Community Warrior: Daryl Files

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Community Warrior: Daryl Files

Daryl Files, is the Volunteer and Donor Coordinator for InterFaith Works CNY and a Warrior for Change. Abby Case sat down with her recently for BLOOM: A Community Collective but there was so much to talk about, we couldn't fit it all in the issue. Here is the full interview. 

I think it so very important that we encourage women and girls to speak up and be heard, to move beyond the fear. So how did you move beyond it?

My past is history, my future is a mystery, and my present is a GIFT.   I was raised in fear of being less than, and as a Baby Boomer adult; I refuse to spend my time in fear, although guilt does get in the way at times.  I talk to myself and also answer myself to get through these moments of feeling defeated and helpless.  

I learned to surround myself with POSITIVE, smart, role models.  I learned that I am kind and can be a role model with others.  I learned words of positivity, such as always finding the good in others, always having a glass half FULL, always being a good listener, always living by the Golden Rule.  

My Dad was an amazing human being.  He didn’t care if you wanted to be a ditch digger, as long as you were happy.  My Mom was another story.  That would take a book to explain.  I have a favorite cousin who I always looked up to and wanted to be just like her, and I’m still working on that at the young age of 70.  Always remember we are each on a journey and each and every one of us is going on their each individual journey.  This is a fabulous way to live.  We are never clones of others, we are each a wonderful precious gift.  Together we can and will make a difference.

What advice do you have for women in situations of isolation due to their fear?

Join something.  I remember seeing Glee on TV and thinking there was nothing like that when I was growing up.  We did not have girls clubs (other than Girl Scouts). Ask yourself: what do I love to do.  Get off of social media and meet others, face to face, building relationships and friendships.  Look around your neighborhood, maybe the library has a book club, a youth reading group, maybe the grocery store has a bulletin board and you may see a flyer with an idea.  Ask your faith communities, schools, neighbors, what they have coming up.  Put your small toes in it at first.  You may find you like it or you may find that you need to look a little more.  

I always considered myself shy.  Very insecure and afraid of my own shadow.  One day I went to the Plowshares Crafts fair and Peace Festival, just walking around and saw a booth with women who had a display.  It was Women Transcending Boundaries.  They invited me to a dinner and I said thank you and walked away. The day before the dinner I called and asked if I may still attend. That one call had been a life changing experience.  I made all new friends. They invited me to be on a committee. WOW. What if I made a mistake, they might not like me, there was that inner voice talking to me.  I went to the meeting and one of the ladies said, I will do this WITH YOU. 

Read personal development books.  Always be a student of something.

As women we also must be intuitive to see the pain and fear in other women.  Reach out to someone you may not know and share a few positive words. I love the color of your outfit.  Your hair is so lovely. Each of us just wants to be noticed, I remember being in the elevator in the building where we live and someone said, am I invisible. I wanted to just hug her.

When and where are you most inspired?

Now I get inspired by being around others who want to make a difference.  Every time I hear an idea, I want to figure out a way to invite others to somehow collaborate.  I love being in a group, and remember a group starts with just 2 and then keep adding on. Start with an idea and then listen and see where others will take it. It is not about me, it is about WE.  

I love being with our 4 daughters and just listening to them have fun and interacting with each other. I love going to our grandsons and great-grandson sporting events. I love romance and Hallmark movies and reading books that are fluffy and feel good. I love friendships and girl time.  There is a group of women who meet once a month on a Friday that inspire me because of their generosity. I love being a mentor to each of our interns at InterFaith Works. Just this morning I had a private conversation with a young woman who is struggling with fitting in. Just now I received a thumbs up from my coworker who she is working with.

What are you most inspired by at the moment?

I work with refugees from many countries Dem. Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq, Bhutan, Burma and others. These brave new friends inspire me. Can you imagine not having running water, a toilet or toilet paper, a bed to sleep in with a blanket to keep you warm. Volunteers inspire me.  I have the privilege and honor to work with the most amazing kind people. Our daughters inspire me. This week I had the joy to see Embrace the documentary. What a love story to women of all ages, and diversity. The Northside inspires me where I live. Our CNY community inspires me because we have thousands who care so deeply to make a difference.  

If you had the world stage for one moment, what would your message be?

