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Eating/Food

Eating/Food, emotions, Guest Posts

Noise

November 17, 2019
eat

By Judy Harper

My daughter had her 15th birthday party at our house a few months ago. Eight teenage girls converged at our home and had the 2019 version of the classic sleepover: they scrolled through Instagram, watched YouTube videos, listened to Billie Eilish, ate a lot of junk food, talked about their crushes, giggled, and stayed up really late. The next morning, I tip-toed past the mass of girls sleeping in my living room, and went into the kitchen to dutifully make the breakfast my daughter had asked for: bacon and chocolate croissants. The young women ate their breakfast and the sleepover wrapped up at 10:30 a.m., with a mountain of blankets, wrapping paper, and leftovers for me to clean up. Oh, those leftovers. Pizza, croissants, bacon, cupcakes, chips…

Do you know how this story goes? What do you do with the leftovers? Do you throw away the slightly stale chips? What about the pizza? I do, eventually, end up throwing away the pizza, but not after I spend the majority of the day binge eating leftovers. I eat a chocolate croissant, a chocolate-covered donut, and five pieces of bacon at 11:30 a.m. About an hour later, I have a piece of pepperoni pizza, and at 2:00 p.m., I have four more pieces of pizza: two pepperoni and two cheese (I don’t eat the crust, though, you know, because I’m watching my carbs). Then, I drink two diet Cokes and sit down, stunned and dazed, in a sweaty stupor. The next day, I will throw away the pizza and the chips, but not yet. On this day, I just sit there, trying to pretend like it’s OK that I ate this because tomorrow will be different.

Do you do this, too, or is it just me?

That night, I sleep fitfully, having to get up to drink water and eat handfuls of Tums. When I do sleep, it is fitful and shallow. The next morning, I wake up, groan, get on the scale, and groan again. This number that I hate is staring at me, judging me, and this body that I hate and treat with such contempt is there, on full display, the symbol of my neglect and addictive tendencies. I want to cry, or scream, or punch something, but I don’t let it out. I never let it out. Instead, I start to scheme about how not to end up here again, ever, while also trying to forget all that I ate the day before. It’s a complicated dance requiring careful and exacting footwork that has to be performed in a specific sequence, and, usually, it works. It involves frantic, non-stop thinking, scores of internet searches, dozens of podcasts, trips to the library and, of course, Amazon purchases. It involves promises and lists and the constant, thrumming noise of trying to tune out of the pain and into something more comfortable.

I try to forget the pizza, the donut, the sweating, the Tums, and I focus on what I’m going to do to make sure this never happens again. The fixation on the image of the perfect life I’m going to start living just as soon as I’m done showering and getting dressed keeps me somewhat occupied as do the internet searches and lists of things I need to do and buy in order to finally become better, to finally become the perfect woman, like the one I see on-line who runs her own blog, makes her own soap, raises five children, runs half marathons in under two hours, and works on her PhD in psychology in her spare time. I want to be perfectly reconstructed into the woman I heard interviewed on NPR, the one who overcame horrific traumas and a severe learning disability to triumphantly publish her first novel and find herself short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The options and variations of who I want to become are endless; I can be the athletic intellectual, the intellectual comedian, or the quirky eco-warrior. The images dance in my head and for a while, I’m drawn into the creation of the woman I will soon become.

When I used to drink, this part of the morning took much longer…the frantic and desperate attempts to piece together what I’d done the night before, and often, no matter how hard I tried, not being able to remember. Those mornings were far darker and more torturous than the post food-binge mornings, but the action is the same: trying to twist time and memory into something other than what they are. Trying to find the space inside my soul where there is respite, coming up empty, and then replacing that respite or self-forgiveness with stuff…mental exercises, frantic writing of to-do lists, texting friends in search of validation, reading blogs, searching for new gyms, and reading about diet programs, and so on.

Wanting to forget something is almost as difficult as trying to remember, but a little less painful, and as my day progresses, I slip into that dark internal abyss of loathing and hatred—why did I eat all that? Why can’t I say no? Why can’t I control myself? Why do I eat until I can’t see straight? Why can’t I do better? Why can’t I be better? Why can’t I be someone else?

This continues for hours. I distract myself and then I have a fleeting thought that I wish I hadn’t thrown the pizza away because a slice or two sounds good. Then, I hate myself for having that thought, and sink back down into the awfulness.

This takes hours, and the ping-ponging between the highs and lows exhausts me. With each thought of the shiny new me that I’m going to forge comes also the crashing thought of a life without the escape of pizza or chocolate or chips or blogs or podcasts or internet searches.

And I am so uncomfortable there, in that swinging back and forth between the highs and the lows, that I grab my notebook and write out “the plan” to turn myself into someone else, someone completely new and different. Anything to get away from my thoughts.

