...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

A Binge Eater Walks Up to a Donut Buffet

*On experiencing my first wedding reception donut buffet, as a recovered Binge Eater*

Like a drunken Prom Queen tripping over the train of her dress to collect her crown, I bolt from the dance floor, rush to the glorious donut shrine and stand in awe. I grab the way-too-small dessert plate from the stack and press it close to my cleavage, like a teenage girl nervously clutches her school books, as the boy she's in love with passes her in the hall.

They're all so pretty, they sparkle and I swear one just winked at me.

My eyes widen and my heart beats a little faster. I'm Excited. I'm Nervous. I'm hungry for a donut. And like a gaggle of mourners at an Amish funeral, a crowd forms around the oval table these round beauties rest on. That's when I hear the rumble of food shaming comments and the noisy arguments of, "Oh, this is dangerous." "Okay, I'll have one bite, but then we have to dance hard to burn this off." "Allen, take this away from me. You eat the rest. I can't be trusted." "You know I have no self-control." "No, you can't eat that, it's full of sugar." "Oh. Gluten."

I remember when I said those things. I remember promising to be 'good'. I remember chewing food and feeling proud for not swallowing it. I remember how much my throat burned when I did swallow, and ran to the bathroom to un-swallow it. I remember all the nights I sneaked into pantries and lost myself in a box of Oreos, or a pot of spaghetti, or an entire rectangle of cheese, or a jar of peanut butter. I remember crying on the kitchen floor, often. I remember when food was bad, and my body was bad and my appetite was bad and donuts were bad and I was bad and everything was bad.

My head is full of the useless chatter and I wonder what people will think of me when they see me take a bunch of donuts for myself. They'll think I'm still a binge eater. They're feel sorry for me, yet proud of themselves. Like, the whole, "Yea I ate a donut, but at least I didn't eat as much as Erica..." I'm about to put my plate down and run back to the safety of the dance floor, where I can burn more calories instead of ingesting them. And that's when I hear the voice; "Go ahead, honey. Take exactly what you want. It's okay. This is normal, now. You're not sick anymore, remember?" This is the new voice I listen to. She's new here. She's the food/body-positive parent I never had, and she came to stay with me when I was in recovery for my eating disorder. She helps me a lot.

I take a deep breath and turn my plate level, readying it for my selections...

The pink one with sprinkles matches my nail polish; I'll have that one. And the caramel one is the same color as my eyes; I want that one, as well. This other one is glazed and shines bright like a diamond in good lighting, just like me; I'll grab that one, too. This one in the corner looks kind of plain but I'll bet there's good inside; Mine. Coconut-covered? Why not! BACON-sprinkled? Um, duh!

Piled high to the starry, summer sky, I carefully walk my teetering donuts back to my table and arrange all nine of them in a line. I take one bite of each, noticing the vast and subtle differences in taste, texture, flavor and appearance. I like the pink one with sprinkles, best. I offer up the remaining eight donuts, who were now one bite shy of a full circle, and my table mates are thankful. And confused. And drunk.

I sit back in my chair and take bites of my pink sprinkled donut, knowing this is just enough for me. I'm eating exactly what I want. No need to binge. No urge to purge. No reason to cry on my kitchen floor. No big deal. It's not a special occasion that makes donuts okay...it's me who makes donuts okay to eat.

I smile enough to pick a stray blue sprinkle stuck between my teeth, when I hear the voice again- that voice that had found its way back to me, by the grace of God, just when I thought I could never get well. Through blaring music, loud, silly wedding guests and clanking glassware, I heard her. Loud and clear: 'I trust you with food, Erica.' Your body is good. Food is good. Donuts are so good. Your appetite is good. Remember? I trust you with food, Erica. I trust you with life.   

Wholeheartedly,

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






When Sushi Taught Me About Trust

All these thoughts came back to me as I sat, pretending to listen to and engage with my friend, which was almost impossible. By the time they brought out the second small plate to me, my mind was so lost in the loud argument of: "will this satisfy me? How much more food are they going to bring me? When will they bring it? What if by the end, it's not enough. What if I want more? What if...what if after all this time, all this healing, all this work, I still have an eating disorder...?"

On a normal, no-particular day in August, a friend took me to SugarFish— a trendy sushi restaurant in Marina del Rey. And by trendy I mean it took 45 minutes to be seated, at lunch. By trendy, I mean the place is the size of an airplane —like a Southwest airplane. Not a Delta one. By trendy, I mean the walls are grey, with nothing hung on them, and everyone, including the homeless guy outside by the fountain, looks so chic. Finally, after chit-chatting about sunglass cases and iPhones, AND how we can solve world hunger, we were finally seated and handed menus.

I should remind you that sushi is my favorite food. I could eat it everyday and I pretty much do. Also, sushi was my go-to food when I was a binge eater. For years, I'd go to Whole Foods, Sushi Boy, Hop-Sing's Good Time Sushi (that's not a real place, but you get the idea) and buy a lot of whatever I wanted, take it home and go to town. It would have been easier on my wallet if fast food was my thing. Just saying.

I hardly looked at the menu before my friend told me I should order a dish called, "Trust Me." I assumed it meant they'd bring me a meal the chef recommended or concocted in the kitchen, which excited me, because some days, the less thought I have to put into what I want to eat or food itself, the more sane and better off I am. I ordered the "Trust Me", and a few minutes later, the waiter brought us a small plate with two pieces of sushi on it and almost immediately, I began to panic. I realized this particular meal was designed to be eaten carefully and slowly, meant to be enjoyed with focus and appreciation, and intended to give me, and recovering binge eaters everywhere, a complete nervous breakdown.