Cut the crap and act like human being instead of spoiled brats. Remember where you came from. Only Native Americans started in the USA. We all have parents and grandparents and great grandparents who lived in other global places. Mine came from Eastern Europe with nothing, to make a better life for their children and grandchildren. Be humble and kind, I know this is a Tim McGraw song, but it’s true. We are all equal. I learned many years ago that you never know who you will meet going up or down the ladder. To be valued, respected. Grown men die for this and women cry for it. Ask yourself this question: How do I want to be remembered?

 

What do you embrace most about yourself?

My heart, my tears, my making a difference one human being at a time. We all want to leave our world a better place for the next generation. We all must pass the baton and Pay it Forward. I am Woman hear ME ROAR

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Are We Enough?

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Are We Enough?

“Are you enough?”

We hear this phrase all the time.
I am enough.
Is it true? Can I believe this? Are we ever enough? Does that mean it's time to stop growing, stop learning, stop healing?

If we say we are enough, does that mean we have achieved the highest quality of perfection and we can finally rest?
Um… No. Enough does not mean perfect. Enough does not mean done. So what does it mean?

The Webster Dictionary defines it like this:

e·nough

iˈnəf/

determiner & pronoun

determiner: enough; pronoun: enough

    1    1.
as much or as many as required.

adverb

adverb: enough

    1    1.
to the required degree or extent (used after an adjective, adverb, or verb); adequately."before he was old enough to shave”

    2    2.
to a moderate degree; fairly."he can get there easily enough”
Synonyms adequately, satisfactorily, sufficiently, suitably

 

This is my theory: If we can start to really grasp this concept of being enough then we can move through this world without having to work for our worth.
If we can believe “I am enough,” then when we do our jobs we can complete our work from a place of passion and not trying to prove something. We can be a parent, be a spouse, a friend, a neighbor, a sibling, and work from a place of love and compassion and worthiness, not from a place of frantic spinning.

 

My kids can tell if I am doing something with them because I truly love giving to them and spending time with them versus feeling obligated to do something because other moms do it, or good moms do that. In my own life this was tricky for me. For most of my life depression and an eating disorder ruled my life. The eating disorder obviously never let me believe I was enough. I had to prove my superiority by not eating. Every time I saw someone eat, or need to eat, or think about eating, I thought to myself: You are weak. You need food? Not me. I am better than you because I don't need what you need to live. I know how irrational that sounds. But my pride and my false ego kept me “safe” with that flawed thinking. It was a coping skill to make myself better than everyone around me. We do this with lots of things, like clean eating, paleo diet, counting macros, exercise, achieving goals at work, picture perfect parenting, shopping.

Now, none of these things in and of themselves is an unhealthy coping skill, but when we use them to prove to ourselves that we are worthy, they are dangerous. If we begin to eat from our worthiness we can choose foods that are best for our bodies (we decide what foods those are), or exercise from that place, we do it for our enjoyment, or our careers, we can work with passion and excitement, or in our relationships, everything we do can motivated from love and not from expectations.

This video says it all. Michael Phelps, the most decorated olympic athlete of our time, speaks about how he had no self esteem, and was suicidal. He wasn’t at peace so no matter how much he achieved it wasn’t enough to fulfill him, until he realized he was already enough. The gold medals were just an added bonus. You can watch his story here.

Trying to live life this way is exhausting, it's draining, and we are constantly pouring out what we don't even have. When we own our value, and believe it to be true, then everything we do adds to our existence. In addition to experiencing some freedom from the addiction of doing then we also free up some space within ourselves to extend grace to those around us, and who doesn’t need more of that!

Start to practice this in your own life. Start to breathe in those words.

Notice what comes up for you, how do you feel, and what are your thoughts.

If your thoughts are negative where did they come from?

How can you give yourself a break from those intrusive thoughts?

 

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Not Alone

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Not Alone

For the past seven months, I've been in recovery from a thirty six year struggle with an eating disorder. Circles of Change has been very influential in my recovery, helping me discover the courage to tell a couple friends this summer about my disorder. I'd never shared it with anyone before, not my husband of thirty years, my parents, my kids, no one. I felt like if I said anything others would think I was disgusting or think less of me.

