A Body for Everybody

Date: July 14, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , , ,

Last week, sporting magazine ESPN released its annual Body Issue. A clever play on words that conjures up, for me at least, images of my own dimply thighs. However, this Body Issue isn’t what’s in your head making you insecure…it’s the exact opposite. A huge number of athletes have posed completely naked, most of them whilst engaging in the sport they love on the pages of this month’s ESPN Magazine and it’s an absolute feast for the eyes. It is a thing of beauty, the human body and there are no finer examples than the ones on ESPN’s recent pages.

What caught my attention about this issue more than issues in other years was their choice of cover model, 25-year-old American Hammer thrower, Amanda Bingson. There is no doubt that she has an incredible body- a powerful body that does incredible things, but regrettably it’s a body we don’t usually get to see much of on magazine covers.

Amanda has a broad frame and describes her body as ‘dense’ but also says in the same breath, ‘I’ll be honest, I like everything about my body.’  Yes! More of that please! This is a young woman who didn’t take up Track and Field until 2009 and now, just 6 years later, she’s poised to head to her second Olympic games. Inspiring? Hell yes.

Another incredible story in the latest issue of ESPN is that of Natalie Coughlin, the only female U.S. Olympian to win 6 medals in one Olympics. Her photo is absolutely stunning; her long, lean frame is captured underwater and completely nude, but her tan lines create the illusion of a swimsuit. I have never been jealous of tan lines before. I want her tan lines.

Coughlin says, ‘I was turning 30 and married going into the 2012 Olympics, so everyone assumed I would retire, have babies and disappear. There are teammates on the male side that don’t get those questions.’ Preach! How interesting to hear the stories of these incredible female athletes who so rarely get to talk about anything other than their sport of choice and their latest competition.

Coughlin goes on to talk about the extreme body issues that young women face in her sport and how, ‘there were times when I wasn’t happy with my body, but I always knew that I was really fit and that it was what allowed me to be successful in the pool.’ These are the kinds of stories I wish I was reading when I was 15 and too shy to go out for the swim team because I didn’t want to be seen in spandex.

This issue of ESPN Magazine is filled with stories of triumph and of heartbreak, but mostly, as the name of the issue would imply, it’s filled with stories and photos of and about bodies- all different kinds of bodies. I urge all you parents to pick up an issue for your pre-teen or teenage child and look at it with them. In a society so saturated with manufactured and unrealistic representations of what we’re all supposed to look like, it’s refreshing to see so many shapes, colours and sizes all in one place and all being celebrated.

Ode to my Menstrual Cup

Date: June 30, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

A few months ago, I made the decision to stop using tampons. Mostly because of my upcoming trip to Sri Lanka, as personal hygiene can be a bit of a challenge in a country where you can’t even flush loo paper and it’s totally normal to burn your trash. The last few summers I collected my tampons during my cycle and then took them down to the railroad tracks to burn. If you think that’s gross, you’re totally correct, but it’s also environmentally irresponsible and slightly humiliating.

I’ve been using tampons since I was 15-years-old. They were a godsend to stem my insanely heavy flow and although I suffered occasional leaks, they were far more reliable than the diaper-sized pads I used to stuff my pants with. At nearly 35, the decision to quit tampons was a terrifying. These tiny, bullet-sized products were so entwined with my period and my psyche I wondered if I could ever stop using them for good.

I was due to depart for Sri Lanka in June, so in April I decided to take my Rainbow Cup for its maiden voyage to see how she fared. It had been sitting in my drawer since February, but I didn’t pluck up the courage to try it out until then.

The Rainbow Cup comes beautifully packaged and in a variety of colours (I went for blue.) I removed it from its organic cotton pouch and eyed it suspiciously. It seemed cumbersome and I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get it in. Ironically I had the same feeling nearly 20 years ago about tampons, so I read the instructions and went for it.

I ran it under the tap, folded in into a ‘C’ shape and inserted it until I thought it was in the right place. I twisted it, as per the directions and was instantly surprised that I could no longer feel this object that was so like the plastic nipple of a baby’s bottle. After doing a little dance in front of the mirror I pulled on my underwear and went about my day.

Admittedly it’s a little tricky to remove. You have to relax and pull it out by the stem-like extension of the cup. The first couple of times it was almost like a vacuum and I had to pull super-hard and left the toilet bowl looking like a particularly juvenile Pollok imitation, and I know this may sound pretty gross, but it was actually quite beautiful.

I hadn’t ever had contact with my menstrual blood except for instances of leaking and it was fascinating. There were bits and it was much darker than I anticipated and even after I had flushed, a small pool of it lingered in the toilet. It was pretty cool and I was suddenly inspired by my bodily secretions; for a second I even considered making some art with it. I haven’t quite gotten around to that yet.

I wore it that first night to sleep in without incident. No leaks and no setting an alarm to remind myself to change my tampon. I slept incredibly well and knew from this point on that I was hooked and could never go back.

The money I save alone each month is a good enough reason to keep on cuppin’ and the environmental and personal health benefits just seem like a bonus. I’m not necessarily trying to convert anyone here; I just want to share how much better I feel for having made this change.

I’ve recently read articles like this about young, otherwise healthy women contracting TSS from all of the chemicals used to manufacture these monthly necessities and it makes me shudder. There are alternatives out there and I think that at times we’re a bit scared to try something new unless we know someone else who has.

Well you all know me and I’m telling you that there is life after tampons and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have. I am also in no way being compensated by the aforementioned menstrual cup, this is not an advert. I just wanted to talk about something I think a lot of people avoid discussing. You’ve got choices and you’ve got nothing to lose.

All Beach Body Ready

Date: May 4, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

Sadly I’ve just returned home to chilly, wet London from sunny, beautiful Jamaica. Already the warmth and the sand between my toes is but a distant memory.


Seven incredibly restful days were spent lounging on the beach with my husband, and although I’d love to report that my mind was totally engrossed in the novel I had my face buried in, it was not. I spent much of my day, as I observed the many other women at our resort, preoccupied with thought about Protein World’s latest advert and the controversy surrounding it.


Yup, as I listened to the waves lazily lap at the shores in paradise; I was also greatly considering our latest body image crusade, and just in case you missed it, I’m talking about this-


This image has created a storm of publicity that Protein World couldn’t have hoped for in its wildest dreams. Whether you love the ad or hate it, it’s been causing a visceral response all over the country and beyond. So much so, that people gathered this past Saturday to protest its publicity and have it completely removed from sight. So what’s all the fuss about?


It started with a few people defacing the posters, their message? That all bodies are ready for the beach, irrespective of how closely they physically resemble the model in the photo. In theory, I agree. If you have a body and it is on the beach, then you have a beach body. However, I don’t agree that by protesting one kind of body you are doing much for the cause of body positivity.


That model, Renee Somerfield, actually looks like that. Protein World is adamant that they haven’t Photo Shopped her image, and if you Google her, you’ll see that they haven’t. She’s a fitness fanatic, a vegan and has a gorgeous, healthy body. How is Protein World, by using Somerfield’s image telling the rest of us we can’t go to the beach?


Ladies, I can tell you from a whole week of field observation in Runaway Bay, JA that no one has let this single advert dictate their right to frolic in the sand. Literally no one, in fact I knew all about these adverts, and the big image you see at the top of this article is my very ready beach body.


