Tag Archives: recovery

How Spiritual Practice Guided Me Into Eating Disorder Recovery

This was originally posted 9/28/17 on Nonpoliticalnews.com as “How Yoga Saved Me From Myself.”

I grew up going to Catholic Church every Sunday and CCD until I asked my mother in 8th grade if I could quit. I told her there were aspects of it that didn’t feel aligned with my beliefs and she agreed under the condition that my sister and I accompany her to the hippie church in the barn in the woods every Sunday. We complied.

I hold nothing against the church, or any organized religion. I am aware that many people derive deep healing and goodness from religion. My religion, however, wasn’t serving me. Little did I know I was already on a spiritual path in 8th grade and I recognized that the Catholic Church didn’t support that path.

I have had issues with my body since I was a child. My earliest memory was that my little puffy tummy was a problem. I prayed it would go away by the time I was a grown-up.

Fast forward to high school. I was tall and had body dysmorphia. I believed my body was unsightly.

By my first semester of college I developed bulimia nervosa. It felt like a completely normal thing to do as a means to having a sense of control. On the surface, I saw nothing wrong with the behaviors I was committing to.

My best friend and boyfriend at the time were the only ones who knew and they did everything they could to help but overall I isolated myself.

I lived in my mind: constantly calculating calories. I sought control over food and my body. But mostly I wanted control over every aspect of my life. Food and my body were the most attainable way to feel any semblance of control.

There is a lot from this dark period that I don’t remember. I’ve blocked it out for self-preservation. I was also so distracted by my obsessive mindset and behavior that I detached and disassociated from my body and college experience.

In college I found a yoga studio. I had been practicing yoga since age 16 but there was something about going to this no-frills studio that resembled the rituals of going to church but this time it felt right; it felt like a spiritual match.

No one said: a spiritual practice will heal you! But this is exactly what happened. As I practiced yoga regularly, I also grew my spirituality. I integrated yoga teachings into daily life.

When I learned the yogic practice of non-violence I saw my eating disorder as being brutally violent toward myself. I had to stop.

My primary concern for years was controlling my body/appearance since I couldn’t control the world around me. I was operating on a very small-minded level.

As soon as I decided I was going to heal from my eating disorder, I felt at ease. I surrendered and loosened my grip on control. My world-view expanded. I valued my intelligence, my passions, and my relationships. I felt like I was part of something greater than myself and my appearance.

This was over 12 years ago. Today yoga is still part of my spiritual practice. Today I walk in nature and connect to something greater than myself. I meditate and remember we transcend our bodies. I spend time with my dog and cats, friends and family, and revel in the relationships I cultivated. My spirituality is all around me and is in my daily life.

I’m not saying you need a spiritual practice to live a good life. I’m saying it worked for me. And it keeps me in recovery from my eating disorder, every day.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

You’ll only hear me mention bikini body on these two occasions…

I was inspired to write this post after reading the article Enough Talk of Bikini Bodies by Renee Engeln Ph. D. 

You’ll only hear me mention bikini body on two occasions:

 

  1. When I’m telling you that you already have a bikini body
  2. The notion of a “bikini body” just doesn’t matter because it’s made up anyway

 

I don’t know about you but I immediately tune out when I’m in an exercise class and the instructor starts getting into “x will give you a six pack” or “y will get rid of your love handles so you’re ready for bikini season!”

 

I immediately notice the shame/fear-based motivation and I tune the instructor out and do my best to tune into my own resources that I am enough. That my body is already beach ready — and so are everyone else’s for that matter! There was even a time in one particular class where the instructor started talking about burning fat off our bellies… oh how I wanted to scream out:

 

“All of your bodies are wonderful – exactly as they are!”

 

I know it’s not the instructor’s fault and I always try to have compassion for them. And I know this is a particularly heightened issue for me because of my own history with an eating disorder and body image issues but as most of you know I’ve come along way to the point where I no longer feel the need to change the way I look or act or speak or think or feel in order for me to be worthy or deserving of this life or loved or accepted.

 

But when someone starts telling us you need to get a bikini body or you need to get a six pack or you need to get rid of your cellulite or you need to get rid of your tummy or love handles … that is saying that our bodies, as they are in this very moment, are wrong and need fixing. The message we get is that we are only acceptable with certain conditions when in fact this is absolutely not the case.

 

This just isn’t true!

 

If we have the luxury of free time in our day to move our bodies why on earth would we ever choose to do so in a punitive or fear-based or shame-based manner?

 

We are all busy with families, careers, relationships, friendships, homes, fury friends, and so forth that what happens when we get that little sliver of time in the day for ourselves?

