Eating Disorders

The Starving Girl Today

Candice in August 2008

Candice in August 2008

I was not the starving girl today. Having put in a full day's work (plus dealing with this incessant heat for the past 3 days), I nonchalantly strolled into my local raw food spot for a well-deserved cacao mousse.

I haven't been the starving girl in a long time. Nearly 12 years have passed since I last measured that precious quarter cup of chickpeas, counted out those 12 raw almonds, or scooped up that half cup of non-fat cottage cheese.

I was not the starving girl today when I plucked the mousse from the fridge (already melting the moment I engulfed the plastic with my warm hand). I was not the starving girl when I sampled the cacao bar on display on the middle shelf. I was not the starving girl when I drank the free watermelon juice in the compostable paper cup.

However, when I went to pay for my delights, I found the starving girl. She reminded me of—well—me several years ago. Skin dripping off bony elbows. Sunken cheekbones beneath bulging eyes. Boyish clothes limply hanging over the outline of hollow hips.

Now to be clear, I can not say for sure if the woman I saw was anorexic. She could have a medical condition or be undergoing some treatment that is causing her to lose a profound amount of weight. Not all folx who are skinny have eating disorders and not all folx with eating disorders are skinny. So I can only speak to what my projection of her brought up in me.

I choked back my gasp as the cashier rang me up. Time passing with a tortuous slowness akin to a 6-year-old child waiting to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. I was caught between my desire to hold her, run away, or shake her awake by screaming, "Please, eat something!"

And yet, I know none of that worked on me. No amount of compassion, berating, or rejection could have helped. Only when I began to feel the pain of sleepwalking through a life as a spectral death wish did I make a 180 and confront my appetite square in the face.

Once I scrawled my signature with my finger on the iPad and grabbed my goods, I bolted out of the store and began sobbing—grateful for the large, movie star glasses that hid my tears. The most prominent feeling was shame, closely followed by regret. Shame that I had given myself over to mental illness for 7 years of my life. Regret that those years had been wasted in a prime period of my 20s. When most people are building careers and wealth, I was counting half-second sprays of Pam and placing my value on it.

It's easier to forgive yourself the years lost when you are in your 20s. It's much harder when you're pushing 40 and feel like this brain chemistry handicap still sits like a feral gremlin ready to pounce the moment you start to feel normal.

I'm crying now as I'm writing this. Feeling so much loss. Finding it hard to love that starving girl in me when I am confronting so much anger towards her during this phase transition from youth to middle age. Noticing the areas where I still shrink—my voice, my thoughts, my dance. The places in me where I am screaming with diminishment.

I'm not even sure why I'm writing this today—except perhaps that it was through writing that I found the will to live 12 years ago. It was through art that my body felt safe to come alive. It was through dance and the exploration of eros where I discovered what I felt was more important than how I looked.

So I guess I'm just admitting that the starving girl visited me today. No, she doesn't run my life like she did so many years ago—but she still keeps residence in my body. And like Rumi suggests, perhaps this is an unexpected guest whom I must continue to welcome, entertain, and treat honorably. In fact, that might be exactly what the starving girl has been longing for all along.

How Orgasm Saved My Life

Photo by Jocelyn Marquis

Photo by Jocelyn Marquis

Originally posted June 24, 2014

"I thought I was going to die. But the truth was I was coming back to life. My orgasm would no more withstand the capital punishment I’d forced upon her and the harder I tried to hold her down, the louder she would cry. She would not stop until every lie I’d built around me collapsed into a burning pyre at my feet and there was nothing left but…me. Vulnerable. Surrendered. But in my charred nakedness, I discovered that the things I’d been taught to fear were the very things that had set me free."

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE ON MY TINY SECRETS

Download my interview on "How We Talk About Sex"

Originally posted May 20, 2014

I am proud and honored to be featured on Eric Leviton's fabulous podcast, "How We Talk About Sex," released on 5/18/14. Download the interview from iTunes and listen in as I share some of the more personal details of my erotic and spiritual journey, as well as a discussion of my upcoming book, From 6 to 9 and Beyond: Widening the Lens of Feminine Eroticism.