In addition to myself, there were women of all shapes, sizes, colours and textures in bikinis, one-pieces, tankinis, thongs and everything in-between. On the beach, no one is worried about this one company’s poster, so what’s the big deal?


Showing one singular idea of what’s beautiful doesn’t render all other ideas obsolete. It’s an ad, nothing more, but we women are giving it so much power. This ad doesn’t say ‘you are not good enough.’ This ad doesn’t say ‘if you don’t look like this, you can’t be on the beach.’ This is a fitness company using a fitness model to promote a fitness product. It is not a personal attack on the rest of us, who let’s be honest, will need more than a protein shake to look anything like her.


Protein World has now been informed that their posters will be removed country-wide, but I have to wonder if this kind of censorship is healthy. I support the right of every woman to have the body she wants, and I totally agree that society shouldn’t dictate what the ideal body is, because that is not a universal aspiration.

However, by protesting these advertisements, the women who are standing up for their right to love their body are actually taking away some of the love from the women in the world who look like Renee.

Let’s stop comparing and competing, so then these kinds of promotional stunts can’t affect us so much. We are not each other’s enemies. There’s plenty of room for all of us on the beach.


Strange Hands on the Train

Date: April 20, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , ,

When I was 22-years-old I moved to New York City from my sleepy little town in the Midwest. I’d always been drawn to big city life after a brief stint at art school in Chicago, at the age of 18. My friends all thought I was so brave to pack my bag and move to somewhere like ‘The Big Apple’ where I knew no one and had nothing, but I just felt like it was something I had to do.


On my way home one night, not late by any self-respecting New Yorker’s assessment, about midnight, I sat on my usual train chatting away with a new friend. Mid-sentence, a shadow passed over her face and she stopped speaking. I asked her what was wrong and she motioned with her eyes for me to turn around. I whipped my head around, fearless as usual, and saw a man with his penis out masturbating and looking directly at us.


I’m not easily shocked, but I know my jaw dropped. It wasn’t so much that he was exposing himself to us, it was the way her was leering at us that made the situation so intimidating.


I’ve always thought of myself as someone who could handle any situation, but my veins turned to ice when I took inventory of the rest of the carriage and realised that we were alone with him. A stop was coming up, not ours, but it would have to do and I told my friend to get up at the next stop and run. So that’s what we did.


We ran into the New York night with no clue as to where we were and this was long before Google Maps. We were terrified he might follow us, but thankfully he didn’t. A couple of weeks later when we met up for coffee, safe in the afternoon sun we laughed about it, because what else can you do?


Two weeks later I was on a different train, this time heading in to work. The carriage was certainly not empty this time, it was heaving. I was pressed against one of the isolated poles in the middle of the car and was struggling to breathe air that wasn’t just someone else’s breath in my face.


I felt something touch my backside and assumed at first, it was someone’s purse or bag, but then it happened again and I could feel fingers. With nowhere else to move I tried to push back but that actually made it worse. I couldn’t even turn around to see who it was and when the doors opened at the next stop I repeated my previous response and spilled out onto the platform with the majority of the people who had me pinned to that pole, helpless and furious.


These incidents are not the only two that have happened to me. As a keen traveller, I’ve been groped and touched numerous times in a variety of countries and places and it never gets easier. When I went back to New York last year for a visit, I was pleased to see signs had gone up in the subway urging people to report this kind of harassment, and I hope that it’s helping, and that people are.


Just this week, in my home city of London, this PSA was released. It brought back some pretty grim memories, but I’m so pleased to see that action is being taken to help prevent this kind of abuse on public transport.


This unwanted attention is assault and we can’t excuse it as something that ‘just happens sometimes.’ I know I’ve been guilty of brushing my experiences under the carpet, and as mentioned before laughing about them. But it isn’t funny.


Nobody has the right to put their hands on your body, but I’ve been there, and usually, where I’m brash and outspoken, I was silent. Why?


I believe that as women we don’t want to be seen making a fuss. That they myth of ‘female hysteria’ still endures and that we simply don’t want to be ‘difficult.’ My hope is that with these recent campaigns backing us and telling us that it’s OK to say something and to report it, it will empower more of us to do so, so that hopefully things will change.


Gifts in the Dark

Date: April 19, 2015

posted by Brooks Haislip / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , , , ,

As I gathered items to set up for a workshop I facilitated last week, I thought to myself, what do I want the centerpiece to be? Flowers? No. Feathers. No. Candles? No. Hmmmmm……?

“Dirt!” I heard from deep within. Of course!

You see, the overarching theme of the workshop was “the dark feminine.” So, I ended up taking a clear pot of dirt. Yep, just plain old, dark dirt. Simple and yet profound. Not the usual something beautiful for the space we may usually take for an event right? But, oh, so spot on for this evening.

As Barbara Brown Taylor says in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark, “Most people do not know what they mean by “darkness” except that they want to stay out of it.” Indeed.

Here was the first layer of responses to the opening question of the workshop when asked “What do you think of and feel when you hear the word “dark”?- “disconnected, scared, dishonest, unseen, sneaky, heavy, evil, sad, uncomfortable, lonely, unwanted, breathless and want to get out.”

Then what followed was, “affective/it is what it is, curious, seductive, and interesting.”  Note the subtle shift in responses from qualities that may typically be experienced as unattractive, in the first layer of responses, to ones of a more neutral tone.

At this point we paused and I asked the women to walk around the room, in absolute silence, and visit the 15-20 images of “dark” goddess cards that I had displayed around the room. This took about 5 minutes, we returned to the circle and continued to explore the original question of what we think of and feel when we hear the word “dark” and these were the responses- “quiet, powerful, calming, birth, nurturing, grounded, peaceful, reflective, wise, alive, receptive to change, bold, vast, brave and never-ending. Whoa! Quite a shift, and not only were the chosen words of a more life-affirming quality, the responses were also flowing out of these women with strength, ease, excitement, and even a tone of remembrance of these things within themselves as they are saying them out loud to the group. The magic had already begun!

You see, the “dark” is all of these layers of responses, the negative, the neutral and the life-affirming, and it is beyond ok. It’s actually great, if we let it be! I think one of the most humanly courageous things we can do is admit, to ourselves and out loud to others, that we are scared, uncomfortable, lonely and afraid of the “dark,” yes, perhaps the literal darkness, and especially the challenges, traumas, losses, full of despair, awfulness that is part of being human.

As I see it, once we can admit that, then we are moving towards allowing it to be so, and once we allow, there is a softening into the experience, a non-clinging to how we wish things would be otherwise, there is space, flow and connection…there is the opposite of avoiding. And then, rather than trying to exhaustingly move away from the truth, mask it, numb it out, and/or pretend it isn’t as bad as it is, then you have made the turn, you have chosen to be in relationship with the dark, to move toward Her, and She is part of the deepest core essence of you- this beautiful, deep darkness awaits you, loves you and is so on your side.

So, I offer to us all to move towards the dark in your life, in all ways. Although at first it may seem extremely unappealing to do so, it awaits you with open arms and in these arms is such beauty, wisdom, passion, and an infinite well of inner guidance and support. There is rich companionship that is the furthest thing from loneliness. There is home, parts of your own inner teacher that will never lead you in the wrong direction.