 

Why not chose to approach movement with a more neutral, if not positive, frame of mind?

 

Why not chose to move because it is beneficial for your physical/mental/emotional health?

 

So when we have that opening in our schedule where we can pop into a class, or maybe we can even get to the trail for a run or ride a bike or swim in the ocean…  Let’s instead remove the intention to punish ourselves. Let’s stop focusing on how bad we are for eating too much of whatever it is we love to eat. Because… doesn’t that just make for a shitty experience overall?

 

I know it does for me and I know it does for a lot of my clients and my students and that’s why I feel it’s extremely important to create a relationship to movement that is mindful, sometimes even joyful. Movement can empower us to feel more like ourselves instead of the person that we think we should be because society tells us were covered in flaws that we need to fix.

 

You don’t need to be fixed. And if you’re with me here on any of what I’ve just said, you’ve gotta check out THIS is Mindful Movement. Because it’s the antidote to the bikini body/6-pack/burn away your fat fab and craze. And you get lots of personal guidance attention from … yours truly! Via online yoga classes, meditation, coaching, and more.

It ALSO happens to be super affordable at $39 a month or $385 for the whole year. Yup. You heard me. You get a ton of 1-on-1 attention and guidance from me plus the support of the group.

Whether you sign up or not, I cannot stress this enough:

You do not need to be fixed. You are enough. You are whole exactly as you are right now, today.

With Love,
Maggie

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bidding farewell to the days of fear-driven exercise

I’m bidding farewell to the days of fear-driven exercise. I’ve spent far too long afraid that if I don’t exercise enough, consistently, or at least 3 times a week I’ll put on a few pounds.

It just doesn’t matter anymore. I noticed this last week when I was getting over a cold and migraine. It had been over a week since I’d taken a yoga class or gone for a hike or a vigorous walk. And I noticed something exquisite: there was not an ounce of guilt or anxiety in my body.

I used to feel intense anxiety and stress over fitting a run or a rigorous yoga practice into my schedule. I felt like a lazy bum if I missed two days in a row, or god forbid, more than that.

This is not me hating on exercise. This is me noticing how my relationship to exercise has changed. Exponentially.

There was a year when my hip (torn labrum and then some) was constantly in pain and I developed IT Band syndrome on top of that. Even though I was wincing in pain during a slow jog, I convinced myself I needed to push through it. I knew what was best for me — rest, take it easy, be gentle — but I willfully ignored my intuition. Not just once, but for months.

Too often I would sacrifice the health and well-being of my body and end up icing my knee, rolling out my hip, in the hopes that I’d undo the longer term damage and be up and running again in just a couple days. This somehow settled my nerves.

Exercise was not only punitive, but a vehicle to avoid feeling deep, dark, difficult emotions. I was afraid of the potential changes in my body if I didn’t exercise but I was more afraid of the feelings I’d have to confront if I sat still for too long.

That’s not to say I never had a run that brought me to tears (I did) or a yoga practice that left me weeping (I still do). But along my road to recovery from my eating disorder and severely negative body image, my relationship with exercise was deeply in need of transformation.  

Today, I feel thankful that I’m no longer exercising in excess and that I’m saying goodbye to the days of fear-driven exercise.

Today when I exercise, when I move, it’s a body prayer. It’s a connection and a call to the divine. Staying aligned and checked in to the energy flowing through me. Saying hello, how are you?, I cherish you. Saying thank you, I see you, I hear you and … I love you.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Why I’m Grateful 2017 Started With a Migraine

After 2 days in bed with a migraine I had a really long meditation this morning. And something occurred to me: I avoid planning the big stuff that my heart desires and I avoid taking steps toward being more successful because I sometimes have a “what’s the point?” mindset. I am afraid I’ll to live like this for the rest of my life. Getting migraines, checking out of life for a few days. And so I commit to just enough… because why would anybody trust me? Why would I commit to workshops? To helping others heal? When I am so screwed.

It’s difficult to explain a migraine. I believe Joan Didion describes it best in her essay “In Bed:”

Once an attack is under way, however, no drug touches it. Migraine gives some people mild hallucinations, temporarily blinds others, shows up not only as a headache but as a gastrointestinal disturbance, a painful sensitivity to all sensory stimuli, an abrupt overpowering fatigue, a stroke-like aphasia, and a crippling inability to make even the most routine connections. When I am in a migraine aura (for some people the aura lasts fifteen minutes, for others several hours), I will drive through red lights, lose the house keys, spill whatever I am holding, lose the ability to focus my eyes or frame coherent sentences, and generally give the appearance of being on drugs, or drunk. The actual headache, when it comes, brings with it chills, sweating, nausea, a debility that seems to stretch the very limits of endurance. That no one dies of migraine seems, to someone deep into an attack, an ambiguous blessing.