Click here to download.

Finished The Queen...finally on to The Nun

The Nun. Photo by Sequoia Emmanuelle.

The Nun. Photo by Sequoia Emmanuelle.

Originally posted February 21, 2014

I finished the Queen's story last night. What a wild roller coaster that was. I felt like she pulled me up by my lapel and told me to "Grow Up" *several times* during the creation of her story. The fact that my husband and I still love each other, want to be married to each other and enjoy sex together is a testament to our love and the positive learning and growth I experienced during her creation.

The final story I have left to write is the Nun's, which for me is very personal. She is a woman who devotes her erotic energy in service to the divine. God is her lover. This can show up many ways, not just in the celibate renunciates we see in various religious institutions. She the part of ourselves that easily connects with Spirit and uses that orgasm for her creative expression.

Her shadow shows up when she denigrates all physical life and chooses only to chase the spiritual realms. We can see this in severe religious and cultural leaders who warn us to beware the "pleasures of the flesh." We can also see this in anorexics and certain "hippie" people who would rather "breathe in nourishment" than go sit down and have a filling meal. People who hate or cannot hold or handle money, i.e. physical expressions of energy, also fall into the shadow side of this archetype.

In my story, I will share an experience I had that connected me to my spirit and my sex after several years of severe anorexia. The framework will be fictional, but the experience will be my own.

Time for the deep dive once more...at least this time my husband has had some warning.

 

To Meat or Not to Meat: A Recovering Anorexic Contemplates Going Veg (Again)

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth” ~ Henry Beston

I was a vegetarian for eight and a half years. Until I wasn’t.

During those years I was anorexic—then I decided I didn’t want to be anymore.

It’s been four and half years since I introduced meat back into my diet. I started with the big guns: the hamburger. Red meat (insert bloodcurdling scream here).  Then chicken. Then sushi. I wanted to face my fear of meat-eating and fat-gaining in order to disprove all the twisted theories I had about food and my body.

I also chose to eat meat because I hadn’t had my period for two and a half years. My acupuncturist “prescribed” it for me to get the iron and other minerals my nutrient-deficient blood so desperately needed.

In these recent years, I ate meat pretty much without a problem. I gained weight, my menstrual cycle returned and I started sleeping better. Over time, the desire for red meat naturally waned until all I was eating was white chicken and fish.

All that changes when I went to a recent meditation retreat. While sitting, I had the experience of deeply connecting to birds. As freaky as it may sound, I felt the angry and agonizing spirit of the animals and how disconnected we have become to them.

We “build” animals now like we make cars in a factory.

We view them as objects for our consumption. They are “other.” Not like us. We have forgotten that they too carry the mystery of life inside their bodies.

Of course, there are cultures where an animal’s sacrifice is honored and where the continuation of life depends on the gift the animal brings. But in these cultures, animals are not overbred and tortured simply for our own selfish needs.  These people take what they need in utmost gratitude and leave the rest be.

I struggled in silence as I sat with the realization of the horrors of factory farming. Birds injected with hormones until they are too fat for their brittle skeletal systems. Chickens confined to only 67 inches of cage space. Fish piled on top of each other in vats of their own excrement. Geese force-fed so we may extract their precious ‘fatty livers.’ Thousands of sharks pulled from the ocean and killed simply for a single fin, the ultimate ‘status food.’

Even animal products listed as ‘free-range,’ ‘organic,’ or ‘hormone-free’ are not exempt. Though they may not use any pesticides or hormones, many farmers still keep the animals in squalid conditions, burn or cut off their wings, feet and beaks and overstuff them with GMO-filled feed (or starve them so they will molt faster).

I recalled how much of the world’s resources goes into maintaining animal farms and noted that if we put those resources into renewable energy and non-meat based foods, world hunger and global warming might not be an issue.