I will write more blogs in the future on the ‘How to’ deepen into intimate relationship with the dark, however, for now, watch your response to the “dark” things in your life (your limiting beliefs and stories, the challenging situations and people, the physical pain, the unknown)- what does your breath do, what are your thoughts about them, are you able to allow these things to be as a part of the greater whole without clinging to, avoiding them or changing them in anyway, can you be open to the gifts that may be being shown to you while in it verses only in hindsight, can you just be in it and be?

As Barbara Brown Taylor puts so simply, when referring to her parents and how they were to her when she was literally scared of the dark in her bedroom at night, “No one had ever taught me to talk back to the dark or even to breathe into it….there is no telling what I might have said if they asked me what color the monsters’ eyes were, or what the witches were planning to do to (with or for) me.”  So innocently she puts this, and, yet, there is a real truth to be honored here as women today- most of us were not taught the skills to approach and navigate the dark with trust, so be gentle with yourself along the way….baby steps and softness are key in this process.

For now, first thing every morning, sit for 5 minutes in the dark, literally, in total silence, and as you close your eyes, let your inner guide, all parts of Her, the dark, the light and everything in between, know that you want to be in deeper connection with Her guidance and are ready to trust the conversation…..breathe, stay open and listen. She is always with you.


For more on Brooks Haislip, please visit













Breaking the Shame Cycle

Date: April 6, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: 2 Comments / Tags: , , ,

When I was at summer camp, at the age of 12, I started my period and it was pretty hellish. Having no parent around for counsel, I nervously stuffed my underwear with toilet paper in the tight confines of the port-a-potty and shuffled to the nurse’s office, embarrassed and in pain.


Once there, a lovely, plump woman smiled at me and handed over what looked like a small cushion, complete with buttons and ushered me into the bathroom. Having no idea how to fasten it properly, I just pulled my underwear up as high as I could to stop the pad from falling out. Panties on chest, I waddled back to my tent, with my vintage pad held tentatively in place.


For the next 14 days, away from home and terribly uncomfortable, I bled heavily and relentlessly, and at the time, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me.


I was diagnosed with Endometriosis shortly after arriving back home from camp and my long and complicated relationship with my period began. I was put on birth control at 12, which I bled right through, so was switched to the Depo-Provera shot from just 13-years-old.


Every month for a solid week, there was a battle between the length of my classes at school and the absorbency of the giant pads in my pants, which made me a full inch taller when seated. Daring to get up to go to the bathroom mid-class often meant daring to reveal the stain on my seat and to risk being laughed out of the room.


I bled so much and so quickly I fainted in the halls and needed to take iron tablets for Anemia. Not a pair of my panties was left unmarked and slowly, my wardrobe became as black as a French mime’s. It’s an understatement to say that my period was a source of anxiety for me growing up.


Now, some 22 years later, my period and I have become good friends. She doesn’t hang about for 14 days anymore and she actually arrives near the date she’s expected. Things have calmed down in my uterus and I no longer get the debilitating cramps and nausea. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I enjoy having my period, but I no longer despise it.


The reason I’ve been reflecting so deeply on my own menstrual story is because this week, artist Rupi Kaur uploaded some photos she was doing for a university project to Instagram which caused quite a stir and got me thinking. Her photo series; aptly titled: ‘Period’ was a collection of faceless women dealing with the trials and tribulations of menstruation.


Kaur’s contentious photo, as shown above, is a young woman in bed who has suffered a bit of a leakage onto her sweatpants and her sheets. When I first saw this photo, I felt a pang of sympathy. The way the photo is shot it could be any of us, and I have been the woman in that photo so many times.


The photo invoked an emotional reaction in me, as it did many others, but Instagram’s reaction was to remove it from their site, thus causing a poignant debate about what we, as a society feel comfortable looking at.


Women have periods. Everyone knows this, whether you get taught about it in school or not, it’s a universal truth that women bleed once a month. So what is it about knowing this that’s fine, but seeing it that’s not?


There is still a universal shame surrounding the topic of menstruation and especially, around women who are at present, menstruating. We pass sanitary products to each other like we’re doing a drug deal, we avert eye contact when a male clerk scans our tampons, we hide our stained underwear in a separate drawer and if we are in pain, we hide it and endure silently, out of fear we’ll be judged as weak because of our cycle.


Why? Why are we worried about offending people with this very real, very natural thing that our body does each month?


Instagram has, since the internet controversy, allowed Kaur’s photos to remain on their site, but the question remains as to why they were taken down in the first place. What is so shocking or offensive about a bit of period blood when we’re bombarded with images of violence and gore each day?


I personally just use Instagram to follow celebrity cats, but in between snaps of my furry internet friends, I’ve seen plenty of questionable content, from people self harming to hyper-sexualisation of young women that don’t look of age to me. These photos are alarming, not the photo of the girl with the stained sheets.


Rumi reminds us: ‘i bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way.(sic)’ I think she’s very right.


The institutionalised fear and shame that women feel about having their period needs to stop. I applaud women like Kaur, who are bringing periods out of the shadows and into the light. Periods are real, they happen and they aren’t altogether pleasant.


The fact that someone posted a photo of a fully-clothed woman with a bit of blood between her legs should not be news. Our discomfort over that image has revealed a much larger problem, and that is our discomfort about menstruation.


Instead of controversy, I’d have liked this photo to cause a conversation. Hopefully with more women like Kaur leading the way, a more mature dialog can begin, so that for that one week each month, we don’t have to feel shame or worry unnecessarily about our bodies, because let’s be honest, things are hard enough.


Finding Fitness Away From Home

Date: February 24, 2015

posted by Women Enough / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , ,

Shay de Silva

For the majority of my life, I didn’t give much thought to my body. I always exercised to feel good. An argument with my family in high school would be followed by a run. A late night with friends would be followed by a morning at the gym. Exercise gave me energy and helped ease my stress, so I viewed it as a luxury rather than a chore. Having a fit body was just a nice side effect.

After finishing my MBA, I launched a marketing and project management consulting business. I was fortunate to have truly interesting projects and incredible clients. In 2009, my husband’s job took us to Singapore. I was thrilled to get to live in a new part of the world, but traveling back and forth to the US to meet with clients really took a toll on my body. Between the jet lag and seriously long days, I found it difficult to keep up with my healthy eating and fitness routine. I was constantly exhausted and sick, and my pants were getting tighter by the day.

I spent a lot of time looking for a fitness routine that fit my lifestyle, but I had a tall order. I wanted to be able to download my workouts to my tablet or laptop, and I wanted workouts that didn’t need any extra gear—no weights, no equipment, no sneakers, no bands.

After struggling for more than a year, I decided to take responsibility for feeling good again. I couldn’t find a fitness program that worked for me. I felt awful, and things weren’t going to change on their own. For every trip, I started writing down workouts I could follow on the road and packing my own snacks.

Really focusing on how my body and mind were connected was a huge challenge for me. This whole experience ultimately led me to launch my own fitness business to help other busy women get and stay in shape. After struggling for so long on my own, I knew there must be other women out there with the same issues.

Entering the fitness industry with a normal woman’s body was also a bit of a challenge. I have a strong Pennsylvania Dutch background, and I’m fairly short, which means I’ll never look like a model no matter how much I work out and how well I eat. This is something that I’ve slowly learned to accept, but I think it’s something almost all women struggle with at some point. Regardless of how we look, we can always find someone who looks just a little (or a lot) better.

