Looking With New Eyes

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It’s been two months since I posted on my blog. In that time, I left my job of 6 years to pursue two part-time jobs in my field. While I don’t regret the decision to leave, it brought new challenges, one of which was an unanticipated month-long grieving process during which I focused on all I had lost: the closeness with my colleagues, a steady routine, predictable income and benefits, my summers off, feelings of competence and pride in my work, and the general approval of others. I didn’t realize how much these losses would affect me. And, for a while, loss was the only thing I could see.

During my grieving, I noticed an increase in emotional eating. I was eating when I was bored, sad, lonely, anxious, or frustrated. I noticed an increase in calorie counting, body-part checking, and obsession with the number on the scale. I increased my exercise and slipped back into thinking certain foods are “bad”. All the while, I noticed my desire to isolate and not talk to anyone about it. However, I did talk to God. I wrote in a prayer journal, prayed out loud, cried about my struggles, and practiced Centering Prayer. I read books by wisdom teachers that reminded me of God’s presence with me…especially in my struggles. Somehow, I was able to trust that this was a temporary relapse into familiar coping skills and not a permanent abyss.

 

Having journeyed through that shadowy valley to where I can now feel the sun again, I find myself looking back at it with wonder, noticing the tools I used, the self-care I maintained, the people I stayed connected with, and the belief I maintained that “no matter what happens, I am beloved”. I marvel at those blessings, having not seen them when I was in the midst of that valley. Then today I picked up my book — published almost 10 years ago — and started reading. 50 pages into it, I started to cry. What an incredible, blessing-filled journey my recovery has been!

Reading my own story certainly brought back for me the pain and suffering I experienced, but I also saw all the grace-filled moments, moments when God was present with me through my dad’s willingness to share with me his experiences with binge-eating disorder; through my mom’s research about B.E.D. in 2005 and encouragement through buying me my first self-help book; through my therapist’s gentle persistence in helping me cultivate self-compassion; and through my recovery community’s support during relapses. At the time, I overlooked God’s presence in those people. Today, I couldn’t help but see it.

This experience has me thinking about the power of changing our focus. In mindfulness practice, we learn not to stop looking at our pain (in other words, not to avoid it), but to view it with new eyes, eyes of curiosity, not judgment. When I picked up my book today, I was curious about my own story. In viewing my story with new eyes, I saw it differently. I wonder how I can look at other aspects of my daily life with the new eyes of curiosity instead of resignation or judgment. Perhaps my losses would be seen as “a natural part of the ebb and flow of life” and other moments of struggle would be seen as just that: a moment of difficulty, not another line added to a narrative made up and stoked by my egoic self.

Perhaps there’s an aspect of your life that needs to viewed differently. Consider the power of being mindfully aware instead of judgmental, critical, or resigned. If you’re unfamiliar with mindfulness, the body scan meditation on UCLA’s website may be a good place to start your practice: click here.

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

Body Positivity

It’s the third day of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (2/26-3/4/17) and today I want to focus on body image. *sigh* I don’t even know where to start. I could start with the lies sold to us by the diet and fitness industry. Lies that suggest we will gain happiness, success, money, or health if we lose weight or tone up. Here are just a few of the seemingly innocuous slogans of the multi-billion dollar business:

“What will you gain when you lose?” (Special K cereal)

“It’s all about being a better you” (L.A. Fitness)

“Get paid to lose weight” (Weight Watchers)

These lies suggest that dieting will lead to bigger and better things. For years, I thought dieting was a good thing. My parents dieted. My friends (even at age 14, 15) were dieting. My professors talked about dieting. Church members dieted. I thought, “If I don’t like something about my body, I can change it. I can diet to lose weight or I can exercise to change my shape.” What happened, however, was that dieting didn’t make me lose weight. It made me lose connection with my body’s own ability to regulate itself. Exercising 2+ hours a day 5 days a week changed my shape at first, but it also changed my mind, so that thoughts of exercise and calorie-burning left little space in my head for anything else. The more I dieted and exercised, the more self-conscious I was about my body and the less I liked my body.

So, during this week of raising awareness, I want to point out a website (one of many) that promotes body positivity: Proud 2 Be Me. Proud2Bme.org is a partner of the National Eating Disorders Association, but it was created by and for teens (or 39-year-olds like me!) to increase body confidence and positive body image. I was especially moved by this recent blog post: Let’s Change Our Mindsets, Not Our Bodies.

Take some time this week to notice the self-talk that runs through your head and listen to the body talk you hear from friends and family. Consider saying something more positive instead. Things like, “You’re amazing just the way you are.” “You’re beautiful.” “Beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes.” “You are unique. Don’t change.”

These types of messages won’t sell diet plans, power bars, personal trainers, or make-up. But positive messages like this WILL change your life, one phrase at a time.

Peace, joy, and body positivity,

Megan

A Different Kind of New Year Resolution

I’m sure you’ve noticed the recent increase in TV, internet, and radio ads promising a “new year, new you”…as long as you shell out big bucks for a patented weight loss program that tells you how much to eat, what to eat, and when…or as long as you buy the latest extreme exercise program designed to force you to mindlessly push through pain and physical distress. As someone who often made (and failed at) resolutions to lose weight or tone up, let me urge you to see these types of resolutions for what they are: one-way tickets to disconnection from your True Self. The True Self — that is, the divine spark in all of us — is not nurtured by losing weight or changing shape. Your True Self is nurtured through connection with self, others, the natural world, and God.