I felt sick. Even as I sat with the arguments for meat consumption like getting enough B12 or we are naturally-born omnivores or animals “just taste good,” I knew inside my body, I could not eat the same way.

The next day, I pulled out my organic, free-range turkey slices. I put one in my mouth. I started to chew. Slowly and with very little pleasure. I had a second. And then I felt sick. My stomach rolled over and I couldn’t bear it anymore.

I haven’t touched meat since.

That was three months ago. In that interim, I’ve struggled with two sides of my conscience. One is obviously the newfound compassion towards animals, as I described above.

But the other is just as powerful: how I honest am I being with myself and my relationship to food? I have a fear that this pull towards vegetarianism is the first step on a ‘slippery slope’ back to anorexic thinking. One plagued by guilt and devoid of pleasure. I remember family dinners or parties where I knew meat was being served and lived in fear that people would discover my secret: that I was desperately hungry despite my cool exterior as I passed the plate.

The excuse was simple: Health reasons.”

(Side note: please know that I am not insinuating that people who are vegetarian have eating disorders—this is simply how the disease showed up for me).

I want to feel alive and energized in my body. I want total vitality and orgasmic living. And eating meat was a huge part in helping me face my fears and reclaim my power.

Honestly, I don’t harbor any judgments about other people who eat meat. My husband eats meat and I love him just the same. How we live our lives and what we choose to put into our bodies is a very personal journey. One must go deep inside one’s moral, ethical and spiritual codes and discover what is right for her.

My goal in sharing my struggle isn’t to shame anyone for liking what she likes, nor to suggest that only one way of eating is the ‘right.’ Perhaps it is less about the fact that we eat meat and more the how we do it (often unconsciously and in a way that uses food as a buffer from feeling our emotions).

What I do want to do is foster a dialogue around our cultural relationship with food, animals, consumption, compassion and perhaps find solutions with how we can get in right alignment with what is loving and sustainable, both as a society and as individuals.

For me individually, that means abstaining from meat in this moment and continuing my inquiry into the nexus of spirituality, pleasure and nourishment.

And we continue to rapidly evolve, technologically and globally, as a culture and species, we must ensure that we do not lose our humanity and connection to each other along the way. We are unique in that we have the intelligence and cognitive capacity to choose how we’d like to evolve; which is what makes the following quote that much more potent and pressing:

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet” ~ Albert Einstein

Special thanks to my dear friend, August Schulenburg, for inspiring me to post this article.
Article adapted from its original appearance on elephantjournal.com

Appetite and Orgasm: An Interview with Frances Cheung

Originally posted January 18, 2012

The picture of me on the left is from a particularly low time in my anorexic life. It was right around my 27th birthday. I had gotten off the birth control and hadn't had a period in almost a year. I was visiting France and I couldn't bring myself to eat most of the food that was served. I spent a lot of my time in the kitchen cooking "safe" foods. I was also a little over a year away from Saturn wreaking havoc in my life...and my hunger awakening.

The voices are still there, but a lot has changed since then. I have a greater awareness now that those voices are there as a way to "protect" me from the bigger game. A game that is uncertain. A game that could have me look very ugly and greedy. A game that could have me fail publicly and be humiliated. In the past, I chose to believe the voices, keep my body tiny, my desire non-existent and my appetite quiet. Now my work is to thank those voices for their "protection", bypass them for the deeper desire and discover the power that lies within.

Frances Cheung, a holistic health counselor, recently interviewed me as part of her Step Into Your Authentic Power Program. In this podcast (link is below), you will hear my take on appetite, orgasm, desire and power.

Ketchup on Eggs: An Anorexic Gives Up Her Game

Originally posted December 15, 2011

"If you are a turned on woman, you are a special woman, and have likely paid for it--that very thing that has made you too much to handle, a little different, that makes you feel like your wants are too big--that thing that has been used against you, your huge appetite, is your power. It is not there to be fought or beaten down, it is there to be well fed!"--Nicole Daedone, from her post "Turned On Woman"
 

I’ve been in San Francisco for eight weeks now. Since coming here, I haven’t had my period. A spot here or there, but nothing more. This is always a red flag for me that the anorexia is back. Or at least my stress levels are up. And I feel a deep amount of shame when I miss my period. It’s a brutal reminder that I am somehow “less than a woman.” I am not a “normal, healthy, mature, sexual being.” I’m sick. A lost cause. Broken. Wounded. Irreparable beyond all measure (apparently with the anorexia also comes the drama queen).