For me, exercising and eating healthy helps diminish those thoughts, because it completely changes my relationship with my body. Taking care of myself also helps me value what my body can do for me instead of what it looks like. I feel sad when I hear women talk about punishing themselves for eating a slice of cake by running the next day. Changing that focus to how we feel after eating a slice cake and how we feel after running makes a huge difference. Just those few seconds of attention that we give our bodies changes the way we make decisions.

Through my experience and work with my clients, I’ve learned that we all have different reasons for taking care of our health. No matter what those reasons are, I think we all just really want to feel good in our bodies. It’s easy to think we need the perfect house, or a big bank account, or an amazing wardrobe, but it’s hard to enjoy any of those things if we don’t have our health. Running around with kids, traveling, walking along a beach, and enjoying a beautiful day are all much better when we’re healthy.

My top three daily habits for having a happy and healthy body: get at least 10 minutes of fresh air, eat at least seven servings of fruits and veggies, move your body for at least 20 minutes. Create your own list of what makes you feel happy and healthy and post it somewhere you’ll see several times a day. We’re all different, but we can all feel great about our bodies.

Shay de Silva loves helping women look and feel their best by eliminating all excuses for not exercising and eating well. You can check out her online health and fitness programs at Fast Fitness To Go and follow Shay on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Image: Hartwig HKD. Find at Flickr here.

A Victim No More

Date: February 22, 2015

posted by Women Enough / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , ,

Beenie Mann

Growing up in an abusive home led me to have an unhealthy relationship with food. There were times I wasn’t sure I would eat at all. So, every time there was food available, I ate. I ate way past the ‘full’ point. In a way, food was comfort to me. Needless to say, as the result, I grew heavier and heavier.

Being overweight, I was ridiculed in school and later by grown-ups. My self-esteem was pretty much nonexistent, my body had trouble handling the excess weight, and I was miserable. I was physically and mentally falling apart. Yes, I saw the looks, the glares; heard the whispers and snide remarks under people’s breaths. Many people assume fat people must be stupid and there were many times I felt like a 3rd or 4th class citizen. At the beginning of 2004, my body and soul ached so much I wanted to end my life. I just couldn’t deal with any of it anymore.

Fortunately, I have an awesome husband and amazing kids. I couldn’t quit on them. Changes had to be made. The following day, I made an appointment with my doctor (we were stationed in Germany at the time) to explore my options. She suggested weight loss surgery. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, we started the process. In August of 2004 I was scheduled for gastric bypass surgery. That was the day I got a second lease on life. (Thanks to the surgery I have lost 180 lbs and over the years kept all but about 40 off).

The spring of 2004 I enrolled with the University of Maryland Europe and started on my associate degree. I was able to take about 1 class per semester and graduated at the top of my class in 2007. I felt so good and knew I could do anything I put my mind to. Losing all that weight and getting my degree really helped me gain self-confidence, self-worth, and most of all self-esteem. It really does wonders.

Unfortunately, the years of abuse, neglect, and the massive weight took a toll on my body. Currently, I am dealing with the after effects of it all. Strangely, I am ok with it. It all made me the person that I am today and because of it all, I am able to help others by sharing my story. It always warms my heart when somebody gives me a big hug, a smile, a thank you, because my story has helped them.

Due to my health, I am unable to have a regular job. However, I am not the type of person to sit around and wallow in self-pity. Totally not my style and really, it wouldn’t do anything anyway! Since I was not able to find a regular job, I decided to become my own boss. With all the opportunities out there to work from home, it gives me the chance to contribute to our family fund. Aside from the income, one of the aspects I like most, is the personal development that is being provided.

It wasn’t until this year though, that I really took advantage of the resources available to me. Because of it, I have learned so much about myself and I am learning more every day.

For the longest time I blamed my parents, my circumstances, or whatever I could think of for my misery. All those years I saw myself as a victim and acted accordingly. In the past few months I learned to consciously take responsibility for my feelings and actions. It is not easy and it is a lot of work. The rewards however, are immeasurable. I feel a lot more at peace with myself and the people around me. It really is hard to describe. Yes, I still catch myself falling back into the old patterns but I am catching myself a lot faster these days and then can re-direct my thoughts and feelings.

They say after every storm there is the sun and a rainbow. Well, they are right. I am so glad I never gave up and always believed that there is something good in any situation and circumstance. My husband and my two sons are what kept me going. They were always by my side, loving me and cheering me on, and kicking me in the rear when I needed it. Most of all, they never gave up on me. I love them so very much and will be forever grateful.

Beenie Mann is an entrepreneur, a mom of two incredible sons, and an Army wife. There is usually always a smile on her face because it is good to be alive. Connect with her:

Facebook - Get Well With Chocolate (Matters of Perspective)

Her website - Beenie Mann. Twitter.

Image: Gisella Klein. Find at Flickr here. License details here. 

My eating disorder ate me and my life as a model

Date: February 10, 2015

posted by Women Enough / Comments: 2 Comments / Tags: , , , , , , , ,


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

It has finally just hit me – I am free.

As I sit here, and do the dreaded task of organizing thousands of photos from my Iphone to folders on my USB, previews flash before my eyes. Photos from previous trips, photos from my “vacations” back at home, and everything in between. The one photo that hit me hard, and gave me the realization of freedom, was one of my mother and I at the airport just prior to my last departure.

I really feel as though I am a bird, finally being released from my cage.

Looking at the photo allowed me to visualize a different life. If I don’t want to, I never *have* to go on another modeling contract overseas again. Now, currently I am calling this return home a “break” but it may even be time I hang up my towel, other than the odd side job or direct booking. But I won’t set it in stone, or cry wolf.

This photo made me feel overwhelmingly joyful, an indescribable happiness that brought me to tears.

The painful airport goodbyes and stressful curiosity of what each contract would bring… no more. I would not need to worry further about when I will see my family, friends, and boyfriend next. I wouldn’t need to stress about the amount of calories I ate on the plane ride over, or if my body would be measured immediately after landing (who isn’t bloated after flying, right?). I would no longer need to wonder how many girls would be bunking (literally, bunk beds) in the same tiny a room, or how many I could befriend. Restrictions on how I live my life were now erased. If I wanted, I could now cut my hair, have flashy nails or even bronze my skin.

The past 5 years have been a non-stop motion of turbulence. Especially in the last 3 years, as I had been traveling 7 months of the year usually. I will say on one hand, I am blessed. I have gotten to see some of the most amazing places in Asia: Singapore, Tokyo, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. I also have gotten to meet some lifelong friends, receive special treatment when partying (models party for free in Asia) and attend exclusive events with A-list celebrities. I have seen myself appear on television, been on billboards, and have been asked by people seated beside me on flights, if they can take a photo with me, as they recognize me from the magazine in front of them. These moments surreal, but at what cost? Before you decide to jump into the industry of modeling, I ask you to consider everything. I don’t throw these examples out as “bragging rights,” but as a contrast to say “these are great things” BUT look at what is worth much more. Like peace, sanity, loved ones, self-love and freedom, the ability to let go of control.

