...and the fat closed in around the sword

"Okay. There is no right way to say this..."

I stayed on the surface of my best friend's opening words just long enough to contemplate darting out of the ocean-front restaurant, jumping into the water and dying. But that would have been too easy, and I don't do easy things. Plus, I hate the sand. So instead, I stared into Laura's eyes as she continued on, bracing myself, hoping and praying she wouldn't say the thing...

"I love you and I can tell that you are miserable. I'm so sorry."

I've been here before - that sinking, paralyzing, infuriating stab to the gut when someone spells out our demons. It's the one that makes us feel seen, too seen. Found out. Held tighter than we're comfortable with. And even though it was said with such love, my body reacted the same way it does when I've heard things like:

 "No, actually, you're failing Pre-Algebra.",  "Your checking account balance is minus one hundred forty-five dollars" "I don't have feelings for you anymore", "We've offered the position to someone else..."

I sank into the padded chair, and I felt a nudge from deep in my bones that said, stay. It'll all be okay. Just listen...

I haven't known how to tell you, and I'm so sorry if this is hurtful. Even your breathing is different, I can hear the heaviness. I love you at ANY size, and yet I can see you're in a lot of pain in your body. I can see it in your eyes.
And I don't think you're in recovery from your eating disorder, I think you're in the thick of your eating disorder."

I could feel my face run white. My finger tips, numb. And my heart, already so heavy, heavier. I heard the planet crack, or maybe it was just my knuckles as I yanked them, looking for some relief while my spirit suddenly felt so small and my body felt so big, too big. And yet, I sat. And listened deeply. It doesn't take much for me to cry, so I went ahead and did that.

The thing is, when something, especially words, pierces the body, all of its resources rush to the wound like a pack of detectives. Blood and fat cells gather round, collecting information on mini notepads, asking things like, what do we got? How long has she been like this? Someone grab a blanket to keep her warm. It's like a committee - the committee dedicated to the healing and restoration of my body and my soul. Each of us as one, and sometimes is takes a friend to call them in from eating donuts in the 7-Eleven parking lot. (Thank you, Laura). 

So my friends and readers and students and someone who knows someone who knows someone who stumbled upon this blog, I am Erica Jacobs; a Yoga Teacher, Essential Oil Educator, Eating Psychology Counselor and freakishly funny woman, struggling with an eating disorder. I don't want to be alone in this, so as long as my publishing my recovery doesn't hinder my healing, I have chosen to share my journey on the interwebs.

I thank you for being a part of this committee who closes in tight to help set me free.

Grace and Peace,

Erica

The Myth of Emotional Eating

I'll be brief and I'm not gonna sugarcoat this, because I love you. And I love me. And I've already spend years and years perfecting eating in shame, chronically dieting, binge eating and listening to everyone else, except me, when it came to my relationship with food. I've done all this, so you don't have to. You're welcome :)

If we ever hope to break free of food rules, diet culture and body image issues, we need to be willing to redirect and see things differently. Amen? 

I'm assuming (sorry) that somewhere, somehow, you learned from someone's Great Aunt Beverly that Emotional Eating is something to be avoided, ashamed of and even punished for. 

The act of putting a Milky Way or a Ding Dong (does anyone eat those anymore?)  in your face because you're stressed is somehow a reflection of who you are and how you have no discipline and you're ruining your life. 

First of all, it's not true. It's not true. Again, it's NOT true. 

The problem is not that we are emotional eaters; the problem is us confusing 'emotional eating' with 'shameful eating'. 

Let's explore the difference...

 

I AM AN EMOTIONAL EATER WHEN I...

* eat when I'm bored

* eat past the point of fullness because the meal taste so good

* eat when I'm not hungry, so that I don't miss out on family dinners or outings, where everyone else is eating

* think about food/plan my next meal while I'm eating a current meal or have just eaten

 

Now, watch for the subtle but distinct difference between

Emotional Eating and Shameful Eating:

 

I AM A SHAMEFUL EATER WHEN I...

