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She’s only eight years old and although I’ve just met her, I can tell that in these few short years she’s aged. This beautiful and bright little soul is wise, but trapped. As we chat in the dining room of the eating disorder hospital, she tells me about where she’s from and how she rode on an airplane to get here. But it’s hard to hear what she’s saying, because all I can focus on is the feeding tube that begins in her nose and ends in her stomach. This tube is the easiest way to get nutrition into her broken, tiny body now consumed by anorexia.
Is It A Diet or An Eating Disorder?
That’s what it says on the on the small pocket of cardboard that holds a stack of brochures I’m staring at. The most loaded question of my life currently. One I’ve been asking myself for the last eight weeks when it comes to my relationship with Paleo.
It’s been eight weeks now since someone else’s anorexia crashed my party like a drunken frat boy who is completely incapable of listening to you tell him to leave. Eight weeks since I was forced to come to terms with my own eating disorder as an 11-year old that I apparently forgot to deal with. It’s been eight weeks since I began questioning everything I know about food.
I’m a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in the Ancestral Health/Paleo community. I’m a regular speaker at conferences, a podcaster, blogger, and now the author of a Paleo book. I’m also a person with a long history of disordered eating dealing with a very recent spotlight shined on this painful part of myself.
Now the question has become “Who am I as a so-called thought leader and innovator in the Paleo community when I come to terms with my eating disorder/disordered eating, working in a diet world?”
The first time it happened I was just shy of my 21st birthday. He invited me into his office. I had known him less than a few weeks when he told me to close the door behind me. His office door was never closed. I wondered what the women working in his office were thinking. They surely had seen him flirting with me the days before. I will never forget the cockiness of this man, nearly twice my age, when he looked at me from his desk. I was standing across from him…
“You like to have fun. Would you like to have fun with me?”
This man, my doctor, was asking me to have sex with him.
I was his patient. I was paying him to treat my injuries, and he was asking me to have an affair with him. I didn’t report him, and I allowed him to pursue me, because I simply did not know that I didn’t have to do it.
How it starts…
I grew up being taught that men had power, and they were to be chased, feared, and made excuses for. They would either abandon you, or they would provide for you, but they would hurt you and demean you. Hurt people, hurt people. I also learned at a much too young age that my value in men with power was only in my sexuality.
In my heart, I now recognize many things from my past that I could not see before. All men have a responsibility to women, but especially men in powerful positions. The latest statements that came from our presidential nominee, has created a new level of outrage for women. We’re trying to understand why Americans are okay with voting for a man into the most powerful office, when he has an entire history of demeaning and assaulting women! Even talking about his own daughters in a sexual way.
But wait, there’s more…
The most recent account of a man in a powerful position taking advantage of me happened just a few years ago! At one time he held one of the most powerful positions in my city. Now he is pushing 90-years old, but still likes to help pretty girls get jobs. I was attempting to find some corporate work to help support my family. It was early on in my sobriety and with all of the emotional growth I was facing, I needed a break from writing and speaking publicly.
A female headhunter sent me to this man. She told me exactly what to expect from my encounters, leaving out the sexual harassment. Just as she said he would, I was invited to attend a large luncheon with most of the power players in the city. He paraded me on his arm to no one’s surprise. They all seemed to expect this behavior from him, saying things like “… always has the pretty women on his arm.” Instead of discussing job opportunities at the end of the event, he told me I should go to Hollywood and be a model or an actress. I’ve wondered since, how many people have been part of pimping for this man all the years he’s held power in Charlotte?
As the headhunter predicted, he invited me to lunch at the country club. A couple of days later we met there and he spent the entire lunch asking to see my breasts. He kept taking my hand and holding it. The only time he wasn’t talking about what he would do to me if I hadn’t been married, was the few moments he insisted we pray when lunch was served.
Once again, in my stunned state of mind, I didn’t leave. I tried to figure out when I would bring up my resume. Where did I squeeze that in? Between his stories of using Viagra with his 50-year old girlfriend or him asking what my cup size was and insisting I not tell anyone about this?
He wasn’t senile. He didn’t have dementia. He was an elderly man with all of his faculties. At least with the help of a blue pill, apparently. I knew it was wrong. I knew that his connections and a job were not worth this bullshit. I was a 37-year old mother of four girls. Yet I didn’t walk out on him. I didn’t make a scene in the country club. I endured it. How could I go home and look my daughters in the face, when they asked how my business lunch went at the fancy country club?
“Well girls, mommy got groped by a rich, white man who is old enough to be her grandpa today and if you don’t have a college degree and have been a stay-at-home mom for years out of the work force, this is what getting a job looks like.”
Instead I said, “The salad was good, but I’m not getting a job.”
“Boys Will Be Boys” Mentality
Many of my friends are raising boys and I ask them what it’s like to have difficult conversations with their sons about rape culture. These brave, wise parents tell me they do it because they have to. They teach those young men about consent and they drill that meaning into their developing brains. Men who are raised with a conscious know that this climate of sexual assault isn’t “locker room” talk.
We are finally having the hard conversations as a nation. They are painful and we are triggered. Women are being forced to hear that we aren’t worthy of men not talking about assaulting us. That it’s a joke and it’s a laughable offense to talk about grabbing our most private, sacred parts.
To mansplain and tell women that reading books like 50 Shades of Grey cancels out their concern of sexual assault is demeaning and amoral. We are human beings with strong primal urges for sexual encounters. What consenting adults do together is no one else’s business. The key word being…consent.
This is a time to get real honest with ourselves and our past experiences. It is not a time to say “let’s just stick to the real issues.” If we, as a country, do not see that the demeaning of women on a national level as not a “real issue” then we will never heal and grow as equal sexes who support each other.