I'm not a slow eater. Never have been. And in my line of work, the first thing I ask my client is: Are you a slow eater? Fast eater? Moderate eater? The idea being to bring the body back to homeostasis and free from a stress response, caused by eating too fast, judging the food you're eating, etc. I'd say this has been the hardest part of ED recovery, for me; eating slowly, with pleasure and awareness of all the things in and around me. For so many years, my story had been I am not to be trusted with or around food. I don't trust my body to digest food or burn it off without a pill or supplement of some kind This food must be hidden from me. And If I am to eat this food, I am to hide as I eat it.

The good news is I've gotten so much better about speaking up in my life. I told my friend I couldn't focus on our conversation. I told her this is a new and nerve-wracking experience for me and I need to talk about that instead of anything else. She was happy to do this. I told her how anxious I felt, not knowing when my next bite would come, and how many bites there would be. I told her I was afraid that after they brought the last piece of sushi, I'd want more. So much more. All to which she gently replied, you CAN have more.

And I remembered she was right. There's always more. There's always enough. I spend my career reminding clients, friends and strangers at dinner parties that there is plenty. That it's normal to eat a meal served by somebody else and realize that it isn't enough for you. But the trick is to thoroughly enjoy what has been provided, first. The key is to be able to engage with your surroundings with ease, as food is one part of the eating experience. The point is to slow down. I still work on this everyday.

The minute I think to myself Wow, Erica Jacobs! You are officially cured and recovered in your relationship with food and body. Well done. You're the brightest, most evolved human being in your field, the Universe says, Don't get cocky. And it sends me to places like SugarFish to remind me that I, as an eater, am a work in progress. That my relationship with food is always evolving. That above all else, I am to be trusted with food. That my hunger is to be trusted and honored. That my body knows what it's doing and I am to let it do its job.

Trust is a very big word, built in very small moments. Trust is built each time we sit down to a meal. Trust is manifested when we allow others to feed us. And trust is nurtured when we keep showing up to the table, ready to take slow, present and thoroughly enjoyable bites. This can happen at Chick-fil-a, it can happen at your kitchen table and obviously, it can happen at the trendiest sushi restaurant on a normal, no-particular day in August. Trust me.

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7 Things to Remember About Food on Thanksgiving

pumpkin
pumpkin

Next to my birthday, Hanukkah, and the other 402 Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE day of the year. Thanksgiving is what I like to call all-inclusive; everyone is invited everywhere and it's literally the one day a year that people say, "the more, the merrier", and actually mean it. I love community, I love family AND I love when we go around the table and say what we're thankful for and my monologue is always the best one—so people say.

What I love the most about Thanksgiving, particularly in the last 4 years, is being reminded of how far I've come in my relationship with food and my body. It's like I heal from my eating disorder all over again, when I sit down to eat my stuffing, green beans and whatever that yellow stuff is on the other end of the table.

For 16 years, I couldn't imagine not thinking obsessing about food; the calories, the starch, the sugar, the fat... I couldn't think of anything else other than how hard I'd need to work in order to "burn" my food off. In fact, the food guilt started days before Thanksgiving when Yoga teachers, fitness instructors, cashiers at Trader Joe's, Aunt Iris and random women in dressing rooms start talking about eating Thanksgiving dinner like they'll be burned at the stake if they even look at the bread pudding and fig salmon…which is fucking delicious, btw.

So, lucky for you, me, and Whole Foods, I don't have those fears and feelings anymore and I'm here to give some reminders for Thanksgiving day (and EVERY day). Take what works for you and leave the rest, because this is YOUR life.

1. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAVOR YOUR MEAL, without cajoling or judgment, and without discussion of calories eaten or the amount of exercise needed to burn off said calories.

running
running

2. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO ENJOY SECOND SERVINGS, WITHOUT APOLOGY OR GUILT. It is tempting and seemingly socially customary to justify wanting and needing more food. This is not true. When you feel the urge to explain or state aloud that you're helping yourself to seconds, DON'T say anything. Just try it. Notice any tension that comes up for you, take a breath, and literally let the words disappear. #Mmmmbyeeeee.

3.YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO HONOR YOUR FULLNESS, even if that means saying "no, thank you" to dessert or a second helping of food. As long as you're not saying no because you feel guilt, shame or restriction, you must honor your body's cues. It knows what it's doing.

meat
meat
4. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL A LITTLE MORE FULL THAN YOU WERE ANTICIPATING. This is true even if it isn't a holiday. Sometimes we come to the table hungry and leave feeling a little more full than we expected. Sometimes we come to the table and leave, wishing we had more food. It's okay. This is what is known as, Normal Eating.
5. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EAT "THANKSGIVING FOOD" ALL YEAR ROUND. One of the reasons people (including me) have or have had experiences with guilt, shame, binge eating, purging, and restricting during the holidays is because we think all this food is only available once a year, so we over-eat out of conscious or subconscious feelings of scarcity. Nothing is scarce. There is always enough. Food is always available to you. It sounds selfish and so "American", but it's true. It just is.
cookies
cookies

6. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EAT PUMPKIN PIE...FOR BREAKFAST.

And lastly...

7. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE AN EATER…AND THAT'S A WONDERFUL THING. Each time we sit down to eat, we agree to be a willing participant on Planet Earth. Agree to be here!

*For more support/reminders just how important Intuitive and Confident Eating is, TUNE INTO OUR FACEBOOK LIVE SHOW!

Grace & Peace,

Erica