One of the friends I shared my experience with has two daughters that had benefited greatly from Ophelia's Place for their eating disorders. This person had been a volunteer at Ophelia's Place for years. She is a nurse and often spoke at support group meetings. She suggested I go to one. It took me a few months into my recovery to get up the nerve to go. It was nice to speak to other people who could share similar experiences with me. I started participating in the online support group every Wednesday night and find Jill Catherine very informative, honest and passionate about helping others. "Chatting" with other people on the site has been very comforting as well. There's a lot to be said for not feeling alone.

For NEDA week this year, I shared my story on Facebook. I stated that I was sharing my story because I want to help others. I wanted it to start conversations about how we talk about our bodies, the culture of negative body talk and the media's "normalizing" the fact that women put ourselves down. I asked that we change that conversation. I've been surrounded by athletic, strong, healthy women that accepted body shaming/negative self talk as a way of speaking about themselves. Since my post, I've received an overwhelming show of support. Many friends have told me it makes them think twice before they put themselves down. A few have even shared their stories with me.

When I finally told my two kids about my disorder, my 23 year old son teared up and asked why women feel like they have to be thin. This led to an interesting conversation.

My 21 year old daughter went to Ophelia's Place the next day and bought each of us an "Every Body is Beautiful Shirt" and she also bought me a "Good Morning Beautiful" mug. We both wear our shirts proudly and often get comments and questions about them. I call it my power shirt. I drink tea from my special cup every morning when I journal.

I feel like the best way for me to continue in my recovery journey is to share my story and hopefully make a change in conversation or help someone open up about their issues with food.

...

 

I originally wrote this piece in the spring, my reflection now upon re-reading: I’ve now celebrated one year in recovery. The best advice I could give is don’t try to go it alone. If you had cancer would you hide it or seek support? Eating disorders are a disease. There is no shame in having one, but it’s almost impossible to recover without a support system.I tried many times to recover on my own, but it wasn’t until I opened up to others that I could rogress. Sharing your story makes you accountable and allows others to help you work through difficult times.


About the author: Lori Woodard works in the office at Mott Road Elementary School in Fayetteville.  She loves kayaking, running, hiking and playing with her granddaughter. She is working to change her own views of her body, so that she can help others do the same. “Every body is beautiful”.

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I See Me In The Media

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I See Me In The Media

For years I avoided comic books, practically my entire life to date in fact. I assumed that comic books were solely devoted to superheroes and action sequences, and that I would be unlikely to find any female characters that weren’t hyper sexualized. I got the sense that the world of comic book readers wouldn’t be a particularly welcoming one either. One only had to look at the world of gaming to feel that perhaps women wouldn’t be wanted. 

But then I was introduced to the work of the talented Noelle Stevenson, and while I initially I fell in love with her illustration style, I quickly realized this was also a writer who wasn’t okay with the status quo.

Her award winning comic “Nimona” is a joy, but in particular I want to recommend the comic series that has been a true game changer for me, and one that it rated for ages 8 and up, “Lumberjanes”. 

If you feel the urge to sigh and roll your eyes, asking “Really? A comic book?” I hear you. But for all of us who grew up not quite seeing ourselves as the girls we wanted to be allowed to be, let this be a special trip for your inner child. 

Better yet, know that if you want a young girl in your life to see a variety of girls have adventures without short shorts and lycra tops, who never talk about their weight or each other’s appearances, you can hand them these books.

The series takes place at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiquil Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types where the camp motto is “friendship to the max” Here the girls are not given activities limited by gender, no one is bullied, and if a set of lady campers start a romance it’s not commented on because it’s a non-event, non-issue, people are people regardless of sexual orientation. 

Admittedly, there is a lot of (super fun) weirdness and mythology happening throughout the camp and the series, but it’s the girls’ positive friendship and support that is the true backbone. This series also passes the Bechdel test to the max, another refreshing way to portray girls in the media. How often do we get a truly female-driven narrative?

Later in the series one of the characters helps another character from the boy’s camp feel comfortable when she shares that she is transgender and again it is no big deal within the context of the story. But seeing characters like this, girls who wear baseball tees and shave their heads along side girls who like pink hair bows, girls who like girls, girls who find their correct identity are a big deal for readers who need to see themselves in the media. 

