Tag Archives: yoga

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.

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One day I decided NO MORE

I know how to do the hard stuff. That doesn’t mean the hard stuff isn’t hard. Or that it doesn’t feel like work.

I know how to muck through shit.

Why?

Because I’ve mucked through shit before. I’ve had to completely re-haul my patterns, my habits, my behaviors and my beliefs around my body, food, exercise, and my self-worth.

And do you know that I did a lot of it {at first} on my own?

Of course I reached out to people when I FINALLY freakin’ realized “It’s OK to ask for help!” And then those people got me even further on my path of doing the work.

But it’s a powerful realization to sit down with: You can alter your patterns, habits, behaviors, and beliefs.

It’s a journey.

And I’m going to tell you, the most difficult part of the journey {for me anyway} is saying I want to make these shifts. Is saying I want help.

Not just from this person and that person and this other person over there. But accepting help… no wait … RECEIVING help in the myriad of ways it comes to you.

One day I decided NO MORE with my eating disorder. I was probably mid-forward fold in yoga class. Sweating through my tank top. And I made this decision on my own. For myself.

No one said to me: Maggie, you have to stop.

No one said to me: Maggie, no more.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.

Because I said it to me! I decided I was done. I decided I WANTED to change the way I treated myself. I decided I wanted to change my relationship with myself.

I decided I was ready to take my emotional journey one step further.

I decided it was time to turn down (way down) the volume on self-hate and self-loathing.

I didn’t decide because someone told me. Because hardly anybody knew in the first place!

This is not to say there’s no room for support from others. This is not to say there’s no room for interventions in this world.

But the person in the seat of “needing change” has GOT to be the one to ultimately flip the switch and choose the direction of their emotional, physical, and spiritual journey.

This is so powerful to me because when I am confronted with a new challenge, a new pattern in my life to shift {example: I did it with my romantic relationships!} I know that I can do it.

Does it mean it’s gonna be easy peasy? NOPE. It’s still gonna be damn hard.

Does it mean it’s gonna be so worth it? YES.

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I used to want to be anything other than myself.

I love listening to talk radio in the mornings. Like the early early mornings 7am and earlier – on my way to see clients.

It’s one of those “guilty pleasures” although I feel no guilt about it. So, it’s one of my pleasures.

Z100, 95.5 are two of my favorites. Though Z100 has a soft spot in my heart because I have been listening since I was a teenager. Wow!

And I do listen to news on occasion but when it’s this early (we are talking in the car by 5:45am some mornings) I need to keep it light. I want to hear my horoscope and how the Shaun Mendes concert was last night.

Something I notice is that when they take breaks on the radio they often segue into a segment about “I’m using this fabulous product for body contouring. This body contouring product gives me confidence and makes me happy!”

I don’t blame the DJs. They are simply doing their job. And usually I turn down the volume or flip to another channel because: listening to this does not serve me.

Also, in my head I am saying:

People: body contouring alone is not the quick fix that’s gonna make you happy people

What I want to do sometimes (in my little dream world in my head) is this:

Call into the station and start talking about how body contouring or going on a diet and losing weight might give you confidence … but it’s temporary.

The only way the confidence and joy and happiness will stick is if you do the inner work.

These qualities we want in life, they’re an inside job. They do not come from our external circumstances or conditions.

While we might feel extremely excited and happy when we get a dog – the excitement wears off if we aren’t truly committed to accepting and loving the whole dog experience unconditionally. We can’t sign up for a dog just to snuggle with us when we are feeling blue. We have to commit to it all: the daily walks, picking up poop, training the dog, taking it to the vet.

We have to commit to accepting and loving the whole human experience unconditionally. The highs and lows. The fuck-ups and the accomplishments. The stability and instability. The joy and the pain. The growth and the loss.

The way I see it, I have three ways I can respond to these radio ads:

  1. Be convinced that yes, I do need to change the way my body looks in order to feel good. Period.
  2. Get angry. Get angry that these ads perpetuate the judgment and hate that permeates so much of our society.
  3. See it as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to see the contrast: they are telling me one thing and I’m just like “Nope. Actually I like that my left thigh has that little dimple in it. I don’t even care about my thighs looking smooth and seamless anymore. Or the rest of my body. I want all the shapes and dents and dimples… all of them. I actually feel really good in my body.” And so forth. This is the new story. And i can go on with it. For a long, long time.

In total honesty, I sometimes do get angry. But if I stay angry, that’s choosing my old story and I’m already living the new one. So I don’t want to linger in the old anger story for too long.

In fact, I stay there less and less and it gets easier to move from #2 to #3. Or jump right to #3.

It took me years to get over not being perfect. And I’m not just talking about my body. I’m talking my clothes, my writing, my vocabulary, my education, anything you can think of – I was severely judgmental toward myself. I was convinced that if I wasn’t happy all the time, I was failing. I believed that if I was angry or jealous or sad or did anything imperfectly, I was failing.

I used to feel so sad that I wasn’t something else. I used to feel disappointed that I wasn’t anything other than myself.

And now … now I wouldn’t want to be anything other than myself. Even on the dark days. Even where there is struggle.

I take myself. I love myself no matter what.

For anyone out there who hears these radio ads (or any other messages from media or society telling you that your body needs to be a different way in order to be accepted/happy/confident) and jumps to #1 … I encourage you to explore the inner work first.

There’s no rush. Just check in and see what happens.

If you’d like some guidance on getting to the inner work, please fill out my contact form and we can set up a call. 

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But… What if I mess up?

Sometimes I hide behind the veil of:

 

I’m afraid of being wrong / What if I’m wrong?

 

Or it might sound something like this:

 

What if they judge me? (Which really is “what if I slay the judgement on myself?)

 

OR…

What if I mess up? WHAT IF I MESS UP?

 

Because GOD FORBID I mess up!!! Then what?!??! (<<<the internal dialogue.)

 

THIS is the {very old} drum I catch myself beating when something feels scary. When I was climbing down waterfalls and up steep ledges last weekend in New Hampshire, I found myself physically STUCK at times. And do you know why that is? Because I was so fucking scared of messing up.

 

Because even after many years of working on myself, there are still the occasional moments where these mindsets feel like dear old friends. They feel familiar. They feel comfortable. They feel, in a funny way, safe.

 

When I know damn well these mindsets hold me back. These mindsets prohibit me from:

 

Asking for what I need.

Speaking my truth.

Taking a chance on something I believe in.

Feeling fucking amazing.

Embracing my successes and building them.

 

There is a perfectionist within me that has definitely gotten smaller and less prevalent over the years. But sometimes, she likes to rear her little head and say things like:

 

But … what if you fuck this up? Better to keep quiet. Better to shut down than be your big bold self.

 

So where do we go when we feel stuck in old patterns?

 

The good news: the only way to go is up.

 

Make a shift. Ask for what you need. Give less fucks about being judged or being wrong or MESSING UP.

 

And in fact, GET CURIOUS about what happens when you mess up. Because is it really so bad? Usually… nope.

 

And… you can never really mess up because … even if it feels like you mess up … you always have the opportunity to learn something.

 

Thank you for tuning in and reading (if you’ve made it this far.)

 

Tell me: what are your old patterns/beliefs and how do you bust through them?

I provide loads of this kind of work and guidance in my fall mentorship. To help you bust through old beliefs, patterns, and thoughts. Trust me, it’s good stuff. Click this link>>> http://www.maggieconversemethod.com/events/2017/9/15/fall-mentorship

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Taking Time To Pause

One of my students did crow pose last night for the first time.

I tend to go back and forth in giving praise for getting into yoga postures. Because… I often wonder… what does it really mean anyway? I so often find myself IN AWE of the incredible things people can do with their bodies. And it sometimes brings me nearly to tears when I witness a student do a pose they’ve been practicing for years.

But then I’m like… Sometimes the most physically demanding postures can actually feel like the easiest. And vice versa: where the less physically demanding postures can challenge us the most. Sometimes it feels like yoga today is so closely associated with “What can you do?” OR “What can you show me?” OR “Look at me!”

Ta-da!

As a teacher, I can’t show you anything. I mean I can show you the poses I am physically capable of and maybe that gives you an idea of healthy alignment or I can explain with my body better than my words… but what does that have to do with taking my yoga off the mat? I can’t tell you how to feel. Or what to think. Or WHAT to feel in your body. Or what to think about yourself.

But what I can do is ask questions that might reveal something about yourself.

The young woman who got into crow did so quietly and with such ease that I asked her:

“What did you find helpful in getting into crow?”

She looked at me with a puzzled expression on her face, then said:

“I dunno … I just did it. I felt confident.”

She then explained to me that for years she’s been going to yoga. Larger classes where she pushed herself too far, too soon. In our small little group, she felt confident as she took slow steps and effortlessly floated her feet off the ground.

Just so you know, I was expecting an answer like “I used my abs” or “I engaged my glutes.”

Nope … She. Just. Felt. Confident.

And I. Was. In. Awe. of her response.

It should be noted that the class took place in an eating disorder recovery in-patient center. These women spend hours daily in different forms of talk therapy, group therapy, art therapy, and sometimes equine therapy to dig deep and make progress like … build confidence.

I was amazed at this student’s self-awareness.

If there’s any takeaway from my sharing this little anecdote with you it’s this:

Take time to pause.

Whether it’s after a really tough pose. A long run. A challenging presentation at work. A good read. An argument with a loved one. Take time to pause. To thank your body. To acknowledge what you are capable of. To notice the world around you. To take in a breath-taking view. To notice what you are feeling. To make the connection with yourself that allows you to understand the essence of WHO YOU ARE just a little bit more.

 

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Just. Keep. Growing.

I corrected myself last week when I told my friend “I quit my job at the gym.” Because I didn’t quit. The position ran its course and I felt I had outgrown it. It was also a choice I had to make out of integrity and self-respect.

 

It was a difficult choice because the position was so easy, familiar, and comfortable. I was constantly surrounded by students who I had gotten to know over my 3 years teaching there. And when it came time to say goodbye … Hello feelings! I sobbed in front of a room full of students.

 

In this life we are given choice: what to eat for lunch, who we enter into relationship with, what career path we’d like to follow. But do we always make the choice that serves us best? How do we even KNOW what choice serves us?

 

When we make a choice out of fear, the answer (in my humble opinion) is no.

 

When we make a choice out of love, the answer is yes.

 

Even if the choice is painful and means we cry in front of a room full of students. Even if we are afraid we’ve made some terrible mistake because leaving something so comfortable is scary.

 

So I didn’t quit my job. I grew. I grew to become a person with more self-respect than I did, say, this time last year. I grew to trust that it’s OK to let go.

 

And it is my intention to just keep growing.

 

May you find opportunity for growth in every choice you make.

 

With Love,

Maggie

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So, if you didn’t go to treatment, what did your recovery look like?

So, if you didn’t go to treatment, what did your recovery look like?

Asked one very intelligent student of mine at the recovery center one night during a special Q&A class during which I already shared much of my recovery story. I said I never went to treatment and rarely sought out therapy during the throes and early days of my eating disorder. (I do recognize the value in BOTH of these things, I just was not aware they were even available to me. And so I healed myself through the worst of it.)

In response to her question…

Messy. Is the word that flew out of my mouth.

Shit, I thought to myself. Should I have really said that out loud? It felt like the most honest response because, well, my early recovery was a fucking mess. And I had to make peace with that and the fact that, as I quickly learned, recovery is not linear and it takes many many different forms.

I paused then explained:

Everyone’s recovery path is going to look different and I did not know what kind of help was available. No one in my little college world talked about this stuff [Eating Disorders] except in the context of “it’s an easy way to stay skinny.” My recovery might have been expedited had I been aware of help available or had I not been so ashamed. [There’s that buzzword: shame!]

I didn’t tell most of my friends, I didn’t even tell my mother because I didn’t want her to take on the burden. In retrospect, I wish I had gone to more people because now, over 10 years later, I’m learning the value of being vulnerable and asking for help.

I went on to further explain, my recovery was beautiful and multi-faceted. My recovery was introspective. My recovery was difficult. My recovery looked like surrounding myself with people who lifted me up. It looked like me in my bedroom surrounded by yoga books, putting together sequences, noticing what felt good in my body and what didn’t. My recovery smelled like patchouli and armpit body odor and looked like the tiny yoga studio in Bloomington that accommodated 15 students at most. Always cheering each other on. (And, by the way, it never looked like cute yoga outfits.)

My recovery looked like brutal honesty with myself and daily reminders that I was making a choice to get better. My recovery looked like trust in myself that I could do this. My recovery looked like my college boyfriend as my rock, a person who believed in me, reminding me to believe in myself. It looked like the one tiny old woman therapist who told me “one day at a time, honey.” Those words were gold. It looked like undiagnosed depression and massive bouts of what I now know were anxiety attacks.

And those were just the early days. My recovery from an eating disorder turned into recovery from negative body image and body dysmorphia. And then recovery from not believing in myself. And now it is recovery from any thought, belief, person, or thing that does not bring me to light.

My recovery looks like setbacks sometimes. It looks like hours spent talking to a therapist and life coach. My recovery looks like journaling and writing and meditation. It looks like time spent in the woods. It looks like allowing myself to feel pain and uncomfortable feelings, but not to dwell in them. And if I notice I’m staying the the pain for too long, my recovery now looks like asking for help. A helping hand to pull me out of my hole.

So now my recovery looks like feeling ALL the feelings. Even the ones I thought I had done away with years ago. It looks like processing old breakups and the losses of friendships. It looks like celebrating my triumphs today and from years back. It looks like bidding farewell to always trying to control and avoid pain so that I’ll only feel good happy things.

I am pleased to share with you that today, my recovery looks like imperfection. And I’m beyond OK with that.

What does your recovery look like? Please share below in the comments!
And sign up for my newsletter to receive a totally free body image coaching consult today. XOXO

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lifting with love

I started a new exercise program this week. At least once a week, for an indefinite period of time I am doing personal training. It was under my own volition to change things up from the routine of hiking, walking, yoga. It was also an act of self-care.

 

Because of my recent lyme diagnosis, I’m not supposed to be doing long endurance training like running, cycling, or even super long hikes. (So I hike with breaks.) But movement is paramount to my joy.

 

Movement, in nearly all forms, is my soul’s dance. I learn to be patient and understanding with my body, so that I can be patient and understanding with all parts of myself.

 

So when I started training this week with Luc at Sherpa we kept it short to 30 minutes. Perfect so as not to overexert myself.

 

I felt so good carving out this time just for me. It felt good being under the guidance of someone else. It felt good moving my body in different ways. I noticed where I’m weak and I noticed where I’m really strong.

 

I noticed that nearly every single time in my life that I’ve picked up a weight or walked into a gym it was to change or fix the way that I looked. And I noticed that this time, that just wasn’t the case.

 

It wasn’t about fixing my body. It was about expanding my movement horizons and stepping outside my safe movement boundaries. It was about laughing and learning and loving. It was about ultimate self-care; staying strong while I’m also making ample time to rest and recover from the lyme.

 

My arms, I noticed in the mirror, have so little tone to them right now. This used to send me into a tailspin of negative self-talk and self-hate. But this time, as we were doing some kind of weight lifting thingy, I looked at my untoned arms with love. Like, dammit, they’ve been through some shit and they’re still here! Lifting heavy things!

 

It felt really good to exercise and move this way. It felt freeing. It felt joyful. I saw my shapes in the mirror and embraced them. I felt strong in my soft body suit.

 

I know that not every day will feel like this. But it’s exhilarating to know that this is possible.

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embracing my softness

i am embracing my softness.
my body goes through changes. I keep growing. When I’m running regularly my body looks different / maybe more toned? In my head I feel like a ripped badass. I felt this way during my 5 consecutive years of triathlons…
those days are long gone now.

but why not feel like a badass in my softness too? it’s usually the colder months when my body goes into softening mode. i notice it in my arms since i’m still wearing tanks when i’m teaching. i’ll catch a glimpse of myself in the studio mirror and notice it around my belly since my pants don’t fit quite the same and i have a little belly puff over the elastic waistband.

every year i’m getting more and more used to the softness. and feeling equally badass, if not more so, as a soft maggie, than a more firm/toned maggie.

i’m getting more accustomed to it, embracing it even, because of this: i am not defined by what my body looks like. i am not better for being toned. i am not bad for being softer. i also am not better for being soft! and i am not worse for being toned! ha! See how that works there? I know – I’m still wrapping my brain around it.

It’s all good though. All of it. All the shapes and sizes and stages our bodies go through. because the real maggie, the real you, is within. it’s untouchable and it’s felt through connection, through exchange, and through energy. Amen.

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Body Image Coaching

Hi there,

One of the commitments I made this year was to be a model or a guide for women to learn how to accept {and one day love} their bodies and their beings. I’ve spent a lot of time hiding out behind the ambiguous title of health coach or wellness coach.

It felt safe to not get too specific. Not to tell people the work I really dream to do. Or to not pigeonhole myself to one niche. But do you know what happened? I kept coming back to Body Image. I kept coming back to how shifting my perspective on my own body image enabled me to see through my body shell and see all parts of myself. Value all parts of myself. NOT just how I look. It helped me to get over fear-based exercise. To ditch dieting. To better understand and accept who I am.

And at long last I’ve created my Body Image Coaching page. Woohoo!

No more hiding behind ambiguities. I have to follow the work that simultaneously breaks my heart and builds it back up – time and time again.

And, after a very sweet, supportive conversation with my sister this weekend in LA, I’ve decided to offer payment on a sliding scale. I want to make this available to as many women as possible who need it.

I encourage you to reach out to me if this resonates with you. I encourage you to share this with any woman you think would benefit from the work.

This work is not just about loving our bodies. It’s about shifting the collective consciousness of women to fully embody and ROCK the bodies we were born with. To treat them with the utmost respect and love.

With Love,

MC

PS. Not on my email newsletter list? Sign up here to receive the latest offerings and events! XO

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