* eat when I'm bored...and consider myself to be "bad" for it. 

* I eat past the point of fullness because the meal taste so good...and I feel compelled to exercise and burn off what I ate or I promise myself somewhere deep inside that I will never do this again. 

* I eat when I'm not hungry, so that I don't miss out on family dinners or outings, where everyone else is eating...and I end up bingeing because of my belief that if I eat when I'm not hungry I have failed intuitive eating/willpower/listening to my body perfectly. 

* I think about food/plan my next meal while I'm eating a current meal or have just eaten...and I am unable to find pleasure in my present meal. In fact, I feel distracted, displeased, anxious or irritable until my next meal. 

Friends. Not only is Emotional Eating not the enemy, it is NECESSARY, because food is love. It is comfort. It is meant to be pleasurable and deeply enjoyed- why else do we have taste buds?? It's like, why would we thousands have nerve endings on our genitalia if sex was ONLY meant for procreation?? It's the same. And also I wanted an excuse to mention sex stuff. 

Our relationship with food is complex and fascinating and infuriating and dazzling. Take my advice, just for today: (Did you even ask for my advice?) Be proud, so utterly proud, of your ability and your desire to eat with your emotions. To be connected to the earth, its bounty and the people who inhabit it, in such a special way. That's all you need to do today. 

You with me? Yikes? Hallelujah? Meh?

With love,

Erica 

I am not your fat yoga teacher

I'm not your fat yoga teacher
I'm not your curvy
plus size
body-positive
Instagram-envelope-pushing
guru.
I don't want to be
your daughter's
niece's
sister's
or
your
role model.
I am not your fat yoga teacher
no matter how much better
you feel on your mat
because of my size.
We're not playing that game.
I'm not playing this game.
The game where
you look at me
and you think,
I'll give her a complement
I'll tell her how much better I feel
on my mat
because she's not
like
your typical "anorexic" yoga teacher.
That is NOT a complement.
That is NOT love.
That is NOT yoga.
Suppose
my body changes
like all bodies do
and suddenly I no longer
look the way you need me to look
in order to feel like you belong
on your mat.
You're playing with fire.
You're only hurting yourself.
See
this is the damage we cause
ourselves
each other
ourselves
each other
me
you
me.
I am not
your fat yoga teacher.
I am
Erica Jacobs.

The Importance of Waffles & Ice Cream

"Ya'don't haafta pull so hawd!" Grandma loudly informs me, in her heavy New York accent. Everything inside the pullout-freezer drawer jolts and slides forward, making a slamming sound against the front of the freezer. I quickly grab 2 waffles from their box and the pint of ice cream. I accidentally slam the freezer shut. I wait for Grandma to react. No reaction. She's busy talking to my Mother about the idiot at the post office. Safe.

I don't like the feel of cold things on my hands. I don't like my hands to be wet or damp. I'm quickly reminded of this as I hurry to get the 2 frozen waffles into the toaster oven and the ice cream on the counter. I set the timer for my waffles...tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick...my Mother laughs, reminiscing about their days in the Bronx in the 50's, with the nutcase Uncle who lived upstairs and the dog that attacked him...tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick...Grandma talks about the gal she now goes to at the beauty parlor and how lovely she gets -what hair she has left- to stand up and look presentable...tick tick tick tick tick tick...I stare at my waffles, my eyes lost in the long, noodle-shaped orange heat lamps. DING! I barely touch the waffles as I scoot them on a plate, careful not to burn myself and I place one, no, three scoops of ice cream on each.

It's our first night in New York, which means Mom and I are briefed on who's getting married, who's had a Bar Mitzvah, who got divorced, who's pregnant and who's literally lost their mind in the last year, A.K.A. who is "not well", to which Grandma flings her hand in the air, raises her eyebrows, lowers her eyelids and says, "fuhgeddaboudit, she's nuts!" 

Yes. This is my favorite; sitting at the kitchen table with my Mother and Grandmother, talking shit about people. Me, my teeth warmed by waffles and chilled by ice cream (NEVER allowed in our house) and my Mother with her coffee & frozen Mandel bread, (also, NEVER allowed in our house.)