The plan takes shape: I’ll never eat sugar again, goes the familiar refrain. Not one bite. I’ll also never eat anything with artificial sweeteners in it, oh, and of course, I’ll never eat chips or crackers again. Better to just wholesale go 100% Paleo and dedicate my life to eating this way. I’ll clean the whole house, top to bottom, organize every single drawer and cabinet. I’ll clean out my closet. I’ll write my book. I’ll run 5 miles every single day and do yoga, too, becoming that person who wakes up at 5:00 a.m. and cheerily goes about her day, non-stop, until 11:00 p.m. I’ll be that perfectly busy living that perfect life. Oh, and I’ll stop chewing my cuticles, too.

The day moves forward smoothly from here; I have now found an escape from my thoughts and I have a plan. I have eggs and avocado for breakfast, but I put milk in my coffee, which isn’t strictly Paleo. It’s OK, I tell myself. I’ll go to Whole Foods today and buy coconut almond creamer. This is the last time I’ll ever do this. I put my earbuds in, turn on a podcast, furiously clean the stove and sweep the kitchen. Then, armed with a list of 25 items that will make my life perfect, I head off to Whole Foods.

I arrive and walk optimistically through the store, filling my cart with things that will save me: pasture-raised eggs, ghee, cabbage, avocados, plantains, tomatoes, and ideas for recipes and images of the way everything will be when my life is perfect flood through my head. I find the coconut almond creamer and put three of them in my cart…if I’m going to change my life, wholly and completely, right now, today, I better be armed with groceries. A thought pops into my head: maybe I should give up caffeine, too, as I am far too reliant on my daily cup. But I manage to shut down the thought.

I move easily past the beer and wine aisle, grateful that the siren call of alcohol no longer plagues me. I turn the corner and see the banner hanging from the ceiling, a picture of a happy, achingly beautiful young mother, next to her cloyingly pretty little girl, and they are smiling at a tray of sponge cake, whipped cream, and beautiful berries. Shit, I remember, my thoughts and spirit sinking, I told my daughter we’d go downtown and go clothes shopping and get ice cream at our favorite place. What am I going to do? Watch her eat the ice cream? Eat some myself? Find a sugar-free, dairy-free variety? Shit.

I turn the final corner in my sojourn toward perfect living and I see the bakery, and the slices of cake and the cookies and chocolate bars. And, in an instant, I put two chocolate bars—one with almonds, one without—in my cart, right next to the cabbage and tomatoes and plantains, and I walk to the register. There is a low-level buzzing in my head, and a voice that just keeps saying “it’s OK. Just this once. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. This doesn’t mean anything.”

I pay, walk to my car, and carefully load in the $158 worth of organic, locally sourced groceries into the trunk. I slip the chocolate bars into the pocket of my sweatshirt and I get in my car. Before I can think or look at myself in the rearview mirror, I start the car and turn up the volume on the podcast I was listening to, and I quickly begin eating one of the chocolate bars. I try to eat one square at a time and savor it, but, of course, I don’t. I can barely taste the chocolate, but it is pulling me out of the feeling of fear I have of the groceries in the trunk and before I’m out of the parking lot, the first bar is done. I’m now waiting to get to a red light so I can rip open the second one, which I devour almost as quickly as the first. As I drive down the street, my teeth aching dully and my head buzzing, I feel a wave of sadness descend over me. I pull into my driveway, and, feeling like a fraud, I unload the groceries and carelessly put them away.

I stand in the kitchen, staring into space. I have worn myself down. I can’t figure out a way to justify the chocolate. It doesn’t make sense. I am not angry at myself anymore nor do I have thoughts of how to fix this, either. I’m just done, spent. An entire morning of bouncing between self-loathing and desperate attempts to pull myself out of it render me exhausted. I spend the rest of the day half-listening to podcasts, walking the dog, skimming through some work, and cobbling together a dinner of leftovers.

I don’t cook anything using the ingredients I bought at Whole Foods; they just remind me of what a failure I am, remind of the chocolate, which then reminds of the pizza, which then reminds me of the time I ate an entire container of French onion dip and a whole bag of potato chips and the roof of my mouth ached for days, which then reminds me of the time I drank so much that I passed out on the couch and spilled a glass of whiskey on the floor, which then reminds me of the time in college when I threw up on the stairs of someone’s house at a party, and so on. These thoughts are so painful that I shut them down the only way I know how, by stuffing them down with food or with podcasts or with Wolf Blitzer sharing 20,000 breaking news stories.

A week later, I find the cabbage that I had planned to braise with onions and tomatoes in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, rotten. I put it in the garbage and see that the tomatoes on the kitchen counter are shriveled, and as I throw them away, I turn on a podcast and turn up the volume.

Have you ever done this? Anything similar to this? Or am I the only one? What is your thing? Is it food? Alcohol? Shopping? Perpetual busy-ness?

