I Used to Destroy My Body Through a Life-Threatening Eating Disorder
Allow me to share with you my health transformation journey from imminent death to being able to enjoy more vitality in my 60's than I did in my 20's and 30's.
Part One… Broken by Bulimia
The most painful experience of my life was struggling with a debilitating, life-threatening eating disorder in my teens, throughout my twenties, and a bit into my thirties. It’s called bulimia and I would not wish this on anyone.
Being addicted to carbohydrates in the form of processed sugar, practically in any form, made me fat, sick, and literally starving for nutrition.
It is no exaggeration that I was slowly poisoning and destroying my body. Although this was a very long time ago, when I peer over my shoulder, into my past, I can make out how weak, exhausted, overwhelmed, depleted, stressed, confused, and scared I was.
Add to this self-loathing and filled with shame, and you get the picture. The disconnect between practicing yoga and body therapy while feeling trapped behind these heinous habits was an excruciating reality for me back then.
My parents had between them a generous amount of lifestyle induced diseases. Had I not jumped the track and gotten myself vectored in a new direction, including mending my most self-destructive habits around food, I would have “inherited” the risk that lived in my genes. This is called epigenetics, and we can work this biochemical system to our advantage, or not, like what I have chosen to do.
This is a very long story, but essentially it's about how you too can create your own health transformation in spite of your family history.
I needed to choose between two parts of me that could no longer co-exist.
I could not fulfill my calling as a trustworthy leader and inspiration for others as long as I was destroying my body. Gorging and purging carried with it enough disgrace to fill an ocean. The tricky part about being addicted to a certain type of food is, unlike other substances, you still have to consume food even as you recover from the addiction.
For me, the two biggest goals, the ones I refused to live without, were
- Fulfilling my work authentically, without the weight of shame, in order to serve others.
- Attracting a husband and love-life partner in an intimate, wholesome, and healthy marriage.
I could not achieve either of these with my head in a toilet about twenty times per day.
It took me many years to be able to describe this without revisiting that pain. Although this almost cost me my life, it now makes sense that this taught me to be with my clients with compassion and no judgement. I know what this feels like from my own experience. It was also through this that I began to believe that if I could break free, anyone can. I think this hope and optimism serves my clients well, the ones who feel stuck and trapped.
I quit binging and purging.
I felt the emotions that I had managed to stuff down with food that were practically unbearable, yet essential to my survival. I allowed myself a taste of freedom; it was intoxicating, sublime, and delicious. This was nothing like the bile and self-loathing I had been choking on for so many years.
Life gradually became easier. Not overnight, because healing is a process that occurs over time. My relationships became easier because I was learning to love and connect with myself. This taught me patience with any health transformation and I remind my clients of this all of the time.
Our bodies need time to heal.
We get better by loving ourselves first.
The other bump along the way were three sport-related surgeries to repair damages from playing hard and injuring myself. During this five year period, I was very involved with nutrition, supplementation, and of course yoga and body therapy.
Bouncing back from these three surgeries in my 50’s caused my surgeon to remark that even his college-age sports-scholarship patients did not recover as quickly. Had I attempted to heal my body during the time I was also poisoning it would have been another story.
Part Two… Transformed Devastation into Guiding Light
I have been blessed with a body-and-health-focused life, and I am meant to help others achieve the same for themselves.
Some of the earliest memories of my life take me back to when I was a little kid.
My ambitions were to be a wife, a healer, and a P.E. instructor. How I knew of these dreams when I was in elementary school remains a mystery to me. But I did know.
Being happily married, working as a body therapist and health transformation coach, and teaching yoga and body-based mindfulness suggest that my dreams and purpose have aligned with my life.
The devastating bumps I described above enable me to be even more committed to be a guiding light for others to have their own health transformation.
Recovering from accident and illness is one of the hallmarks of living successfully in our bodies.
I loved sports when I was a kid. Waterskiing, jumping on a trampoline, skating, gymnastics, and biking occupied countless recreational hours and are some of my best memories.
However, it wasn’t until I was 19 years old that this became a purpose, as well as a passion.