And I have to admit, for the past few months, the voices have been coming back stronger. And very seductive. They tell me that if I am going to be successful in LA, I have to look the part. And that part is of a thin, well-dressed, sophisticated, powerful woman. And anything less than that is simply unacceptable. They tell me that going down just one more pants size will really put me in the competition. They tell me that eating too many carbs/fruit/meat/fat/sugar/fill-in-the-blank will leave me bloated and fat and undesirable. And even more frightening is they know how to hit me where it really hurts. They tell me that if I am not successful in LA, then I have failed my mission on this planet. That all the people who invested in my being here will be disappointed. I will have let them down. Failed them. And then everyone will be wondering how could someone with so much potential end up just a nobody on this planet.

It goes beyond simple vanity. This is my life purpose we are talking about. And anything that feels beyond my control leaves me paralyzed in fear—I mean literally, frozen in a life-or-death struggle in sheer terror. So I reach for the one thing that I can control.

The food.

I recently had lunch with a friend. I had an omelet with salad. He had a fat, juicy burger. And there was a part of me that didn’t want to show him how hungry I was. I also didn’t want to show him how low-brow I could go by dumping about 1/3 of a cup of ketchup all over my eggs. Like somehow I was exposed and my dirty little secret was out. A refined woman should be content with salad and eggs and should leave about a third of the food on her plate. She should use only the finest quality ingredients, not go slumming with Mr. Heinz. And she should take very small bites, take the time to chew thoroughly, never use her fingers and never, ever lick the plate clean.

And yet, everything in me wanted to dump a mound of ketchup on that plate, use my hands to shove it in, over-salt and over-oil everything, lick up the scraps from my dish—and then polish off his burger too.

And this raw, deep hunger leaves me so crippled, that I will go to extreme lengths to manage it so that it never sees the light of day.

This whole internal exchange lasts about 5 seconds. My eating disorder is rather sophisticated at this point, so it looks completely effortless as I gently pick up my fork and take a small bite, lightly dipping it in the tablespoon amount of ketchup I have neatly dolloped on the edge of my plate.

As the conversation continues, my friend makes an admission to me that he has been smoking for the past few months and that he has a whole routine he has in order to hide the secret. My ears perked up. I wanted access to his taboo little world.

“Give up the game,” I told him. “Tell me your routine. Tell me how well you hide your shame. Tell me about how you feel each time you get away with it.”

He smiled. His face got a little red. The balloon of orgasm swelled between us and we shifted a little closer to each other. Then he started to tell me about the certain clothes that he wears. The place around the corner he walks to smoke. The tree he hides behind. The place where he keeps his cigarettes hidden. The concomitant feelings of shame and euphoria that come when he doesn’t get caught. The backup plan he has should someone catch him off guard.

I felt so close to him in that moment—and profoundly grateful that he trusted me, that I gave up one little secret of my own. I told him that I felt a little shameful putting ketchup on my eggs. That somehow, this was a marker of how low and dirty I was. That I hesitated in doing it, and in fact put less on my plate than what I actually desired. He quietly took that in, with only a slight uplift of the corner of his mouth to give away his amusement.

Now I am here. The controlling has gotten worse since the huge change from NYC to SF. And now with the desire to move to LA coming on (with a projected date of April 1 in sight), I feel the fear deep within my core. I feel how utterly helpless I am. I feel like a liability on anyone who comes within 20 feet of me. I feel like I flash bright and exciting in the first few seconds, but when people see the dirt under the shine, they run away in terror and anger that I sold them a false bill of goods. A human “bait-and-switch” if you will.