As a white female I took for granted that I could easily see aspects of myself in TV, movies, books, and magazines. Maybe I chaffed under some of the beauty standards and the limits of “the fat best friend” or “sarcastic weirdo”, but I could see lives and identities very similar to my own everywhere I looked. 

I attended one of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks panels with Cecilia Tan, Sona Charaipotra, and Dhonielle Clayton this past May. Much of the panel was illuminating, but in particular I walked away with the feeling that even when we talk about body positivity and inclusiveness of representation in the media we were still looking at mostly celebrating bodies of all sizes, and too often forgetting about bodies of all colors and abilities. 

Image Comics who publishes Lumberjanes also publishes a relatively new series called "Goldie Vance" which centers around a young detective who feels a bit like Nancy Drew meets Eloise and happens to be a person of color with a supporting cast of people who are also POC. 

Changing the culture around beauty can come in a variety of formats, including comic books that show that a girls value doesn’t rest in her appearance alone. 

I invite you to share, either here in the comments, or on our social media, how you are celebrating diversity in your own media consumption. How can we get more attention for content like this so that instead of the exception it can become the norm?

 

 

 

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In This Together

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In This Together

Earlier this summer I spent three weeks at my favorite place in the world: a girls’ home in Guatemala. When people ask me why I go, my response is always the same: I go because I want to make sure that these girls, who have come from abusive and heartbreaking pasts, are told how loved and important they are.

I adore the time that I have to talk to each girl about her future; hearing her hopes, dreams, and even fears are about what is to come. I watch girls copy my every move and attempt to speak English, taking in as much of each experience as they can.

But there are also girls who have been told their entire lives that they will not succeed or amount to anything. I will never forget looking into the eyes of a twelve year old girl as I asked her if she new how important she was. She just looked back at me with hopeless eyes and shook her head, absolutely unaware of the worth she possessed.

It sets my heart on fire when I get to tell someone how much he or she matters. Nobody hears those words enough. And yet, I don’t need to travel to Guatemala to find people I could have the exact same conversation with as that little girl. How many people do you know personally that have no idea of their worth? I’m not talking about worth from one’s job or hobby, but their value that stems solely from being a human being?

One night in Guatemala, after dinner, as I was walking back to my room I could hear someone crying around the corner. Before I could even get to her, several other girls were already there offering their shoulders to cry on and words of validation. I just slowly backed away and listened, as I heard the girls work through their brokenness together, sharing their stories and encouraging each other through what feels like an impossible situation.

Now that is the kind of friendship I desire in my life. These girls did not ask to be in each other’s lives, and yet here they are choosing to be vulnerable with one another and heal together. Here they are offering all that they have: their stories and their hearts.

So I challenge you today to think of those in your lives who need encouragement and validation verbally, and give them a call or send them a note. It doesn’t take much to let someone know that they are loved and important, but it certainly plants beautiful roots that are not easily forgotten.

And if it’s you who could use encouragement, I challenge you to be vulnerable with someone and share your story because we often get through our brokenness best when we are together.

About the author: Abby Case studies nutrition at Syracuse University and has recently joined the Circles of Change community. She is passionate about food justice and encouraging everyone to discover a beautiful relationship with food and their body. Abby loves good documentaries, climbing high peaks, and really sharp cheddar cheese.

 

 

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How To Make A Change

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How To Make A Change

Let things be different.

If you don’t read any further than here, that is all you really need to know is the last and key ingredient to truly make a change, according to Dr. Reiziss.

Letting it be different.

Whatever it is you’re looking to change, your self-image, your work, your health, your relationship, your life, the culture, the conversation-the last step in making a change (and to me, the most important one) is:  Are you letting it be different?

Or, are you like me and have believed that change is the path of uncomfortable, hard, filled with resistance, traps, feeling stuck, and sometimes causing yourself more pain and suffering? Similar to the no pain, no gain philosophy?

Over the past 20 years, there have been many things in my life and within myself that I have changed. But just a week ago, I felt as if I’ve received one of the greatest teachings, and tools, of my life, when it comes to making a change. I owe it all to Dr. Stan Reiziss.

Dr. Reiziss literally blew my mind and has fundamentally helped me to shift my perceptions in a way that feels as if the axis inside of me is no longer dialed into an old belief system in my subconscious, but now oriented to the coordinates of my true nature. I am no longer in conflict with myself.

