adorable, and magical self.
Here’s the deal. I have always wanted to be skinny. Always. Ever since I was a little girl, playing with Barbie dolls and watching countless hours of TV, I have yearned to be that skinny, beautiful, perfect, size nothing wearing, float away like a feather, everybody loves her, tiny girl. How that became my goal over being a Neurosurgeon or Veterinarian or, hell, how about, Professional Love Crusader, is what I believe to be a product of too many societal norms, "gendering", and my own lack of self-worth due to aggressive bullying and other circumstances outside of my control, but that is a conversation for another time. The fact is, I had never (sometimes have never, because I'm human and will always be remembering the good) thought I was aesthetically attractive enough. That is the honest truth. This is the kind of longing only some of you will understand. It’s a feeling that couples with painful, hurtful, unloving thoughts. "Why can’t I look like her. Why can’t my body be different. Why do I look like this and she looks like that. I hope I never look like that!"
It’s comparison. It’s separation. It’s how you become a prisoner to your thoughts and in your body. It’s how most of us are living our lives without talking about it. It’s how so many women want to be different than they are. It’s how we desire to be more attractive, have smaller thighs, smaller tummy, bigger boobs, longer legs, insert “not good enough and wish was other” part here. This wanting to be different than we are is robbing us of our joy. It is denying our inherent right to exist freely in our natural state of being. It is denying our beauty. It is denying our right to shine. It is denying our perfection exactly as we are. It is ruining our days and hours and our ability to bask in the special moments we have with others.
For me, it is how I became that unobtainable size 0, dove into Anorexia and Orthorexia and Bulimia, over exercised until my body gave up on me, lost my period for over a year, redeveloped a binge eating disorder, was always sick, lapsed into pneumonia which, due to nutrient lack, took over a year to recover from, had my cognitive abilities deteriorate, became lost in the drive to maintain this identity I was clinging for dear life to, then of course, had a full on breakdown.
I would not, for one second, trade the deep love and ease that exists within me now for being skinny.
Of course the above mentioned is an extreme example of not honoring the magic you are born with, but I want to express that by simply rejecting (any) part of yourself, you are slowly killing your essence and the joy you were born to experience. I know that sounds a little over the top, but think about it for a second. All of the parts of you, the amazing parts, the skilled parts, the jiggly bits, the round and squishy, the funny parts, the sexy parts, the “bad” parts that you hide, the parts that you are ashamed of, the parts you think are F’d up, the beautiful parts, and the parts everybody loves!, they are ALL you. And that is epic and incredible. What a wonder that humans are such complex beings. We should be so lucky! By denying the parts of you that you don’t love, you are slowly destroying the totality of wonder that is YOU.
I have recently made a very scary deal with myself. As those evil, “not good enough” thoughts creep in, I will simply and boldly tell myself, “that Shira is gone.” We (referring to me and the connection I have to the natural world, the universe, my femininity, the trees, LOVE, intuition, humans, etc…) WE don’t do that anymore. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Simple. Scary. Done.
Why is it scary? Let me be the first to say it is petrifying because it requires me to end an identity that I have always clung to. It requires me to release the desperate desire to be something I am not. It means I need to accept and love myself as I am ( F e a r l e s s l y) and honestly. So, I am not skinny. Who fucking cares. I am awesome.
Loving ourselves is not something we learn to do as children. Loving yourself takes slow consistent, compassionate practice and it is effort. It requires me to put myself above my ego, above my unloving desire to fit like a perfect puzzle piece into the nonsense of Patriarchal society; it requires me to release all the ways that I have trained my brain to punish my body since I was just a little girl. This is not an overnight cure. This isn’t a pimple cream promising to zap your zits in 24 hours. This is an ongoing practice of love and acceptance. Loving my whole self is something that needs to happen everyday. I need to be loyal to myself. The cure is to keep going. Even when it feels like the world is falling apart, you keep going. Compassionately. Lovingly.
Society is always changing. Human consciousness is always changing. We are always changing. I have a choice to make now. What kind of life do I want to live and how do I want to leave the world better than how I came into it? What do I want to teach my (future) children? What do I hope the next generation of humans will not have to struggle with everyday, henceforth allowing them to live bigger, better, more fabulously magnificent lives?
When I look deeply and honestly into what I know in my heart to be true, I KNOW that NOBODY (including myself) deserves to suffer. I am. We are. Love. My heart and my wisdom tell me I deserve to treat my inherent perfection with acceptance and full on celebration. My brain will always be tempted to collapse into old patterns and belief systems. My brain will always be scratching that itch of feeling unworthy, not beautiful enough, not thin enough. My brain will be tempted by the social media posts of tips of losing weight, before and after photos, or fucking Shakeology, but I know, because I have traveled into the deepest, darkest places in my soul, that I deserve to exist in love.
