Posted May 3, 2013
Our hungers are an eternal spring of wisdom and answers.
I wish I’d known this when I was younger, it would have saved me so much strife and anguish.
If I had known, I wouldn’t have have pursued answers, fruitlessly I might add, in so many places outside of myself.
If I had known that the well of wisdom was ceaseless and within myself I would not have sought to silence it.
It, this eternal spring, asked for simple things from me. It asked for human embrace. It asked for carbs – bread, pasta, and the like. It asked for permission to simply be. to be heard. to be listened to.
My spring of hungers asked for rest. and play. My spring of hungers said “Let our body be! Let it be soft. Let our body be whatever it wants to be.”
My spring of hunger said “Let others love us” and “Let’s love us.”
And it was the courageous act of yielding, of listening, of honoring that I allowed me to live my way into a very well-fed woman.
The path has not been linear. Going from relating to my hungers as enemies to being in deep communion with them has been a practice. It has, at times, been moment to moment and day by day. But over time it has become second nature.
This Way of The Well-Fed Woman, as I call it, has liberated me and over the past several years I’ve been lucky enough to witness it do the same for so many others.
I want this for every hungry woman out there. I want so much to live in a world where women trust their hungers, no matter how big they are or and live lives created from this guidance within.
In the spring 2004 I attended a large women’s reproductive rights march in Washington, DC. As we gathered, plackets in hand, Hillary Clinton on the microphone, I overheard a conversation between a few women who were standing next to me.
One woman said “What do you want to do for lunch?” The other replied “Oh, I’m skipping lunch this week. I’ve been so bad and need to slim down.” To which her replied with a chipper “Oh, okay!”
The only part of this story that has to do with food is that our relationship with food mirrors our relationship with all of our hungers.
Instead of her hunger for lunch, this woman could have just as easily been ignoring her hunger for creativity, or touch, or adventure. This is what so many of us do and I’m not here to claim that feeding ourselves is easy. Well, it’s not easy at first.
Aftercall, how do hear what we’re hungry for?
How do know if what we’re hearing is our “true” hunger?
And once we hear it, what we do? How do we actually take a hunger, especially the big ones, and feed it?
I teach the answers to these questions. I equip hungry women with the tools, frameworks, practices, and love that it takes to live the Way of The Well-Fed Woman.
Someone asked me recently, “What does ‘being well-fed’ mean?” Kind of like when you say a word ten times fast it starts to sound funny. I say “well-fed” a whole lot and I totally get if it starts to sound like mumbo jumbo.
If this metaphor has felt elusive for you, perhaps my words here today have shed some clarity.
Being well-fed means believing 1) that your hungers are wise and serve as a compass pointing to what is needed now for you to be most fulfilled, 2) you are worthy of having your hungers fed, 3)that when you are well-fed you can be engaged in and most of service to the world, and 4) that a world full of well-fed people, especially women, would be a radically better place than the one we live in today.
If you believe these tenets, then your eternal spring is ready and waiting to guide you. You are ready to feast. If you believe these tenets and are hungry for support and guidance, I’m here.
Happy (eternal) springtime to all.
Posted March 28, 2013
Posted March 12, 2013
This September I’m co-leading the Wise Body, Wise Hungers: Yoga & Coming Home to Your Desires retreat with the truly awesome Anna Guest-Jelley. The retreat sold out in three and half days last week! Anna and I take this as a very good sign and plan to find a way to offer the retreat again sometime in the future.
Between the two of us, we have an abundance of transformative teachings to share and have both dedicated our lives to bringing women back to the wisdom within.
You might think as the co-leader of a yoga retreat that I’m a pro-yogi. Not so.
In fact, my relationship with yoga might be a lot like yours.
I dabbled in it in high school. My mom and I would go to a Hatha Yoga class at a local gym once a week. The teacher was a thick-accented, hyper-flexible seventy year old Indian man. It was a great mom-daughter activity, but it didn’t spark my soul.
My college experience included anorexia and compulsive running. No yoga.
I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2005. It’s pretty much “Yogaville” here.
