Body Image Mirrors: What Does Yours Reflect?

“Beauty is not caused. It is.” — Emily Dickinson

If only we all saw it in ourselves…

The first few times I spoke publicly about my eating disorder, I shared photographs of my former emaciated self. Most people gasped at the sunken in cheeks, sharp bones and skin that looked too small for its skeleton. Others, sadly, were impressed.

One day, after speaking at a university in Minnesota, I received an email from a woman who’d attended. “I looked at that picture and all I could think was, I wish I could be that thin. Why don’t I have that discipline?” she wrote. The words threw a brick at my heart and opened my eyes.

Based on the woman’s email, I figured she was A) anorexic and body dysmorphic B) affected by another eating disorder or C) generally healthy physically, but riddled with disordered eating thoughts and behaviors—a state far more common than diagnosable eating disorders, and no less worthy of addressing. I didn’t need to know which; my reaction would’ve been the same regardless.

I wrote back, apologizing, offering support and reiterating some of what I’d shared in my talk. I thanked her for showing me how irresponsible I’d been, and meant it. Even if masses of people were horrified by the photographs, sharing them wasn’t worth it if even one used it as a measure of her self-worth. Needless to say, I’ve been much more cautious about sharing them since.

Whether we realize it or not, we are role models and example-setters. Our attitudes and behaviors regarding food, eating and our bodies can empower or hurt others—even when our intentions are good.

Positive body image reflects empowering light on others.

Remarkable things happen when we accept ourselves and stop trying to whittle ourselves away or morph into people or shapes we’re not. We stop judging others’ shapes and sizes. We see people, not body parts or competition. We see fuel and enjoyment on our plates, rather than numbers or damage. We eat healthfully and exercise because it feels good, not for calorie burn or scale shifts. And photographs of skinny models don’t motivate us or fill us with envy; they simply make us sad.

Study after study has shown that unhealthy attitudes and behaviors regarding food, weight and appearance negatively influences our peers and loved ones. Research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders in 2011 revealed that peer and parental fixation on appearance and weight control significantly increase teen women’s likelihood of binging and purging. Children of dieting parents often develop poor body image and self esteem, struggle with weight control and hold increased risks for anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, obesity and depression during youth and adulthood.

But fear not. There’s good news. 🙂 Many steps can be taken to improve our own food and body-related attitudes while safeguarding our loved ones from these complications.

8 Ways to Boost Body Image in Others

1. Make self-acceptance a priority. Perhaps it’s obvious, but the best way to inspire positive body image is by example. For more on this topic, and tips on boosting your own body image, feel free to visit my post, Body Image Myths: Exploring Myths & Walking the Walk.

2. If you’e not feeling it, fake it. Reversing poor body image seldom happens simply or quickly. But talking about body parts you loathe can give those thoughts power and negatively influence listening ears. If you have thoughts about your “huge thighs” or “imperfect” skin, keep them private. Why does Coca Cola continue to advertise when we’re well aware of their products? The power of suggestion. It works—sometimes too well.

3. Don’t diet. Dieting, including following rigid lifestyle plans geared toward weight loss, wreaks havoc on our bodies and minds. It also inspires similar problems and complexes in our peers and loved ones. Poor body image, self esteem, eating disorders and obesity run rampant in children of dieting parents. They may be small, but they’re highly absorbent sponges.

4. Make healthy lifestyle habits a family affair. Forcing kids to eat healthy foods seldom works. Even if only one member of your clan has a weight or dietary problem, involve the entire family in physical activity and healthy eating—and make it fun. Enjoyment is a huge factor in developing and maintaining healthy lifestyles longterm.

5. Don’t comment on others’ weight. If a friend has shed excess pounds and looks great, tell her she looks healthy and happy—not thin “and what’s your secret?” Celebrating weight loss places emphasis on body size. What if she lost weight through starving? Would you celebrate that? Our loved ones need to know that we care about who and how they are, not their pant size.

6. Talk positively about food and your body. Rather than discuss your weight or physical “flaws,” talk about the strength of your body, gratitude for your health or how great you feel when you self-nourish with healthy foods. Describe desserts as “decadent,” not ‘damaging.” Viewing foods in terms of calories, carbs and grams can zap pleasure and perpetuate negativity. Save numbers for your accountant, and away from your plates.

7. Give body image-boosting gifts. Affirmation cards, empowering books and films, massages and even counseling sessions make wonderful, uplifting gifts. Rather than a gym or weight loss center membership, sign you and a friend up for fabulous dance classes or hiking events. Instead of fitness-geared magazines, give MORE, Oprah magazine or others that promote inner/outer beauty. Or give a gift related to a friend’s passion. Happiness breeds inner-beauty, outer-beauty and self-acceptance.

8. Set loved ones straight. If you catch friends or family members dissing their bodies or partaking in harmful weight or diet-related behaviors, call them out. Tell them you won’t allow them to bash or hurt themselves around you, that you love them too much. And ask what you can do to support positive changes. It’s not always easy, but it’s worthwhile.

What do you do to set a positive body image example for others? Any challenges or success stories to share? 

Body Image Myths and Walking the Walk

At the gym the other day I overheard two women discussing the importance of inner-beauty. Minutes later, their topic shifted to a fad diet one was following in hopes of landing a “guy like this.” Perhaps she was referring to the guy’s wit and intelligence. But judging from the half-naked celebrities they were gazing at in a magazine, I had to wonder.

Many of us claim we value inner-beauty and health over appearance. But if our values mismatch our words and behaviors, which speaks louder?

There’s nothing wrong with admiring physical attractiveness, and for all I know, the women weren’t terribly serious. But their ellipti-chatter got me thinking. While there’s no shortage of “how to boost body image” information on the web, I’ve noticed some holes.

5 Myths About Low Body Image

1. It’s normal, and thus “no big deal.” Common, yes. But poor body image isn’t any more “normal’ than having a perpetual cold or flu. Also like illness, cases range from mild, short-lived and annoying to severe, chronic and life-threatening. Chalking body dissatisfaction up to “normal insecurity” makes us less likely to seek solutions and more likely to fuel the growing epidemic.

2. It’s a female (only) thing. Not anymore. Recent research shows that over 500,000 men in the United States undergo cosmetic surgery each year—many opting for more than one procedure. Magazine covers routinely feature men’s “rock hard abs,” and “miraculous” ways to get them. In any given week, the latest Hollywood “it” guys likely boasts a physique as unattainable for most men as super model physiques present for women. And the stats on male body image issues are low-ball, because men are far less likely than women to reveal these insecurities.

3. It’s less important than weight control. Imagine if rather than resolving to lose weight or bulk up next New Year’s eve, we resolved to embrace our bodies as is. Sound foolish? It isn’t. Self-acceptance makes way way for self-care. Healthy weight and muscle tone are common by-products. But many of us believe that if we just lost those 5, 10 or 100 pounds, or grunted our way to a six-pack, we’d feel better, look better, be better. On the contrary, countless studies link physique fixation and dieting with binge eating, increased stress, anxiety, sleep problems, weight gain, depression and obesity.

4. It’s the fashion/entertainment/advertising industry’s fault. It’s easy to point fingers, but it’s more complicated than that. If we didn’t support these industries’ ideals, they’d change. They can’t function without our support ($$$). Some argue that we’re brainwashed. In my opinion, that’s passing the buck rather than sharing it. Stronger contributors to poor body image include the diet and weight loss industry (another public-reliant machine) and our upbringing—such as the behaviors and attitudes modeled by our parents and other role models.

5. “If I accept my body as it, it won’t improve. I’d probably go off the overeating/weight gain deep-end. And besides, I can’t accept a body that looks like…this.” If this sounds like a quip from your mental diary, I empathize. But I also know what it’s like to prove these beliefs wrong. Little is as empowering as turning self-loathing into respect. And unless we flip that dark coin over, we’ll never know what we’re capable of. If this myth applies to you, imagine taking all of the energy, time, money and thoughts you invest into disliking, shrinking or sculpting your body into your wildest dreams.

12 Effective Ways to Boost Your Body Image Here’s the good news. With awareness, desire and effort, we can improve the way we feel about ourselves and bodies. Not sure where to start? Consider the following.

1. Make a list of wonderful things your body does for you. Keep it on your refrigerator, your dining table, in your car—where ever you tend to experience negative self-talk.

2. Look away from the mirror and into yourself. The more we fixate on our appearance, the more we judge ourselves and others. Spend as much time as you need before the mirror. Smile at yourself while you’re at it. 🙂 Poor body image often symptomizes a deeper problem—work stress, loneliness, perfectionism, fear… Addressing underlying issues makes way for improvement.

3. Trash your scale. Weighing ourselves can seem like a useful way to track physical health and weight loss progress. But weighing-in often is risky. We’re likely to mistake normal fluctuations for undesirable loss or gain. And health is far more complex than our weight in pounds.

4. Trade fashion and fitness mags for something better. Yes, there are exceptions. But by and large, the images, ideals and tactics presented in popular magazines aren’t helpful. Read empowering non-fiction and fantastic fiction instead. Get your news from magazines and health tips from qualified sources.

5. Just breathe… In effort to present a flat stomach, many of us have learned to “suck in.” This interferes with breathing, which can increase stress and other problems—including body image. Breathing exercises, on the other hand, promote emotional well-being. To learn more, check out Harvard Medical School’s Relaxation Techniques: Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response.

6. Give back. Volunteering can go a long way toward keeping our personal complaints and stressors in perspective. When we fixate on our bodies and appearance, we are highly self-involved. Becoming others-involved provides a positive means of distraction and emotional gratification.

7. Fight negative self-talk with gratitude. Counting blessings is more fulfilling than counting calories or body fat ounces. Every time a negative, judgmental thought enters your brain—about you or others—jot down something you’re thankful for. Gratitude is powerful medicine.

8. Swap porn for empowerment. There are many way to celebrate and nurture sexuality while enhancing body image. Generally speaking, hardcore, mainstream porn isn’t one of them. Read the Vagina Monologues. Practice self-pleasure. Try something new with your partner. If all of this is way out of your comfort zone, seek guidance from a qualified sex therapist. (If you do watch porn, consider feminist porn or consider these tips.)

9. Eat a healthy, happy diet. Eating well provides a broad range of benefits, including positive body image. Avoid dieting. Instead, aim for a healthy, balanced diet that contains a variety of foods. Pleasure, flexibility and “gentle nutrition” are important parts of a body image-boosting diet.

10. Exercise, but not too much. Physical activity helps the brain produce feel-good chemicals, improves overall physical health and guards against low body image—immediately, according to studies. And you don’t need to spend hours in the gym. Over-exercise can detract from body image as much as staying sedentary. Seek exercise you enjoy. Hike. Dance. Walk your dog. Play with kids. For most people 30 minutes or more most days is plenty.

11. Pursue your passions. A sadly common thread among people with severe low body image is a lack of passion. We can’t fix body image issues and recognize or our passions when we are enraptured by self hate and illness. Even mild body dissatisfaction can hold us back. The more we focus on our passions the less likely we are to view body shape, size or muscle mass as top priorities. And the happier we are, the more attractive we are to ourselves and others. 

12. Seek support. Body image issues are contagious within families, classrooms and communities. Surrounding ourselves with people who over-value physical appearance increases our likelihood of the same. Seek friendship and support from others with positive values you hold and desire. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Self-help books, support groups and therapy are valuable resources.

So what do you think? Does your body image walk match your thoughts and talk? Any trials or triumphs to share?

Make Like Dorothy: BOAW BlogFest Wrap Up

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.

This scene from Wizard of Oz that seems dandy to many of us as kids, grows profound with maturity. In fact, the entire story has been picked apart, analyzed and celebrated by philosophers, psychologists, grad students and celebrities alike due to its powerful themes and messages. And does it ever suit the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest.

While the BOAW stories are as unique and varied as their authors, every participant shares an attribute with Dorothy: You’re all beautiful.

Why Dorothy is Beautiful (And You Are, Too)

1. Even in the face of horrendous storms, she dreams BIG and lets her dreams carry into a magical world.

2. She chooses to embark upon a journey through the unknown.

3. In times of duress, fearing “lions and tigers and bears—oh my!,” she sings, dances and moves on. Even her sassy red heels can’t keep her stoic. 😉

4. She sees past the differences in others, befriending everyone from a man made of tin to multi-colored munchkins.

5. She’s kind to animals. (Some philosophers have theorized that Toto represents her intuition.)

6. As that “little voice” within grows louder, she listens to it, investigates and responds.

7. She brave enough to confront witches and an overbearing man hidden behind loudspeakers.

8. As she moves closer to her destination, she and little Toto are captured. But she never stops hoping or searching. No matter what.