I know that depriving myself
I know that going to bed hungry
I know that having anxiety about social situations and being with the people I love because there may or may not be food that fits in the list of foods that will “make me fat”
I know that thinking any negative thoughts about my body
I know that comparing my body to another body robs me of my peace and joy and
I know that trying to fit into my Eating Disorder clothing (which I need to donate to goodwill and have not been courageous enough to yet do so)
I know that not taking compliments genuinely or questioning the honesty of a compliment
I know that wishing I was a different size
I know that looking at photos of myself and feeling shame for my weight, size, mushy parts, or any other dislike in general
I know that not honoring my heart and souls desire and instead, letting ego run the show
I know that settling in life
I know that not loving every single freckle, stretch mark, and perfection of imperfection on my body
I know that wanting to be different than I am
I know that not feeling deserving of love from another person
I know that not enjoying my life
And ain’t nobody got time for that.
It is my commitment to myself and all other human creatures, to continue this journey of BEING self-love. To BEING in a state of integrity. To continue to search for all the ways to heal myself. Because I know in the deepest part of me (we) that in order to be in unified love with the world around me (us), I must, with all my honesty and all my vulnerable truth, love myself first. In doing so, I can also love you and together, we can create change in the world.
waking up and taking a deep breath, feeling grateful to be on earth another day
making my morning coffee
snuggling with my cat
eating with consciousness and love
reading empowering books
calling my mom
telling the people I love that I love them
taking time for me
speaking my truth
embracing being alone
sitting in the sun
welcoming in change with open arms
being naked and loving it
being seen naked...and loving it
knowing that every part of me is exactly as it should be
saying no to things that don't serve me anymore
honoring my needs
moving my body
relaxing and doing absolutely nothing
buying clothes that I love no matter what the price
being around the people that fill me with happiness
getting out of my head
being my weird self unaplogetically
the list goes on and on. I challenge you to write your list. What is self-love for you?
My heart goes out to you if you are in pain. I shed my fair share of tears yesterday and I am sure there are more to come.
My prayer is that all of the people who are suffering experience some ease in their pain. I am not referring to just the victims of violence, but to all people who are suffering. I am praying for everyone, including the people who are doing acts of violence because in order for our society to move in a positive direction, these people need forgiveness and they need recognition of their own pain. We cannot banish them to Mars, hurt them, or lock them all up, so there needs to be another way.
The ones who are acting through violence and hate only see the world through eyes of fear. They are living trapped in a their own delusions, believing that the world is against them and perceiving their security and freedom as being threatened (because it is). The violence and fighting is a reaction to a growing society of love, acceptance, and unification and these things do not go well with hate and fear. This is a matter of living in pain as a lifestyle and culture. I do not believe these are bad people. I believe these are people trapped in delusion and suffering. They are stuck in a mindfuck of extremely old ways of being. They are living in full fear. They are living in survival mode, protecting what they think they must. This is a matter of an inability to see the world through eyes of peace and love and compassion.
Yes, this fucking sucks. It sucks that there are still people who want to hurt other people. It sucks that there are people who do not believe in equality. It sucks that the world can be such a dark and violent place. It’s sick and painful and gut wrenching to think that in 2017, people are still losing their lives over human equality. That is what is happening. What happened in Charlottesville is a result of a culture of people who are currently existing only in survival mode, the world around them is a constant threat to the destruction of their belief system and they are “fighting back” to protect the downfall of what is to eventually come. I am in no way saying this is fine and well. What I am saying is to step back and see that hating and “othering” bring us full circle into hate. Combatting anger and violence with more anger and violence will get us nowhere and will bring us more pain.
We are being called to rise as one people, to think, and to act with love and compassion. I am not saying don’t be angry. BE ANGRY. But also, step back and understand that all human thought and action at its deepest root comes from either love or fear. WE are capable of rising into love and “fighting back” with even more love, compassion, and prayer. You cannot take down a society of people who are unified. We are being called to continue to unify. The world is changing very quickly and some people cannot keep up. They are revolting and they will not succeed. We are becoming more unified with every act of hate. Hate is a toxin and it’s coming up to be cleansed away. We are growing stronger everyday. This is a prayer for everyone who is suffering. May you be able to someday love.
So, I’ve really been wanting to take my clothes off lately. In my house, in my backyard, in other people's backyards, at the beach, and during yoga, to name a few. “She is cray”, you might be saying to yourself or to your BFF, or to your dog, and though you may be totally correct in assuming so, that doesn’t make me want to take my clothes off any less. Hear me out.
Since I can remember, I have hidden my body. Really. I keep what’s hidden under clothes locked away tightly for not a soul to see. In fact, I am such a mcguyver of skin coverage, that it wasn’t until last year that ANYONE (including my ex-boyfriend and roommate of 5 years) saw me naked. You heard that right, my boyfriend of 5 years was not allotted the pleasure and love of experiencing his girlfriend in her full frontal truth. Like I said, Cover-That-Shit-Up-Master in the house.