I went to see Dr. Reiziss because I am so tired of being my own worst enemy. No matter how much effort I put into focusing my conscious mind on thoughts, beliefs, and content that lift me up (and I spend a lot of effort doing this), there is inevitably a moment where I get triggered, overwhelmed, and swept up into patterns of thought that aren’t just negative, but border on complete self-sabotage.

My truth is that I believe we are our only source of limitation. Not society. Not our culture. No our parents. Not even systems of oppression. These all exist, but they are not what limit us. We are what limit us, and we limit ourselves with what we believe in all aspects of our mind.

Here’s the thing though: our minds are complex and layered. There are many ways to talk about these layers, but for me and my experience, I’ll speak directly to my subconscious and conscious minds.

On a daily basis, I play an active (not perfect, but active) role in evolving my conscious mind. I tune into thoughts, beliefs, and content that support a life built upon love, compassion, peace, forgiveness, purpose, and gratitude. This conscious effort provides me with a life that feels right to me most of the time; that brings me joy most of the time; that feels in harmony most of the time.

The key phrase here is: most of the time.

When I’m having an experience that is not most of the time, it’s as if suddenly my body and soul have been high-jacked by this hurtful, painful, destructive, limiting, and critical gremlin that lives within my subconscious mind. It’s like I fall asleep, blackout, and the subconscious takes over.

What lives in my subconscious are all these oppressive beliefs bestowed upon me from the world, from society, from people of influence, that do nothing but belittle my existence, minimize my experience, and devalue all that is of value to me. And then all I want to do is die, run away, or hide.

It’s crazy how this happens in my mind!

I went to see Dr. Reiziss because he provides people with tools on how to reprint, rewire, and rescript the subconscious mind by accessing it through self-hypnosis, so our subconscious is no longer our greatest enemy, but our best asset. He works with people from all walks of life, including professional athletes, sports teams, world leaders, speakers—you name it. 

The experience of hypnosis and self-hypnosis feels very similar to sitting in meditation, though the pathway and process is a little different.

There is so much I learned from him about myself and the mind-body-spirit connection in just four sessions, which I plan to reflect upon and share in the coming months. But for now, I just had to share one of the most profound changes in perception I had when he shared with me his five steps to making a change. They are as follows:

  1. Awareness: You have to become aware that a change is needed.

  2. Desire: You need to have a pure desire to make a change.

  3. Clarity: You need to get clear on what the change is and what it looks like.

  4. Attention: You need to pay attention (with your conscious mind) to how you’re acting, behaving, and thinking.

  5. Different: You need to let things be different.

Dr. Reiziss said to me I had steps one through three complete before I walked into this office. Step four is a moment-to-moment practice as I use the tools he has given me. But step five, to me, feels like the biggest shift. He explained it to me like this:

“Change is not the path of feeling uncomfortable. It’s the path of letting things/it/you/life be different. Don’t get focused on the thought and then take the path of feeling uncomfortable. That will keep you stuck. Uncomfortable is not the correct path or word merely by the sheer definition of it, which means to feel pain, physical discomfort, unease, and awkwardness. Different is the word, the thought, the path. Different allows for change. Different allows for ease, non-resistance. Different inherently lets things not be the same. It doesn’t fight against anything. Different doesn’t resist. Different is exactly what it is – it’s different.”

Just sit with this for a second.

It changes everything for me. It frees me from clinging to the past because I’m letting things be different, now.

It frees me from my thoughts about the future because I’m letting things be different now.

It frees me feeling like I need to please, perfect, or perform because I’m letting things be different.

I’m letting me be different.

Think about your own process when trying to make a change. Do you let things be different? Do you let life be different? Do you let yourself be different?

Mahalo, Dr. Reiziss. I am forever grateful to you, and the tools and teachings you’ve given me.


All my love and aloha.

 

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Were Do You Bloom?

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Were Do You Bloom?

Long summer weekends are a great opportunity to travel, enjoy great meals, and for lounging around, catching up on your reading.

Wherever you plan on hanging out this weekend we'd love to meet our BLOOM community!

Share a picture of where you're blooming (where you're enjoying the first issue of BLOOM magazine) on social media and tag it with #COCbloom and you'll be entered to win one of our beautiful tote bags. 