9. Against many odds, she’s the heroine of her own life. (When Frank Baum’s novel first came out in 1900, female heroines were unheard of.)

10. Dorothy discovers that her power lies within; it has been all along. As she learns this, her world fills with color. She awakens, having bid farewell to the “old her,” and shares her newfound brightness with others. (Sound familiar??? It should… ;))

When my instincts suggested I share my personal story then invite others to celebrate real beauty, my internal naysayer-voice whispered, “Are you sure you want to? Do you even know what you’re doing?” There were reasons behind my inclinations, I figured; whether I knew the specifics or not didn’t matter. So with perspiring palms, I typed forward. And lordy, have y’all ever made it worthwhile. More than that, you created something incredible.

While I’m still learning to listen to and trust my inner voice, your responses and support are affirmations that I’m on the right path. THANK YOU for sharing of yourself and inspiring so many—me included.

The more we hone in on our instincts, the stronger they become, turning coarse, dusty bricks into gold. The naysayers become the creepy dude/dudette behind the curtain. And the proper path becomes a no-brainer.

May we all ‘make like Dorothy’ and know that all the beauty, growth and confidence we seek lies within. Once we access it, even our wildest dreams become practical.

Now…on with the prizes!
Based on this morning’s name drawing, I’m thrilled to announce the following recipients!

Signed copy of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone from Coleen Patrick
Winner: Audrey Kalman

Enrollments to Simply Creating Fictional Characters, a 2-month creative writing class instructed by Sharon K. Owen
Winners: BoJo Photo, Kristine Parker, David (FiveReflections), Jessica O’Neal & Nadja

Amazon.com gift card ($15) & 1 – Starbucks gift card ($10) from Kara Flathouse
Winners: Amazon.com—Sulthana; Starbucks—Diane Capri

Week of Animal Training via Email from Serena Dracis
Winner: Karen McFarland

Hard or E-Copy of The Golden Sky from EC Stilson
Winner: Katie (Oracular Spectacular)

Enlightening Stories Tele-class/E-course: Discover the Power of Writing from Julie Jordan Scott
Winner: Sheila Seabrook

10-Page Critique from best-selling author/social media guru, Kristen Lamb.
Winner: Debra Eve

E-book copies of The Bridge Club, from author, Patricia Sands
Winner: Julie Jordan Scott

BOAW mugs filled with whole grain blueberry brownies
Winners: Marcy Kennedy & Susie Lindau

Body image coaching session via Skype or phone with Karen R. Koenig
Winner: Sharon Howard

Kindle Touch (or $99 Amazon.com gift card)
Winner: Lynn Kelley

What Dorothy-like quality do you possess? Which do you admire? What aspect of the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest surprised, touched or thrilled you most? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. 🙂

Does Dirt Have Calories? — My Story

I awoke that morning as I did most mornings while living in Paris—woozy, exhausted and determined. During what should’ve been a pinnacle in the modeling career I’d held dear, I was enraptured and controlled by an eating disorder. Where logic would’ve told me to get some rest, nourish my body and tend to the day’s work responsibilities, E.D. commanded I wake up and run! Breakfast, castings, agency meetings and photo shoots would have to wait; my sole priority was the upkeep of my disease.

My emaciated body had been surviving on carrots, sugarless ice tea and Coke Light, yet felt gigantic and punishable. If I could eat as little as possible and burn far more than I chewed, I might finally reach thinness—i.e., happiness, success and perfection. I had to run.

I slipped my feet into my worn out, blood-stained sneakers, stepped out of my tiny Parisian flat and headed toward the Seine. The Eiffel Tower came into full view atop the pastel haze of the sunrise—a living, breathing Monet. It’s beauty could’ve taken a blind man’s breath away, I wrote in my journal. I didn’t deserve it. 

The dewy earth squished beneath my feet as I ran to the rhythm of calorie-counting. Forty-five plus six plus ten… Plus five plus ten plus three… I estimated the ‘damage’ from the day prior then plotted an itinerary of exercise and occasional food bits to compensate. So accustomed to ignoring the dizziness and fatigue accompanying me, anything else would’ve felt foreign. But this time was different.

I observed that the dip in the ground ahead looked like an adult-size cradle. Perhaps I knew what was coming.