My irreplaceable friendships I made overseas, the self-exploration, financial “luck” that allowed me to pay off schooling, and the opportunity to see places I never would’ve seen without this job… Make me grateful.

If you ask me, if I could go back – would I do it again? I just don’t know.

The real reason I am blessed is because I have a strong army of support behind me back home that kept me going.

Ever since I can remember, I have always had anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder). I worried more than the average person, handled stress differently, care a lot, and think differently, this made daily activities a lot more difficult. When I started traveling it forced me to spread my wings and take a leap of faith.

My first trip was the most intense one for me, being 6 months long, a lot happened in that timeframe.

When I returned home from that trip my anxiety and depression was at an all-time high, and I took time off from working internationally to seek help. It was too much all at once. Never had I traveled much before, and within the 6 month time frame, I dove head first into learning and embracing new cultures and countries, had a traumatic experience where I had to lock myself in a room to protect myself from outward forces, had nearly been physically taken advantage of, experienced the death of a loved one, the loss of a romantic partner, had possessions stolen from me, the realization of corrupt governments, visa complications, and personal illness on top of everything. As I mentioned, it was too much.

After 7 months of returning home, I finally recovered from my depression. Although I was “better,” I knew depression was a mental state that could return again at another time (and it did). My anxiety was also a lot more tamed, thanks to an amazing counsellor who guided and taught me how to manage these overwhelming feelings with useful techniques.

As time went on, I returned overseas to take on more contracts. I returned stronger than ever, but eventually slowly ran myself down again.

During trips overseas I would find the industry a difficult place even for the well-equip.

I would stress about booking jobs and the financial uncertainty. Agencies take a very large percent, and when you work overseas you are “advanced” all of your necessities such as accommodation, flights, photos and pocket money expenses. These fees are all eventually paid back through the hours of slavery the models put in. My longest job was 23 hours. If you are lucky, at the end you make profits. I, for the most part, had been very lucky.

I experienced restless days and nights, with the pressure to be thin. I can actually remember the day my perception on my own beauty changed. I had called my very first agency to ask them some questions about an upcoming test shoot (free photoshoot for portfolio usage, I did these for 3 years before traveling, to build a strong book) and that’s where the turn of events had happened.

“By the way, what are you doing for exercise now a days?” asked the director of my former agency.

As I excitedly told them about different fitness classes I had been enrolled in, step class, running, etc, he stopped me mid-sentence – “You need to stop, these workouts are making your legs bigger! Just walk. Walk every day for 90 minutes, and then your legs and hips will be smaller.” I agreed, hung up the phone, and cried.

I hadn’t even meant to fall into the traps of the industry. I had started out doing acting gigs and was a dancer when I was younger. As I aged I needed to get braces to straighten my smile, and that caused me to take a break from the acting side of work, and eventually I quit dancing for other reasons. To do modeling was just the urge to try something different. Little did I know that I was “the exception to the rule,” and that at just under 5’6 I would need to be extra thin to compensate for my lack of height. I hadn’t known that girls my height usually don’t get these opportunities I was being given. I also thought I was indeed, blessed.

These statements pushed me down a road of self-hate and carried on for years, until this day even. For years afterwards I would step on the scale, and measure my body by the inch each and every morning. This gave me validation. The good or bad news I would receive from the scale and my measuring tape would dictate my mood for the day, and let me know what foods I should/shouldn’t eat that day.

I could recite the caloric content of any food or beverage if asked, and always had my day’s intake calculated. I figured out the chemistry, the code to my body… and knew what I could and couldn’t eat together in a day to stay thin. When I would miss the mark, and over eat, I would sit in deep shame, often binge eat because I had “blown it already” and work extra hard the next week to ensure I get back to the body I had the week before. If my weight caught up with me, and I had access to a treadmill, I would stay on until I saw the number “1000” decreased from my caloric intake.

On one trip in particular I began feeling my depression immensely again, and when I am depressed, I often turn to food for comfort. I was never the type to “restrict” foods, or so I thought. If I was hungry, I would always eat. In fact, I ate every couple hours out of fear of getting too hungry and binge eating later. When I say “restrict” in quotations, it’s because I did in fact rule out many different foods deeming some good and others bad. Moderation wasn’t possible because I wasn’t allowing myself a little of the foods I love when I would crave them… it was often all-or-nothing, black and white thinking. I preferred to eat alone.

I was never the “puking type,” and when I had fellow model friends overseas who used methods of starvation, diets or purging, I hid my own insecurities and would reassure them they were beautiful, and thin. I would try to assure them they can’t do these things to their bodies. It is unhealthy.

I never wanted anyone to feel the pain I felt. I didn’t think they deserved it, and I knew they were indeed all so beautiful already.

See, I thought my problem was much less severe because I was still eating, and knew too much about food. I had been confused if my obsessive 24/7 thoughts of food and calculations were enough to be deemed a disorder, or if it was a “wimpy” disorder because I wasn’t actually puking.

During my depressive states, I would “lose control” and eat and eat until I couldn’t breathe. As though food was the one thing I had control over in my life. I kept eating and eating, and eventually on one of my trips, I found my solution. I began to use laxatives nearly every day to release the emotional and physical abuse I was doing to myself. My weight fluctuated a lot in the past 5 years.

This scarred me not only physically but most of all, emotionally, and left me with misconstrued perceptions on life that I still need to overcome.

When I receive a compliment, I would think it meant I needed to work harder. And worst of all, when a loved one or partner would tell me they love me… I could only wonder how they loved me, when I didn’t love myself.

My eating disorder and most of all my anxiety disorder… make me feel as though it takes up an entire half of me.

The other half I am left with is the real “me,” the “me” who is a good person, who likes to have fun, with personality, and a big heart. I often still wonder how people can love me as much as they do, when because of my disorders, they only get to experience half of me. The other half is constant worries and stress about life (anxieties other than my ED), depressive episodes where I am at a low point and in tears, and moments where I don’t feel in control. Sometimes I feel detached from my body. Medical professionals refer to anxiety as “The Beast,” as when it takes over your body, you aren’t really *you* in those moments. My anxiety has the tendency to make me always want to be in control of everything, and stress easily - I hate uncertainty.

Besides the financial and physical uncertainties, there were many other battles to deal with such as being away from the ones I love most, finding true and trustworthy friends and relationships overseas, slaving at jobs only to receive 60% of it, experiencing the nervousness of visa extensions and spending a lot of time alone.

I am now back at home in Vancouver, Canada and in returning home from my previous trip, my depression again cured. I am so happy to share this, and while I am working very, very hard around the clock to keep it in check when it creeps back… I am also actively seeking further help with my anxieties and for help for my newly diagnosed eating disorder.

I am very nervous to share part of my story with the world, but in doing this my intention is to extend a hand out to anyone who is feeling alone or who needs support.

I have an army of unconditional support behind me, and as I struggle to fight through all of these difficult battles, they will be there for my victory when that day comes. My amazing family, friends, mother agency and boyfriend are the most precious to me; they are always there when I need them.

Since I have returned home, and wanted to genuinely make a change, I have been making progress. I have taken the scale and measuring tape out of my bathroom. I have been trying my best not to calculate my caloric intake, and have been resisting forms of purging. I am learning to give myself grace, and trying to eat a wide range of foods I have excluded from my diet for so long. I will be reprogramming and using my anxiety techniques learned to serve me better and bring inner peace preventing depression.