Suffice it to say I feel depressed while in the throes of a migraine. I am completely disconnected from the rest of the world. I am in survival mode. It is a huge undertaking sometimes just to get comfortable. And there is that period of 1-3 hours at the apex of the migraine where I am at a total loss. I question going to the ER. I question how the heck am I going to make it. I cry because I don’t understand the returning question: Why me?

Something shifted in the first migraine of 2017. It wasn’t any less intense. I was debilitated. Barely capable of answering texts and had to ask my neighbor to walk my dog Daisy. What shifted is I was able to allow myself to go through it. I still had the panic of the apex but I allowed it to happen instead of fighting, resisting, or willing it to just end.

And when I sat in meditation this morning I felt it: I’ve been allowing migraines to run my life. Not just when I have them, but when I don’t have them: I am afraid of making plans and having to break them. I am afraid of being judged by others when I cancel on them for the 6th time in 2 months. In my professional life I am afraid of hosting a retreat by myself because what if, god forbid, I get a migraine and cannot fulfill my commitment to a few dozen people?

I’ve been teaching yoga for 10 years now, health coaching for nearly 5, and now I’m practicing Reiki. And what I realize is I’ve been afraid of becoming more successful for fear I’ll be found out by more people that I suffer from migraines and am a canceler. Or that I am untrustworthy and I’ll lose students and clients.

I relaxed into this last migraine as much as possible. Turning off email, NOT checking social media, and texting or calling people only when absolutely necessary. It took a lot of the pressure off and I treated this migraine like an extended meditation. I kept telling myself “You don’t have to be anything other than YOU. In whatever way that shows up. Right now. It’s OK.”

I reminded myself what these migraines teach me: to have the utmost empathy for other people’s pain. In all the various ways pain can show up.

I’m not feeling disheartened or down by my realization. Instead it’s something to work through. 

It’s actually a relief to be able to see and articulate. I see it as momentum forward in understanding myself better. And I see that I have a choice: I can stick with the “what’s the point” mindset OR I can create a new mindset through new thoughts and new beliefs.

I’m choosing the latter.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

My ME-ness Is More Powerful Than a Wrinkle On My Forehead

There were three of us in the room Monday night at the eating disorder recovery center. Two students, plus me. Something about all our energies combined made for a very sweet vibration in the room that night. The electronic candles were scattered around the makeshift altar and I had soothing spa-like music playing on my Beats Pill.

The woman with the flowing grey hair wore a shirt with a radish on it. We started off the class in lighthearted banter talking about “trigger clothing” and how her radish (or turnip depending on how you looked at it) shirt managed to escape the search when she was first admitted to the center a couple months ago.

It escapes me what theme I gravitated to for this particular practice because what stands out so much is what it felt like to be in that room with them, and what happened after our class…

I taught them but I received so much. It felt effortless to guide the two women through a series of seated poses, to all fours, back to a seat, and finally to a restorative pose where they were able to luxuriate for over 10 minutes.

I closed the practice by giving them some reiki and felt extremely moved by both women’s willingness to be so open and vulnerable with me.

After I called them back to their bodies, the space, the breath, and the two sat up, one woman turned to the other woman and said:

“I have to say that you just looked so beautiful in that twisted pose,” as she emulated the flowing grey haired woman’s posture and demeanor.

She continued:

“You looked so confident and proud.”

“The next time I see you slouching around the house I’m going to remind you what you’re capable of,” she said with a laugh.

I refrained from any kind of commentary on this exchange I was fortunate to witness and just allowed it to happen, amazed for one by my student’s ability to see another woman with such high regard. To lift her up instead of compare.

The confident and proud woman RECEIVED the compliment with such grace and humility. She then in turn said how she’s going to sign up for yoga when she returns home. How it has changed her. How she now finds a new engagement and fascination with her own body and how it moves and works in a multitude of ways.

“Like if I move my right hip a little wider I feel stronger and then my shoulders can broaden,” she explained.

Oh my goddess I was in heaven just listening to this. I didn’t need to direct them. I didn’t need to insert my own feelings on the subject. These two women had learned so much, had grown leaps and bounds. I just watched them taking what they were learning and letting it rip!

Now I just have to keep believing that yoga has an incredible ability to support women in their path to recovery from eating disorders.

I’ve said this so many times before in earlier blog posts but … Yoga Healed Me.