I have been hiding my parts since I first sprouted parts! I have been keeping my secrets secret since Middle school! I was determined to hide them FOREVER honestly. I was so adamant about "clothing on" that I even chose my relationships through this route. Who will accept that I will never take my clothes off? He must be “safe” and “accept my flaws." But peeps, the safe guy is not the guy you want. You want the (guy) (human) (lady) Being who makes your whole body tingle when you look at them, who helps you evolve, who makes you feel giddy, and who introduces you to loving you at the level you deserve to be loved...which is unconditionally of course. If I could not love myself unconditionally, then there is no way I would consciously choose another human to.
I had never loved my body and therefore had always made the assumption that neither would anyone else. As any right minded person would gather, this is not a logical conclusion. I also hate pasta, but trust me, I do not think you hate pasta. Everyone loves pasta! See what I’m saying?
What I have come to understand, is that when we focus negativity toward something, it grows into more negativity, more pain, more anger, it gets created into something far worse than it ever was to begin with. This is how our brains naturally function. I began to hide my stomach in elementary school when I first started to be harassed for my weight. I noticed then that my stomach protruded forward and looked more like a pregnant belly than the belly of any of the other girls at school. My belly looked even less like the bellies in magazines, on TV, in music videos, or on the half-shirted teenage bared bellies that were so in style in 1995 at the Square One Mall. I did not have the right belly!
What is a right belly anyway? Here, I googled it for you...
“The abdomen contains all the digestive organs, including the stomach, small and large intestines, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. These organs are held together loosely by connecting tissues (mesentery) that allow them to expand and to slide against each other. The abdomen also contains the kidneys and spleen.” www.webmd.com
So, if your belly has at least some of these organs and is held together by that gross word, I think you’re doing pretty damn well right now.
In all my misguided childhood glory, I started to cover my belly up. I would put something large like a sweater in my lap every time I sat down to hide away my rolls that seemed to stick out through my shirt. I would obsess over it when I was alone. I would pray for liposuction. My belly became my enemy. It became a source of hate and pain. But, the problem was not really my belly. I was my brain. Nothing was wrong with my body. I did not have any illnesses, diseases, or real pain that would have really been worthy of my attention. As time went on, I continued to obsess over my body and all it brought me was more obsession of my body. The more I focused on dislike for what I had, and wished to be thin, the more I would emotionally eat and delve deeper into depression, and the more I ate, the worse I would feel. This was a never ending cycle of pain and shame all because I was obsessing over myself. Where your focus goes, your energy grows. Through all the forms that my eating disorder took, whether I was starving and a tiny xxxs size 0 or overeating and bigger, the experience in my brain was actually the same. I was thinking, no, obsessing, about MY body. What. A Waste. Of. A. Good. Body.
Let’s be real here, our bodies serve a massive purpose and it ain’t to just be lookin’ cute. Our bodies allow us to enjoy life, create, and manifest the things that we need to do while we are on this earth.
What could you do if you did not have a body at all?
As a society we owe it to ourselves and to each other rise up. We need to start committing to more meaningful and more pleasurable experiences. We are wasting our time being stuck in our heads.
I NEVER thought I would want to be naked so much, but it IS happening and it is so freaking exciting. Feeling excitement to do something outside of my comfort zone is a mystical magical feeling that tops feeling shameful by about a gazillion. I am feeling grateful and lucky to have this body for only a short period of time, so I am going to embrace it and enjoy it while I am here. Someday, some lucky human is going to get to experience all of me and I will joyfully (with some big nerves) get to experience the pleasure that comes with being loved as I am and simply experiencing life as is it meant to be. Here’s to living it up and gettin’ nakey.
3 Tips on How To Get Out the Body Shame Cycle & Have The Best Day Ever
10 feminist & body positive podcasts- BUSTLE
Body Love Podcast Jessi Haggagerty (I was on this episode!)
feel good in your body
The Power of Mindfulness
Insta peeps to follow....
“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits—anything that kept me small. My judgment called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving,” ~Kim McMillen
Here’s to filling ourselves up with the good stuff.
A couple of days ago I got some really bad news. Some painful, cringe-worthy, gut wrenching, truly terrible news. I thought I was going to lose someone I loved. I went into a tailspin of emotion. I literally collapsed on my bathroom floor wailing. I remembered this feeling. I’ve been on the bathroom floor before. Wailing. Crying out in pain. Asking God why. I have to write about it because it’s real and I am not afraid to go there, into the darkness of the cycle of life that we ALL share and accept it because I know that’s how healing happens.
Why am I even sharing my secrets right now? Because. Growth, people! Growth :)
After emptying the contents of my tear ducts for about 24 hours, I came to a few realizations. First of all, this feeling I remembered, it was the exact feeling I had when my dad passed two years ago (He would have turned 71 this week). When he passed, I spent a lot of time on the floor of the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, really all the rooms. I would just collapse and go into a crying fit. On the day of his funeral, I got so emotionally spun out, that I drank myself into a blackout and spent the night clutching the toilet (tmi, but someone out there can relate!) and woke up the next day, you guessed it, on the bathroom floor crying!