I started my first diet when I was 19. Atkins. All hamburgers and cheese and bacon for two weeks. It was pretty miserable, but it started a new way of relating to food that has continued to torture me for the past 12 years. It’s an enemy. One that must be vanquished every day. And the less I put into my body, the more superior I feel. The more “together” I think my life is.

I was in NYC when 9/11 happened. 4 days after I turned 21. Quite a traumatic experience for a girl coming into her womanhood. And instead of fully feeling the fear, I hid it in my body and pushed on, using work and relationships to cover up the fact that I felt so frightened and out of control.

I had 3 months of counseling the beginning of 2003, but since then, all the work I have done has been on my own. Co-writing a play about my experiences has helped. Getting coaching has helped. Practicing Orgasmic Meditation has helped. Yoga teaching has helped. Raising $1000 for the National Eating Disorder Association has helped.

But it keeps coming back. Subtle. Convincing. And it just feels so goddamed good each time I make it through another meal without those weak fuckers knowing just how slick I have been. How I avoided eating the “wrong” foods. How I ate even less than them. How little I need and yet I can still top them all.

Except I can’t anymore. I am getting sloppy. Tired. And living in a community with 50 pairs of eyes always around me and other people cooking my food has left me scrambling to adapt my game. But I can’t hide it anymore. I don’t want to. It’s a cold, hard, painful place to live. It’s a second job. Managing your food. Managing your fear. Managing the hungry shadows that bark louder and louder each time my Orgasmic Meditation partner puts his finger on my clit or a steak is put on my plate.

So here I am openly admitting that I am not recovered. Recovering. But not recovered. Perhaps I went into a bit of remission. Sure, since 2009 I have gained 15 pounds. I am no longer playing the how-close-to-under-a-hundred-pounds-can-I-get game. And though that may seem like “progress”, there is still a powerful anorexic inhabiting my mind—and the closer she gets to getting everything she wants, the harder she plays. The stricter her rules become.

The self-sabotaging, anorexic girl needs to stop. Or I at least need to make friends with her. So I have started seeing a nutritional counselor. It’s embarrassing for me to admit that I need help. That I am powerless to handle it on my own. That I am not really an inspiring leader to help others in their process of transformation, but just a tired, hungry woman with a lot of issues. But there you are. My little admission.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, I am writing this down for the world to read. Yes, I am giving up my game. Maybe a healthy dose of vulnerability will disarm the power the anorexic girl wields over me and then we can sit down together for a cup of tea.