Miraculously, meditation, yoga, and body therapy came into my life when I was a teenager.
I remember the introductions of these three enduring disciplines as if it was yesterday.
My friend, Howard, showed me this new thing he learned called yoga.
We were at a park, near a lake, down the street from my parents’ home.
Howard showed me some basic yoga stretch and got my attention immediately.
Part Three… Namasté, My Instant Love Affair
Meditation came through a Kundalini organization I was introduced to, became affiliated with, and that led me to countless hours of disciplined practice. The first yoga class I taught was in the summer of 1973.
I was living in a Kundalini yoga ashram in Mexico City.
The teacher’s wife went into labor.
He asked me to lead the class. The first class I ever taught was in Spanish. Again, instant love affair. In those days, living in the ashram, we got up at 5:00 AM and practiced yoga and meditation until 8:00. I can’t put my finger on it, but I can feel how doing this for years left an indelible imprint in my spirit and further defined my health transformation.
I still practice, of course, but for more like one to one-and-a-half hours rather than three hours.
I started this love affair with yoga at 19 years old and have never stopped my practice. Doing what inspires you doesn't require discipline, just a connection to your why.
Massage and bodywork appeared in the form of a brown book by George Downing. It was called The Massage Book and it became my bible until I started training formally.
I remember kneeling on the floor, with some unsuspecting human guinea pig, carefully following the instructions that the author spelled out in that early, and primitive, but incredibly useful book for me.
I can still see the tattered, oil-stained, dog-eared pages of that book that set me on a course of a lifetime.
Now here I am, forty-six years later, and my involvement with meditation, yoga, and body therapy are still dominant themes for me personally and professionally.
It is in my consciousness every day the gratitude I feel for having fallen in love with massage, yoga, and meditation at such a tender age. Little did I know then how long and winding this health transformation journey would become.
I did not see into the future. I just knew that I loved doing this. I think that this was the point in my life where I discovered how much I love to help people.
My brand – decades before we used the word brand to describe our work – was to teach people to live more successfully in their bodies.
Part Four… Rolfing the Gateway to Pain-free Living & Health Transformation
I had been receiving Rolfing treatments since 1972, when I lived in Boulder, the home of the Rolf Institute. This technique is named after its founder, Dr. Ida Rolf.
Rolfing is a form of hands-on body therapy. Through manipulations and education, individuals who get Rolfed discover balance and alignment in their bodies, plus astonishing new levels of relaxation, body awareness, and energy.
This exquisite form of body therapy opened me to releasing an unimaginable amount of pain and strain in my body. I recall Chet Wilson, my first Rolfer, telling me that Rolfing my body was like Rolfing an old sow. This was how constricted and blocked my body was at that time. I can still recall moving my arm after one of Chet’s manipulations. The freedom was exhilarating, as well disorienting and unfamiliar.
Rolfing changed my life. I had a lot of stored armor in my body.
"Stored armor" is the word we use to describe deep, chronic, adhesions in the connective tissue. Rolfing became the gateway to helping my clients experience more energy and move toward pain-free bodies.
To this day, I see strain patterns in peoples’ bodies, and I also see what a difference it would make to break free. This is what Rolfers are trained to do.
Graduating from Massage Therapist to Advanced Rolfer & Movement Teacher
At the time, I had been a massage therapist for twelve years. I remember vividly the desire to help my clients at a more significant level, like what Rolfers had been able to do for me.
We have extensive training to view bodies holistically, learning how the segments are part of a larger system. This is similar to my eventual training in nutrition. Sensing the interconnectedness in our bodies structurally, nutritionally, energetically, and functionally has been one of the primary themes in my work with my clients and students.
I pursued my training at the Rolf Institute in Boulder, where I returned to study. It was there that I received my certification as an Advanced Rolfer and a Rolf Movement teacher.
In 1975 I moved to California which, at this time, was like being at the epicenter of the human potential movement, something I pursued actively. This was the ideal environment for me to develop the Rolfing-plus-yoga approach.