 

Rules and Info:
- A winner will be selected on Tuesday July 5
-Only the tote bag, and none of the items of any promotional image, is the prize
-Must be 18 or older, or have a parent or guardian's permission to share your address in the event that you win
-This giveaway is in no way affiliated with Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
-Void where prohibited
-Tagged pictures may be shared by Circles of Change, Ophelia's Place, and/or Cafe at 407- proper attribution will be given

 

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Introducing BLOOM Magazine

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Introducing BLOOM Magazine

“So, what do you do for a living?” It’s a question I get so often, and every time it trips me up. How do I even begin to capture it all, how can I make sense of it in under 30 seconds which, to be honest, is still longer than the person wants to listen.

We are Ophelia’s Place. We are Circles of Change. We are Cafe at 407. Each part unique, and all part of one whole.

Ophelia’s Place is where it began, it was born in response to an eating disorder epidemic that was going largely ignored. It served as a place for community, for safety, and for healing. The doors were opened and the people started coming, and coming, and coming. We grew, we moved to a larger location, we developed a partnership with a treatment center and built a solid ground of support.

Then we thought, we need a place of community, and a revenue stream, and we opened Cafe at 407. Not only is it the single greatest financial contributor to Ophelia’s Place, but it also erases the line in the sand that so often excludes the mental health community.

Now we had treatment, support, community, and sustainability, and we had the opportunity to press into the vision that had been there since the beginning, prevention.

We knew that if we really wanted to make an impact and participate in long-term healing for individuals struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating, we needed to change the culture and conversation around health, beauty, and body image. Circles of Change is the movement aimed at making that change.

Cafe at 407 and Circles of Change are extensions of Ophelia’s Place. They have a mission and vision in their own right, but they come back to the same heart.

See, that’s a lot to squeeze into 30 seconds…. So we decided not to.

BLOOM is where the three voices of Ophelia’s Place can come together and be heard as one. It is unlike any magazine out there. It is published completely through the work of volunteers, and is a place where the communities of these three branches of this organization can come together and share their stories.

We hope you enjoy it!

BLOOM will be published quarterly, and you can read for free or download at www.circlesofchange.org/bloom

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Fat and Beautiful

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Fat and Beautiful

“You’re not fat, you’re beautiful.”

Language is a tricky thing. On one hand this phrase conjures a kind of instruction, one that works particularly well for people who believe that “I am fat” is inaccurate. You wouldn’t say, “Ugh, I am so central nervous system” or “I am so fingers”. You have a central nervous system, you have fingers, you have fat. “You are not fat, you are beautiful” is a kind of redirection, and one that is generally meant with love.

But for many there is an implied mutual exclusivity between beauty and fatness. Something that was drawn to my attention in this recent article (trigger warning), one that felt insightful while still making its own mistakes. (The lead image of a thin body in measuring tape: triggering, and potentially shaming given the content.)

Regardless, it made me think about the way “beauty” and “fat” are separate categories, descriptors that are often regarded as so different, they might as well be oil and water, destined to never mix.

Again and again there have been articles, studies, and conversations that have all shed light on the fact that people who are fat are regarded as lazy and slovenly, regardless of how untrue. Leaving many to ask, “Where is the beauty in that?”

I have been thinner and I have been heavier, and I have absolutely been praised more for my beauty when I was thinner.

In transitioning into a lifestyle that is healthier in body, mind, and soul; discovering what kind of life I could be living in my post-cancer, post-thyroidectomy life, it also meant that I happened to gain weight. It also meant coming to learn that this physical change had no bearing on my worth as a person, and that it many ways it allowed me to be healthier than I was before in my days of restricting and shame.

But I was no longer seen as beautiful.

In spending time with some girlfriends recently, I suddenly felt other. In a group of girls there was always congratulations and praise to be passed around whenever someone lost weight, whenever someone maintained a weight loss, whenever multiple girls could fit into the tight dress that the girl with the most consistently enviable body planned to wear to that evening’s event.

I did not even attempt to join in. And in my new life I was ready to make peace with our different body types, but I was not ready to feel so excluded socially. We did all do our hair and makeup together, trading stories and curling irons, a time honored tradition. I carefully applied my eye makeup and added extra volume to my already long and thick eyelashes, a source of life-long pride that I inherited from my father’s family. I rolled and pinned my hair with joyous precision. And then it was time to put on the bright patterned dress in my favorite fit and flare style. I felt beautiful.