  1. I eat by myself as often as possible. Pretty obvious, but this keeps anyone from feeling my hunger and watching me in my weakest moments of giving in to eating. It also keeps the annoying questions to a minimum (Is that all you are eating? What is that? Can I have a bite? Why don’t you eat meat? Want some of mine?)
  2. I prepare all my own meals. Again, obvious. It allows me to know exactly how many calories are in it and ensures that “safe” foods are only included.
  3. If I have to go out to eat, I try to go to a place that has some sort of “serve-yourself” buffet line. This way I can control what goes on my plate and portion sizes.
  4. I restrict certain foods from my diet in the name of health or personal intolerance.And the beauty of this one is that I can easily get away with it in our culture. We all know that we shouldn’t eat McDonald’s or sugar or too many carbs. Because Oprah/Vogue/Morgan Spurlock/my yoga teacher tell us so. So if I tell you that I can’t eat “that” because it has meat/soy/gluten/dairy/white carbs/sugar/non-organic/GMO products, you will completely understand, give me a free-meal pass, and no one will be the wiser.
  5. If I have to go out to a restaurant, I look at the menu online ahead of time and decide how I will mix-n-match my meals to include only acceptable foods. This way I won’t fumble in front of other people and give up my game. What’s even better is when I can call the restaurant in advance and find out what substitutions they will allow me to do.
  6. Since I live with other people, I hide the “good” foods to the back of the fridge and put the bad ones out front. This way everyone else will eat the “bad” food and the “good” will be leftover for my meals. Even better is when I can set the “good” food to the side somewhere, with my name on it, to ensure that no one will eat it.
  7. If I go out to eat and I don’t have the option to order a meal of only “good” foods, then order as much “good” food as possible, then give the bad food away. This not only ensures my safety, it also makes me look like a selfless and giving person because I am sharing.
  8. If I go out to eat with others, I convince them to order the “bad” foods that I am really craving and then order just a small plate of “good” food for myself. This way I can be around the “bad” food, maybe even ask for a bite (which is also a good cover for looking like I am a “normal” eater), but I am silently sitting back superior while watching others give into their animal cravings.
  9. I have my list of excuses of why I can’t eat ready. There are truly a million I could come up with, but the top ones include: I’ve already eaten, I’m not that hungry, I can’t have that in my diet, I am not a fan of that, I’m feeling sick today, I’m too tired to go out, I don’t have the money to go out, I cook healthier anyway, I’ve still got plenty of leftovers, etc.
  10. I stay in charge of the kitchen in all its aspects. Harder now, but still doable. That includes shopping for food, cooking the food and packaging the leftovers. This way I know what foods to offer others (the “bad” ones) and which ones to set aside for myself (the “good” ones). Also I can make sure that my portion sizes are acceptable (i.e. small) and offer bigger ones to others. This gets the food out of the house faster. Because there is nothing more terrifying for an anorexic than lots of uneaten food just hanging around the house. It’s like an alcoholic just hanging out at a bar. The constant call of temptation is only 20 feet away.
  11. I have lots of gum, mints, water, tea, coffee, vegetables, cough drops on hand. This keeps my mouth busy and my belly filled up so I don’t actually have to feel the real hunger underneath.
  12. I bring “safe” snacks in my purse for when I am “on-the-go.” This keeps the hunger away as well, especially if I am in an area of “unsafe” foods or end up at a restaurant with “bad” foods. What’s really classy is when I can sneak off to the bathroom, shove the food in my mouth while standing in the stall, then head back to my friends with no one knowing the difference. My rebel is satisfied, my hunger is squelched for a moment and no one saw me in my ugliness.

So here I am. Naked in my shame in front of my friends, family, enemies and strangers. Each day is a package of excruciating choices—this food and that food; in front of this person and not in front of that person; this indulgence and that restriction, etc.

Because as slick and sophisticated as this game is, I also know that a bigger one awaits me on the other side of addiction. One where I am acting in film with major Hollywood players. One where I am teaching Orgasmic Meditation to thousands of people. One where I am making a lasting impact on the evolution of human consciousness. One where I am building and fostering deep and intimate relationships with friends and lovers. One where I have the energy, speed and skill to keep up with the best players in the field. And one where I feel my true power and the freedom that comes with making friends with my appetite.

Quite frankly, I am just tired. Exhausted. I want to feel alive. I want to feel like I am surfing on top of the wave, rather than fumbling and drowning each time the ocean swells. I want to feel the thrill of surprise and the freedom of being in flow, rather than the bondage of fear each time my edges are stretched. I want to be a responsible adult—making a living wage and consistently being well-used in service.

This is where you come in. To keep me awake. For the price of playing a bigger game is the dropping off of the old one. And now that you know my secrets, I can’t hide anymore. I can’t slide back into lazy, destructive patterns that keep me small and safe. I have no choice now but to burn through this piece that has consumed the past 12 years of my life.

My friend gave up his entire game in exchange for just one secret from mine. Ketchup on eggs. And this one admission has changed everything.

I will make the same offer to you today. I have given up my game. If you want to play, I’m only asking for one secret from yours. You don’t have to post it to the world. You don’t have to tell me. You don’t have to tell anyone. All you have to do is tell yourself (that’s the only person that really matters after all). Write it down. Admit your dirty, little secret. Acknowledge it. Feel it in your body. Take the time to listen to what it’s saying. Why it entered into your life. What function it serves. What gift it has to offer.

You have little to lose (5 minutes and a sheet of paper) and a world of desire to gain.