I ran with increasing dizziness and pain, as though a metal clamp squeezed my brain. Run! Don’t stop! You can’t. Tears stung at my eyes as I tried to outrun the inevitable. I fell to the ground, as though in slow motion. And for a brief, savory moment, I felt weightless.

I awoke later, lying in the grassy cradle, the taste of blood and dirt in my mouth. Rather than wonder how long I’d been there or if I’d been hurt, one thought filled me with terror: Does dirt have calories? 

I don’t recall who found me or how I made it to the medical center, only the words of the British doctor: “You have anorexia. Do you understand what that means? You could’ve died. You could die.”

Her words blurred together like fog on a windshield as my thoughts went wild. She’s crazy! I can’t have anorexia. Please don’t make me eat… I felt neither thin nor “skilled” enough to have a disorder characterized by starvation. Sure, I had problems—the “cancer in my soul” I’d journaled about. I felt physically and emotionally rotted and weak, but couldn’t make sense of anything. I only knew I had to go home.

The week after I arrived in Minneapolis, I began treatment and fought harder to remain ill. Once I accepted my diagnosis, anorexia seemed the one special thing about me. If I let it go, what was left? The word ‘recovery’ seemed synonymous with ‘fatness,’ ‘failure’ and ‘mediocrity.’

As my starving measures increased, my emotional and physical self tolerated them less and less. My therapist repeatedly threatened in-patient treatment. I lied, promising I would eat more and gain necessary weight.

Finally, one of my worst nightmares came true. In a moment of despair, I gave in to my longing for a single bite of chocolate ice cream. As I placed the dollop of creamy cold sweetness into my mouth, my entire body trembled. I felt intoxicated, a sense of danger, head-to-toe orgasm, temporary relief. But one bite turned into two, then six, then all that remained of the half gallon. The fatty cream sat like a putrid rock in my shrunken stomach. I’d never felt so ashamed.

The bingeing/starving roller coaster that followed was the most excruciating and important occurrences in my recovery. At its worst, I entered what my therapist called a “bulimic trance.” The bingeing took over and I had little awareness of all I’d consumed until I found myself sobbing amidst wrappers and crumbs.

As weight returned to my body, friends and family told me how healthy I looked.

“You’re filling out so nicely!” The well-intended comment haunted me for months. Desperate to stop bingeing, I decided to take my treatment more seriously.

“I will do anything to stop this,” I told my therapist.

“Good,” she said. “It starts with eating. After you binge, don’t skip your next meal.”

Anything but that. I resisted her instructions, holding staunchly to the belief that if I were just strong enough, I could attain the thinness I desired and stop bingeing at once. It sounded Utopian. Meanwhile, I mourned the loss of my anorexia like a lost soulmate.

One night, after a fast ended in a gargantuan binge, I hit bottom. I considered gulping the poison I’d used on occasion to vomit, aware of the life-threatening risks. I didn’t want to die, but I couldn’t bear life as I knew it. In a fury, I scavenged the house for the tiny bottle. When I couldn’t find it, my heart raced. I struggled to breathe.

Then something remarkable happened. Incapable of purging in any of my viable methods, I calmed down. Calmness brought clarity. Rather than plot restriction strategies for the coming days, I began plotting a future free of ED.

I walked with trepidation to my wall mirror and looked not at my hips, belly or thighs, but into my eyes. The head-on stare punctured the swollen balloon of hurt inside me, releasing sobs.

“You can’t live like this anymore!” I told my reflection. “I won’t let you hate yourself so much. This is not who you are.” I didn’t know what I was fighting for, but my instincts said, don’t give up.

My anger at ED and proclamations in the mirror were the first signs of self-love I’d displayed in years, the light switch in the dark cave I lived in. If I managed to turn it on, I knew my life would change.

I threw my “skinny clothes” and scale in a dumpster and removed the size tags from clothes that fit. I told myself that for one year, I would not diet, starve or make any other attempts at weight loss. If I gained weight during that year, so be it. The next morning, with trembling hands and tears flooding my cheeks, I ate breakfast.

Though I wanted to forego my commitments frequently over the subsequent weeks, I held fast. The bingeing continued at first, as did my weight gain, until I nearly doubled my lowest weight. If I have to start over every day, I will, I wrote. And start over again and again I did. I had nothing to lose by trying and everything to lose by not.