My movement training enabled me to see yoga as a fluid, not-static process. I branded my approach Yoga in Motion. This partially explains why I am so dedicated to inspire my clients to move, stretch, and breathe in their bodies.
Not only was Rolfing the perfect marriage with yoga, but that theme was the primary focus of my practice for over thirty-five years. Through Rolfing and yoga, for myself and for my clients and students, our bodies become available to us. As one of my Rolfing clients recently put it, he and his body are now on speaking terms.
Birth of My Book: Bodies, Health, and Consciousness
I took what I knew about the two disciplines and created a union.
Teaching yoga at the Rolfer's International Conference for sixteen consecutive years holds countless cherished memories and lessons for me. Teaching yoga to people who already inhabited their bodies is a yoga teacher’s dream.
Meditation, yoga, and Rolfing took me all over the world in my quest to transform the health of my body.
Training in India and traveling through the country for a total of six months in 1979 and 1981 remains one of the greatest adventures of my life. My practice was already solidified. But the intensive teacher training at the Iyengar Yoga Institute drove this commitment deeper into my soul. Mainly, this enabled me to have so much more to give back to students.
This has been the theme: I learn from my own experience and practice, then turn around and share it with others.
Spending a month in Florence to further my abilities as a yoga teacher is something I will never forget. It has been a pivotal part of my ongoing health transformation.
Yoga teachers bring their own flavor to their teaching style. Training with such diverse teachers enabled me to find my own groove.
Incorporating yoga with movement and hands-on therapies gave me what I was looking for, namely a way to understand structure and energy, and impart this to students and clients who were looking to become free in their bodies.
(Check out my podcast on the subject, Why yoga matters)
I am grateful for a fantastic two-year education through the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco.
It was here that, along with the prerequisites for the Rolf Institute, I learned more anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. To this day, when I hear of someone getting certified as a yoga teacher in a weekend workshop, I cringe.
Yoga is a complex discipline. Recognizing patterns in a variety of students’ bodies and addressing these through the yoga asanas comes as a result of practicing for years, months at least. Certainly not over a weekend.
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Part Five… Health Transformation & Healing with Nutrition
In 1999 I stumbled into nutrition when I was introduced to a company called USANA Health Sciences. This was the beginning of the next layer of healing my body. Quickly after I began taking the USANA products and implementing the science behind vital health, I noticed some remarkable positive health benefits that expedited my transformation.
- My gums healed and stopped bleeding
- The chronic and debilitating ache in my left kidney subsided
- The aches and pains in my body went away
- I enjoyed much more reliable and predictable energy
- My debilitating carb cravings subsided
Again, my own experience went into my tool box.
I became a distributor for USANA and have taken the products daily for twenty years. Studying nutrition for well over 10,000 hours opened up doors to me that I was unaware of previously. I fell in love with network marketing and wrote the book You, Inc.
As I write this I still love enabling family, friends, and clients to enjoy the benefits of the USANA products. However, I am no longer focused on recruiting others to market the products nor team-building.
A year devoted to healing through anti-aging nutrition practice
I undertook a long study about the science of anti-aging. Depending on your health transformation goals, it can be broken down into several easy to adopt ways to get your body to take you where you want to go in your life.
- how to use food as medicine
- how to enjoy weight loss as a side-benefit of healthy eating
- how to heal the gut
- how to level blood glucose levels
- how to remedy brain fog and create mental clarity
- how to naturally boost mood and outlook
- how to balance macro and micro nutrients
- how to benefit from a plant-based diet (even for non-vegetarians)
- how to balance the hormones
- how to detox our bodies
- how to benefit from an alkaline state
- how to dismantle cravings
- how to fortify the immune system
Get Your Body to Love You Back...the Missing Piece
Learning how to enjoy sustained weight loss as a side-benefit of a healthy lifestyle… and so many more topics like this… became another wellness mountain to climb.
And for me, another way to serve people.
Because I had been seeing clients and teaching classes for so many years, becoming a Health Transformation Coach was the obvious next step.
