Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul


“I love my body!” When do you ever hear women say that?!

Who decided that it is more virtuous to be skinny than to be a good person? I almost died acting out this tragic reversal of values. And furthermore, who decided that small is good and big is bad? My madly driven quest to shrink my 5’7”, 155-pound frame led me down a long, hard road of self-loathing, struggling, denial and finally acceptance. 

It all started in the early eighties when my parents suddenly started dieting and strapping on their new Nike shoes to jog around the block. Their new fixation with thinness immediately sparked an insatiable thirst in me that would soon destructively infiltrate my soul. 

Right about that time, I decided there was something wrong with my body that a diet or exercise could fix. Unfortunately, diets just weren’t for me. I found this out through many years of diet-related circus acts that failed miserably. Try as I may, and believe me I tried with the very best of them, diets and me, well we just didn’t get along. 

My dieting schemes were quite unique, or so I thought. I went through all sorts of ritualistic tricks to tease myself into thinking I wanted less food or foods that didn’t taste very good, but promised a magical transformation into Madonna’s physique. My first attempts at control were simply cutting my portions in half and pushing the undesired half in front of my father. He could always be counted on to eat anything unattached to the table. One foolish phase had me deciding that as long as I didn’t eat a “main dish,” I would lose weight. That directly translated into lettuce and sugar as my targeted nutrition. 

I cleverly devised many more strategies of masking diets into desirable behaviors, so driven was I to reduce myself into someone else’s body type. The usual suspects read something like this: all protein, no protein, all carbs, no carbs, all cooked, all raw, only green, not in the morning, only in the morning, not after 7pm, only when sitting, only when standing . . . ad nauseam. You get the drift. 

My food superstitions were only superseded by my insidious exercise contortions. I wrote the book on ways to drive your body into the ground, all in the name of fitness and health. I speed-walked so many neurotic times around the block that my neighbors got dizzy, logged countless hours on the stair-stepper leaving my quads too burnt to climb my porch stoop, and actually turned down dates because I had to jog. I knew something was wrong when I chose to gratuitously over-exercise instead of enjoying the very prize I was supposedly torturing myself for. 

This stringent fixation on altering my body combined with an inborn entrepreneurial ingenuity led me into a successful career as a fitness and dance professional. I figured I might as well capitalize on my obsession. So I cashed in on my compulsion in the fitness industry teaching an obscene number of classes and consuming an illegal number of protein bars. The dynamic duo of food and exercise went hand in hand. I couldn’t do one without the other. As soon as I ate, I had to exercise. As soon as I exercised, I ate. I began walking an impossibly precarious tightrope every day trying to balance the two in a desperate effort to maintain my physique. 

Having hopelessly tried every trick in the book to no avail, I hit a wall – a point of no return – that I bless to this day. That moment happened when I was a fitness and dance instructor in Tokyo and couldn’t stop eating and exercising obsessively. Food control and exercise discipline elevated into a full-time war, leaving me exhausted at the very thought of starting a new day. My body was in revolt with a failing digestive tract due to all the sugar and excess food, plus hip, knee and ankle joints that threatened to quit at any moment. 

One anxiety-ridden day I was toiling away on one of those gliding stationary machines in the gym, between the two aerobics classes I taught, thinking incessantly about the sugary treat I was going to consume whole the minute I finished. Something remarkable happened in that circuit-blowing moment. Something snapped. I had a visceral experience I will never forget. In my mind I suddenly had the grim reaper’s might scythe in my hand and was violently hacking away at the iron cage of regimen that was holding me imprisoned in this murderous gridlock of food and exercise. 

I stopped the machine, started crying, and didn’t stop for a long, long time. Through the help of an interpreter, I forged an unprecedented breach of contract and begged the Japanese club to let me go back home to the States. They posted shaming signs saying I was leaving due to psychological illness, and reluctantly let me leave the country. I ran to the airport and landed home humble, broken and tired. 

That’s when I could no longer deny it: I had a full-blown eating and exercise disorder. I ate compulsively, voraciously and secretly, and then purged through excessive exercise. My every day would start in a panic about what to eat and how to exercise it off, and end identically, usually laced in guilt and shame. Thank goodness for a compassionate friend who led me to my first eating disorder Twelve Step meeting. This was the beginning of a new life. I quit my highly coveted career as a fitness instructor at a prestigious West Hollywood gym, and took up full-time recovery for my addictive behaviors. 

My sponsor’s first question was, “Are you wiling to take a day off a week from exercise?” I replied, “No.” She said, “Okay,” and we went on to work the steps. Initially when I was finally willing to take off one day a week, I suffered from immense feelings of guilt every twenty minutes. Eventually one day off a week turned into every-other-day moderate exercise. My sponsor then asked if I was willing to quit sugar. Again I replied, “No.” The imperfect road to sanity with my food has been messy an illogical at times, but progressively improves each day. Instead of my demoralizing weight-control track record of one step forward, two steps back – I now experience a positive momentum of two steps forward, one step back in living a balanced life with food. 

I spent many years unsuccessfully struggling to change the size and shape of my body. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Although my dieting and exercise innovations all disguised themselves as my latest enthusiastic hobby, they all had one thing in common: They were all attempts to change the size and shape of  my body. Therein lay the spark for change, the point of departure. The new idea, the only fad I hadn’t tried, was to love and accept my body unconditionally at the size and shape it was. Period. 

This newfound acceptance of my body was the revolutionary act that led me on a new path to unprecedented freedom from obsession and dangerous behaviors. I’ve found that fixation on my body size only increases the problem, while acceptance eradicates the problem. 

It’s taken many years to undo the damage I incurred with the food and exercise abuse. My digestive system has sputtered, kicked and bucked for years from all the fake fuel and sugar overload. It’s taken equally as long to redefine moderation with exercise that works. Formerly, food and exercise were my foes. I used them to punish, restrict, measure and rate. My new lifestyle embraces an unprecedented loving attitude towards these life-sustaining activities. 

My bottom line commitment is that I no longer harm myself with food or exercise, and no longer use food or exercise to try to change the size or shape of my body. These two groundbreaking principles have revolutionized my ability to not only experience freedom from the grips of insanity, but have also granted me an increased capacity to experience love and joy every day of my life. 

Many gracious revelations have enriched my life instigated by this change. I now know that beauty is not a size, and fitness is not a shape. I can blaze up canyon trails, hold a mean warrior pose and spread joy with my vibrant smile, all in my natural-sized body. I’ve come to realize that there is nothing inherently good or bad about a size. A size isn’t good or bad. A size is just a size. Period. 

As well, I’ve finally come to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing wrong with my body. Nothing needs to be changed. My size is just right no matter what. I have no further need to try to change something that is not broken. 

What a relief to never ever have to count another carb or lap again! I love my body and look forward to the day I hear this chorus echoing loud and proud from women of all shapes and sizes, far and near!