Months later, I was no longer dieting, starving or bingeing and my life was beginning to feel like a life. I was in college, making friends, writing songs and even, on occasion, laughing. But my recovery had reached a plateau. I felt awkward eating around others, anxious about eating too much or too little. The slightest pangs of hunger or fullness put me on edge. I saw plates of calories and felt guilty when I indulged. And though I resisted, I longed to diet. ED hadn’t left. He’d only grown quieter.

One day over steaming cups of Indian tea, my mom handed me a CD with a song she and my dad wanted me to hear: Lee Ann Womack’s, “I Hope You Dance.”

“It’s time to find joy,” she said. (And here I’d thought I had everyone fooled…)

The song’s message about “dancing,” which I took to mean many joyful things, hit me with profound force.

That evening I sat at a park watching a group of friends picnicking, captivated by a woman around my age. After a bite of her hearty sandwich, she closed her eyes, tipped her head back and said, “This is so good!” I longed for an ounce of her joy.

I’d been eating because I was “supposed” to, promised others I would and never wanted to go off the bingeing/starving deep end again. In order to fully recover, I had to manifest joy around eating.

I knew it was possible because I’d experienced it. My childhood love affair with food seemed insatiable. Family photographs portray a bubbly, smiling girl holding an ice cream cone, sitting before a luminous birthday cake or about to take a chomp out of a fresh red apple from our backyard tree. Before bed, I often asked my parents what the next day’s breakfast would entail, “so I could dream about it.”

Food for my family meant togetherness. Birthday celebrations, picnics by the lake, nightly home cooked meals—a special bond and a clay we used to build memories. Until fear and ED had creeped in. No more, I decided.

I began studying food with a velocity I’d only previously applied to treadmills. I wanted to discover its goodness and stop dreaming of ways to avoid it. What did particular foods do for me? If not for managing weight, why did people eat them? How could I eat healthfully, and not by diet book standards of what that was?

I began addressing a self-compiled “I’m afraid of” list. Eat in public. Eat at a restaurant, alone. Eat a meal prepared by others without demanding particulars. Eat the ice cream that triggered my first binge—one serving at a time.

I traded my diet books for medical and dietetic texts that defined food as fuel, a necessary means of nutrients, and obtained my certification in nutrition. I cooked, experimented with foods I’d never tried and volunteered at soup kitchens. I stopped aiming for dietary perfection. Multiple studies had convinced me that such increased my risk for bingeing, obesity, anxiety, depression and sleep problems—pretty much everything on my “No, thank you” list.

It took numerous attempts of arriving at an upscale restaurant alone before I dined there and several more before I enjoyed the food without heavy perspiration or heart palpitations. I wept over a homemade candlelit dinner for one, served on my grandmother’s china. I stocked my kitchen with food until it felt warm, loved and lived-in. Rather than cold and frightening, it felt like home. I took a Buddhist philosophy course and applied its principles to my meals. Eating slowly and without distraction soon went from mortifying to pacifying. On difficult days, I asked myself what I’d feed a dear friend then treated myself to just that.

*****

On a cool spring evening, I sat at my kitchen table with a bowl of spicy chili and fresh-baked corn bread. An unexpected breeze blew through my apartment window, carrying a flower from outside into my bowl. Plunk! As the pink petals swam amongst the diced tomatoes and cannelloni beans, I laughed. Struck my own amusement, I realized that nothing but goodness sat at my table. All anxiety, shame and feelings of inadequacy had dissipated, leaving me with a palpable sense of peace.

I returned to Paris that summer to celebrate my recovery. Near the grassy patch I’d fallen in I buried a capsule filled with cards from loved ones, photographs, under-sized clothes and copies of my songs and journal entries. ED’s funeral, I called it. A memorial service for my SELF. I ran along the Seine, this time grateful for the strong legs that carried me, the absence of pain and my second chance at a happy, healthy life.

*****

What does ‘beauty’ mean to you?
One of the BEST parts of my recovery was the growing ability to use my brain and energy for pursuits unrelated to diet or exercise—writing, reading, singing… Sam Levinson’s poem, Beauty of A Woman, inspired me on numerous difficult days. In honor of all the poem stands for, I invite you to join me in a beauty-FULL celebration on Friday, February 10th. To learn how you can participate as a blogger or prize sponsor, visit Beauty of a Woman BlogFest.