Just a few weeks ago I found myself talking to a friend who is 4 years sober and found sobriety and recovery through the amount of time he spends outdoors: hiking, climbing, camping, you name it. I found myself thinking about how we all have such individual healing and recovery paths.

In those early years of recovery when I was at my worst I never went to treatment, barely spoke to a therapist (I can count – it was 3 sessions), and didn’t even tell a medical doctor about my bulimia until years after the worst was over.  

This isn’t to say these are not viable, successful options for recovery. It is my belief that they are.

For me though my path was, and still is, yoga. (It should be noted that in the 10 or so years since the worst of my eating disorder I have integrated therapy and life coaching among other healing modalities onto my path and I include this information in every health history I complete).

First yoga was about understanding my body better. Much like my dear student who found fascination with the movement of her hips, I started to love the way my body moved. I loved my thighs for how strong they were.

These days it keeps hitting me that my yoga practice has illuminated a path toward a deeper understanding of this:

I am not just my body or my cellulite or my round tummy. Nor am I just how well my clothes fit. I am not just my migraines. I am not just my relationship to food. I am not just my eating disorder. And, as much as my ego hates to admit it, I am not just my personality. My Maggie-ness, my ME-ness transcends AND encompasses all of that. My ME-ness is part of a universal energy that is so much larger and more powerful than a wrinkle on my forehead.

There is still an infinite amount of understanding and learning and knowing I have left to do. And because this is something that feels very big and infinite and scary and exciting, I’m going to pause. Let this marinade and … To be continued…

With Love,

Maggie

Tagged , , , , , , ,

I remember…

I remember..

Ballet class.

And trying to squeeze into my pink tights and black leotard.

I remember…

How the tights made an impression around my belly, that no leotard, skirt, or dance shorts could hide. To my great disappointment.

I remember sucking in my stomach because I believed having any kind of belly made me overweight and therefor “bad.”

I worried that I was the biggest girl in class.

I remember comparing myself to the other girls.

I wished I had slimmer, streamlined bodies like theirs.

I remember looking in the mirror and seeing a flailing mess of a 10 year old girl.

And when I think back to this girl who hated the sight of herself so much, I give her a soft pat on the back and a giant hug. I tell her she is enough, exactly as she is. Smart enough. Strong enough. Beautiful enough.

I tell her it’s ok to have the extra cookie at snack time. She’ll grow into her body and one day look back at photos of herself and be amazed by what a dancing fool she was!

I tell the 10 year old version of me that one day she won’t care about doing sit-ups or eliminating all the fat from her body. And that it’s gonna feel so freeing!

And she’s going to look to other women for support and inspiration, instead of comparing herself.

This is a small part of my story. And I can’t help but think, some of it might resonate with you. Or your children. It’s why I created my Raising Role Models program.

Where we, as adults, provide the best opportunity possible for the children and youth in our lives to grow up with self-esteem and healthy body image.

Please take a look at the mini training I put together. In it I offer 3 shifts you can make TODAY, on your own that will shift not only your own body image, but also your child’s.

Click here to watch my Raising Role Models video.

And if you’d like to learn a little more, I encourage you to sign up for a free call with me this week by clicking the link below.

Click here for your free call with me.

With love, always,
MC

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

This is hard to share… [But allows me to step into my power]

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I hate what I see.

Like when I’m naked after a shower. I’ll wonder why I wasn’t born with perfectly toned arms. And why did god give me such soft cushioning around my hips?

Thankfully this is the exception now rather than the rule.

I consider it residue from my eating disorder.

I consider it residue from years of hating and bashing my own body.

For as long as I can remember {we are talking 5 years old here} I’ve been aware of my little belly – this little pooch – and was obsessed with “how do I get rid of it?”

Before I understood how a woman got pregnant, there was a time when I’d worry my belly contained a baby in it. {Maybe only 9 years old at this point.} I felt relieved for a while, knowing it would probably just go away.

When I learned what crunches were and that they’d give me washboard abs like the women on MTV’s Spring Break, I counted crunches. And then always wondered why nothing was changing…

I snuck cookies from the cookie jar and then felt overwhelmed by immense guilt and tried to eat more carrot and celery sticks to make up for it. Especially since I learned you burned more calories chewing celery than you could consume from them … something like that…
One of the only full length mirrors in our house growing up was in my parent’s bathroom and I vividly remember tracking my progress. Standing sideways as I looked in the mirror, flattening my tummy until I achieved the look I was going for. Flat as a pancake.

I was determined to one day get there.

So determined that my negative body image and horrible relationship to food spiraled into a full on eating disorder in college. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be sticking my finger down my throat, making myself puke into a dorm room toilet. I did this for years and one day someone told me “take it one day at a time” – after this I was on the path to recovery.

