February 26, 2012

Adele Portrait

Pema Chödrön. Brene Brown. Geneen Roth. Anne Lamott. Jen Louden. Elizabeth Lesser. Michelle Obama. Adele. Oprah. Eve Ensler. Anita Roberts.

What do all of these women have in common aside from being creators of profound works of art and dispensers of wisdom?

They are all totally, utterly, self-centered.

I’m not just hurling insults here. These feminoms (female phenomenons) are centered deeply within themselves and this, I’ll wager, is a key to their “role-model” status.

Here is what I know about self-centered women:

Self-centered women are not easily blown over by the gusts of other people’s opinions, agendas, or problems coming their way. Their strong center keeps them steady.

Self-centered women know themselves. Intimately. The smooth and the rough. Their ego and their Self.

Self-centered women don’t put others before themselves to the point that they have nothing left. In turn, they have more to give to everyone.

Self-centered women know life isn’t tit for tat. They can receive without “earning” it and they can give without expectation of reciprocation.

Self-centered women are powered sustainably from a renewable source, rather than from  the validation, approval, and attention of outside and temporary sources.

Self-centered women are their own compass. Their own north-stars. They navigate these choppy waters as an eye in the storm. This is why we so often take refuge in their work, words, and presence.

They are lighthouses for the rest of us because they are lighthouses for themselves.


Reflect: can you trace any of your struggles back to a lack of self-centering?

Reflect: how would your life be richer, deeper, or more powerful if you were more self-centered?

Reflect: When did you stop being self-centered? Age 1? Age 12? Age 18? When was it you moved out of your lighthouse?

Imagine: A world where all women are self-centered and move through their lives with strong roots from which to draw life. Imagine.

February 20, 2012

DISCLAIMER: I never thought I’d use the word ‘staunch’ to describe myself and certainly not on my website, but here it is: I am a staunch believer in fat acceptance and the Health at Every Size (HAES) Movement and I have been for 10 yearsI myself am not fat (unless you ask Karl Lagerfeld), but I believe the HAES paradigm is the antidote to so many of our woes. And because I believe this, I don’t see fat as a woe. Hard to believe given the “war” we’re in with it, but nope it’s not a problem in my world. I know people who are healthy, happy, loved, and sexy at every size and I know people who are unhealhty, unhappy, self-loathing, and disconnected at every size. It’s true! I could go on and on about this subject and why the truth of it liberates but you’ll have to wait for another day. If you want to understand where I’m coming from you simply must read Dr. Linda Bacon’s book Health at Every Size or at the very least her HAES Manifesto.

Okay, on with the show.

A few months back I saw a tweet come through my feed called “Virgie Tovar’s Guide to Fat Girl Life” and I clicked through, somewhat mindlessly if you must know, and discovered this delightful woman:

As you can see, Virgie is radiantly wonderful and full of such positive energy (and style) that I fell in love instantly. But, as is with our mile-a-minute living, I clicked on to something else and didn’t give it much thought.

Then in January, my dear friend and vintage style maven Rachel Ericsen (rule of thumb: two Rachels is better than one) was holding her monthly Mosswood Mercantile Pop-Up Shop and I went over to say hello and see the goods.

In walks Virgie! Not entirely sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me I shouted from across the store, “Do you have a YouTube show?!” She says yes, her friend looking at her like she hadn’t relized she knew a celebrity.” Bing. Bang. Boom. Virgie, a writer, sex educator, and “fierce fat girl” agreed to be interviewed for my Well-Fed Woman series and I am over the freaking moon. Here’s why:

Virgie, what are you TRULY hungry for?

I’m truly hungry for lots of things. I’m hungry for the perfect peanut butter cookie. I’m hungry for orgasms, for the next time I wake up and my vagina says “I have an idea…” I’m hungry for travel, to take the 2000 mile journey in a slow boat up the Mekong River, to see lemurs in Madagascar, to smell vanilla in Oaxaca, to eat that perfect baba ghannouj I found in Atlanta that one time, the baba ghannouj that had been slowly roasted and hand turned for 15 hours paired with red wine from Israel. I’m hungry for those mornings when the sun travels through the vertical slats of my blinds and I can see the green of the trees from Golden Gate Park and I sigh that delicious sigh of the most genuine feelings of “yes.” I am hungry for my lover’s full lips, to see one more new thing that will feel like a secret that’s only mine.