Drinking was, by far, the most destructive of my habits, and I’m so glad I quit. But food is also very destructive, and removing alcohol hasn’t cured me of what truly ails me: fear of my self. Not “myself”, but my self…my soul, my inner-most me. I don’t know her, probably never have. I’m afraid of what I might find if I do, and so I avoid her. I fear so terribly that she’s some awful disappointment that I distract myself in every way I can conceive, purposefully blind to the consequences.

Can you relate? I ask because I have a hunch you can. This isn’t about food addiction or alcohol addiction or cell phone addiction…those things are the consequence of the core issue: not knowing ourselves and not having the time or space (or desire) to actually know who we are. The most common manifestation of this is the Instagram moment or the duck-lipped selfie pose, those very falsely manufactured moments intended to show us something real. But of course, they aren’t real. They are fake, and yet we somehow elevate them in our consciousness and create ideas about how our lives are supposed to mirror this ideal.

I’m not writing about anything new here. For years, we’ve known that the internet and especially social media are robbing us of some aspects of real life, and I don’t know if my particular issue of binge-eating angst is because of the internet, per se, but I do know that my disconnectedness from the world around me, from feeling things in the here and now, have been exacerbated by the internet and the need for distractions in general. Or maybe, it’s just that I’m 46 and I’m in the throes of a bout of existential angst.

And yes, while existential angst is certainly a part of this, I also know that my food addiction and my podcast addiction and my addiction to anything that will keep me from a moment of quiet, a moment of reflection, a moment of stillness have gotten far worse in the years since I’ve had a smartphone and access to stories and pictures and interviews with people who live lives that are thousands of times more glamorous than mine at my fingertips. Everyone has a story, a life hack, a “you can do this, too.” You can organize your whole house, build your own compost bin, change your diet, do more core work, run your own business, and thus become just like someone else.

There is nothing wrong with self-improvement. Not one damn thing. But are all these books, podcasts, and blogs really aimed at self-improvement, or do they sell the idea that the way someone is doing something is the way we should all do it? In short, are they selling the idea that the way I am is fundamentally damaged and that if I can change external parts of myself, I’ll be better?

As someone who is, by nature, deeply insecure, deeply neurotic, and very impressionable, I think the answer is yes. I have bought, hook, line, and sinker, into the idea that I’m not good enough, but that there is an answer out there for me, that some blogger or self-help author is going to fix me.

I have been searching for years now, and I can’t find the answer, no matter how hard I try. And the harder I look, the less I know. I used to be able to eat a meal without second guessing myself, and now, I can’t. I can’t figure out if eating a banana with breakfast is good for me or not, and an internet search only makes this worse. And if I can’t figure out if bananas are good for me, then how will I ever figure out how to lose weight, get in shape, write that book, be a better person, and so on? If bananas are confusing, then what about life? How will I ever know?

I want to believe that I’m actually fine, just the way I am. I really do. It’s just very hard and overwhelming. I have read about and seen a lot of movement toward body positivity and inclusivity, but even that overwhelms because I don’t want to blog about it, be interviewed about it on the Today show, or post about it on social media. I don’t want to be famous or a vanguard. I don’t want to have the answers. I just want to be who I am, whoever that is, and not feel less than because I don’t run fast or compost or follow a strictly Paleo diet or a strictly vegan diet or write a blog or make my own goat milk lotion.

Or, how about this? I want to go through a day, a whole entire day, without feeling less than anyone else, without needing to drown out the self-doubts with noise. I want to be able to just be, whatever that means, and to not feel so afraid of that, just that.

Judy Harper is a 46-year-old adjunct instructor at a community college. She is married and has a 15-year-old daughter. She lives near the ocean on the central California coast.

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Eating/Food, Guest Posts, Self Image

Body Unlovable

May 8, 2019
body

By Karie Fugett

In my small Alabama high school, before I’d ever considered the calories I put into my body, a boy told me I needed to eat more cornbread to get some meat on my bones. He told me I had a flat ass, then said “But at least you got DSL.” I was fourteen. I was fourteen and I’d never heard of DSL, so I had to ask around to find out what that meant. This was before the high speed internet DSL. Back then, according to another boy who laughed at me when I asked, it meant dick sucking lips. I’d never considered that before, either.

. . .

