My Fight For Life

My friend is dying
and no one can see

I glance at her every day
she withers at
every breeze

I never see her smile
only the reflection
of her pale lips
as she shivers
at my warmth

She disappeared today
from my touch to
her own circle
within her family

I know she’ll leave soon
on her ship to
an island
where winter is forever.

This poem was written about me, October 24, 1986. I found it while salvaging old boxes in the garage after some winter storm damage. Since the body image healing and personal transformation work I do today is all original content based on my own personal experiences, I decided to share the poem on my Facebook page. I received an abundance of “Likes” and supportive comments, for which I felt grateful. But what I found most interesting was my internal response to the nature of the comments. Many of the remarks expressed gratitude and relief that I made it through “that time” safely. That time, of course, being anorexic. And those observations were indeed accurate – anorexia has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness. However, as I read the comments, I felt my inner voice rising up within me shouting, “What? Being anorexic was the easy part!”

Now I am in no way advocating anorexia – or any other eating disorder. I’m just pointing out that in the grand scheme of things, anorexia is relatively easy. It’s simple because it fits within the paradigm of the “diet and exercise” culture. If you want to lose weight, you just don’t eat. Simple. The downside, of course, is that it’s not sustainable. You die. Which is a fate to which I came very close. But again, it was easy. It was simple. It was clear. I knew what to do. It fit within what we “know” as a society.

Once I was hospitalized, however, things became very difficult. That moment – and every moment since – has been like an ee cummings quote.

“To be nobody-but-yourself — 
in a world which is doing its best, 
night and day, 
to make you everybody else — 
means to fight the hardest battle 
which any human being can fight.”

And I fought. I fought with the doctors, I fought with my parents, I fought with school administrators. I fought for autonomy and to express concepts that I could not yet articulate. I fought to understand why all of the “experts” were telling me that “it’s not about the food” and “it’s not about your weight” – but would then focus on the food and my weight. They would tell me what to eat and how much to eat. And every so-called privilege was tied to a number on the scale. How could they be so hypocritical? I fought the stigma of having an eating disorder – the Scarlet Letter that seemed to be branded on my chest, haunting me. I fought for my life – not life, the beating of a heart. But Life!

And Life seemed to demand something from me. It didn’t want to be confined or restricted. It demanded freedom. It demanded fluidity. It demanded expression. It demanded authenticity, integrity and congruency.

As life went on, Life kept putting me to the test. Time and time again it beat me down demanding that I rise again. It threw obstacles at me – big ones. The biggest challenge still related to my body. My body stopped “cooperating.” It didn’t matter what or how little I ate or how much I worked out – I gained weight – a lot of it.  And for the life of me (pun intended), I could not lose it. I was living my worst nightmare and had to learn to be ok with that – for Life’s sake. That was the hardest part. That was the time most of my Facebook friends don’t know about. That was they time they would really be relieved that “I made through safely.”

It was hard letting go of an “eating disorder mentality,” because our societal “diet and exercise” model supports it. And without our conventional, cultural model for health, weight loss and well-being, I had nothing onto which I could hold. It was hard being alone. It was hard pioneering a new way of being and a new way of relating to my body. It was hard to discover a new way of living. It was hard to fight for Life.

Life continues to call on me and I continue to listen. My odyssey has brought to light the cultural fallacies that keep all of us (eating disorder or not) stuck in pain and dysfunction around food, exercise and our bodies. My journey has taught me how to articulate these issues and has helped create a methodology for healing them. Life has given me a model of health and well-being that makes eating disorders and body shame impossible. Life has given me a framework that makes optimized health, vitality, well-being and joy natural – and Life expects me to do something with it. Life expects me to help free others – to help them live Life

But it’s still a bit of a fight. The “diet and exercise” paradigm is so deeply ingrained in our society that most people can’t wrap their heads around the life-transforming nature of my work. And with the SEO keyword driven, social media marketing that rules the internet, those who are seeking my help may have trouble finding me. There is yet to be a common language to describe the pain and angst that drives us to Google at 2:00 am searching for relief. And there is yet a language that describes the freedom, peace and the healing that Happy Calories Don’t Count® offers.

But that’s ok. ee cummings reassures me that this fight is not “dismal.” In fact, he says, “It’s the most wonderful thing on earth.” It’s a Life worth fighting for.