The obstacles I am fighting will be exceptionally hard to break after 5 solid years. At times I feel physical pain and discomfort, leaving me in emotional distress…but I am on my way, wanting to finally recover from these nightmares. As I am not perfect I surely will be taking “wins” and “losses…” but I do hope to come out as the victor.

Credit: Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.

Kimberley-Rae is an international Canadian model who has spent the last few years working abroad all over Asia. She believes strongly in body image empowerment because of her personal past and experience working in the modeling industry. Kimberley aims to break the stigma around mental health and work to empower other women to regain their life back and not base beauty on the exterior.

Blog: www.kimberley-rae.tumblr.com

Facebook Fan Page: www.facebook.com/kimberleyraec
Twitter: www.twitter.com/kimberleyraexo
Instagram: www.instagram.com/kimberryrae

YouTube: www.youtube.com/kimberleyraec

How To Ditch Diets For Good: It’s Not What You Think

Date: February 6, 2015

posted by Women Enough / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , ,

Ellie Savoy

Losing weight for the last time in 2011 has been deeply liberating, empowering and totally freeing. No more conversations about being good all week, bad on the weekends, off the wagon, on a diet, feeling deprived, counting calories, pretending, making excuses or scrambling to lose weight for a special event.

I was never a chubby kid, an overweight adolescent or young woman, yet I never loved the body I was in. A bit of fat on my hips or stomach gave me reason to deprive myself of something I liked, usually chocolate! This negative body image stuck with me for years.

The dieting roller-coaster kept me trapped for over 25 years even for wanting to lose as little as 5 lbs. I never totally loved what I saw in the mirror. In addition, stress played a big role in my life as early as 20. I was an over-achiever always striving for the next thing. I had no idea that my body needed to be respected and appreciated. I thought it was a machine that would keep going forever. I would only stop when I was forced to because of exhaustion.

This happened many times. My eating habits, stressful lifestyle and lack of respect for my own body led me to being 30 lbs. overweight at my heaviest. You know how we often need some kind of trigger for change? Well, it took me three!

Trigger #1 - On June 8th, 2008 my mother died after being in ill-health for eight years. I heard many times throughout my life that you can’t take your things with you when you die and this really hit me between the eyes when my mother died. Nothing was going with her. What had I been thinking?

I charge up my mobile phone when the energy is low and I don’t put diesel in my unleaded gas car. Why was I paying attention to that and not to myself? Why was I striving for more and more at the expense of my most valuable asset – my body and health? This was the beginning of a deeper inner journey and asking myself a lot of questions about my choices in life.

Trigger #2 - 21 months later on March 14th, 2010 my father passed away. It was so sudden and it knocked me sideways. I could hardly believe the news. This time my siblings and I had to take care of the funeral arrangements, all their belongings, sell our family home, paperwork and all the legalities. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. It just didn’t seem real that both my parents were gone in less than 2 years of each other.

The grief felt like navigating my way through thick fog and I felt deeper confusion around my own journey. My own mortality became a very real thing and it brought into focus how much life is a very precious gift.

Trigger #3 - The final trigger came in 2011. I was diagnosed with two uterine fibroids. I was given four options by my Gynecologist. Three of them involved surgery one of which was a hysterectomy. The other was to do nothing. I was freaked out by this news. How could this have happened within one year? I had no desire to have surgery. My life wasn’t being threatened but I knew I had to do something and I wanted to do something. I didn’t realize at the time that this would be the catalyst for changing my life for the better for good!

My focus shifted to becoming healthy, not being obsessed about my weight and being consumed with a bit of fat here or a blemish there. Over-extending myself and pushing my body beyond its limits stopped. I learned to say “no”! I started a hormone rejuvenation homeopathic program for three cycles that required a change in my diet and lifestyle along with using natural creams and drops.

I was totally committed. I did everything that I could to heal myself because I was afraid of what the alternative would be and I intuitively knew this was a gift. I had pushed the envelope far too many times and it was not sustainable for the long haul. The good news is the fibroids got smaller!

Looking back and reflecting upon the decisions I made over many years, it is so clear to me now that if I had kept things simple and made myself a priority instead of focusing on having more, I wouldn’t have been a yo-yo dieter, I would have been less stressed, slept better and felt more connected to my life’s journey and purpose. I don’t judge this. It has provided great personal growth. This journey has led me to helping other women ditch diets for good, find peace with food, focus on health and make themselves a priority.

I strongly believe the key to a healthy and happy life in this world lies in the decision of every woman to simplify her life and focus on making herself a priority instead of putting herself last. Our health can’t wait for us to be ready. Without our health what do we really have?

Ellie Savoy is President and founder of Diet Free and Healthy, Inc. She is a common-sense Board Certified Holistic Health coach who supports, coaches and teaches stressed out, over-weight and time starved women to break free from the drama of diets, lose weight naturally, look great and feel fantastic. Connect with her:

Facebook - Diet Free And Healthy, Twitter & LinkedIn.

Website: www.DietFreeandHealthy.com

Image: Foto_Michel. Find at Flickr here.


There Is Nowhere To Go But Up

Date: December 18, 2014

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Suzy Carroll

How do you reach someone who is so low they want to end their life?

What can you say to help someone own their self worth?

Why do so many walk through life not seeing that the simple act of being yourself brings value to the world?

These are all questions I have been asking for over 30 years ever since the day I said to myself: “I want to go to sleep and never wake up”.

I don’t remember the exact age when I uttered these words, somewhere between 19 and 21. I do remember hitting rock bottom, feeling so low that all I wanted to do was sleep…forever. I never said the word “suicide”. Instead I calmly walked to the corner store, calmly held a conversation with someone I knew, calmly purchased a bottle of sleeping pills and calmly walked home.

My belief back then was in order to be liked you must be positive, friendly and smiling all the time. This was such a strong belief I never would have reached out to share what I was really feeling – alone, depressed, lost.  So instead I took a stiff drink of vodka, swallowed a large amount of pills and fell asleep.

Gifts come in so many different forms. My gift that night was my very sensitive stomach. The cocktail of vodka and sleeping pills resulted in my body’s own version of stomach purging. I clearly recall lying in bed the next morning and hearing these words “you have hit rock bottom, there is no where to go but up”.

Thirty years ago I did not believe in God, did not have a spiritual practice and certainly did not know about watching for “signs”. Today I refer to those words – there is no where to go but up, as a lifeline tossed to me by the Universe. Those words have carried me through the past thirty years of bumps, hurdles, joys, trials, births, deaths, marriage, divorce, and always ending back on a path that is taking me higher and higher.

If my young self could have answered the questions I have been asking for three decades, she would have said:

Please hug me – I need to feel connection.

Please say something nice to me – I need to be reminded that my radiant smile lifts people up.

Please share your truth – I need to hear that I am not the only one feeling so blue.

Whenever I share this story, I also share for those who have lost someone to suicide that you do not always see, feel or hear the signs. In my case, no one knew. This is why I feel so strongly that more people, organizations and movements need to shout the message of “You are enough, as you are”. This was a concept that had never crossed my mind, but perhaps, just perhaps, if I had been hearing the message “I AM enough”, I never would have wanted to sleep forever.