When I began my recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder in 2005, I didn’t understand the importance of connection. At that point, I thought I was just changing my behaviors. I was trying to binge less often, exercise less compulsively, and eat more regularly and less restrictively after a binge. I didn’t realize that the steps I took to change those behaviors involved increasing my connections — first to myself, by noticing the difference between emotional/spiritual hunger and physical hunger; then to others, by opening up about my struggles instead of hiding behind a veil of secrecy and shame; then to the natural world, by widening my view from the circumference of a dinner plate to the infinity of the universe; and finally to God, by reengaging in worship, prayer and other spiritual practices.

The more we connect with self, others, nature, and God, the more at peace we are. The more at peace we are, the less worried we become about the values of the world: thinness, lean muscles, or the ability to run a marathon. Sometimes, when we’re at peace, changes in body size or shape or ability do happen. But if they do, they happen at their own pace, not one designated by the diet and exercise industry.

So, as you consider changes to make in 2017, consider making a different kind of resolution: Resolve to be gentle with yourself. Resolve to be vulnerable with others. Resolve to engage with the natural world. Resolve to open yourself up to the goodness of God, Spirit, or a Higher Power. Choose connection.

Peace, joy, and health in 2017,

Megan

Recovery Wisdom

Last week I was honored to be invited to participate in an “Eating Recovery Bloggers Roundup” in anticipation of “Eating Recovery Day”, which is May 3rd. Eating Recovery Day is sponsored by Eating Recovery Center of Denver, Colorado which offers comprehensive treatment for women, men, children, and adolescents who are struggling with eating disorders. To learn more about their treatment programs or read their fantastic blog, click here: Eating Recovery Center.

The “Bloggers Roundup” aims to involve individuals from across the nation in a conversation about recovery from eating disorders. Each blogger has been invited to answer the following question: “If you could go back and talk to yourself at the beginning of your recovery journey, what would your wiser self say to your younger self?” I’m eager to share with you my answer to this question and find it no coincidence that this opportunity presented itself to me just shy of the twelve year anniversary of the beginning of my recovery journey.

My “recovery wisdom” will be shared on Saturday, April 30th, but I hope you’ll tune in every day from Monday, April 25th to Tuesday, May 3rd to access links to recovery wisdom posted by other bloggers around the nation.

Before then, I hope you’ll make time for quiet reflection to access your own inner wisdom. As one of my favorite John Denver songs says, “It’s in every one of us to be wise. Find your heart. Open up both your eyes. We can all know everything without ever knowing why.” Wisdom is within us right now. We just need to make space for it to surface.

Until next week…

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

 

Monday Morning Affirmations (Part 2)

Several years ago, I wrote a post called “Monday Morning Affirmations”. For some reason, it is my most often visited post! I guess we’re all in need of a little encouragement and self-love on Mondays. Since that seems to be the case, I thought I’d post another list of affirmations, some of which are inspired by my recent reading of Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”. Read through them and choose the one that resonates with your core self today:

All I can do is just be.

All I have is all I need.

I am worthwhile exactly as I am.

The only moment is now.

I am fully engaged in the present.

I am one with the Divine.

I can experience moments of peace and joy.

Consider repeating one of these affirmations to yourself today and notice (without judgment) how it impacts your mood and thoughts.

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

Owning The Mess

Fellow blogger, “MK”, writes about the struggle to let go of perfectionism and the freedom that comes from recognizing the fact that every single one of us is a beautiful mess. Check out her words!

Leaving Perfection Learning Grace

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“Either I can be here, fully here, my imperfect, messy, tired but wholly present self, or I can miss it- this moment, this conversation, whatever it is-because I’m trying, and failing, to be perfect. But this season I am not trying for perfect. I’m just trying to show up, every time, with honesty and attentiveness.”Bread & Wine

I am sitting here in our immaculate bedroom, in the background great music is playing, a creme brûlée scented candle is burning, I am lounging on our made up bed complete with throw pillows, and to top it off I am writing all of this in a perfectly coordinated outfit. This is the MK I am totally comfortable with. It is this MK that if you dropped by right now, would welcome you into her home and maybe even offer to make you some homemade cookies. However, that is the MK who I would…

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Coping with Loss

In my role as a counselor, I’ve journeyed with many clients through their grief following a loss. A loss is not just the death of a person or pet; it can be the end of a relationship, a physical separation, a divorce, moving to a new place, leaving home for the first time, a physical illness that causes significant impairment, a change of jobs, retirement, etc.

Personally, as well as professionally, I’m no stranger to loss. Beloved grandparents, mentors, and cats have died. Caring co-workers have left for other jobs. Apartment leases have expired. Low back pain has limited my movement at times. And, most significantly to me, romantic relationships have ended. Through all of these experiences with loss, two things have become clear: 1) loss is an inevitable part of life; and 2) loss can lead to growth and transformation.

As an inevitable part of life, it’s been important for me to learn healthy ways to cope with loss. Ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago, I coped with loss by over- or under-eating. Keeping my stomach full or empty gave me control over that which cannot be controlled. Over- or under-eating, along with over-consumption of alcohol, taking drugs, or distracting with sex all serve as ways to disconnect. Today, I’m able to cope through blogging, journaling, reaching out to loved ones, and using my five senses to self-soothe (drinking herbal tea, lighting scented candles, taking a warm shower, etc.). What all of these coping skills have in common is their ability to provide the opportunity for connection.

Connecting is so important after a loss. By connecting to others who care, or connecting to my physical body through the senses, or connecting to my inner child or wise adult through journaling, I am giving myself permission to grieve. I’m remaining curious and inquisitive (see my last post) about my loss. I’m opening myself up to potential insights. It is through connection that loss can be transformative and growth-inducing.

May each of us find transformation and growth in loss.

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan