Body math

I felt awful. Inadequate. Less than human. So I ate. A lot. Then I’d feel worse. So I’d eat more. Then I starved myself. Attempted to throw up when I did eat. I punched and punished my body. I HATED it.

The quote above is from Allyssa Marie Milan’s piece, “One body’s journey: Removing the poison, growing through pain,” which I read Monday on Roots of She and have been thinking about ever since. In her post (which you should read), Allyssa tells about the cruelty she’s endured because of her size – insults yelled from cars; trash hurled at her on the bus, at the lunch table, in the classroom; sneers and snickers from the clerks in clothing stores.

She tells about an incident when she was fifteen, four older teenagers in a jeep, slowing down to tell her she’s way too fat to be wearing a skirt. I read that and for a minute I was so angry I had to stop. In the pause, I imagined Allyssa – or maybe it was half memory, myself at fifteen – humming inside, alive and reckless and wide open… and oh so easily crushed.


I keep thinking about how narrow our definition of physical beauty is, how in our obsession with a crazy sort of body math, we consider the ratio of hips to waist to chest, the proportionate length of arms and legs, cup size independent of everything else. We miss the more complicated geometry of necks and shoulders and elbows and chins, the astonishing mechanics of wrists and ankles, the disarming logic of certain smiles.

I don’t know how easily we can change what we’re attracted to, but I know our brains are malleable. I know an old brain can learn new tricks, and so we can begin by teaching our brains to tap into our hearts when we gaze out at the world.


I wasn’t fifteen. I was nineteen. That’s when I began starving myself.

In the morning, I would buy myself a bran muffin, bring it to my desk, and cut it into eight pie-shaped pieces. It was the only thing I allowed myself to eat all day, so I spread it out, a piece every few hours. The goal was to have pieces left over. The more pieces I threw away at the end of the day, the bigger my internal gold star. Sometimes, I threw all eight pieces away,  and on those days, despite the raging fatigue and headaches and chronic stomach pain, I felt happy.

Sometimes, self-preservation would kick in and I’d cook myself a meal. Rice or soup, lettuce inside a tortilla. Occasionally, I’d keep the meal down, but not usually. Usually, overcome with guilt, I’d force myself to vomit it back up, most of it undigested. I cried through the whole process – making the meal, eating it, vomiting it out. I cried as I hurried back onto the scale to see what damage I’d done.

This went on for almost two years, until finally I got sick and went to a doctor and he told me I had an ulcer. He explained to me that our stomachs produce acids, especially when we’re under stress. If we eat, the food in our stomachs gives the acid something to break down. If we don’t, the acid goes to work on our stomach walls. (Or at least that’s how I remember him explaining it to me.)

“Do you eat?” he asked me, suspiciously.

“Of course, I eat,” I said, and then I went home and cried because I knew I was out of control. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d thought of food as anything other than the enemy. I already knew I was fat. Now I was sick, and part of the cure was to eat.

I was five foot six and 100 pounds.

As it turned out, that was the first step of my recovery, though it would take many years and many setbacks and many interventions for me to get to a healthy place. Even now I struggle with dangerous impulses. When I feel overwhelmed or scared, my first instinct is to stop eating. My second, and the one that always wins now, is to work through it on the mat or on the trail or with my friends or with my family. I ground myself in the physicality of my world.


I regret the years I spent trapped in that place, hating my body, my appetites, my life, trying to – quite literally – be smaller, be less than. Reading Allyssa’s story, I felt such love and admiration for her. Such recognition and gratitude. I know it was a scary post to write, just as I know there will be people who read her and feel less alone. Less afraid.

I think there is power in sharing our stories, in letting each other in, in being vulnerable and broken open the way that I was when I read Allyssa’s words. I think this is how our notions about beauty and love and strength and vulnerability get changed. By sharing. By giving each other permission to be confused and imperfect. By telling each other again and again that it’s our imperfections that make us interesting… and, yes, beautiful.

What do you think?


  1. maryinthegarden on March 8, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Definitely. It’s harder to go through things alone, and no one should have to.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 9:09 am

      Of course, you’re right. And yet, I know no one who has suffered through an eating disorder or a severe and debilitating body image without feeling utterly alone. It’s so sad to me… and I realize now, so important for those of us who understand to say that.

  2. Marcie on March 8, 2012 at 7:09 am

    I read this – Judy – with tears in my eyes. You wrote my story…almost too painful and personal (still) to write myself. I was 19. My bottom – at age 22 – was 85 lbs (5′-5″ tall). And – altho it is now seeming like a long..long time ago – the scars still remain. I regret every moment I spent abusing my body. I am forever sorry that I couldn’t find that self-acceptance and love. And – I too – turn to my yoga mat day-after-day to work it out.
    Thanks for being the brave soul that you are…and speaking out!

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 9:32 am

      This is the first time I’ve written about it too, and as you well know, I’ve left a lot out. I had such a reaction to your comment. I remember when I did fall below 100 pounds, I thought “if I could just get under 90…” Oddly, I don’t remember that thought ever having an end. If I could get there, then…. what? There was no goal of happiness or satisfaction… just the crazy scale math that ruled my life. (I don’t have a scale anymore. Like an alcoholic who can’t have booze in the house.)

      Thank you for sharing back. Even now, all these years later, it is comforting to be understood. (And, once more… isn’t yoga amazing?)

  3. casoly on March 8, 2012 at 7:13 am

    I completely agree, my badass beautiful friend. :o) xox

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 9:33 am

      This was a difficult one. Took me all day and several rewrites before I could hit publish. Thank you, C, for being here when I did. xox

  4. leah77 on March 8, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Judy, I can’t imagine the pain and agony of being simultaneously rejected by the world and oneself. Today’s media has created an impossible image of beauty. Gone are the days of appreciating the minor flaws that make each one of us unique. Today we compete with airbrushed models on glossy paper. It’s so sad.
    I know it took courage to share your story but as you said sharing our imperfections helps us to accept ourselves and others, and “By telling each other again and again that it’s our imperfections that make us interesting… and, yes, beautiful.”
    And so it is!

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 9:36 am

      I know, and even the celebrities don’t always recognize the shrunken, airbrushed version of themselves. I so wish we could change that. … Maybe this is how it happens… one woman’s story after another.

  5. June O'Reilly (@LunaJune) on March 8, 2012 at 8:28 am

    wow.. where to begin…. with a (((HUG)))
    it is a universal problem… and each of us has their own
    way through those years.. I thankfully never believed in scales and still don’t but at 15 my long skinny body got fat and for 3-4 years I hid inside watching the world , finding my way, feeling sooo many different things…& crying myself to sleep almost nightly believing that it was my body that made me not fit in at 19 I made it my goal to shed it.. 6 months and 90 lbs later I was a skinny girl again.. it is hard for the me now to look back because the strength that I have acquired through my life has allowed me to let all those tears, anger, frustration, sadness, fear go… it is like I’m talking about someone else… and the me today feels really good about it….
    having said that I know that at that time I did not believe that I was beautiful it is only in hindsight that I see myself and not understand how I could have missed it…. and in that judge myself and only see the beauty…. letting the wrinkles go..the extra folds … well working on that one.
    I can only hope that there are enough of us speaking our truths and enough young ones listening to see that there is not perfect body snowflakes no two of us are the same….and that we each shine in our own way that adds beauty and wonder to the world.

    I have this postcard on my fridge…. it has been there for 20 years as a daily reminder to me and anyone who goes by my fridge..

    HUGS to all who holds these fears.. of not being good enough, pretty enough… know that you are… and if you need just keep coming here
    and soon you will truly feel it

    love and light to all us wonderful snowflakes

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 9:50 am

      Awww. Thank you, June. You remind me that I used to have pictures on my fridge of supermodels. Eventually, I developed an exercise addiction. It wasn’t healthy either, but at least it taught me to respect the relationship between food and energy and strength. During that time, I had pictures of athletes on my fridge.

      Always pictures of the different person I wanted to be.

      Now I have pictures of friends and their kids and my boys and the dogs and snippets of notes and a cartoon and magnets from people who love me. … Smiling as I suddenly think of my fridge as a reflection of my own evolution. 🙂

  6. Estrella Azul on March 8, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Reading your article, I can’t even being to comprehend how you must have felt back then. It makes me so very happy to have you as my friend and see how well you are doing now, despite still struggling with dangerous impulses. You are so brave to share. And am sure are helping at least a few people who will read your blog post.

    Ulcers are dangerous. Especially if you don’t know you what’s wrong. Especially if you’re under a lot of stress (which caused said ulcer), and on top of that are misdiagnosed…
    Before having surgery I haven’t really noticed how much I eat. Went in the hospital and came out with the same weight. However, I was starving for a few months before I was allowed to eat properly again.
    That’s when I started eating healthier and by now can afford to indulge myself with french fries and such. But I do my best to avoid fried stuff.
    The best advice I got was to eat what ever I wanted as long as it was healthy.

    I eat as much as I want. If I’m hungry, I’ll eat. If I’m not, I won’t.
    The body math thing never gave me odd numbers. I don’t mind it on myself or on others.
    People used to say that I was skinny. (Maybe I was taller for my age and that’s why it seemed that way.) I didn’t care much for their opinion.
    Now, people ask if I’ve gained weight. They might even flat out say it. (I’m definitely not tall now, so maybe that’s why it seems that way since my body changed slightly after surgery.) I don’t care much for their opinion.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      “The body math thing never gave me odd numbers” made me smile. I definitely can’t claim that. I think not caring so much what other people say is key. I love this from Allyssa’s piece, after she’s said that she hated her body… “Can you imagine? This body! This body which can breathe and dance and run and jump for joy!”

      I think we need to celebrate all that our bodies can do. I once read an interview with a plus size model and she said that she considers herself healthy as long as her body can always do what she asks it to do.

      You sound like you have just the right attitude.

    • Estrella Azul on March 8, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      Glad to have made you smile, j!
      Yes, those are my favorite sentences from the piece.

      Funny how we’re comfortable in some areas and completely insecure in others.

  7. Teresa ZM on March 8, 2012 at 9:46 am

    I never fought with weight demons, but I have adult friends that still do. It is difficult to be with one friend as she cannot eat in front of other people, and so much of our social lives revolves around food. She’ll allow herself a few calories (as you alluded) but then has to work out for hours and hours to work off the guilt, I think, more than the calories. While I can’t imagine the struggles of one with an eating disorder, I personally stuggle with how to be a good friend to one who is so privately obsessed? I hope that you all can lend some insight on how to watch someone you love struggle and suffer and hurt themselves, all for the sake of their (dare I say) “twisted” self-image. I worry for my friend out of love, but this fear is ignored if I express it. I do listen to her if she needs to talk, but she usually won’t talk as she knows we are worried for her and then she has guilt over that too. 🙁 I think a support group would be good for her, but she’ll never admit out loud that she has a problem. I give Kudos to you that admit you have (had) an issue and are trying to deal with those demons. It is very hard on those around you who love you and want you to be OK.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      Smiling as I tell you… you could ask Chad. He knows how hard it is to love someone who is this kind of crazy.

      What I can say is that I understand your pain, your fear, your frustration. On some level, you friend does too but that’s not enough to break her free. And, in all likelihood, neither are your pleas or your encouragements. What started me on the road to recovery (which I can’t stress enough was years long and had many terrible setbacks) was a health issue, a doctor’s disgusted expression, an exercise addiction that had its own level of crazy, but may have saved my life.

      I guess I’m saying that she has to get there herself. I doubt it will be anything you do or say. As terribly unfair and painful as it is, I think your role is to love her through it – not condone the behavior, but accept that you are probably not going to be the reason she gets better.

      That’s frustrating, I know. I’m frustrated writing it to you. I wish I had something more helpful to offer. (I welcome anyone else who does to jump into our conversation.)

      Sending you love, Teresa. Your friend is very lucky to have you. xo

  8. Ann MG on March 8, 2012 at 9:51 am

    There’s a theory that the larger culture is unmotivated to let go of these “beauty” standards since they provide such a siphon of women’s power and agency. If we weren’t working so hard to control our bodies and our food intake, where would that energy go?

    Judy and others, hugs on your journey and hurrah for your survival.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      Thank you! I might have once been doubtful of such a dubious, scary theory, but these days… the war on women seems VERY real to me. All the more reason for us to define beauty for ourselves and fight for our right to control our lives (and bodies).

  9. Issa on March 8, 2012 at 10:19 am

    You know my battles. This: “We miss the more complicated geometry of necks and shoulders and elbows and chins, the astonishing mechanics of wrists and ankles, the disarming logic of certain smiles.” is exactly what I needed to read at the moment. I know it’s nothing, really, to do with appearances and things – but the acceptance of yourself and others and the world that this encapsulates (and the loss of that acceptance or understanding that eating disorders create) is a state that I continue to slip into. We have so many judgements and expectations that in can be hard to find yourself in a world that is freed from those – and also incredibly wonderful.
    I’m not being very clear….but thanks for writing this and for sharing your story and reminding me of what beauty really is.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      You make absolute sense to me, of course. You’re right. It’s a vicious cycle. What we need, in the midst of the out-of-control, is to find some sort of acceptance, from ourselves and others… and yet our behavior tests sorely the people we want to love us, and it fills us up with a lot of feelings… none of which are self-acceptance.

      See? I get it. And YOU are what beauty really is. xo

  10. Annie Neugebauer on March 8, 2012 at 10:56 am

    You’re so brave, J, and so wonderful. There is an astonishing number of people who go through this, and I think it’s really good of you to help them by sharing your own story — and your own strength — to give them hope.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      Thank you, Annie. I’ve thought of writing about this before, but was never able to make myself do it. I don’t even tell people about it often, and when I do, only in the most superficial ways. But when I read Allyssa’s piece, I was so struck by the generosity of it, the willingness to share something so difficult in at attempt to say, “We can change this.”

      So I wrote about my yucky stuff, and pressed “publish,” and held my breath logging in this morning. Once again I am enormously grateful for this amazing community.

  11. Clare Flourish on March 8, 2012 at 11:21 am

    How can you show Love to someone in that situation now? I had my own unbearable secret which the Normal people must never learn, and telling it to a colleague was a huge relief. How can we get through to the lonely hurting person in the office or the street?

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm

      I guess that’s what I’m hoping. That pieces like Allyssa’s, like this one, like so many others on the net, offer solace, a sense that maybe we aren’t all alone. I know that I exhaled as soon as I saw Marcie’s response to me here. Someone saying, “Yes. I do know what you’re talking about.” That does amazing things.

      I would imagine your blog does the same thing for many people.

  12. Karen L Hogan on March 8, 2012 at 11:46 am

    This is brave writing.
    When nourishment gets translated into the enemy — well life itself becomes the enemy.
    I definitely think that sharing our stories is not only important, but vital in the way that food is vital. I believe there is a pool of human kindness out there that gets deeper any time we share that part of ourselves we are most scared to reveal.
    For years I had heard that there was a tribe who deliberately wove a “mistake” into their tapestries to show that they weren’t god — to show their humility. Later I learned that the mistake was woven into tapestry to let life through.
    Being imperfect is painful. But it lets life through.
    I’m looking forward to learning more about your journey to life becoming your lover, rather than your enemy.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      “I believe there is a pool of human kindness out there that gets deeper any time we share that part of ourselves we are most scared to reveal.”

      Beautifully put. I do too. Thank you, Karen.

  13. Rita on March 8, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Judy…I love you. You are the epitome of courage. What it takes to share like that. Thank you. I’ve had a weight thing all my life. My parents turned it into a thing. It never bothered me. B ut it bothered my parents. I knew I’d outgrow it, but they didn’t. So they pushed, they pulled, they tug-of-warred with me and my body and mostly my mind. I came to believe there was something wrong with me. That i was less of a human being because there was MORE of me. I learned to hate myself, on so many levels. I stopped looking in mirrors, I stood behind others in photos…It’s amazing what happens…slowly…repeatedly…I have never been through what you shared, but I feel like it’s all the same…it’s just a different battle scar. Thankfully, I did for myself several years ago, what no one else could do for me. I learned to love myself. Inch by awesome inch. I slowly stopped caring what I thought others were thinking of me, and I started thinking the things I wanted to think about me…and thankfully, I’ve not looked back there. Every once in awhile, my mum will still say something…and suddenly I’m 7 again…only now, I get to choose how I’ll look at myself when she’s no longer talking. Thank you. You’ve inspired me once again. Thank you for being such a kick ass warrior for love. xo

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      I feel it’s the same too. I think we’re buying into other people’s definition of beauty or normal or acceptable because we lack the strength to define those things for ourselves (and then withstand the inevitable backlash of the narrow minded). But there is strength in numbers, right?

      When I see a response like I’m seeing to this post, I’m so blown away by our capacity for kindness and empathy and love. xox

    • Rita on March 8, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      The beauty of that my friend is, being the huge kick ass love warrior that you are…you become a space for this kind of kindness and openness and love. I promise you. It’s not by accident. xo

    • Rita on March 8, 2012 at 9:25 pm

      PS..did you see what i wrote today? thank you for giving me the courage. xo

  14. Allyssa Marie Milán on March 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    “…humming inside, alive and reckless and wide open… and oh so easily crushed.”

    Mmmmhm. So many of us are easily crushed! I’ve forgiven the people who have hurt me because I realize many of them must have had some profound pain inflicted upon them. A lot of times when people feel powerless, the try to exert power over others – emotionally, mentally and/or physically. It’s an awful cycle that’s no good for any of us! I hope to see a day where this no longer happens!

    “We miss the more complicated geometry of necks and shoulders and elbows and chins, the astonishing mechanics of wrists and ankles, the disarming logic of certain smiles.”


    “I ground myself in the physicality of my world.”

    Very well said! Using our bodies as a vessel for joy & aliveness! Reminds me… I NEED to hit up some trails & get my hands on a bike, asap!

    Thank you so much for sharing yourself with us Judy. I’m so happy you’re doing better these days. The road of life is bumpy! But as long as you know deep down how worthy & loved you are… you can get through anything! And it looks like you have created a wonderful network of support for yourself! This is integral!

    And thank you so much for sharing my post with your friends here and on Facebook! I really, really appreciate it. Healing is contagious! The more we’re all open about what has hurt us, the more we’ll recognize our selves in each other, thus making us feel more connected & compassionate toward one another. Sounds good, no? 🙂


    • j on March 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      “The more we’re all open about what has hurt us, the more we’ll recognize our selves in each other, thus making us feel more connected & compassionate toward one another. Sounds good, no?”

      Sounds like the change I want to be.

      Thank YOU for writing your piece, Allyssa. Your bravery and belief that we can be better than this was (is) so inspiring to me. I hope you never stop writing from that deep, wounded, miraculous place inside you. xox

  15. terrepruitt on March 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Amazing the stories that lie underneath. I’ve admired your beautifully frame thinking it must come so easy to you. And now I know otherwise. I cannot imagine what it took to write this and then share it with the world. Well, I do imagine there was a lot of tears and fear and then the final explosion of bravery as you clicked the publish button. Yay you!

    Just another reminder for me that things are not always what they seem.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      Maybe even “seldom.” Thank you Terre. In fairness, I’m not the same size as I was then. THAT size does not come naturally. (To anyone.) 😉

    • terrepruitt on March 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm


  16. jb on March 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I think you are…
    brave beyond description,
    stronger than you ever imagined,
    generously open-hearted
    and exactly the badass love warrior that the world needs.

    The symptoms may be different, but we all have the same scars. Thank you for sharing yours with us so that we can all connect and heal.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      That means a lot coming from one of the people who knows me best in the whole world. Thank you, ss. And you’re right. There is so much beauty in this connection thing, so much healing that can be done. xoxo

  17. Tricia on March 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    I went through some body-image nightmares myself in my day. I was a model from 14-24. I could tell you I’m recovered, but I back slide occasionally, if only in thought. For example, just the other day I had a dream I saw you, Judy, in an Ikea store in Sacramento. In the dream you were the same beautiful person from all your pictures with your infectious smile, and I was about to approach you. Then I panicked. I feared you would reject me or be disappointed in some way. I’m not as cute, charming, or as thin, and I could not reveal myself.
    In my waking hours I’m much more confident and given the same scenerio, I would have rushed you with a hug. But I know my dreams are a reflection of hidden insecurities that always bring back memories of the days when I was living the nightmare..

    P.S. If we want to analyze my dream further, why did you have a talking snowman in your cart?

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Gah! That’s a yucky dream (except for the snowman, which I can explain).

      What is so universal in your response, I think, is our tendency to see ourselves as not as shiny (pretty, successful, thin, smart, witty, interesting) as other people. I do that too, of course. I wonder if the tendency is more prevalent with women than men? (I know the men I live with do not see themselves as less shiny than anyone.)

      My very favorite part of your comment? “In my waking hours I’m much more confident and given the same scenerio, I would have rushed you with a hug.” I must now request a promise that you will do just that. (And if I see you first, I will rush you big time.) xo

  18. Chloe Cook on March 8, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Now I know why I love reading your posts so much. We have that connection of having been through stuff and having come out the other side – I just never knew it before. I too start to struggle if I get over-stressed but only in my thoughts, not my actions, and I’ve learnt how to deal with those thoughts now so that they are no longer a problem.
    I have no words for what it is I want to say, except that I understand you, I feel you, and even though I’ve never met you, I love you (because deep down, that’s all we need to hear and feel and believe in order to know that it’s all going to be ok in the end.)

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm

      It is. Your response made me cry. Thank you, Chloe. <3

  19. Meg Sweeney on March 8, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I’m glad that you addressed this! I have been there, along with everyone I know, with the body image and the starvation and the constant thoughts of eating…the aloneness. I wasn’t 15 either, just like you I was 19. This was part of my emancipation! This issue is deep and wears so many masks. I think that along with the negatives like totally wrecking your health and happiness, it also contains positives(as you pointed out with your rewards of a left-over bran muffin only to be disposed of): control and constraint, sensitivity, trying to fit in…just in the wrong way. What I find interesting is that before we had big department stores and shopping malls, clothes were sewn, to fit the body. In fact, the body was measured, not as a judgement on the size of the person but to make clothes that fit. With ready made clothes, we are expected to alter our bodies to fit the clothes that appeal to society. Hmmmm.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      It’s interesting your list of positives. I wouldn’t have thought of them as good things, but it depends on the circumstances, doesn’t it? I love when a comment on my post spins me around like that.

      Your point about our clothes fitting us versus us fitting into our (ready made) clothes is fascinating. You’re right… and it feels hugely significant in a discussion about one narrow definition of beauty and the greater need for self-acceptance.

      Thank you, Meg!

  20. hippiechick on March 8, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Brave story, my friend.

    It is through our stories that our hearts and minds open. xo

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      Yes. And it starts with getting past the fear of sharing. Thank you. xox

  21. Kellie J. Walker (@YourLifeInGear) on March 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    All in the truest sense of each word.

    You’re the kind of superhero who can really change (save?) the world, j.

    Hugs, love, & sparkles to you!!

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      You should see my huge smile. I love that thought… infusing the world with love, baby. Thank you so much, Kellie. xoxo

    • Kellie J. Walker (@YourLifeInGear) on March 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      Love the idea of helping put a huge smile on your face. It puts one on mine.

      Infuse away!!

  22. Pam on March 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Oh! I just want to hug you and pat your hair and tell you you’re beautiful. I wish I could’ve told your 19-year-old self.

    Your post and Allyssa’s piece are wonderful and brave and important. I think people can be very cruel, sometimes most of all to themselves; but people can learn and grow, especially through telling and hearing stories like these.

    I salute your badassery!

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      Thank you, Pam. In my case, it was definitely the self-inflicted cruelty that did the most damage.

      I understood, as soon as I read Allyssa’s post, the value in sharing our stories. I’m so glad she was brave enough not only to write it, but to submit it to Roots of She. Pretty badass, superhero stuff, in my opinion. I just grabbed hold of her cape. 🙂

  23. Joanne Marie Firth on March 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    I love you more than ever. I had an underlying feeling that you spent time struggling with an eating disorder. j, I’m going to come out right here, right now, I struggle with bi-polar illness. There. Done. I”m out.

    We are all imperfect and do need to tell our stories. I love you more because this was probably the hardest post for you to share. Perhaps putting you at risk to be labled. Well, fuck labels and fuck hiding. We are who we are and we ARE more beautiful for our imperfections.

    Let’s be brave and honest together, the more we share, the more we can help others who may struggle with similar issues. I’m not afraid anymore, how about that. I will never forget this post. Thank you!


    • j on March 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm

      “Well, fuck labels and fuck hiding. We are who we are and we ARE more beautiful for our imperfections.”

      Yes, that!

      It’s true that, as I pushed publish, I did worry about what people would say. The thing about eating disorders is that they’re often incomprehensible to people who’ve never experienced them. It’s incredibly hard on loved ones who feel, understandably, that logic ought to rule the day, that “if I just tell you how incredibly stupid and unhealthy you’re being, this craziness should end.”

      They’re right, of course. That should work. We know it too, even in the midst of the crazy. That’s what’s so hard… so, I didn’t know how people would react and that was scary. But this amazing outpouring of love and honesty and understanding… I’m blown away.

      I hope you feel a sense of freedom in your declaration. Because, sweet Joanne, you are BEAUTIFUL in every sense of the word. That’s the only label you should accept. xoxo

  24. C. Fassett on March 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    j, I’m so glad you clicked publish <3 For yourself, and for others. It's a healing thing =)

    I know the battle with the body well. It took me many, many years to finally make friendly relations with my body. Sexual abuse to a child brings it's own blend of confusion regarding the body. My battle with weight, I discovered, had more to do with coming from a protective stance than anything else. If I was too thin, it was too scary. If I was too overweight, I thought I wouldn't have love. Catch 22. It was only after I had a serious health scare, around 10 years ago, that I finally woke up to all the hate I was directing at my body. I got to work turning it around to a more loving approach. It wasn't easy, but I'm way more at peace with my body now, (wrinkles and all ;). I can finally look in the mirror and see a bit of beauty reflected back at me.

    There is a powerful scene in "What The Bleep Do We Know!?" (2004) with Marlee Matlin screaming at her image in the mirror, "I hate you! I hate you!" Then she had an awakening to what she was doing. I identified so closely with that scene, I started sobbing and couldn't stop. Later, there was a scene with her drawing hearts over parts of her body she had sent so much hatred toward. I felt inspired, and drew a beautiful picture of the part of my body where I was having health issues, and looked at it everyday. And every day, after a shower, when I put on lotion, I'd tell my body I loved it wherever I touched. Slowly, I began to look at my body differently. And I found it to be something quite extraordinary.

    Thank you j, for sharing your experience. And yes, I agree, there is a power in sharing our stories. I know for years I felt isolated and alone, until I found others who found the courage to share similar experiences. They are who gave me the courage I needed to turn the tide of hate toward self to love. Just as you inspire others to do the same.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 11:05 pm

      I got chills reading your comment, especially the movie scene and its effect on you. I was thinking what a powerful sort of ceremony that would be… putting hearts on the parts of me that I still struggle to love. I have reached a point now where I tend to think not in terms of size or shape as much as what my body can do. I test it regularly, and it amazes me all the time.

      But the individual parts, what I see as my “beauty” flaws..

      I might do that. Like when I burned what I wanted to release on New Year’s Eve. I’ll “heart” what I want to accept. (Big smile. Thank you!)

    • C. Fassett on March 9, 2012 at 7:35 am

      “I have reached a point now where I tend to think not in terms of size or shape as much as what my body can do.”

      Since the majority of my focus was on healing at the time, (‘cuz I was skeered), I came to realize in a profound way, (k, this is me we’re talking could I not go to the profound? ;), that the body has this miraculous way of healing itself that I have absolutely no control over. There is something there, in it, that will automatically, without any doing on my part, go to work on healing a scrape, or a broken bone, or even making my hair grow, etc. What is THAT? So I began tuning into that essence, putting myself in line with it, agreeing, (with the hope of helping it along).

      I discovered many things in that practice, and that is for another day, but I’ll say this here — I woke up to the fact that viewing my body as the enemy had the effect of me not living fully in, and through it. For years I avoided experiences I longed for, simply because of the way I viewed my body. Experiences like swimming, or dancing, or anything where expression through the body was involved. If my own body was the enemy, how could I feel comfortable in being fully present in it? I realized I was all locked up because of this battle I had going on with my body.

      I discovered there is something to all this mind, body, spirit connection, and for my part, I am thankful for the lessons from a major health scare, brought forth for me to take a look at. If nothing else came from it, it taught me to live in the moment…fully expressing through a body that was given to me…whatever shape it happens to be in.

  25. Julia Fehrenbacher on March 8, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Big sighs.

    J, you are so brave. This is the kind of sharing that makes me want to be braver, to show up and tell the truth no matter how hard it is. This is the kind of truth telling that heals and holds and truly makes a difference…this is clear from the overwhelmingly beautiful response to your words. By sharing your story you are making it easier for the rest of us to do the same,

    My heart is full of love for you, my friend.

    • j on March 8, 2012 at 11:13 pm

      Thank you, Julia. But I have to say that I think the amazing response says as much (more) about the character of all of you than it does about me. I’ve never been so completely undone by the response to a post before. I’m awed and humbled and grateful. My heart is full of love, too. xox

  26. Christie on March 8, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    My dear sweet j, you are cracking wide open and your innards are sparkling!

    There is so much I want to say but I have had a tough week and words are hiding, especially since I have been using lots of bad ones the past couple days :^)

    You know my struggle with weight, my not feeling good-enough, deserving enough, packing on pounds so that I wouldn’t feel attractive, so that I wouldn’t keep using my body to find love. I have not loved my body for so long, yet I have been working on loving myself for awhile now. Finally my outtards (think I just made up that word) are coming into alignment with my innards and it is feeling pretty darn good!

    In case I haven’t told you lately, you are brave, you are beautiful and I love you to the moon and back ♥

    • j on March 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      That’s such an interesting, heartbreaking observation – that in preventing yourself from using your body to find love, you made it impossible for you to love your body… and all of it (the love of others, your self-love) is based on size. Body math.

      That kind of insight is why I think this conversation is so important. Thank you. (And I love your right back.)

  27. dlmoore on March 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    it is a lonely road…thank you for your honesty and courage to write about this.
    i had similar experiences during my teens, the throwing up, the ulcers, the pain, and the happiness in the midst of it….twisted, yet true.
    it is like a sleeping dragon. always there, never far away.
    just wanted to say thank you.

    • j on March 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      It is twisted. I remember my husband (before he became my husband, and after he figured out what was happening with me) called the whole thing “twisted” and it was the first time I saw myself clearly from another person’s eyes. It was really horrible, the truth of it.

      Thank YOU, for making it less scary. xo

  28. Kevin H. on March 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    J. Your cape gets bigger, heavier, and more beautiful everyday. It takes strength to write what you did. You have strength, and you’re still learning how to use it. Well done.

    • j on March 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      Kevin, you have no idea how much this comment means to me. Thank you. xo

  29. Michael on March 8, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Ahhh. My phone told me this was waiting, but I had no idea how amazing it would be.

    “I think this is how our notions about beauty and love and strength and vulnerability get changed. By sharing. By giving each other permission to be confused and imperfect. By telling each other again and again that it’s our imperfections that make us interesting… and, yes, beautiful.”

    Yes, and you are, and thank you.

    • j on March 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      I’m working on that – a “j’s being amazing” app. In the meantime, I’ll always happily wait for you to get to me. Thank you, Michael.

  30. Tracy Lucas on March 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    “”During that time, I had pictures of athletes on my fridge. Always pictures of the different person I wanted to be. Now I have pictures of friends and their kids and my boys and the dogs […]”

    I think I love this as much as your post. And I do love both.

    • j on March 11, 2012 at 10:37 am

      Thank you, Tracy. In a “this is my life” way… me too.

  31. Kellie J. Walker (@YourLifeInGear) on March 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    I caught myself thinking today, “I’m fat.” I was looking at pictures taken of me during a recent posture clinic.

    I don’t think I would’ve been aware of even having the thought if it weren’t for this post, j. So, once again, thank you.

    I dealt with the thought by heading to the yoga studio. I’m sensing a lovely, healing yoga theme here…

    • j on March 11, 2012 at 10:40 am

      I had a similar experience, catching myself making judgments based on stupid things and immediately thinking about Allyssa’s post. The power of talking about our demons is amazing. (And Yoga was the perfect solution. I do that too. All. The. Time.) xo

  32. Cynthia Patton on March 9, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Beautiful post, Judy. Bravo!

    • j on March 11, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Thank you so much, Cynthia.

  33. Meg Sweeney on March 10, 2012 at 5:27 am

    Yes Yes Yes…beautiful post indeed. I just reread what you have said, and feel your bravery. Bravo. I just want to add…so much that I can’t. It feels like I am trying to talk to an ocean.

    Lots and lots of love love love, Meg

  34. j on March 11, 2012 at 10:43 am

    “It feels like I am trying to talk to an ocean.”

    I don’t know if this is what you meant when you wrote it, but the response to this post – on and off blog – has been overwhelming and humbling and heartbreaking and inspiring. I absolutely feel as though I was talking to an ocean… only I didn’t know it when I hit publish.

    Lots of love back to you.

  35. Nuttin' on June 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” ~~ Nora Ephron

    Seemed appropriate to share this quote here… on this post.
    Being a heroine is harder, more complicated, more time-consuming than being a victim — but a much better outcome.
    Well done j

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