Back to this time.
What I realized this time is how easy it is to be in the flow and happy and joyful when everything in your life is lining up and no one is ill, or dead, or broken-up with, or cheated on, or in jail, or whatever horrible thing is happening right now and seemed to just come right the fuck out of NOWHERE...you get the picture.
I had forgotten just how damn lucky I have it right now (so many of us have it like this right now) and that all the spiritual work and all the growth i’m leaning into, the asking for guidance, the following my heart, the feeling gratitude for the people in my life, the healing, nurturing, and the blessings I have, this is all preparation for the real shit that is bound to happen. Life is not all daisies and sweet baby toes, and butterfly kisses, and unicorn glitter magic (well...it kind of is) and we know that, but knowing that is a reminder of how damn lucky we are to be alive right now. SO LUCKY!
This time, I am reminded of the people who are going through something inconceivable to most right now. The people who are really going through tough times. My heart is right there with you. I know this pain. It is like being ripped wide open on display for the world to see. The people going through struggle right now have become my role models. If it is you, and you are reading this, thank you for being a guide and a legit inspiration for all of us. Know that I am in the background cheering you on and praying for ease in your grieving. You are angels.
There is a great quote in a recent blog post from one of my favorite people, Sarah Wolf, that really hits deep for me. It goes like this,
"You have been assigned this mountain so others know it can be moved."
Right? So. Good.
For me, this grieving brings up some old stuff. Some of my own mountains, struggles, and ways of being that don’t serve my own healing. The crying is not what I’m talking about. Holy healthy! If you need to cry, please, please, please, get that shit out! It needs to go somewhere. What I’m referring to is my old gang of unhelpful brain friends, my Eating Disorder thoughts! Yup. When I am in pain, the thing my brain resorts to is “protecting me” the exact same ways it did when I was a child. When I say “protecting me,” what I really mean is helping me cope with (or suppress) pain I’m in. That protection seems really nice, but it’s actually quite detrimental to my well being. This week I started to subconsciously spend a few more seconds looking in the mirror, sending myself negative thoughts, questioning if I was eating too much, plotting my next meal (not in an excited to eat kind of way- in a -maybe I can cut out everything but the protein kind of way- maybe I don’t need dinner tonight- kind of way-maybe I can just fast tomorrow- kind of way). Not healthy, babe.
Then something miraculous happened. Something just clicked. I finally got it! Oh my goodness! That was not a healthy thought. Then. That was not a healthy thought! Then, woah, that thought doesn’t sound like it would come from someone whose purpose on earth is to embody self-love and inspire others to do the same! It was SO exciting to be on the other side, watching the old patterns arise and being beyond that place of feeling trapped and needing to feel in control when life feels out of control. To those of you in any sort of recovery, I know you know what I’m talking about and HANG IN THERE, boos. You are doing great! Little by little. Day by day. Being compassionate to whatever arises.
I learned this week how much I have grown and for that, I am on cloud nine and feeling blessed AF because it means we ALL have the capacity to get past our unloving habits and move into a place of compassion no matter what we face.
This week I re-learned how quickly our lives can get “out of control” and how quickly we will need to honor and embrace all the feels that arrive. I am re-committing to being in a place of heart centered action and thought right now. I am counting my blessings and soaking in every moment. I am reminded that I won’t have everyone in my life forever, and I am doing my best to just be in the moment with the ones I have now. I am nurturing and nurturing and nurturing some more and choosing life and growth in this moment and hoping you, whoever you are, are doing the same. Thank you. I love you. I really, really, really do.
4 STEPS TO SELF-LOVE Hangovers,Body Shaming, & Binge Eating: Feeling your feelings and The Nitty Gritty of Heart Centered Choices
“You cannot get to happy over there if you’re unhappy over here. Unhappy over here will have your attention. Unhappy has a vibration and if you are offering an unhappy vibration, you will bring in an unhappy vibration." -Esther Hicks.
A Really a big shift is happening inside me. I think I am starting to really let go. I think I am starting to really trust. I feel a flow through me. A beautiful river of loving, heart centered choices. If you take my yoga classes you have most likely heard my new favorite phrase a few.... million times.
Heart. Centered. Choices.
This has become everything to me and I am leading my days with buckets of heart centered choices right now. Let me explain...
Friday night I went out with a new friend. We went to the Beehive (I love this place especially because it reminds me of my rad artist mom) Anyway, Friday night I went to the Beehive and had one too many drinks. I literally mean ONE too many. I had two. TWO. Total. Drinks.
For most people that is nothing. For most people! But the next morning I woke up and it felt like all the skin wrapped around my skull was crawling and squeezing my brain. I mean, even my eyelids hurt. It has been many years since I’d been hungover and I do not wish to go back to the old days of blacking out or vomiting an entire bottle of red wine (tmi?) ever again!