Through the certification program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I learned how to apply my skills while remaining true to my purpose. Leading others to fall in love with food that is good for them, to love their bodies first, and to get their bodies to love them back is as deeply satisfying as the previous forms my wellness practice has taken.
In my next book, Health Matters, I am able to help my readers move toward transformational lifestyle practices rather than quickie gimmicks, which I do not practice or endorse.
Part Six… Better in My 60's Than in My 20's
In December of 2017, my husband, Mark, "the kids" and I moved from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley to the orchards and vineyards of tranquil Brentwood, California to live in our dream home.
In this gorgeous setting, surrounded by many orchards, olive trees and vineyards, we have met and become friends with some of the most amazing people.
This includes my clients who are often in their forties to sixties and well into their seventies. These people inspire me with their desire to break free from limiting or debilitating health patterns.
I am finding that even among some of my clients who are seventy and eighty years and older, there is a keen longing to reconnect with their bodies and finally, while they still can, make life-enhancing and health -transforming choices. I founded the Vitality Club in our new community, and discovered that there are plenty of people who still want to get better. To eat better, to feel more alive, and to know how to nourish their bodies and souls.
Are you crazy? You're doing that at your age?
One of my favorite sayings is that a good time to focus on healing our bodies was about thirty years ago. The next best time is today.
Yoga, Rolfing and movement, plus nutrition and health coaching have gifted me with countless peak experiences. You don't have to subscribe to the idea that your age defines your physical capabilities and the experiences you want to get from your life.
And I still get to do this, after all these years. It is extremely satisfying to work with a client or student who has struggled with weight and a carb addiction for his entire life. And now, miraculously, despite all odds, he is willing to step into a new reality with what he tells himself and how he lives, moves, eats, and breathes.
There is nothing like having a front row seat when someone discovers the joy of living an embodied life plus sustainable self-care and self-nourishment practices.
Going All In...Plant Based Diet
In addition to refining my practices over the years, Mark and I decided on a vegan (whole-foods plant-based) lifestyle. I love to explore a variety of flavors, spices, ingredients, and styles of preparing food like this. We love the results, as we believe there has been a positive impact on our weight, mental clarity, energy level, and health in general. However, I don’t belief that giving up all animal products is something that everyone wants to do.
This is why my work with clients and students focuses on the best choices they can make within their dietary preferences and that address their goals and concerns. However, full disclosure: I do have a bias toward a plant-based diet, so recommendations in this arena are built-in to my practice.
Through mindfulness practices, meditation, embodiment practices, good nutrition, self-loving practices, body-therapy, yoga, and sports I have enjoyed a sublime relationship with my body. The fact that I feel better in my 60’s than I did in my 20’s is a testament to the power of sustained practices.
It's Your Turn to Live With Radiant Vitality
It’s not enough for me to experience radiant vitality just for myself.
The calling to help others transform their health is also alive and well.
Feeling moved by purpose and passion, I want to thank you for following along in my story. It is this precise piece of work—namely the story we tell about our bodies—that gives me the chance to inspire others to find their own next level of freedom and transformation.
Why I’m so committed to you
Since I know from personal experience the agony of being exhausted, sick, and hooked on the wrong kinds of food, I feel a great desire to help others break free as I finally did. Perhaps having someone who is a bit further down the path, lighting the way, holding your hand, and encouraging you every step is what it takes.
Every time you choose to nourish and feed your body, mind, and spirit instead of other less wholesome decisions, your life gets a little bit better. Imagine the impact on your health, how you feel, and how you look, by making a string of these health transforming choices. This process contains the seeds of personal transformation.
I long for you to receive what you want most for yourself.
To break free, feel confident, and know you're on track.
I can show you how to recognize obstacles and maneuver around them.
Together we can determine the goals that are the most meaningful for you, plus devise a plan to achieve them. I can show you the baby steps that will lead you to a life that is better, brighter, and filled with greater vitality.
Working with a Health Transformation Coach is a partnership. Please let me know if you are up to this collaborative approach.
If not now, when will you make the choice to experience your best health ever?
Start Solving Your Biggest Health Challenge
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- Big health challenge you want solved yesterday
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