What’s a craving that you previously denied that you now happily satisfy? 

I spent so much of my childhood and adolescence denying nearly every craving for pleasure I felt. Because I’ve always been a fat girl I tried to deny myself the pleasure of food in hopes that I could gain the pleasure of love, acceptance, visibility and normalcy. Food was the enemy and I recall writing hate-filled letters to my body and to food as if they were conspiring against me. I tried to deny that I was a very erotic person from a young age, tried to deny the urges to masturbate because I was afraid God was watching with violent disapproval. Because I was a self-loathing fat girl who believed in a vicious God who owned my body I denied myself the pleasure of kissing boys my age, boys I loved and who loved me. I was always barely holding onto the prohibitions, feeling like I was on the 100th push-up, suspended, shaking, exhausted on the precipice of what I then would have called capitulation or failure.

The change in these beliefs happened imperceptibly, but began with sex and with healing my relationship with my vagina. As a child I’d been taught my vagina was a dirty secret and that my sexuality should be viewed with the same sort of sordidness. As a fat girl I’d been taught that I was thoroughly undesirable and unlovable, barely female, barely human. I had to learn how to deserve love, respect and desire. Shame and self-hatred can take years to unlearn or sometimes just a moment of clarity in which the utter ridiculousness of it is revealed. And now I’m an unapologetic 256-pound woman with a life filled with the feather boas I use for my burlesque routines, a loving 5-year relationship with a hot man, delightful afternoons filled with moscato and macarons, and my best friend the Hitachi Magic Wand.

How has this impacted you?

I live without guilt, without shame (most days, at least), without hatred for my body or myself. Food is no longer the enemy and neither is the pleasure it brings me. I revel in my hunger for love, sex, and delicious food. I have eradicated the people and things in my life that make me feel bad or wrong. In fact, I no longer even attract people who seek to make me feel bad or wrong. I see and feel my desirability as I walk through the world. I see my body as one part of the abundance that surrounds me and that pours into my life. I set boundaries with my family because now I know I deserve to have a relationship with them on my terms. My sexuality amazes me and brings me incredible (incredible!) new experiences of  lusciousness, of aliveness. I have created a self that is sacred and strong. No one can touch that secret part of me that knows I’m a queen.

What are you a conduit for? 

I’m a conduit for the comfort that giggling brings, women finding love they’d forgotten or never learned they had. I’m a conduit for permission, for the unapologetic pursuit of pleasure, for the relinquishing of shame. I’m a conduit for showing women a world filled with cheese and puppies and ridiculous little things that mean we are far from hopeless.

What comes through with ease, meaning, and spark?

Fashion, sex, glitter, pleasure, hedonism, delight.

Favorite bite in recent memory?

Musamun curry with perfectly cooked beef at Thai House on Valencia, between 16th and 17th in San Francisco. The curry was a beautiful red-brown accented with gorgeous globules of sun-orange oil. The chunks of beef had been cooked to a luscious tenderness and the whole thing was served in a bowl that looked like a little white flower with perfectly rounded petals.

February 16, 2012

Nude Reclining Female in Citrus Colors

Pleasure is a food group.

We need servings of it every single day.

And most of us aren’t getting it. We’re malnourished of Vitaman P.

We’re actually starving for pleasure.

By taking care of everyone else. By striving to be loved, liked, approved of, to be the ‘good’ girl, to be the ‘bad’ girl. By seeking to numb ourselves and distract from what’s here. It’s exhausting, we’re exhausted, and all this clouds out pleasure.

We don’t receive pleasure when we do ‘shoulds’, have ‘to do’s, or when we try to fit in, suck it up, suck it in.

Dry bread and low-fat cheese. Shoes so uncomfortable they make you want to cut your big toe off. The job that looks good on paper. Faking it in all the many ways we do. Denying our self what we truly hunger for.