When I quit high school, I gained weight rapidly. In a single year, a whole 20 pounds.  I was no longer on Adderall, was no longer playing sports. When my boyfriend at the time broke up with me, I stood at a payphone, cars buzzing by on a highway, all of them oblivious to the tragedy that was unfolding on the sidewalk. He told me he’d gone to New Orleans and cheated. “I got my dick sucked. I never wanna see you again.” He actually fucking said that.  I figured it was the weight I’d gained, and I craved punishment for letting it happen. That night, I stood looking in the mirror, crying, and cut a large chunk of my hair off, dyed my hair black, buried myself in my closet under a pile of garbage-bagged clothes mom kept forgetting to bring to Goodwill. I wished I could cut the fat off, too, leave chunks of my body hidden in the closet, pretend it never happened. Instead, I cried and I cried and I cried some more, the wet plastic from the trash bags sticking to my arms, my hair crooked and dark, my body unlovable. Continue Reading…

Eating/Food, emotions, Guest Posts

American Chop Suey

February 4, 2018
chef

By Kimberly Wetherell

The name alone mortifies me. American Chop Suey. It’s the name my mother gave to her signature dish, the supper we ate at least twice a week every week for as long as I can remember throughout my formative years. What Julia Child did with beef, bacon, onions and mushrooms, my mother did with elbow macaroni, browned ground chuck, Prego (It’s in there!) spaghetti sauce, and a sprinkling of her “secret blend” of spices; very likely nothing more than dried oregano, parsley, and basil. It’s that sprinkling of the secret spices that made her a chef, she told us. That quip was something I mocked her for to my professional chef friends when describing how pathetic my mother’s cooking was, and how it drove me to learn how to cook properly and eventually become a professional chef myself.

I’m not a professional chef anymore, though. I opened my own restaurant in Brooklyn three and a half years ago, and three years ago tonight (as I write this), I was reviewing my year-end books. I could see that we had been hemorrhaging money and that by the end of February 2015, our doors would be forced to close unless a miracle happened. It didn’t. I was a solo entrepreneur and I had sunk my life savings into the venture, which included leveraging my tony Park Slope brownstone apartment for the business loan, and I lost everything. As soon as I could, I left Brooklyn behind for the warmer climes of St. Petersburg, Florida and I spent two years there in an attempt to recover. Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Eating/Food, Guest Posts

On Reaching Forward and Looking Back

January 8, 2018
eating

By Jamie Siegel

Yesterday I celebrated Thanksgiving and gave thanks for all of the wonderful things in my life, things that I didn’t have this time last year: interests, a job, a voice, finally some peace. Yesterday I recognized all that I have gained through my various experiences since I came to LA for eating disorder treatment and yet today I mourn. Today I mourn because of all that I have lost, not as a result of having had my eating disorder for most of my life, but because of letting go of it a little more each day.  For a friendly introduction to my eating disorder, take a look at what I wrote when I was in the depths of it almost 2 years ago, a few months before seeking treatment for the second time.  It’s very uplifting, I know: Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Eating/Food, Guest Posts

A Binge To Remember

December 1, 2016
binge

TW: This essay discusses eating disorders.

By Jenna Robino

I am 20. I live in a one bedroom apartment all by myself, right next to LAX. I’m practically a terminal I’m so close. It’s my sophomore year at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. I am a theater major. No minor. I have no idea what I want to do after college, I just like acting and playing different characters. In high school my graduating class voted me “most likely to be on SNL,” so I decided I’d stick with it, and here I am.

Let me close my window. They’re double-sided because of the noise from the planes. Yeah, that black stuff is from the exhaust. I’m sure it’s going to cause some sort of health problem down the road.

One of the reasons I live here, by myself, is because I have a problem. At night, I turn into a food hungry monster and no one’s food is safe. When I had roommates, living in the campus dorms, I would sneak into their rooms when they weren’t there and steal food: handfuls of cereal, candy, a granola bar. If there was one of anything, of course I didn’t take it. I was a thoughtful thief. Whatever I scored, I’d bring back to my top bunk, stick in a container and hide under my pillow. Continue Reading…

Eating/Food, Guest Posts, The Body

Nearly

October 27, 2016
weight

By Gavin Colton

173lbs. I just played my final collegiate game. A heavy feeling of “what now?” sinks in in the shape of tears and lingering hugs with players and coaches.

*

187lbs. I lean over the open refrigerator door and stare at the food, healthy and unhealthy, through a teary glaze. Winter break has always been heavy for me, emotionally and physically. My teammates, athletic trainer, and coaches would joke about how much weight I would gain over the break. It was always in good fun – everyone knew from past seasons that by the end of January, I would be back at my “fighting weight” and aesthetically ready for the beaches at our Spring Break destination. But this January feels different. Continue Reading…

Eating/Food, Family, Guest Posts

Starved

July 8, 2016
weight

By Vincent J. Fitzgerald

A week prior to my father’s arrival for his annual ten day visit, I am stricken by a plague of hyperawareness about my shape, and as much as I long to see him, I fear judgments to come. On the day of his arrival I am bloated with turmoil while I drive to pick him up from the airport. I have failed to reach his weight expectations, and a glance at my belly hanging over my seatbelt distracts me. At 44 years old, his approval of me maintains its pricelessness, and bearing extra weight is the same as presenting him with a subpar report card. To discern which way best hides my shame, I alternate pulling my shirt down, then rolling it up while I wait for him to exit the terminal. He struts out the door all swagger and smile while I suck in my gut until spleen hits spine. He scans me from afar, leering at my midsection, and I feel objectified.