Help hotlines (United States): Crisis Text Line & Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Suzy Carroll is a nutrition consultant, coach and workshop leader. In her early twenties Suzy attempted suicide. This moment in time became the catalyst for decades of deep inner learning. Thirty years later, Suzy has developed a coaching and teaching method that guides clients to breakthroughs with health, happiness and positive self worth. Her method centers around the concept of inner peace as the anchor point, allowing all life experiences, interactions and endeavors to come from a place of heart centered strength, conviction and knowing that you are enough.

Website: suzycarroll.com
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Image: Gisella Klein. Find at Flickr.

An Ode To Blubber, Burgers And Self-Love

Date: December 6, 2014

posted by Women Enough / Comments: 1 Comment / Tags: , , ,

Carina Lyall

Do you strive for perfection or feel shitty when you look in the mirror? Are you pretty sure that Self-Love is a short drive from Minsk? These are my thoughts on why being called fat in public once again pushed me to change how I related to myself - for the better.

My weight… Just writing that sparks so many thoughts I have a hard time keeping up. Feeling forced to relate to how I look, what I weigh and most importantly what am doing about it has swung into my life again and again.

Some have said I am easy on the eye, others say there is so much of me I am hard to miss. This is a recent story about getting my personal space invaded by other people’s opinions and the ripple effect of them on me and my life.

The foundation of my work is that you belong here exactly as you are. I believe that there is no perfect ideal to strive for. Body image, intellect, beauty, coolness. It has been the work I needed to do with myself to feel free in my life, and it is how I support women to feel content, happy and strong as they are.

I know that for me not owning that statement has been exhausting. In motherhood I read books, looked at women who wizzed through the challenging parts smiling and looking great, and I felt like a constant failure. Going to meetings with oatmeal in my hair, or saying that “I just” gave birth to excuse the blubber on my belly.

The art of comparison once again left me feeling less worthy. The foundation of being wrong or less than, isn’t a nice place to be and very, very seldom leads to a life with happiness and ease. The self-compassion practice showing up just as I am changing my life.

Does this mean that that foundation is never shaken? No. But it takes a bit more to get the earth quaking, and it happened a few weeks ago.

This is a little story I want to share.

I was out for drinks with my two sisters. We had a great time and we decided to end the good times with a burger. Now it is no secret that I have put on weight after 2 pregnancies and what not, but burger it was – Yolo or something.

In the queue some guys thought we had cut in line. One looked at me and said that I probably shouldn’t be in there anyway, considering my weight. Tears galore came and I felt like crap. Reduced to an unworthy lump of Blubber (did you every read Judy Blume’s book? It’s awesome… anyway).

The sense that everyone in there were looking at me deciding whether they agreed or not felt humiliating. I had to get out of there. Shaken by how someone could effect how I felt about myself stayed with me for days.

Fast forward 2 weeks and my man and I are away for the weekend at a music festival. As I am coming out of the toilet area a woman stops me. She is a scout for a model agency and thinks I would be an awesome model for the normal size/curve department. Huh?

All of the sudden someone’s opinion of me steered me in another direction.

So which “truth” do I go with? A third – my own? How I see myself? How I feel about myself? Or do I let either of their perspectives rule and dictate whether I feel worthy just as I am? Do I wait till I have X weight to go out again or do I pout my lips and work it like a supermodel? The “you belong here, exactly as you are” reminds me that none of the above is my truth. It is their eyes looking at me. What matters is how I look at me. And this has been such an awesome reminder.

BMI and weight has nothing to do with it. I feel it is irrelevant for most women. I believe it begins with how you feel. Does the need to shift come from “I am a problem that needs to be fixed” or does it come from a deep knowing of worth and compassion and from the asking of “So what do I want?”

This is what we can work on – how you see you. And knowing that you belong here, because hey you already are!

Carina Lyall is a story worker and meditation teacher. She has lived in 4 countries, worked with the American and British army and picked herself up from severe anxiety. She now works with women in supporting them to more self-compassionate lives. She has co-written a book on healing from within and creates online courses on story work and self-compassion. She strives to keep it profound and humorous and blogs about her life over at www.carinalyall.com and Facebook at The Self Compassionate Woman.

Image: Christi Nielsen. Find at Flickr.

You Get What You Get, Don’t Get Upset

Date: December 5, 2014

posted by Women Enough / Comments: 6 Comments / Tags: , , , , ,

Alison Tedford

It was Christmas. The lesson was Christmas morning etiquette.

I knew many gifts had been carefully selected for my growing son, and that he lacked a filter for his words (much like his mother). I asked him what he was expecting for Christmas and how he planned to handle it if he received something he wasn’t expecting. He looked at me as if I were asking the most obvious question in the world.

“You get what you get, don’t get upset. That’s what my teacher told me. That’s my plan.”

This is a particularly valuable message for me, as I look down at my 31 year old form some days. This was not what I expected. I have a history of harbouring a certain level of disappointment around my ability to meet my own expectations. Elizabeth Gilbert recently had a very powerful message around perfectionism and its relationship with fear. I think for some of us, as women, we pursue this perfectionist concept of how we should look to insulate ourselves from the risk of rejection. We fear rejection in our relationships and in our professional lives. We fear that this fat that we carry says something to other people about our commitment, our work ethic, our viability as a lover or even our intelligence.

Rejection is something that I have feared because I am far from perfect. There are soft spots, wobbly spots, things that jiggle and sway. I don’t know that I necessarily fit the ideal. The ideal changes a lot too so it’s really hard for anybody to fit the ideal. I don’t know what I expected exactly. I don’t know what 31 is supposed to look like. There’s a lot of conflicting messages from the world about how I should look.

The other day some article on the internet tried to sell me recipes that would get rid of my “flabdomen”. I’m an entry level dance teacher, and my anatomy is rusty, but I’m pretty sure “flabdomen” is not actually a thing. It’s actually a cutesy marketing gimmick that has the added bonus of making fun of something women are already self-conscious about so they might buy your product/idea/philosophy in desperation. Apparently, bellies are not supposed to have fat.

It might not make a lot of sense, but in some ways my fat is like an annoying younger sibling. I’m going to pick on it if I want to, but for goodness sakes don’t presume to pick on it for me. For that reason, I couldn’t disagree more with the external suggestion that my belly isn’t okay because there is fat. My happy fat is privileged, thank you very much.

It’s happy fat because part of the reason it’s gained this shape is my greatest source of joy. The most perfect child I have ever laid eyes on was miraculously formed in the depths of my magical belly. That’s my son’s “humble beginnings”. Some people may not think it’s much, but it’s all he had, and it is home.

It’s really even more than a home, it’s a temple. It’s something to celebrate. My belly is evidence of so many of life’s celebrations. I wouldn’t trade the slice of cake I had at my Grandfather’s 80th birthday for all the cauliflower “rice” in the world, whether it got rid of my “flabdomen” or not. That was a celebration I got to participate in and witness, and being a witness is so powerful.

I’m a First Nations woman, and our culture involves ceremony. Part of Coast Salish ceremonial tradition is that you feed the witnesses, so that they have the strength to witness the “work” or the ceremony that is to take place. I have witnessed a lot in my life, and my body has been fed so that I might have the strength to witness more.