But. Wait. Where is this story going, girl?
I sufffffered through yesterday (including a hard core high intensity Sassy Saturday class) with as much energy, patience, and compassion as I could muster. I was a wreck inside the whole day. My head was POUNDING and I was in a constant state of nausea. Trying to console myself meant a continuous internal dialog, “This will pass and I will be okay soon.” “It’s all good, babe,” I said...to myself.
But the absolute MOST essential thing I did was to ask myself this.
“What is the most loving thing I can do in this moment?” That is what I mean by making heart centered choices.
What is the most loving thing I can do in this moment?”
Unlike my non-loving days of the past, the day after the hangover was a whole new and fabulous discovery of what life without the constant barrage of negativity and shame is like...
I am finally in a place in my life where I am connected to my body and spirit in such a way that I can nurture myself out of feeling terrible. That is not to say I can stop the hangover or even stop bad thoughts from surfacing randomly into my brain, but what I can do is have the awareness that what pain I am currently experiencing needs to be met with loving thoughts, choices, and buckets of compassion. Here is what I haven’t said yet that is going to make all the difference.
In the past, when faced with feelings of pain, hurt, discomfort, or dis-ease in any way, I almost always numbed myself away from the feelings I was experiencing. This took many shapes and forms but the most obvious are the disordered eating behaviors of starving and binging, followed by diving head first into self-deprecating thoughts or behaviors that would send me into a downward spiral of depression, or, if I want to go way way back, latching onto someone else (like a boyfriend!) to “fix me”.
In the past, it didn’t take much emotional imbalance to bring me into a mental state of choosing to binge. It just seemed to happen. At one point, I didn’t seem to have any emotional awareness at all! I couldn’t feel the difference between pain or discomfort, avoiding responsibility, or even just being tired! Can you imagine how exhausting that would be? To never know what you are feeling exactly? To be constantly ruled and lead by emotions you don’t even understand?! Oh my gahdddddd. One moment I would be doing something and the next I would find myself in my kitchen, hunched over an open carton of something or other, just going at it! I mean really. Me. Ice Cream. Like a gallon...not a pint. And that would just continue to whatever I could find and get my hands on. I could eat a couple of days worth of food easily in one sitting and then go back a few hours later and find myself in that same state of eating, totally disconnected from what I was even doing. Mental illness is a bitch.
Back to being hungover.
I have been hungover before. This ain’t my first rodeo. But this time was totally different. I kept asking myself, the universe, my heart, “what can I do that will be a loving choice right now?” And I got answers! Drink water, take vitamins, this will pass, have something nutritious, rest, don’t put too much pressure on yourself today, be real about this situation, no need to feel shame, go outside, it’s all good, this will pass, be okay with suffering a little, you got this, this will pass, just keep showing up as you are right now! I just kept following my own loving voice inside all day and it was a fucking beautiful experience! I was able to spend time with friends, draw, watch the sunset, listen to music, and all of this without resorting to OLD, anxiety ridden, worn out, habitually stunted and unloving patterns that once ran the show.
Let me tell you how Shira just last year would have handled this situation.
Woken up hungover with total and utter dread for the day ahead. Felt such pressure to perform during class and such shame for being hungover (two drinks, people) that she would over perform, over push, totally exhaust herself during class to the point of being in physical pain. She would then go home, binge eat, and lay in bed to watch HOURS (let’s say about ten) of Netflex. She would mentally shame herself alllll day for every action she chose. She would be the meanest, most horrible bully to her body after binging, probably spend too much time looking at her stomach in the mirror and replaying the idea of being a disgusting human over and over, she would completely NUMB out. Whatever the pain was- she was going to eat so much that should couldn’t even feel the initial emotions, which would in turn, send her into a deep depression for the rest of the day. She would not leave her house again until the next day, when she could forget (tell NO ONE and pretend) that any of that ever happened and then continue to punish herself through hours of intense exercise. No more!…What I want to express here is that there is another way and I, Shira Brenner, am living proof!!!
4 STEPS TO SELF LOVE
Try looking in the mirror and saying, “I am so pure in the deepest part of who I am. I am beauty. I am life. I am so appreciative to have this body!” ...It doesn’t have to be exactly those words, but this is Law of Attraction so bring in ways that you want to feel that are specific to you.
No need to rush this process. This is all about patience and trust. Patience and trust. These things take time. You do not get to decide how long it will take you to grow into your loving ways of being, you just have to practice over and over and over and over. You will always have to realign with your loving choices. It is a way of being and riding the waves of life...and you are going to love it.
I recognize that this post has gotten a little lengthy and wild, but hopefully you are picking up what I’m throwing down. The point is, being a human and having challenges, obstacles, weird thoughts, and hangovers is hard, but it is only as hard and as horrible as we choose it to be. Deciding to make a shift and feel your feelings instead of numbing certainly does take some courage, but I know it’s in you, it’s in ALL of us, but we have to say YES to it and be open to what is on the other side. Take a deep breath into your heart, give yourself some extra love’n, and know that everything will work out in time.