This is where so many of us live and this is a pleasure desert.

What we need is to feel good. To feel delicious. To feed our our five senses.

For me it’s cashmere that’s just for wearing at home. lounging in bed. turning my face to the sunrise. a steaming mug of chai. skilled massage. amber oil dabbed on my neck. seeing beauty in the young and the old. food made with love. laugh attacks. clean sheets. ranunculus. Concrete Wall by Zee Avi. bearded wirey dogs. the smell of Tassajara incense. days where I do absolutely nothing.

My five senses and your five senses require pleasure.

Pleasure is quite simply a daily medicine needed for living well and being full.

And we need to be intentional about it. Not just taking what crumbs of pleasure come our way.

We need to live has sensualists. We must treat pleasure like we do drinking water – essential and something we don’t apologize for needing.

Think of how your life might be different if you got a mega-dose of pleasure every day? Would you have more bounce in yours step? More radiant energy? Less tension in your muscles?

What if you asked yourself each night before you go to sleep: “What will please me tomorrow?”
What if you started each day by asking yourself: “What would please me right now?” Or “How can what I wear today bring me pleasure?”, “How can what I eat today be a full-on pleasurable experience?”, and “Is the music I’m listening to releasing my endorphins?”

Ask yourself: “How can the everyday moments in my life, the ones that string together to form what we call “busy” be pleasurable?” Moments like taking a shower. Like getting dressed or eating breakfast. Moments like driving in the car.

Start small (or big). Eat pleasure. Listen to pleasure. Feel pleasure. Smell pleasure. Look at pleasure. Surround yourself and infuse your life with pleasure. This is a life with luster and this is a big part of what makes life worth living.

Pleasure teaches us that life doesn’t have to feel like swimming up stream or hiking Mt. Everest barefoot. I used to think it did. I used think that toxic levels of stress, a wildly abusive inner critic, and days spent striving for perfection were normal and what life was all about.

No. More.

With pleasure as my carrot I don’t need a stick. 

And neither do you.

February 8, 2012

Laura Simms, the radiant coach and writer behind Create as Folk, has a lot of what the world needs right now. When you traverse her words, both written and shared on camera, you can tell you’re privy to the wisdom of someone who cares deeply about being of service and does so authentically.

Another reason Laura lights me up is that she also took a left turn in her career (her from acting, me from food and events) and dove heart first into coaching, still allowing her previous life to inform and improve her current endeavors. I love seeing how her experience in acting shapes her work online and with her clients, just like I love to see how my years in the food world only enhances my business today.

My advise: embrace left turns.

In her own words, Laura says “A fulfilling career is important, but it’s not the only thing that counts in creating as folk. When you create as folk, you cultivate the life & work meant just for you. I’m into confronting deep desires, honoring possibility, taking risks, and doing all of the above with a sense of humor. Preferably a quirky one.”

Are you in love yet? So, no she’s not just a career coach, she’s the epitome of a wonderful life coach.

Yep, Laura is an über well-fed woman, living her life wide and deep with a big invitation for all of us to play out loud, laugh, and live on purpose. { I’m so excited to meet her in person when I’m in LA for the final Retreatshop! }


Laura, what are you TRULY hungry for?

One of the most satisfying things that I do is get together with playmates from grad school and do physical theatre work. We do a lot of improvised movement, and when we’re all in the zone, it’s peaceful and exhilarating at the same time. It’s unspoken connection, it’s sweat, it’s group mind, it’s telling stories, it’s being finely attuned and having a broad awareness; it’s knowing what’s going on on the other side of the room without looking. To me, that is magic.

What’s a craving that you previously denied that you now happily satisfy? How has this impacted you?

To hole up in my nest during the dark winter months. What can I say, I’m a true critter. When the sun goes down, I want to be tucked away. In the winter in Southern California, that means about 5 pm. For the last several years I tried to force myself to go out and be social and productive on winter nights, but it just felt awful. This year I decided to listen to my natural rhythms and do what my critter self wants. I was able to accept and appreciate this yearning instead of feeling broken. The more I’m able to work with what I’ve got, instead of trying to change it, the better I feel.