My kiss on his cheek is a lone dividend of a childhood marred by paternal detachment, and I am grateful for it. When he pulls back to assess me, I cover my midsection with his carry on, and wonder how much baggage he brought with him this year. Body weight has become his obsession in recent years, but the central focus is my weight, not his own. He executes scrutiny the way narcissistic parents do, baking criticism within supportive suggestions, and belching health warnings to induce fear. On the ride back to my home, I try to update him about my kids, career, and impending nuptials, but zone out to complaints about his wife and professed love of his dogs. The conversation takes its inevitable turn towards all things gastronomic, and his saltiness seasons our dialogue at random intervals for the ensuing ten days. Continue Reading…

Eating/Food, Guest Posts, Young Voices

The Sweet, The Bitter, and The Wise

May 25, 2016
eating

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Raisa Imogen

For a long time, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I wanted to be happy. This seemed like a distant and shimmering answer, and something people couldn’t question. If I said I wanted to be a writer, people would ask me, rapid fire: What kind of writing? Do you want to go to grad school? That’s nice, but I meant what are you going to do for money? Saying I wanted to be happy could mean writing, or it could mean a white picket fence in the suburbs, or traveling the world, or eating granola in my bed. Whatever was underneath “happy,” it remained mine, and no one could question it.

I’ve spent this year studying abroad in Italy. It’s been a whirlwind of churches, fruit stands, and little old women dressed to the nines. I’ve lit a paper lantern and let it go across the Adriatic Sea. I’ve been invited in for coffee by a nun. I’ve walked through the underground city of Naples.

I was also in Paris during the terrorist attacks. I got bed bugs in Rome. I went through a breakup. I do not mean to present the highs and the lows as a balanced equation (I am well aware it would be a very, very privileged equation). I mean only to point to a few moments to say I have experienced extremes.

A year ago in my university’s newspaper, I wrote, “I conquered an eating disorder.” What I meant was that I didn’t use the margins of my notebooks to tally calories anymore. I could live with myself on the days I didn’t run six miles. I could eat an entire slice of cake on my birthday without wincing.

What I should have said was: I conquered an eating disorder once.

After Paris, I was anxious, all the time. I ate cartons of cereal instead of actually feeling sad. When I went grocery shopping, I bounced back and forth between milk brands and brightly stacked vegetables, disoriented, as if on a scavenger hunt without any clues. In between all of this, I was drinking espresso in Venice, watching sunsets, and coasting through the hills of Bologna on a Vespa.

I had little to no patience with myself- if I wasn’t happy now, in Italy, when would I be? How could I be re-facing an eating disorder when I had so many days here where I was not just happy but ecstatic, and overcome with gratitude?

You’d think re-facing something means that it would be a little easier to look in the eye. But this version of an eating disorder is different from the one I experienced at sixteen. It is both deeply familiar and also completely foreign. I have had to re-learn it. I have had to carve a new space.

Shame is what pulls you under. When my mom came to visit me in Italy, I said, I’m still struggling. Sometimes I’m scared. It was strange to be having this conversation in a hotel in Italy, a better version of the conversation we’d had four years ago in our living room in Chicago.

At the end of it, my mother said: I just want you to be happy. The sentiment was beautiful! Who doesn’t want to be happy? Who doesn’t want their parents to want that for them? For the record, my mother is incredible. But I was mad as hell. There is something unsatisfying and hollow about the word happiness. It’s impossible to pin down. It doesn’t capture much.

And yet, a big part of me wanted to say, “But I am happy.” It wasn’t a lie. Overall, I didn’t not feel happy, even while during the conversation I was crying and my face was covered in snot.

My mother wasn’t wrong in perhaps referencing the fact that I didn’t seem at peace. But why did I feel shame at admitting things were sometimes not so easy? Why was it so hard to admit that yes, I wasn’t always happy?

I think we are taught that happy means good and sad means bad. But in the Welsh language, the word “happy” first meant “wise.” “Satisfaction” comes from the same Indo-European root that gives us “sad.” Disorder, of whatever type, can co-exist with “goodness,” and illness can co-exist with health. Maybe some difficult things never go away, but we learn how to re-greet them, to pay attention, to maybe be a little bit more compassionate towards ourselves. Contradictions don’t equate to lies or hypocrisies. We can be kickass students, amazing friends, artists, athletes, parents, and partners, and within the context of being those things, we can struggle with what is painful, dark and difficult.

As the Italians say, Non ha il dolce a caro, chi provato non ha l’amaro. To taste the sweet, sometimes you must try the bitter. Meaning, you can have moments of light in a year of suffering, or moments of suffering in a year of light. You can wake up in Italy, or Spain, or Senegal or Chicago (or wherever you are) and see something painful rise within you, something you thought you left behind many places ago. Hardship, in however it manifests, can be a part of well-being.