There are several yoga studios within walking distance of where I live (or anywhere I might live). Every type of yoga is available. There are teachers of every stripe. I even own more than one yoga mat and my share of props.
For several years I went regularly to an Iyenger yoga class. My teacher was a petite elderly Japanese woman and my fellow students all had gray hair. I loved that class. Then the building got torn down, the class relocated, and I moved further away.
Years later I dabbled in Anusara, even signing up for a year-long pass to a studio which I promptly never used. It wasn’t super convenient to where I lived and I didn’t like the style nearly as much as Iyengar. I dropped in on a few Vinyasa and other flow classes, not for me. I’ve made it to a handful of restorative yoga classes, but I can’t say I go regularly.
Then a friend invited me to her Iyengar class, which we went to together for quite a while. A year or two I believe. But I felt out of fondness for the teacher.
I’ve tried online classes and Marianne’s amazing virtual teachings (Her 30 days of Yoga starts next week!). I’ve been to my share of day-long workshops, such as “New Year’s Day Yoga Retreat” and “Create Your Own Home Practice.” My bookshelf has an entire section of yoga books that I’ve read and certainly appreciate. Many of my friends are wonderful yoga teachers or students. I speak the language. I know asana practice, the physically active arm of yoga, can be profoundly transformational.
In a good week, I find my way to my mat at home and my body tells me what what it needs. It’s almost always gentle and restorative. It rarely lasts more than 20 minutes.
Would I like to go to a good class more frequently? Certainly.
Would I like to have more of the post-yoga class joy in my body? Yes.
Does this make me a yoga failure? No.
I’ve learned that that right now I don’t need to be a hot-yoga, hand-standing master in order to feel how I want to feel in my life and to live in alignment with myself and others.
What I am is a curious woman who’s dedicated her life to the slow and tender process of returning home (as often as possible) to her body and to a life based in self-trust.
What I am is just like you. Perfectly imperfect. Doing my best. Ebbing and flowing. Sometimes in the flow. Sometimes a bit off course.
What I am is over-the-moon to teach with and learn from Anna. She’s just my yoga type. She calls me back to the practice in a whole new way. She’s funny, bright, patient, and kind.
Anna makes everyone – one and all – feel welcome as a yogi. Whether you’ve practiced a lot or never. Whether you are curvy or straighty. Be you young or old. Be you spotted or striped. Anna has put out the yoga welcome mat.
To learn more about the different styles of yoga I mentioned here, check out Yoga Journal’s guide to Yoga Styles.
Posted February 22, 2013
Here are just some of the factors related to weight fluctuations:
Side effects from medication
Socio-economic class shifts
Restricted & binge eating
Grief & trauma
Returning to or away from intuitive eating
Injury that limits mobility
Changes in activity
Of these, only pregnancy can be seen with our eyes.
I have a client who, over the past few years, has gained weight. I can tell you that at least five of the above factors are present in her life. Which ones? I’m not telling.
She came to our session stressed about running into an ex-boyfriend and wondering how she’d explain her weight gain to him.
She doesn’t have to. She doesn’t have to justify the change in weight at all.
And while people will assume to know why someone weighs what they weigh, you know what they say about that.
Next week I’ll be updating my website with all new photos of me. It’s been several years since the old ones were taken and it was time for a refresh.
I’ve lost some weight in that time. Why?
Well, with a history of an eating disorder, some might assume I’d relapsed. Not so.
But the real reason is my own collection of the above factors.
What really matters, for my client, for me, and for you is this: happiness.
What matters is having a meaningful life. I have that. Increasingly, so does she.
Weight changes. It changes daily, weekly, annually, and througout our entire life.
It’s normal. It’s human.
Our society shames bodies for sure, but we shame bodies who change weight even more. Unless of course we idolize and worship the change (almost always a weight loss).
I want to make crystal clear:
You don’t have to explain it.
You don’t have to justify your weight or anything else about your body.
Let your body finds it’s way.
Oh, and try not to assume why someone else’s weight has changed. You really never know.
Posted February 18, 2013
That’s it really. It’s that simple.
It’s about the relationship we have with our hungers.
This is my work. This is my offer to you: deep communion with that which you naturally and deeply hunger for.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve mistrusted your hungers your entire life. I can help you befriend them today.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve made 99% of your hungers your BFF. I can help you to bring harmony to that remaining 1%.
I illuminate the relationship we have with our hungers so we can shift it to one that is even deeper and more connected.
From here, magic happens. Seriously. Life can taste so sweet.
I teach that how we relate to our hungers is the foundation from which a well-fed life is (or isn’t) built.
Do you wholeheartedly trust your desires? Do you fully embrace food? rest? touch? adventure? delight?
Are your career hungers and relationships hungers honored in your life?
Are you as well-fed a woman as you would like to be?
This is my life’s work. Let’s feast.
Posted October 16, 2012
I received an email from a client this morning. I’ve been working with her for about nine months on breaking free from binge eating and healing her relationship with herself. In her sunrise note to me, she shared the following:
“I sat down with my breakfast and half way through I had the thought, “I am full. I really, really don’t want to eat the rest of this.” So I walked my half-eaten bowl into the kitchen, slapped on some plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge. Done. Holy what!?!”
Yes! Yes! Yes!
I knew this day would come for her. If you struggle with disconnected eating, I know this day can come for you too.
Just a note, if you are one of the many people whose form of disconnected eating leans toward restriction – this story would be same if she ate her entire bowl and then realized she was hungry for more and then ate more. Same coin. Different sides. I’ve been on both.
Right before I entered eating disorder treatment for the second time I was standing in the kitchen at my office (back when I had a 9-5). I had gotten into work before any of my coworkers and went to put my lunch in the refrigerator. As I did, I saw that there was a lot of leftover bean dip and pita chips from a party the office attended the day before.
At that party I had tasted the bean dip and loved it. It was creamy, salty, and delicious. The pita chips were homemade, and tasted of really good olive oil. I also only allowed myself a few bites.
That next day, standing there alone in the office kitchen I took a bite. I took another. I went back to my desk and in the blink of my eye found myself back in the kitchen inhaling it. Repeat this a few more times. Desk. Kitchen. Desk. Kitchen. Stuffing myself. Anxious someone would come in. Feeling entirely out of control. Lacking all connection to myself, my heart, my stomach, and my soul. I binged.
That was years ago and since then I have worked hard to surrender my weapons and take up living in peace.
Today. Life, for the most part, and food are peaceful. Honestly and truly. And I know they can be for everyone who struggles this way.
Truth? We simply will not feel able to stop eating during a meal, even when we’re full, if any of the following are true:
:: We think shouldn’t be eating (this food, this amount, at this time) in the first place
:: We think the food = love, companionship, a hug, etc.
:: We are using eating to manage emotions we think are too powerful for us to handle
:: We are out of touch with our body’s wise cues
:: We are disconnected from the natural inclination to care for ourselves and at the mercy of our critic
:: We are, overall, underfed
My client’s experience at breakfast – her having that moment of fullness and making the choice to stop eating – tells me that none of these things were true for her, which tells me she is, as I knew she would be, waking up and really living life as a Well-Fed Woman.
She did not make this choice because she wanted to lose weight. She didn’t make this choice because she was following a diet. She was not trying to control herself or punish herself.
She was honoring herself.
:: We must legalize all food and all eating. Allow ourselves to eat anything, at any time, in any amount.
:: We must come to see that we are lovable (and we are love). When we feel lonely or any emotion, feel it.
:: We must practice, taking baby steps, coming home to our wise body, as it is, right now.
:: We must come to ourselves as a mother does to her child, with the utmost tenderness and care.
:: We must remember that food is good. Eating is good. Filling up is good. Living a life of just barely getting enough or striving to not be too much or eat too much is a recipe for living a half-eaten life.
Tell me. What does living a half-eaten life look and feel like to you? What are the signs and sensations a life Well-Fed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Posted October 15, 2012
You might not know Margarita Tartakovsky, but I hope you know her writing. She’s the Well-Fed Woman behind PsychCentral’s Weightless blog and she consistently puts out some of the best content, according to her, about:
:: “fostering a fulfilling body image and life, at any shape + size. It’s about well-being, not weight.