I am no longer angry towards the men in power who took advantage of me during my vulnerable times. I feel sorry for them. Perhaps they grew up with men and women who were afraid to share with them the importance of respect for all humans or they themselves had never been taught. Perhaps they watched their father’s demean women, which perpetuated a cycle of negativity toward women. Or perhaps they have chosen to act out childhood trauma in this way instead of getting the help they so desperately need.
I now have empathy for the men in this culture who have been hurt, and act out sexually defiant towards women. But more so, I have empathy for the women who have been acted out against.
As a nation, we can no longer be silent about this cycle of abuse, and demeaning of women. Male silence has to stop. Women will never be equal until men support us, and speak up in support of us. We must talk about these dark, shame-filled corners of our existence. And together…we must heal.
We are totally inundated and overwhelmed by sensory input in our culture. Any time one of my daughters is acting out, I always question whether they are on sensory overload before I decide how to handle it. A little alone time, some snuggles, brushing their hair, scratching their back, and a lot of calm reassurance goes a very long way in slowing down a colossal meltdown.
This is the part where some might say I’m a doormat and let my children get away with anything. Actually, I’m quite the opposite. My children even call me strict because of my boundary setting. My job is to be their guide and I take that job seriously.
I think it was my teen years that I started wanting to be anywhere besides where I was. That feeling of needing to escape…the good…the bad…just be free of it all. Except I was never free. That feeling followed me most of my life. Nothing was ever good enough to fill that feeling of not being present. Drugs, alcohol, food, men, tv, work, exercise have all attempted to squash the feeling over the years, but the outcome is always the same. Me left with a gaping hole in my soul crying for more things to fix me.
I don’t want the high anymore. I don’t look for endorphins. I found out that’s just not a safe place for me to go. Because the higher I am, the lower I fall. Please don’t get me wrong. I love a good time. I definitely have fun. Just not at the expense of mismanaged serotonin levels. The happiness I have today isn’t fueled by people, substances, or any outside things. I am happy and peaceful today because I work on living in that grey zone. The sweet spot that happens when we let go of black and white thinking.
I have ONE of the answers.
I was sick my whole life. I felt crazy one way or the other because of hormones and riding a mental roller coaster. Then five years ago I heard about this unusual way of eating. Turned out it’s not really that weird. Our ancestors had the same template or idea. They just didn’t have Whole Foods or farmers markets so we’re pretty lucky. Plus, houses.
When I decided to make this huge change, I was desperate. I didn’t want to be sick anymore. Mostly I wanted to get off that crazy coaster. I had watched the power of food alone in stopping my 6 year old’s asthma overnight. After 4 years of coughing, an ND suggested eliminating dairy and gluten. Then bam…coughing gone. Do you know what it does to a mama when her baby coughs for four years straight?! To have her stop coughing every single day for all of those long years, I knew something good was going on and it was worth researching. At the time it seemed like nothing short of a miracle. 5 years later the asthma still hasn’t returned and we don’t expect it to.
It’s so hard to imagine that you would be turning 5 right now. Your due date was 1/1/11. What a great set of numbers. Instead, I gave birth to you June 12, 2010.
Just two weeks before, I went into the doctor with your oldest sister so she could see you on the big screen. I was 9 weeks pregnant with you and she was 9 years old. We were both so excited to hear your heart beat. When the ultrasound technician said she couldn’t find it, I knew you were gone. Your sister and I cried so hard. We talked to the doctor and she gave me the option to have a procedure or to wait it out. Your sisters had all been born at home and I wanted you to be born that way, too. I knew you would be the last baby for us either way.
Not being one for New Year’s resolutions, I prefer to dive into introspection to see what I accomplished and what I’d like to continue putting energy into. The ending of one year and beginning of a new one is a lovely time to think back. Here’s a little glimpse into my 2015…
Lessons I learned this year:
- What other people say about me is none of my business.
- It’s never too late for forgiveness. Practice it everyday.
- I’m capable of more than I’ve ever given myself credit for.
- Shame is a BS lie. Don’t be a victim of it. Tell it to get lost when it shows up.
- When I’m in a sh*tstorm , the best way to get out of my head is to help another person. Also known as “live in service and love.”
- Boundaries: There is very thin line between saying and doing the right thing and feeling like a pushover. In 2014, before I got sober and after, I took responsibility for a lot of things that weren’t mine to take. This year I practiced cleaning up my side of the street and letting others do what they will with theirs. NO is a complete sentence.
- Respond, don’t react. Enough said.
- Meditation is the key to peace and learning mindfulness.
- Practicing humility feels a lot better than constantly living in ego.
- Listen more…talk less. See #9 (That’s a tough one for me!)
- Self-medicating in any form is dangerous. Feeling the feels always is hard, but worth it.
- I’m not who I used to be and some people haven’t figured that out yet. See #1
- Stay in the present. “If you are depressed, you are living in the Past. If you are anxious, living in the future. It you are at peace you are living in the moment.” Lao Tzu
- Share your story. Someone out there needs to hear it.
This is not a statement of you should or shouldn’t. I hope that if you’ve followed me long enough, you know I never intend to shame any woman for her choices. This IS a statement that our culture makes it virtually impossible to successfully breastfeed. This is also a statement that if you wanted to breastfeed and tried and it didn’t work out, it’s not your fault!! Have no shame mamas! This culture DOES NOT SUPPORT BREASTFEEDING. We don’t grow up watching it happen. If we do manage to get past those difficult hurdles right after the baby is born, we’re shamed for nursing publicly. Then how do you manage it with work and all of the other responsibilities in life?