We can be in awe of the world around us (and active participants) while also deeply in pain. Bearing witness to ourselves and all of our contradictions, learning to greet (often more than once) our struggles with compassion, and allowing room for pain is, sometimes, a lot of work. A lot of hard work, and often excruciatingly difficult. But it is worthwhile, and important, and worth stopping in the midst of our very busy lives to make space for and observe.

Raisa Imogen was born in Portland, Oregon, grew up in Chicago, and is currently studying at the University of Bologna in Italy. Her poetry can be found at www.raisaimogen.net and at The Kenyon Review.

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Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

beauty, Eating/Food, Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, self-loathing, The Body

Weightless

January 1, 2016

By Kara Waite

Birth control didn’t make me fat, but the teacher who confiscated my pill pack said it was probably to blame for my weight. I wanted to tell her I hadn’t needed a prescription to pile on the pounds. Instead, I said nothing and went back to the county health department after school for another free sample. I needed it because my boyfriend, with whom I’d not yet had sex, said he didn’t like condoms. This was not, at the time, a red flag.

Even at fifteen, I was still, in so many ways, a little girl. Actually, I was never little. I burst out of my mother and into the world at a substantial weight of 7 lbs. 9 oz. (22 inches long), and save for a few periods of alarmingly rapid shrinkage, I’ve been growing ever since. In fact, these days my ass is easily twice the size it was back then – back when what I saw when I looked in the mirror was not “slightly pudgy” so much as Jabba the Hut.

The first time I went on a diet, I didn’t know it was a diet. I just knew that, instead of enjoying those shrink-wrapped slices of Velveeta out in the open, I needed to do it in my bedroom closet. I remember the way they melted and stuck to the roof of my mouth, the way they felt sliding down my gullet in un-chewed lumps after I’d wrapped them around filched Hershey’s Kisses and swallowed fast because I thought I’d heard someone coming.

My grandmother was the one to inform me that my weight was problematic. “You need to watch what you eat,” she told me. This made some sense because, unlike the mouth she was always telling me to watch, my food was at least something I could see without looking in the mirror. So I took her advice literally and started making artwork with my lunch. I’d bite my crackers and turkey into shapes – Christmas trees, my initials, a basketball and a hoop. I watched and I watched and I watched. I squinted and studied and nothing happened.

Well, except that I, of course, ate my creations and got fatter.

It wasn’t just that I was fat. I was tall, too, but no one cared about that. The day we got weighed in P.E. the entire class gathered round the scale, watching the nurse slide past eight-five, past ninety, past ninety-five, not stopping till she hit one hundred and six. It was of no interest that I was taller than any of the boys, taller, in fact, than even the nurse. No one wondered or worried about the view from five-foot-two. My weight, on the other hand, was the source of much preoccupation and discussion.

“One hundred six divided by two is fifty-three,” said my best friend, “you’re two of me.” It didn’t occur to her that this was the wrong thing to say and it didn’t (fully) occur to me either – not then, anyway.

The next week, the circus came to town and we went with her mother and my grandmother, two women who wore their bony asses like Olympic medals. They bought us each a bag of peanuts and, because I was ungraceful in addition to chunky, I dropped mine. I begged for another bag, but my grandmother said no. I asked my friend to share, but, being eight-years-old, she also said no. Continue Reading…

Christmas, depression, Eating/Food, Guest Posts

Winter

December 18, 2015

By Nicole Gibbs

I pulled my dirty, fifteen year old mom van into the farthest corner of the parking lot. The same spot where years ago I’d waited for my connect, and later where I’d waited for people who were willing to buy my bad dope at a jacked up price. I turned the car off and glanced around, those old instincts on full alert. I reached down and brought the brown paper bag into my lap. I pulled out the greasy “Siracha Burger,” the box of curly fries. I made sure no one was looking and I tried to ignore the tendrils of guilt that teased at the edges of my consciousness as I bit into the spicy, salty burger.

Halfway through the guilt won out for a few moments and I paused, taking some deep breaths, my throat tight with food.

What was I doing?

I was a vegetarian!

I was on a diet!

Oh jeez. Quit being so uptight, I told myself. It’s one goddamn burger. It’s not the end of the world.

I didn’t want to keep eating it. I hated myself more with each bite. But it tasted so good! I couldn’t stop.

What was wrong with me?