:: building a healthy relationship with food and yourself. It’s about transforming your self-care, and finding self-acceptance and self-love.
:: becoming a clever consumer and recognizing when women’s magazines and other mediums tout unrealistic and damaging tips and standards.”
It’s no question that Margarita has a spot at my Well-Fed Woman table and I’m happy to share her words with you today.
Margarita, what are you TRULY hungry for?
I’m truly hungry to let my creativity out. To explore and express myself in different ways, whether that’s poetry or painting (which I’m honestly intimidated to try). I used to draw as a little girl, and I loved it. I’d like to get back to that playful place, again. That place where I can create whatever I want without feeling self-conscious.
(For instance, I’m considering creating an e-book of my poetry, ACK, there I said it, and yet my inner critic is roaring from the rooftops about all the reasons why I’m not cut out to do it.)
I’m also truly hungry to let go, tune into what I’m doing – instead of getting distracted 800 times — and travel the world with my honey (hopefully a Mediterranean cruise this summer).
What comes through you with ease, meaning, and spark? What are you a conduit for?
Writing is many things to me. It’s my work, my passion, my loudspeaker, which lets my voice be heard. And it’s my way of connecting with others.
If I had to pick a theme that shows up in all of my writing – regardless of the topic – it’d be kinship. I write to let readers know that they’re not alone; to let them know that “yep, me, too,” because when I read writing like that, it eases my heart. It feels amazing and soothing to know that someone has been there.
I also write to help readers learn to be kinder to themselves and others. To share good information and resources. (That’s one of the reasons I love talking to different researchers, coaches and clinicians. And I definitely learn so much myself!)
What’s a hunger you used to deny that you now happily satisfy? How has this effected you?
I used to deny myself so many things – everything from dessert to compassion to authenticity. I used to think that I had to diet and lose weight in order to be likeable, worthy and confident. In other words, I used to think that I had to earn these things – and looking a certain way would be my currency.
Even if I’d eat dessert it was always with unease. I’d gobble it up or shove it in, as though it was my last meal. Inevitably a stifling kind of shame would wash over me, as though I’d just committed some injustice.
I rarely let myself off the hook for anything. Everything I did could’ve been better. Everyone around me was better. I filled my life with “shoulds,” – what I should like, what I should dislike, what I should wear, what I should do.
When I think about it I really just built a fence around all my hungers, whether it was a hunger for food, a hunger for care or a hunger for self-expression. When I was restricting what I was eating or bingeing on foods that didn’t even satisfy me, I didn’t realize that this colored my entire life. That this was basically a metaphor for the shaky relationship I had with myself.
Now I savor dessert (and a wide variety of foods…yum!). Now I try to be kind and compassionate toward myself. To understand that I’m human, that mistakes are OK. That flaws aren’t fatal. They just are.
I focus on activities that bring meaning and make me happy. I tune into my body’s cues, my needs. I try to live life with all my senses. I spend time with people I love who genuinely love me, too, and have my back.
Living this way has helped me to breathe better. I think that’s the best way to describe what’s changed. I know myself so much more today than I ever did. I believe in myself so much more than I ever did.
I still struggle. I still get super insecure. (That poetry e-book is a good example.) I still forget certain lessons. I still hyperfocus on my shortcomings and gloss over my strengths.
But now I can recognize these struggles. Now I know my mean thoughts are not facts. Now I bounce back faster, and I cope with them in healthy and respectful ways. But, mostly, now I feed my hungers.
Favorite bite in recent memory?
A medium-well steak smothered in Asiago cheese with a butter-and-sour-cream baked potato, grilled asparagus and a glass of Riesling at Ruby Tuesday’s of all places. Man, was it good!
Did you catch the post What I Know About Weight?
It’s everything I learned about weight from 10 years of academic, professional, and personal study.
It’s gone globally viral and I want to make sure you see it before it gets buried in the archives.