But when it came to trade sincere compliments all I received amongst the fluttering, “You look beautiful” my friends graced upon each other, was, “I like your dress.” Never mind the body in it.

“Why can’t I be fat and beautiful?” I ask myself and I ask the world.

In regard to myself I am able to say, “You can be both.”
I have body fat. It creates a shape to my body that sometimes makes pants shopping difficult and frustrating. It creates a soft layer around my otherwise strong core, it makes my arms droop in a way that most people would probably prefer that I always keep covered. And I am beautiful. I have my grandmother’s long graceful neck and my father’s dark eyelashes. I have smile that often brings out a smile in others and a knack for storytelling that weaves a beautiful interest. My beauty is in who I am, what I do, and how I feel about myself.

In regard to the world I am able to say, “We’re getting there.”
I see examples every day of people with different shaped bodies and different levels of ability, dare to not only believe in, but declare their beauty loudly. There are people who say, “I have no arms and I am beautiful, I am thin and I am beautiful, I am in a wheelchair and I am beautiful, my skin is dark and I am beautiful, I am masculine and I am beautiful.” The list has the potential to be endless.

Everyone wants to feel beautiful. And deserves to feel so. It’s as simple as that.


So let me make a point of telling you, regardless of what kind of “otherness” you feel that you embody, “You are beautiful today.”

 

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Redefining Health

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Redefining Health

I told myself to be brave. I told myself it wouldn’t be that bad. I told myself it would be worth it. Oh boy I was so wrong.

I was diagnosed with an eating disorder when I was a sophomore in high school. In reality, my illness had developed long before that, but I finally began receiving treatment and was given a diagnosis when I was 15. My journey to and through treatment was saturated with doctors. Doctors for this obscure symptom and that one. I was shuffled around from office to office, week after week, with few answers. I know that this was not the fault of these doctors. I believe they were genuinely trying to help me (I wasn’t really giving them any help there), and I genuinely believe that there are incredible physicians and caregivers in the field who offer great support and treatment to those with eating disorders. Unfortunately, it just took me a while to find them. (If you are looking for this, look here!)

Being a 15 year old girl is hard enough already. Throw in a serious eating disorder, a general pattern of anxiety, and when you are looking to the people who are supposed to be helping but aren’t, you get someone who really hates going to the doctor.

I have ‘successfully’ avoided going to the doctor’s for years. After I concluded treatment and was living in recovery, I could not bring myself to go back. Despite sometimes having real reasons to see a professional, I was so worried about what they would or wouldn’t say that I would avoid it at all costs and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

67% of all women 15 to 64 withdraw from life-engaging activities due to feeling badly about their looks. This includes giving an opinion, going to school, and going to the doctor.

I was terrified that because I no longer ‘looked’ like I had an eating disorder, they would say or do something that would send me into a downward spiral. I now recognize and understand that there is absolutely no such thing as ‘looking’ like you have an eating disorder. (See Here and Here)

Unfortunately, I had reason to worry.

After much strife, fear, and coercion, I made an appointment. I walked in there with my head held high. I was forthcoming with my medical history- not glossing over or withholding my eating disorder. I stepped backwards on the scale- not even sneaking a peak. I explained why I was there and what I hoped the doctor could help me with regarding my health. I shared the network of support I still have, mentioning that I continue to see a nutritionist. I learned a lot in treatment, and I used all my tools.

But then…

I swear nothing else in a doctor’s office is as clear, or as direct as this. A giant red stamp started flashing on the computer, which might I add is fully visible- no way to block it out- reading, no screaming “OVERWEIGHT”.

As far as the conversation regarding my symptoms, and any remedy for them, the conversation stopped there.

The doctor turned to me, “I assume that’s why you’re seeing the nutritionist, to get back in control of your weight, right? I think most of these symptoms will abate through weight-loss.”

I legitimately did not know what to say. I didn’t even know how to feel. It felt like a punch in the gut but that would have been impossible because in my mind, my body had already fallen to the floor and curled up in a little ball.