What was the difference between this and the drugs? I mean, of course I wasn’t going to abandon my kids and go live on the streets so that I could eat Jack in the Box all the time. That would be ridiculous. But really, at the core, what was the difference? I used to sit in this same parking lot, watching the same city bus roll by, the Mexican families sitting at the Mc Donald’s across the street with too many kids running around, the same dirty street, the same fear of being seen, the same war going on inside of me, the same self-loathing afterwards. On a scientific level it’s all the same too, I suppose. I put this stuff into my body that’s really bad for me and it lights up all those dopamine receptors and I feel good for a minute and then I feel bad and want more. Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Eating/Food, Guest Posts, healing

Tales of a Food Restrictor

December 10, 2015

By Anne Falkowski

At 45, I made the decision to face my disordered eating. It was a dark creepy crawly which followed me around for more than half my life. (It’s not unusual for women in their 40s or older to have untreated eating disorders for twenty, thirty or even forty years.

I decided it was time to let go.

I could do this. But I needed help.

I called the experts and landed in an office the color of fog and ocean. The colors of healing. This was a place for anorexics, bulimics and eating disorders not otherwise specified (like myself).

There was a large rubber plate of fake food next to the tissue box. On this fake plate was a mound of beans, a thick slice of bread, a pile of broccoli and an unidentified piece of meat. I liked to run my fingers over the beans and feel their lumpiness.

It was in this ocean room, while I fingered the beans, when Mark, the therapist, told me I was a food restrictor.

“Are you sure? Wouldn’t I be thin if I did that?”

As always, I was hyperaware of my body which refused to be the size I wanted it.

“Well, not necessarily.”

His hand reached up to touch his tie. Mark always wore a shirt and tie. He was twenty years younger than me. At first his youth threw me. How could a clean cut baby-faced twenty something counsel me, a middle aged woman, who had been dealing or not dealing with disordered eating probably as long as he had been alive?

He told me that we cannot pick the bodies we want.

I wanted to be slim, slender, thin, and bony.

“It doesn’t work that way. We don’t get to choose our bodies.” He held my gaze. Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Eating/Food, Guest Posts, Self Image, Truth

The Skinny on Mary.

January 3, 2015

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By Teri Carter.

Mary is skinny. Mary has a trick. Mary shows up late for lunch, which means she has no time to order or no time to eat. Both work. Mary’s just turned 50 and she is always talking food: You would not believe what I stuffed in my face at that barbecue! Your bag of Cool Ranch Doritos is in danger. I’m ordering a cheeseburger and fries! But Mary, who owns an investment firm, is an expert at moving her food around a round plate and she always gets a to-go box for her barely-touched burger and fries. Can’t wait to pound this down at midnight. She thinks we believe her, so we pretend we do. We all have our tricks.

In an August 2012 article for Forbes, Lisa Quast quotes a research study: 45 to 61 percent of top male CEOs are overweight, compared to only 5 to 22 percent of top female CEOs. Then, in her closing paragraph, Ms. Quast goes inexplicably blasé: “As for me, I’m off to the gym with my husband for weight training and a two mile run. Then I’ll probably have a veggie salad for dinner so I can keep my body mass index at the low end of the normal range. As these studies demonstrate, thin is in for executive women – although I’d prefer to think if it as ‘healthy’ being in.” Her ending leaves me cold. I go back to the beginning.

Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Eating/Food, Guest Posts, healing

You’re so Beautiful, But…

March 25, 2014

You’re so beautiful, But…By Erin Jay.

A while ago, I was having dinner with my dad.  This is an anomaly in and of itself, but it happened.  I remember that night clearly because I cried.  Crying is a rarity for me; especially in front of people.

I don’t remember what brought on the statement.  I don’t remember what led into it.  All I remember is sitting there, across from the dad, eating some chilli, and my father spoke these words to me, “If you just did something about your weight. I don’t know what I did to deserve two daughters, two beautiful daughters – your sister and you… I don’t know what I did to deserve you.  You’re both so beautiful… but if you would just lose some weight…”

Just lose some weight?

As he said this, I fought the tears and nodded my head in understanding like a good little girl. You have to understand, quick delivery is not in my father’s repertoire; I wasn’t sitting before him shamefully fighting off tears for the short amount of time it took you to read that sentence or took me to type it.  And whatever he meant is not what I heard.  Or maybe I heard exactly what he meant.  Or maybe he didn’t even know what he meant.  But all I heard was “you would be so beautiful if you lost some weight”.

I was afraid to take another bite of food during that meal.

I was already struggling with an eating disorder.  I’d developed erratic eating in high school; my best friend and I would commonly walk up to the store at our lunch period and buy nothing but clodhoppers and diet Pepsi, or packages of Fudgee O cookies; three or four nights a week, I made and ate my own dinner before either parent was home from work because I had to be at my karate dojo for training at suppertime, which for me meant Kraft dinner, pizza, soup or fries.  This disordered eating worsened when numbing the pain of the next chapter of my life seemed to only be possible while using food to gain a sense of control.  By the time this comment was made, I was caught in a vicious cycle of binging completely on sugar then starving myself for days. Slowly my weight crept up.