I recently did a podcast with my good friend, RD and Intuitive Eating Coach, Jessi Haggarty. In this episode we discuss...
This is a reminder to myself that the voice in my head, telling me that i’m looking a little “big,” or that my clothes don’t look right on my body, or that I need to “fix” any part of my body, is not me, but actually an imaginary, total bitch that I need to name and claim as such. Let’s call her Cruella McBwordAwordStupidDooDooFaceMagee. Excuse my French. CMA for short.
Sometimes (okay pretty much everyday) I wake up and the first thing I do, even before opening my eyes, is put my hands on my stomach to see if, overnight, it has gotten bigger or (fingers crossed) smaller! My day begins with the presumption that I have somehow gained weight overnight from eating too much or from, well, just being alive and if I have in fact, become larger during the past 8 hours, it will impact the rest of my life for-ever, I will die alone, unsuccessful, and everyone will judge me. Here are the following steps to unravel this not so loving mental conditioning I created as a 10 year old girl that I have compassionately cultivated and revised as a 31 year old WOMAN. Yes, I am a woman now. Hear me roar.
I get out of bed, take my clothes off, and inspect my body in the mirror from Every. Single. Angle. Upon inspection, I look myself right in the eyes and say with confidence and vigor, “You are a fucking brilliant force of love and a hot piece of ass! Your body is PERFECT and so are you!” Then I do this little butt shake and give myself a super sassy face. Sometimes I even forget that the blinds are open and the neighbors get a show!
Yeah, that’s right. I talk to myself outloud in the mirror and then I flirt...with myself. While naked. Blinds sometimes open.
The truth is, I work the shit out of positive affirmations, Reiki healing, and meditation. Why? Because these are the things that got me through/are getting me through eating disorder(s), organ failure, therapy, hospital visits, and depression, and these are the things that keep me present and loving my life no matter what arises. I am love and I will stop at nothing to spread the good word.
There was a long time ( not that long, just like, 20 years or so) in which I would do this “stomach check” as my meanie alter ego, Cruella. If my stomach didn’t feel small enough, or my face looked puffy, I would punish myself throughout the day in various ways. I would negative-self talk myself into a tunnel of thought patterning, until all that was cycling through my brain was criticism after criticism after criticism. This began upon awaking and did not end until i’d fallen asleep with (fingers crossed) an empty stomach and a smaller waist. In fact, my life was so heavily based upon this desire to be small, that I believe I subconsciously changed professions simply to be “thin” and “FIT.” Ca-ray-zee. Every second was about getting that unobtainable “hot” body, being desirable, being enough. And for what? My happiness DOES NOT depend on the size of my body (and psssht, neither should yours ). Oh, there’s more! I would also compare my body to all the bodies around me. If someone was smaller than me, I wouldn’t understand why I couldn’t look the same. Why me! Why do I have this body!? How is SHE eating that?! OMG!!!Why can’t I be skinny like everyone else!?...said Cruella McBword. Wah wah wah. NONSENSE.
You need to fight for yourself. You need to fight for your right to exist in peace. You. The real you, NOT your inner bully, YOU need to stand up to every single fucking negative comment that arises in your brain. Not just the body related ones, all of them! They are NOT REAL. These thoughts are lies we have created during our lifetimes ( or eh-hem, during childhood experiences that were not in our control) to keep us from reaching our incredible potential to experience true joy, presence, and connection to ourselves.
Let’s call these fear thoughts because that is all they do- keep you in fear and out of love. There is a magical world inside of you and you might not even realize it. You are so worthy of love, it is almost ridiculous. There is absolutely not one soul on this earth, in this galaxy, that is like you. You, the real you, has special powers and unique talents, and beauty that emanates if you allow it to. Say yes. You, the real you, is not even your body’s form, it is your presence with what is real and your ability to just show up to your life with compassion and love. I spent almost my entire life hating myself. What. A. Waste. Of. Time.
Enough is enough. It’s time for us to create a self love movement.
Let me tell you about what happens when you decide that those negative, self-defeating thoughts toward yourself (and others!) are just you own horrible version of your inner mean girl. When you label those thoughts, when you discover they aren’t your true source, you begin to create space in your brain for BETTER, SMARTER, MORE INTERESTING thoughts. You have heard of the old saying, “when you close one door, another opens,” well, that is not limited to breakups, actual doors, and jobs. We have a choice in how we perceive our lives, inside and outside of our brains and bodies. Choose to be compassionate to yourself and just wait and see how your world shifts. Once I shut that B word right the hell up (see how aggressive I have to be?!) I became more productive, more creative, and wayyyy more joyful. Though I will always have that old thought patterning trying to pull me back to nonsense, I will never give in to the lies because I am committed to living a freaking joyous life. That is my birthright.