More is something I’m not afraid to be. My body is part of who I am. The journey to accepting my body has turned out to be one about accepting me as a person so that I can be “more” than I was before. My struggle with eating disorders was about disappearing and being “less”, needing “less”, using “less”. I want to be “more” now. I want to be present.

When it comes down to it, my body is a present. It’s a gift and an unexpected one. I used to feel like it was a Christmas sweater: itchy, unwieldy, grating against my skin. Time has weathered it somewhat and it’s now soft, inviting and cherished, lumps and all. It might not be what I expected, but it is a gift to be celebrated. It was given to me with love. Like my son says, “You get what you get, don’t be upset”.

Alison Tedford is a single mom from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. She is a data analyst, a pole dance instructor and an eating disorder support group facilitator. She documents her journeys in fitness, parenting and feminism on her blog Sparkly Shoes and Sweat Drops. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.

Image: Mishi Yoshihito. Find on Flickr.

The Journey From Darkness To Clarity

Date: December 1, 2014

posted by Women Enough / Comments: 1 Comment / Tags: , , ,

Lisa Nagel

I was in high school the first time I remember feeling depressed. The kind that leaves you feeling lost, surrounded by darkness and completely hopeless. When it came, one part of me was surprised. The other part of me had almost sensed it slowly creeping up.

Lots of women in my family had dealt with depression in the past and I knew how easily one could slip into a place where it got really rough to ask for help. Although I was terrified and in a way almost ashamed, I decided to speak up as soon as this gigantic wave of sadness and hopelessness started rolling over me.

Shortly after that, I went to see a therapist once a week. During a particular session, 6-8 weeks into therapy, I remember feeling that something wasn’t quite right. In the beginning of therapy, it felt good to talk about the moments and times I had felt bad, anxious or hopeless in the past but during that session when my therapist kept asking me about all the times I felt depressed, I knew it was enough. I wanted to talk about the all the small things that were indeed going well and something inside of me literally screamed ‘Stop’. It was loud and clear, so a week later I quit therapy.

I don’t know where that burst of courage came from and even though my therapist reassured me again and again that I was making a huge mistake, I stood by my decision. I had my mother’s support and that was all I needed at that time.

Looking back I think what happened inside of me during that particular session was my inner life-force kicking in. My will to not only survive but to live and to move forward to brighter days. I was so ready to feel different and to leave those gloomy and dark days behind.

I had no doubt that it was going to be tough to move from that dark feeling place into light again. I realized that if I wanted to get well and stay well I had to commit to healing and taking good loving care of myself for the rest of my life. What helped me immensely during the next couple of days, weeks and months was something that I had read somewhere along the way. That depression is just a signal for us to take the time to feel all of the feelings that got lost in our everyday lives. So I did just that.

I realized that I couldn’t rush through this process, that I had to give in to feeling ‘dark’ for a while, to really sit down and listen to myself before I was able to move on. I started to turn those dark days into a road map, a pathfinder guiding me towards brighter ones in the future.

A couple of months ago that feeling of a dark heavy cloud hovering over my head crawled into my life again. This time it felt very different somehow. The intensity was greater but squeezed into a much shorter period of time. My life was so different from what it had been like the first time I was really depressed so I decided to explore what they both had in common.

I started seeing parallels, the golden thread running through both times. A lot of these I am only starting to see now, months and years afterwards. What pulls through is the fact that life felt out of my direct control, like I didn’t have the power to influence my actions or feelings towards that particular situation. Depression was a mirror, a reflection of clarity held up to my face so I could see and reevaluate where I stood in my life. It helped me answer questions like whether I was on the right path or if I had to change the direction of where I was headed to. Whether I was listening to myself or others, and how I could change my feelings towards myself and life again.

Reflecting back I see that depression often left me feeling ashamed and at times hating myself for feeling the way I felt. I see that what I had really needed in both situations was to instead love myself through it. These days whenever I am having a gloomy and off day I try to love myself through it. I strive for loving myself enough to take gentle and loving care of my needs and wants in life. It is challenging and at the same time exciting that only if I love myself enough I am heading towards light and lots of bright days in the future.

Lisa Nagel wants to live in a world where kindness leads the way, where we all do one thing a day that completely lights us up and love lives at the core of everything we do. As a painter of light, joy seeker, writer (and occasional poet) of sensual words she’s featuring her newest art and poetry on www.MiniManifestos.com where she also writes about love, light and fear. Connect with her on Twitter or Instagram or learn more about living a life with love at its core at www.MiniManifestos.com.

Image: Gisella Klein. Find at Flickr.

My Eating Disorder Became My Source Of Empowerment

Date: November 6, 2014

posted by Women Enough / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , ,

Erin McKelle

When I was 12 years old, I developed an eating disorder. I was healing from incest, while also coping with bullying and harassment I was experiencing at school. It was the first time I ever felt truly alone and I didn’t know whom to turn to or how to express what was going on to anyone. I was living in shame and denial.

This was also the first time in my life that I no longer had a bedtime set by my mom, so I could stay up as late as I wanted. She usually hit the hay around 9pm, so typically I was the last one to retire at night.

I remember one night around 10pm I was hungry and decided to get a snack in the kitchen while I was watching re-runs of Friends. I found some food and brought it back to the couch with me to eat while I watched. Then, I wanted more. I soon couldn’t stop myself and after about a half hour of this, found myself sickeningly fully. It was somehow, strangely relieving.

I kept doing this and never really stopped. It reached its peak during my freshman year of college, where I lived in a single dorm room and had unlimited supplies of food available to me. I was breaking off an abusive relationship and simultaneously relapsing back into depression. I used food to cope more than ever before.

One day I was at the doctors and when I stepped onto the scale, saw the number 200 flash before my eyes, which was in my mind, was the threshold I would never reach. Plus, it was 15 pounds more than I had weighed 2 and a half months before. It was a serious wake up call and I knew that I had a problem.

That was last October and I’m proud to say that since then, I’ve recovered a significant amount. I’ve managed to maintain my weight, get a handle on binging, and have started to develop a passion for fitness. Getting to this point was a struggle though and admitting to myself that I had an eating disorder was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I felt like an imposter, like I couldn’t be trusted. I dealt with horrific dieticians who caused me to internalize my shame even more. The hardest part was telling people close to me. I’m a perfectionist and always appear to have it together; I felt that this diagnosis would destroy all that I’d worked to create.

It was when I realized that all of this was an image, a façade in a sense, which I put on for the world to mask my true state of being, everything suddenly clicked. I knew that I couldn’t spend my life living a lie or hiding my true self and that I deserved better. Asking for help and admitting my flaws would in fact make me stronger. The more that I owned my experiences and realities, the easier they would be to embrace.

If there is one thing I can tell you about eating disorder recovery, it’s that it will take you as far as you want it to go. You can heal from more than just disordered eating in the process and also find new ways to empower yourself through your body, if you open yourself up to those possibilities. When I realized it wasn’t going to be easy, immediate, or constant (most people relapse, it doesn’t make you a failure), the easier it was to heal.

Having an eating disorder is no longer a hindrance to me, instead it’s a source of empowerment.

Erin McKelle is a fearless feminist, writer, and activist based out of Cleveland, Ohio. She will soon graduate from Ohio University with a degree in Women and Gender Studies and currently works in communications and social media management. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, and follow her Tumblr blog.