It wasn’t so much the fear of being thought of as fat, or actually called fat to my face. I had done a lot of work on that in my heart, and really was living in freedom. What got me, what continues to get me, is that the only measure of my “health” was my weight. It didn’t matter that I was in recovery from a severe eating disorder. It didn’t matter that I had been living underweight and malnourished for years. It didn’t matter that I was a triathlete, who ran, swam, or biked every day. It didn’t matter that I eat intuitively and a wide variety of wholesome foods. It didn’t matter that my blood work was normal, that my life was overall successful, and that I was genuinely happy. The one factor considered, was the weight of my body.

It broke my heart. It broke my heart for my 10-year-old self who was crippled by shame about her body, but more than that, it broke my heart for what I believe to be the millions of men and women who are shamed in the doctor’s office, in their family, in their workplace, and by themselves, because weight is considered the ultimate determinate in health.

The definition, this understanding of health, does not help people to become healthier. It prevents those who need help from getting it. It shames those who are healthy into believing they are not. On every level and in every way, it creates chaos, hurt, and suffering.

It needs to change.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or you are struggling in finding a doctor, there actually are great resources out there. I have found an incredible network of support, with phenomenal doctor's and nutritionists who are health-minded, not weight-focused, and who have helped thousands of people. 

Help is available: Contact the Upstate New York Eating Disorder Service

Contact the Upstate New York Eating Disorder Service if you are struggling (877-765-7866). They have the staff and the resources to assist the entire range of eating disorders and nutritional needs. 

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21 Days For A Body Revolution

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21 Days For A Body Revolution

They say it takes 21 days to change a habit. That may very well be true, but when it comes to food and the body, the diet industry has taken that language and made it into something harmful, unsustainable, really just another ploy to get your money, tear down your body, and self-esteem. All to create a consumer that will continue to come back time and time again, looking for the silver-bullet to "weight-loss", "health", or "success".

It is time that we called out these schemes for what they really are. They are not about cultivating holistic health, they are not about learning to love your body or live your best life, they are about shaming people into believing their is something wrong with them or their bodies, that only this product, or plan, or secret, can fix.

Let’s take back our 21 days and instead of using them to make a quick-fix, let’s use them to start a revolution. A body revolution. Join us as we set aside the next 21 days to go deeper, to reclaim and redefine for ourselves health, beauty and body, and to begin to love our bodies for the purpose they were intended.

Each of our three weeks will highlight a special theme: Week 1 Health, Week 2 Beauty, Week 3 Body Image

We'll be sharing themed content every day on our Twitter and Instagram accounts meant to start new conversations and to challenge to the preconceived notions we may have about how to live our best lives. We'll also have new blog posts throughout each week. 

Join us in creating a new culture that stands against body shaming and celebrates our bodies as they are and for all that they are capable of doing.
 

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The Warrior Project

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The Warrior Project

Tomorrow, June 2, marks the first Annual Eating Disorders Action Day. The motto this year is #WeDoAct. 200 care organizations and thousands of individuals have come together, to take action on the growing epidemic of eating disorders across the globe.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and are becoming increasingly prevalent. We can not wait any longer to act. The time is now.

100% of the services that Ophelia's Place offers, are not billable, but are crucial to the prevention, support, and treatment of eating disorders in our community and in this country.

That means that these critical support, education, and prevention services are only possible through Ophelia's Place's sustainability efforts and from the support of individuals like you. 100 Warriors are agents of change from all walks of life who choose to take action by turning their financial capital into social capital through supporting the work of Ophelia’s Place on a monthly basis. This is how they are doing their part to create change. This is how they are standing up and saying #WeDoAct.

Our goal is that 100 warriors to give $100-a-month to Ophelia’s Place. We know that some will be able to give above that level, and some will be able to give at a lower level, and all of those people are important to the project. If you can give $5 or $10-a-month your gift makes a difference.

Give Because…

You are fed up with the unrealistic and oppressive ideals of health, beauty, and body

You or anyone you love has struggled with an eating disorder

You have ever felt shame for your body size or shape

You have experienced freedom from this oppression

You believe that everyBody is beautiful

And if you want to believe, but wonder if it’s true

Donate to Ophelia’s Place on a monthly basis, at any level, and become one of our 100 Warriors.
Visit circlesofchange.org/warriors for more information

 

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