It took a while and many ups and downs and exploration of self. And more pain. But once I jumped on the path I have never looked back. I only see glimpses of the residue my eating disorder left behind. The moments when I look in the mirror and for a second step out of my power.

And now when I sit down with other women who tell me they too had an eating disorder and that THEY TOO hid it from most people closest to them my heart simultaneously aches AND feels joy.

I ache for the fact that they went through the pain alone. They blamed themselves for everything. They sought control through food and exercise.

The joy comes from knowing the relief that accompanies sharing. When we share our stories of struggle, grief, and pain we unburden ourselves of shame.

It’s because I let go of shame about my body that I can stand in front of myself in the mirror and say “hell yeah!” to my body. I can embrace my little belly and the cushion around my hips.

So what’s your body image story? What are you carrying with you that is creating blocks from seeing your own light? From saying “HELL YEAH!”?

If you feel like sharing, I have time this week and would love to listen and guide you toward releasing body shame. Click below to set up your free discovery call.

http://www.maggieconverse.com/apply

Here’s to stepping into your power,

Maggie

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Thank you yoga, Thank you teachers.

It’s International Day of Yoga. My friend reminded me last week with a little nudge, nudge and soft encouragement that maybe I should do something for it.

 

I don’t have any special class or event planned and I’m hoping I’ll make it to class tonight or even to my mat to move a little and meditate. But what I will do, what I will honor is what this practice has done for me. And what I have been able to do for myself by way of my yoga practice.

 

I used to squeeze my thighs so hard to try to get them to look more stick-like. I’d pinch my belly fat and imagine how much better my life would be if I could just cut it off. I calculated every calorie going into my body and how each calorie (and then some) would go out. My mind was consumed and I was completely obsessed. My obsession with food and how I could control my body took over my life.

 

Yoga sandwiched my eating disorder. My practice began when I was 16 and my eating disorder was full throttle around 19 – so I was practicing yoga all through my disorder. But what I know now is that during a lot of that time, I wasn’t really practicing. I was going through the motions of yoga. Showing up, rolling out my mat, bowing my head and saying namaste at the end of class. I nailed poses ease because I’m fairly strong and fairly flexible and have always had great proprioception. What I wasn’t doing though was connecting. I was completely disassociating from my body and for a while there, I was using yoga as just another form of exercise to burn off those calories.

 

This all shifted when I found a small studio in Bloomington, Indiana and a teacher by the name of Wendy. I didn’t even know what style of yoga we were practicing (turns out it was astanga) add to be honest I can’t tell you a whole lot of the asana that I learned – but what stays with me to this day is the feeling of entering into a safe space. It was always quiet when I walked into the building, up the stairs and turned the corner. Everyone spoke with a hushed tone as we set up our mats and gathered our props. The space and the time was sacred.

 

Wendy didn’t tell me how or what to feel. She instead created opportunity for me to feel. I kept returning to her classes, as often as I could fit them into my schedule and budget. It was in this space that I remember looking at thighs and bursting into tears because for the first time I saw them as something other than “too big.” My thighs, for the first time ever, were strong and beautiful and amazing.

 

I came home to my body for what felt like the first time. That was inner peace. That was my invitation to heal and no longer allow myself to stray and disassociate from my body and being.

This was the tip of the iceberg and there have been many more teachers since then who helped facilitate my healing – and still do to this day. So, I can’t stress this enough but  … Thank you teachers.

 

IMG_9114On this international day of yoga I also want to acknowledge the practice for what it has brought me – healing and inner peace. Eating disorder recovery is not a one and done deal. It takes time and it too is a part of my practice: staying the course, staying connected, noticing when I get triggered, and repatterning my responses.

 

Thank you yoga.

 

I would love to hear from you: How has yoga impacted your life? Whether you just recently got your feet wet or are a long-time practitioner – what have you noticed?

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Warm Me Up Chia Rice Cereal

I find it very hard to motivate to swim not only in winter but especially on a cold winter morning. Of course it helps to have a friend waiting for you at the pool, but it doubly helps to know you have this to come home to for breakfast!

warmmeupcereal

Warm Me Up Chia Rice Cereal (makes 1 serving)

1/2 cup brown rice (already cooked)
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup milk (I like coconut milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp agave or honey
1/4 apple chopped
1/4 cup raisins
(You can substitute with any fruit of choice!)

Combine all ingredients in a 1 quart pot on the stove. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Let cool for 1-2 minutes and serve. You can also double (or quadruple!) the recipe and then just reheat it through the week, adding some liquid (preferably your milk of choice) each time.

Tagged , , , , , ,