It's so late, but I don't have to go to bed because there's no school the next day because I'm on vacation. And I'm not tired because I'm on California time. Because I'm a California Girl...with New York blood and a New York groove and a New York (very) Jewish Grandmother I absolutely adore...

 

A while ago I wrote a post called, Why Can't I Stop Cheating on My Diet?, I mentioned an article written by one of my personal and professional heroes, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, where I graduated from a few years ago. (I totally just plugged FOUR things in ONE sentence. Is there an award for that?) Anyway, the article describes Three Types of Cravings; Supportive, Dispersive, and Associative. For the purposes of this post and my super-descriptive awesome story, we'll talk about the latter of the 3, Associative Cravings.

Associative cravings occur when we yearn for a food that has a rich, deep, and meaningful association with our past, much like waffles & ice cream remind me of my Grandmother, who passed away 2 years ago. It's almost like my taste buds step into a time machine, where not only do waffles & ice cream remind me of my Grandma, but, in a way, they are my Grandma. By surrendering to this kind of craving we can visit our past, and re-live feelings that may bring their own special healing moment, regardless of the nutritional inferiority of the food. Biology and nostalgia can make a fascinating and almost mystical meal.

It's easy to demonize, try to control, shut down or even hypnotize our cravings away (I tried that years ago. It was total bullshit. True story.) I'm no longer interested in ignoring that which biologically, and in many cases, spiritually calls out for me to pay attention. Cravings ought not to be curbed. They need to be listened to, heard, honored, and, dare I say, celebrated! Trying to control your appetite? Fuhgeddaboudit!

So, here's a (FUN) exercise for you if you need some help celebrating your cravings:

Tell your story associated with a particular food (or type of food) you've craved, like I did above. It can be a poem, a Haiku, a sonnet, a painting, a drawing, a song, whatever! Just tell the story. Re-live it. Celebrate it. For reals.

Some things to keep in mind when you're storytelling:

*Who does this food remind you of?

*Where were you when you would eat this food?

*What was happening in your life then?

*What feelings (happy, sad, displaced, aloof, angry, overjoyed, etc.) did you experience when you ate this food?

*What are your beliefs about this food now? How do you classify/label it? (healthy, unhealthy, clean, not clean, must-burn-off-now, I'm allowed to eat it when...)

Email me your stories! I'd be honored to read them (and *maybe* with your permission, feature them on this here blog). erica@whatseatingericajacobs.com

With my whole heart,

Erica

 

The "Special" Problem: Why Entitlement & Neediness *May* Help Your Relationships

"Sounds like you have a "Special" Problem", said my handsome therapist.

"Oooooh! What's that?! I feel special already!"

"Yea, that's the problem part", he chuckled as he rubbed his eyes for a moment, like he was about to break some earth-shattering news to me. My eyes widened and for a moment I felt excited about my new label, my brand-spankin-new neurosis, my next thing I'd get to blog about. (Good Lord, I really do need therapy.)

Over the past couple weeks I've come to terms with my resistance and my general distaste for sharing and being a "team player", for which I blame my parents, of course; instead of having more children and staying married, they got divorced, gave me my own bedroom and bathroom at both houses, where I had my own toys and never had to bang on a door to go pee or wait to use the computer, or negotiate the time I spent watching my Lifetime movies....in my own room...on my own t.v. If they had given me a sibling or a pet or a few house plants to take care of, I'm sure I'd enjoy a thing or two about being a team player. But they didn't. So, I don't.

However, despite not being a fan or a willing participant of sharing my stuff and working on a team, I've somehow built an entire career that is dependent upon my ability to do just that. First of all, I educate people how to use essential oils and a HUGE part of that business is sharing my oils with people, be that providing Lavender to a gaggle of high-strung Yoga Teachers, giving samples left & right, and putting Lemon oil in everyone's water while in India. As an Eating Psychology Counselor and Yoga teacher, I share my time and my resources in favor of helping people feel more alive, nurtured and comfortable in their body and their relationships. I love what I do, and I wouldn't choose to do anything else. But here's where my "Special" Problem lies...and yours, too, if this resonates with you, which is great, because I can help you...