What are you a conduit for? What comes through with ease, meaning, and spark?

Play. Sometimes silly, frivolous play. Sometimes in a deeper sense: curiosity, taking risks, exploring. I think this is truly at the heart of my coaching work. Even when we’re doing something very serious, there’s still space for light and tender play. When working with clients, I see my role as helping them “get down to you.” To hit the bedrock of their true desires and gifts, and then figure out how to let their work or business be a reflection of that. That feels like play to me.

Favorite bite in recent memory?

My mother-in-law is an amazing Italian cook. Of all things, her homemade pizza is on my personal 7 Wonders of the World list. Dough made from scratch, light brushing of olive oil, fresh toppings in unexpected combinations, and all cooked on a pizza stone over the grill. It’s an experience.

February 1, 2012

We have all been there.

Waiting in the grocery store check-out line when a young child sees a candy bar with shiny wrapping and in the blink of a reflex, reaches out to grab it.

They see it. They want it.

And just as quickly as their hand touches the wrapper their parent reaches down, removes their sticky grip on the treat, and says some version of “Not today honey.” or “We don’t need any candy right now.”

and BOOM.

The child erupts in abject terror and tantrum.

As children, often the very notion that we can’t have what we want, when we want it, is horrifying and incredibly painful.

Tears, shrieking, and if they can, writhing on the floor. It’s the end of their world as they know it…for that few minutes. Not getting what they want is unthinkable. (Never mind that what they probably want is a nap).

This is one of the most powerful teaching moments I use in my work. I share this common scene again again because I want to talk about how this plays out when we’re adults and I want to help you to make one very important separation.

Five Ways Adults Deal With Wanting But Not Having the “Candy Bar”:

1. We disconnect from the hunger. If we can’t satisfy it, better to not even feel it, right?

:: “I don’t want a boyfriend, I’m happy being single” (Often true, but sometimes a cover up for a hunger we can’t satisfy at the moment.)

2. We over do it. If we can’t have it right now, then later on we have it times ten.

:: “Fuck it. I’m eating the whole bag.”

3. We think not now means not ever.

:: “I’m not a writer. I’m a mom. I’m too busy with my kids to write.”

4. We conflate our self-worth with what we can’t have in the moment.

:: “I didn’t get the job because I’m not good enough!”

5. We become the mother at the grocery store, always denying our adult selves what we want, because we hate feeling denied so much that we make denial the norm and become numb to it.

:: “I don’t eat carbs…EVER.”


Feeling our hungers is separate from satiating them.

Let me say that again.

Feeling our hungers is separate from satiating them.

We must be able to breathe around our hungers. Give them space. Be curious about them. We must do this if we are ever to satiate them.

If we rush from feeling to satiating, we often fail to identify the true hunger at all.

Desperation, grasping, and hurrying are an invitation to notice what is making the present moment (wherein true hungers are identified) so uncomfortable to be in.

When we’re young, wanting and having are so enmeshed that their isn’t space to take a breath between them. And as adults we don’t often cultivate this space, even though it’s available to us and so very useful.

Simply put, one of the main reasons for all of our seemingly peculiar responses to the momentary denial of our desires is that as adults we don’t hold feeling our hungers and fulfilling our hungers as separate acts.

S  L  O  W   d   o   w   n..

Our hungers are patient.

Our hungers simply want to be seen, heard, and cared about.

If you’re exhausted at the end of the day, attempting to give your 4 year-old twins a bath and you feel a deep hunger for _______, and there isn’t time or energy at the moment, instead of shoving the hunger away, simply say to your hunger “I see you. I hear you. You matter to me. I will feed you as soon as I can. I won’t forget you.”

Our hungers trust us. (It’s us that too often doesn’t trust them).

If you’re aware that you’re hungry for _______, but you have no idea how to feed it, simply say to your hunger “I see you. I hear you. You matter to me. I will spend time thinking about how to feed you. I won’t give up on you or us.”

You aren’t the desperate child anymore. In a just few breaths you have all the space you need to check in with yourself, to dialogue with your hungers, and then, and only then, to decide how to proceed in feeding them.

First things first.