Posted October 1, 2012
I’ve spent the past 10 years immersed in the study of how we, as women, relate to our hungers, food, bodies, and yes, weight. I’ve looked at these topics academically, professionally, personally, spiritually, and just about every which way you can…here is what I know:
I know it’s entirely useless to know what you weigh.
I also know that most people will disagree with me on that point. I know that I’m okay with that.
I know that giving up knowing your weight is one the most liberating and radical acts of self-care we can do. (Imagine living the rest of your life not knowing your weight, could you do it?)
I know weight fluctuates our whole lives and throughout each day.
I know you can find a healthy person at nearly every weight. I know you can find an unhealthy person at nearly every size. I know size is not a predictor of health.
I know beauty really does have nothing to do with size. If one doesn’t see beauty when looking at a human body the only thing that needs changing is the eyes of the beholder.
I know that too many use weight to measure their okayness, lovability, and success at controlling a world that was never and will never be in their control.
“It’s never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale. We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels.” Geneen Roth
I know that the happiest I’ve ever been did not coincide with the thinnest I’ve ever been. Not even close. In fact, my happiness doesn’t depend on my size. Fancy that.
I know each of us has a set-point happy-place weight, determined by an unknowable mix of genetics and lifestyle. No amount of exercise and starvation will necessarily change this. Nor do we need it to. I know that for many their body’s happy place weight is well-above what our society deems okay.
I know sizeism is one of the last forms of socially acceptable prejudice. I know we must change this.
I know we are living in a world that is crying out for women to shift their energy and attention from weight-loss and weight shame to engaged, compassionate, embodied, and awake living.
Will you join me?
If your answer is YES, here are some great next steps:
* Leave a comment below. Tell me what resonated. Share where you’re stuck. Let’s talk.
Posted August 16, 2012
10 years ago, when I began my journey to understand how we relate to our hungers, I was introduced to a then budding paradigm called Health at Every Size. This “belief system”, abbreviated as HAES, bucks the dominant view that weightloss and dieting are the path to health and happiness, instead offering intuitive eating and pleasurable physical activity as a more successful route. I’m thrilled that HAES is now back by solid scientific research and is increasingly considered the best approach to well-being and weight.
Leading the charge is Dr. Linda Bacon who pioneered some of the research that supports HAES and authored the book HERE.. If you want a basic primer on the tenets of HAES, Dr. Bacon has written an excellent (and free) manifesto that you can check out
Oh and if you’re interested in bringing the HAES approach to parents and young people check out The Body Positive.
Linda, what are you TRULY hungry for?
I am hungry for a world which values diversity and treats all bodies with respect.
What’s a craving you previously denied that you now happily satisfy? How has this impacted you?
Ice cream! I used to believe that ice cream was fattening, and that it stood between me, the body I wanted, and all the other good things I thought would come along with that body. Boy, was that loaded. I’m sure you can imagine what those ideas did to my ability to actually enjoy the ice cream! No longer buying into the value of dietary control, the belief that certain foods are “bad” and should be avoided, my own fears of being fat, and having confronted a host of other damaging myths has been tremendously freeing. Ironically, giving up on these ideas about dieting and weight loss helped me to settle into a comfortable weight, something I never achieved when I was resisting my ice cream craving.
What comes through you with ease, meaning, and spark? What are you conduit for?
These days, it’s words. They’re just flowing out of me faster than I can keyboard. I’m enjoying jamming out another book. It builds on the ideas of my previous book, Health at Every Size. It’s tentatively called Eat Well: For Your Self and the World, kind of a manifesto for cutting neurosis from our daily diets and, in the process, improving our health and the health of our world. It includes an in-depth look at nutrition, including the science and politics of food.
Favorite bite in recent memory?
I’ll get literal here again and talk about food because I just spent the afternoon making arancini. Came out amazing. Arancini, at least my version, are risotta/saffron/cheese balls that I toss in panko (bread crumbs) and bake, and then serve on a marinara sauce with fresh basil. A perfect complement to roasted asparagus. I’ve been sampling along the way, but I’m trying to show some restraint until my family comes home for dinner. Not easy.