While my job requires me to share my "toys", it doesn't usually require me to share the credit or the accolades with anyone, for a job well done. Somehow I've managed to stay just under the radar when it comes to collaborating with people on a project, where I'm not the only incredible genius behind the operation, until now...

My friend, Tracy, and I have been asked to run a "Creative Writing & Yoga" workshop next month, because we're both writers and we're both counselors and we both deeply care about the work we do. While I know the workshop is going to be an amazing one-of-a-kind adventure for our students, it will also require me to share the warm, gooey, fluffy praise and the You-Did-a-Heck-of-a-Job hugs with her, which is difficult for me, because there's a running story in my head that says, You know they're gonna like her more, right? You know they're gonna trust her more and look up to her more, and want to work with her more, right? It's a harsh and dangerous world in my head sometimes, my friends.

So where did this story come from? As my handsome Therapist puts it;

You always had all the stuff you wanted; the bedrooms, the toys, the time to watch Lifetime Movies...but that doesn't necessarily mean you were given what you needed; quality time, lots of praise, undivided attention, all the things a child in a typical narcissism stage really does need. So as you developed, you looked to other people's praise, feedback, attention etc. not just to make you feel good in general, but to actually fill you up, to validate you and prove your value and make you feel special. (And why would you ever want to share that with someone else?) But when you rely only on how other people value you and view you, for you sense of self-worth, it doesn't keep you full, because you can't or won't or don't do that for yourself. So, here you have a sense of entitlement...mixed with a specific kind of need to feel special...and that creates a -say it with me- "Special" Problem.

When I peeled my ego-bruised self off the couch after an entirely-too-short fifty minutes, the only solution to this problem I could think of, apart from getting the f*ck over it because I'm a 29 year-old grown ass woman who ought to know how to share and not be so greedy for accolades, was to tell my friend Tracy about my "Special" Problem; how I'm not as jazzed as I could and should be to teach a Creative Writing & Yoga Workshop together. I told her how I'm afraid that people are going to like her more than me, and how I'd look like a fool and that I'm not as helpful to people as I think I am. I told her I might feel jealous. That I do feel jealous already. I told her all those things and she replied:

"Well, that's funny, because I've been so worried that people are going to like you more than me because I'm no 'Erica Jacobs'".

"Oh, so we're afraid of the same things?"

"Yep."

"Okay, cool. So, do you just wanna know that the workshop is better off being done together? Do you wanna just do the thing?"

"Yes."

"Great. Good game." *High Five*

If there's one thing I've learned from walking through such intense grief when my Dad passed away, and the process of healing from an eating disorder, it is the importance of being direct and telling people how I feel. The more vulnerable I've made myself, the stronger my relationships have become...if they're the right relationships for me to begin with. So while I am not someone who has always been direct and outspoken about what I feel (ESPECIALLY to the person I have feelings toward), I've seen the benefit and the rewards of being blunt and sincere in my adult life.

So, the bottom line is this: It's fine to have feelings. As long as we're human, equip with an ego, we're going to have feelings of entitlement and neediness from time to time. We've all experienced that "Special" Problem and it can be used to our advantage when we're willing to recognize it and be honest about it. Being able to say what we truly feel, preferably to the actual people we feel them with/from/because of, no matter how embarrassing, how selfish, how conceited...is what being "authentic" is all about. (We, in the Yoga world, are obsessed with "being authentic", so I had to throw that word in here.) And the truth is, while it is ideal for us to be able to fill our own Self-Worth Bucket, it's not "bad" if/when we need other people to fill us up. It's okay. It's normal.

So, speak up, my friends. Say the things. Stay humble. It's good for your friendships, it's good for your job and...it's the best for your soul.

Isn't that Special? ;-)

Wholeheartedly,

Erica