My father had never commented on my weight.  Home had always been a safe place for me as far as that went.  I was heartbroken.  I was embarrassed. I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to say things that I would never say to my parents, in tones I would never dare speak to them in. I wanted to ask him if he knew how much I thought about how I looked; how those thoughts had completely overtaken my mind on an hourly basis.  Or if he knew how healthily I tried to eat.  Or if he knew how impossible it seemed to be to lose weight.  I wanted to tell him that he was the worst kind of father, to say something like that to his daughter, who he is supposed to think is beautiful regardless.  I wanted to be angry at him, but I was just ashamed that he was so disappointed in me.

I still don’t like eating in front of my father.

Erin

Erin Jay is a jack-of-all trades with seemingly endless opportunities to take on “odd jobs” including photography, writing, hair-styling, pet-sitting and tutoring. She is a soccer fanatic and Starbucks addict who could never live far from the water. Erin is the co-founder of uglyducklingsinc.com a podcast co-host and kindness lover who aspires to become a proper adult.

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. She’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site www.jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Costa Rica followed by Dallas, Seattle and London.

She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

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Eating Disorders/Healing, Eating/Food, healing, Inspiration

F*ck You Devil. The Diary of an Anorexic.

August 2, 2012

“The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist.” ― Charles Baudelaire

Looking through my old journal I find myself at a set of train tracks which if I choose to cross will take me to the dusty town I used to live in, filled with nights of pressing my ribs to make sure they still protruded and days of heavy eyelids from not sleeping. If I choose to cross the tracks I can go back to the barren land of self-abuse and hatred with it’s county jail filled with only one occupant: me.

If I choose to cross the tracks I will meet again with the devil and shake his hand firmly, look him square in the eye and say politely: Fuck Off.

So, here I go. I am at a set of tracks and I will cross them and go back to that dusty little town so I can take back what I left there. So I can grow and expand and share with anyone what is truly possible in terms of healing and discovery.

I will not go back to that town and live there. I will go back and reclaim what was mine.

I will share what I found with you, there in that old cowboy town.

8/2/1995
 

I am already dreading waking up tomorrow morning because I wake up so depressed. Tomorrow I will NOT wake up depressed. I refuse! I am in control of my life. Of my emotions. No more waking up depressed, no more binge eating. I am the only person in control of my life. No more feeling sorry for myself. 

Tomorrow I will not feel guilty for all the food I ate tonight. I will MAYBE eat some fruit. I will not be sad. I will not obsess. I will get in shape and lose weight. I won’t night eat anymore. I am certainly in control. I am NOT fat.

Why do I hate myself so much? Why am I so self destructive? Why do I feel so down and unworthy? Why do I feel so ugly? Why do I obsess over food? Why do I have such a fucked up relationship with food? 

Well… No More!

I am so bloated. I am not eating anything else today. All week I ate so much. Pasta, potato chips, Indian food. Raisins! My new diet starts today. My does my face look so fucking ugly? 

I don’t want to be this way. I want to be normal.

From now on I can deal with hunger. I’ll eat my own hunger.
 

~~~~

There is nothing alive in that town anymore. There are some cobwebs and old bones and skeletons. I took back any leftover parts of me that remained back in that town on a dirt road on the other side of the tracks. I have crossed back over an cobwebbed brought back with me those pieces I would like to share in the name of What Is Possible.

So what is possible? 

~Joy.

~Healthy relationships.

~Eating without feeling guilty. In fact, eating with bliss!

~Looking back at old diaries and not recognizing them, as if you are reading fiction.

~Waking up happy.

~Not determining your worth by your weight.

~Letting go of old broken mind tapes.

~ Inspiring others to heal.

and so so much more.

I found this paragraph in the same entry form 1995 and I thought it was very hopeful as it is an utterly true prediction of who I am today, in 2012.

8/2/1995
 
I want to be happy and secure and not worry and have friends and enjoy life. I am the only one in control of my life. I, not anyone else, am the only person who can make myself happy. I am the only possible person who can be in control of my life.

~~~~~~

That was a small glimmer of what was always inside me, even back then in that dusty town in 1995, a small glint of light appeared if only for a moment as if reflected off the back of car. It may have taken me 17 years or so to trace the source of that light but I can safely say I have captured it, bottled it and am reproducing it here for you.

You can heal. Whoever you are.

In 1995 I wrote I am the only person in control of my life. Maybe I read it in a book, or maybe I really wanted to believe it, who knows. I certainly didn’t believe it at the time. I didn’t live it.

The devil, not me, controlled my life back then.

So Fuck You Devil. Fuck You Anorexia. Fuck You any voice in the head that says You will always be this way. You will always be stuck.

The devil tries to come back every now and again, sometimes in disguise. But I am armed now. And ready.

He cannot trick me into thinking he doesn’t exist anymore. I have seen him.

And I have beat him down.

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

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