I mean, if you don’t allow yourself to be joyful in your own existence, who will? I am calling for all of us to rise up, say NO MORE to our inner Cruella's and create a movement of celebrating ourselves and eachother in every way. Tell yourself you’re awesome. Tell other people (especially the ones that wake up your inner critic) that they are awesome! Step up and get on board this love train, full throttle into the magic of self-empowerment, so we can be a happier, more connected society. It is about time.
This is a reminder to myself that the voice in my head, telling me that i’m looking a little “big,” or that my clothes don’t look right on my body, or that I need to “fix” any part of my body is not me, but actually a made up, total B word that I need to name and claim as such. Let’s call her, Cruella McBwordAwordStupidDooDooFaceMagee.
Excuse my French. CMA for short.
I am choosing love and I am not backing down. JOIN ME.
I will never forget being the fattest kid in Jazz class. I wasn’t a huge kid. I was just, well, big enough. If you can remember the main character from the movie, Little Miss Sunshine, specifically when she stands in front of a full length mirror at the beauty pageant (vomit) with her cute tummy protruding out and her adorable puffy cheeks, the point in the movie where she realizes she is "different" from the others, just pack on about 25lbs and that was basically me. I didn’t have a grandpa coaching me
to strip , but I certainly had the same, if not more, chutzba, sass skills, and pelvic thrusting ability.
I begged my parents to let me join dance class and was elated when I finally got to rehearse for a dance to the Brady Bunch song, It's a Sunshine day. I swear to god I had been waiting my whole life to be a professional dancer (based on my music video research and my dream of being a back up dancer for In Living Color.) and I was finally getting my grand debut. When rehearsals began, I could not contain my excitement. I had A LOT of talent to share with the world. Talent that I believed could not be contained. My first rehearsal was amazing. leaps across the floor, shuffle, ball change. a spin, shuffle, ball change. Big smiles. jazz hands. Kicks.. Turns! Everything. Was. Amazing.
Early on I knew I was different from the others, not because I had this very original idea that I was physically different, but instead because I was told I was different. I was "othered"and it hurt. It really hurt. For some reason this time(there were many more!) really just sucked. The memory sticks to my gut like crazy glue.. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I remember being pointed at, laughed at, sneered upon, and mockingly giggled at behind cupped hands from the pack of terrifying hyenas some might refer to as children.
I still have the amazing photos of myself in a neon green dress and white go go boot covers from our photoshoot. I was definitly a rock star in every way. My bun was perfectly hair spray hardened and my blue eye shadow was on point, but I don’t even remember performance day. The day I had been waiting my entire life for is actually overshadowed by a gaggle of insecure haters laughing at me. And there it is. I stopped dancing for a decade. My creativity, my passion, my expression of zeal was completely squashed.
This all came to me while I was not more than 10 pages into, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert when I read the sentence, “Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them", and my mouth dropped open. wow. Yes!
I learned early on that my body was not good enough and for too long, my fear of rejection, my limitation (which obviously was not a real limitation) ruled my life. “I am too fat” kept me from experiencing a hell of a lot of joy and fulfillment. Honestly, I am still trying to heal. Layer by layer peeling away the things that have kept me stuck, knowing that there is a mystical potion of happy coming out with each little reveal. My fear kept me from trying. From dancing. My fear turned into other fears! It kept me from expressing my natural born talents. My gifts! My poor little gifts just ignored like that. How could I?! It controlled my decisions and kept me from connecting to
my creative spirit, the thing that sets me free and makes me...me.
The point I am trying to make here is that there is great freedom in honoring and accepting the fears or (what limitations you THINK) you have, but there is something even more magical that happens when you find the courage to tell the fears that limit you to go F off. Every time you do something that scares you, you get connected to the real you. The pre-all-that-crap-that-you-hold-onto YOU.
Today, as I sit in seat 13D, on my way to lead my adventure and yoga retreat in Ecuador, I am just about to explode out of my seat with joy. Seriously, ahhhhhh!!!
Without the massive layers of limitation I've worked on shedding, I would never have even dreamed that I was capable of putting something like this together. I was so scared to even toy with the idea of someday making this happen. Terrified. But guess what, it. Is. happening. We all have fears, we all have crappy memories that we carry, but they do not define us. If you carry your story around, like it is you, you will remain tied to it. "Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them." Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert! We are incredible human spirits that deserve every happiness. Believe that and watch your life transform.
A couple of days ago, a student came up to me after class. She looked at me, lifted up her shirt, grabbed her lower belly with both hands, pulled it forward, and tightly squeezed her fingers deep into her flesh. “Look how fat I am! I am disgusting! I hate my body!”
My heart broke into a million pieces and dropped deep into the pit of my stomach right then and there. I flashed back to being 12 years old and standing in front of the mirror in my bedroom, completely naked, using a magic marker to draw dotted lines along the parts of my body I dreamed about someday having liposuctioned. Once, I took a knife to my stomach thinking I could actually cut out some of the fat (thank god I was smart enough to not go through with something so ridiculous!) I remembered the hundreds of hours of self-hating, angry, defeated, rageful internal hate talk that I wasted so much energy on, so many days of my precious life being taken for granted all because of my obsession with not looking good enough.
The next day another student came up to me and said, “You know, you never looked different to me. I see some of these women at the gym and it’s so obvious! You didn’t look anorexic at all!
Um, thanks? This came as both a strange compliment, a surprise, and a hurtful stab. Partly this is because, as you know, I’ve recently taken my gentle, bruised heart and laid it out for all to see. It makes perfect sense that I’m in a sensitive place, but there’s so much more to this. You see, when I started recovery, when anyone is in recovery, it felt like all eyes are on you. It felt like everyone around me was constantly judging how my body was changing. It felt like EVERYONE knew I was gaining weight. Whether it was just my brain playing evil tricks on me or not, I could feel people looking at me (friends, family, strangers) and thinking I looked different, but not saying anything because they were just being nice. It felt like being 12 years old again, hating every part of my body, wanting to cut it off and scream and wail in a fury of disgust, except this time, I couldn’t “fix” it. I couldn't go backwards. Imagine your brain being stuck on a loop- a broken record if you will of “mean girls” slander.
I was trying to grow. I was crawling into the darkness to find some sense of what, at the seed of my soul I knew to be true.
When I realized I needed to heal, it was because I knew I wanted to be a source of love for the world around me and that, unless I loved myself in all my forms, the beautiful, the shameful, the joyful, the sadness, the fat, the rolls, everything, there was no way I could authentically give love to others. I could no longer starve myself because my body was literally not allowing it to happen. I could not longer diet, restrict, “just have a smoothie for dinner”, or “juice fast” for a few days to get “back on track” because I was recovering from a life of doing ALL those things ALL the time. This isn’t just about feeling guilty for eating two pieces of cake, or having too much pasta and physically feeling like crap because of it, this is a mind game. It’s about shame and the need for control and perfection. It’s about being in a constant state of feeling “not...enough” and only having freedom from that feeling when you starve.
What I’ve learned is that being true to yourself, being vulnerable, authentic, and real, is about loving and accepting yourself in every single fucking way. Loving myself means softening up on negative self talk, it means having compassion for myself when things don’t seem to be going right, it means being okay with my body no matter how my weight shifts. Today, I probably ate my weight in pumpkin peanut butter brownies... did I ruin my life? If you’d talked to me six month ago the answer would probably have been, yes. But guess what, today, it’s a hell no I did not ruin my life! I have a tummy ache, yes, so I won't do that again (haha!) but my life is not over! I am experiencing the gift of Fall and will eat all the pumpkin flavored everything Fall has to offer! It means looking at my belly rolls (everybody has these!) and smiling and being so fucking grateful that I have this vessel that helps me experience life’s joys and allows me to give love to the people around me. It means having that cupcake and taking a hot bath when I’ve had a rough day. It’s treating myself the way I would treat my daughter, my sister, my best friend. Can you imagine telling your best friend she is fat and ugly? I would NEVER say the things I’ve said privately to myself to another living soul! Never! You know why? Because it’s cruel. It’s abuse. It’s wrong on so many levels. It’s also not true and it’s MEAN. It means showing my deeply broken, child self that she is also worthy and deserving of love. So much of what we do and think is shaped by parts of our past that still need healing. Loving yourself is an unconditional act and that choice will ripple into every single part of your life.
From the perspective of someone recovering from any ED, saying that you can, “see women at the gym who are anorexic,” is probably not the most compassionate of things to say, but I get it. I get it because if you haven’t been there, there’s absolutely no way you will be able to comprehend this experience. I also get it because last year, I was one of those people who didn’t get it.
The world is not black and white. People are not just anorexic or obese or pretty or ugly. We are beautifully complex and unique. No one person is going to have the same exact body type as someone else and it is insane not to recognize that. We are gifted this beautiful fucking vessel so that we can walk, play with our children and nieces and nephews, pet puppies!, hang out with our best friends, pick up forks and flowers, give and get kisses, have sex!, buy dino kale, win at Scrabble, drink Kombucha, etc. I urge you to stop the negative self talk, the comparing your body to anyone else's, and do away with any sadness about the way you are in this exact moment. We talk to ourselves more than we talk to anyone else. Think about it. We live in our heads! Ask yourself if the words you secretly speak are words you would use with the people you love. We don’t have that much time on this earth. Start loving exactly who you are in this moment. Every. Single. Part. Deserves. Unconditional. Love.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be, and embracing who we are.”- Brene Brown
I am a love giving, yoga and dance teaching, peanut butter loving, cat lady, who advocates body empowerment, and is blessed to do what she loves everyday of her life.