Heads up! Mend the Gap 99p Christmas promo offer

I’m excited to announce that for 2 days only; Sat 8th and Sunday 9th Dec 2018, you’ll be able to download my book Mend the Gap on Kindle for the bargain price of just 99p/ 99c!

– Perfect for some cosy Christmas reading 🙂

reading by the fireplace

Mark it in your diary so you don’t forget!

Here’s some testimonials to help you decide if it’s worth it…

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Or Click here if you can’t wait that long! 

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Silence kills; do you have a story to share?

Owning our stories can be the bravest thing we do, and also the most liberating… Many proud #Emergees have reported how scary and rewarding it has been to speak out about their personal experiences. It creates a kinda ‘positve domino’ effect; letting others know that they are not alone in their struggles, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Are you feeling the urge to speak out?*

KindaProud_V4_Century_Gothic_EditedCutted_Font_KatieColors

About Kinda Proud:  

Innovative book series: Personal stories aimed at providing hope and encouraging us to ‘re-think mental distress as a potential catalyst for positive change’

One of the main mantras of the #Emerging Proud campaign is that by working together we can change the world; that we need to BE the change we wish to see in the world. This project aims to create a series of ‘Pocket Books of Hope and Transformation’ for people experiencing different themes of mental distress, under the umbrella of the anti- stigma social movement ‘#Emerging Proud’. 

 

Sory sharing warrior

KindaProud empowers passionate Peers to tell their stories and be validated in doing so by a growing community that values authenticity, vulnerability and reduces stigma and shame. This helps build confidence and connection. Our project is empowering Peers to bravely speak out, proudly owning their story, and letting their voices be heard, in many case for the first time.

FIND OUT HOW TO SHARE YOUR STORY HERE

(*Please make sure you have support if you are sharing your story for the first time. Resources can be found HERE)

The main aim of our Kinda Proud book series is to decrease stigma, improve wellbeing and influence the saving of lives through providing a more compassionate and positive conceptual framework for emotional distress.

This project is unique because each Pocket Book of hope has its own KindaProud Rep; a Peer who has personal experience of the theme of that specific book in which they tell their own story and encourage others to join them in doing the same. Our first 4 books currently being created are;

#Emerging Proud through Suicide

#Emerging Proud through NOTES (Non- Ordinary Transcendent Experiences)

# Emerging Proud through disordered eating, body image and low-self-esteem

#Emerging Proud through trauma and abuse

FIND OUT HOW TO SHARE YOUR STORY HERE

(*Please make sure you have support if you are sharing your story for the first time. Resources can be found HERE)

Our Kinda Proud Reps…

KP Reps.jpg

FIND OUT HOW TO SHARE YOUR STORY HERE

(*Please make sure you have support if you are sharing your story for the first time. Resources can be found HERE)

#StrongerTogether ❤

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Špela Kranjec from Slovenia is ‘Kinda Proud’ of her journey through anorexia

When seeking acceptance through making herself thinner didn’t work, it was facing death that became Spela’s saving grace to self- acceptance. Here Spela shares some of her 9 year battle with her body in order to give others who might be struggling HOPE…

spela-kranjec

YOU HAVE A PIECE OF CAKE AND FEEL AWESOME – PRICELESS!

I used to love food. I looked forward to all social events because I knew there would be food. I enjoyed food so much that I was a sight to behold. And I wasn’t at all concerned what others thought about me or my behind getting bigger because I ate so much of all this excellent food. I admit, I was a bit overweight, but I was confident, I knew how to stand up for myself, and I laughed almost every day.

And then something, somewhere, went wrong. I became a teenager.  I grew up and those extra pounds on my behind were gone. Everyone noticed! All of a sudden, I was ‘beautiful’! Unfortunately, I lost my confidence and the simple, carefree life. It’s true that I was more attractive, but I was really useless. No one could see me as a person that longs for spending time with friends and going to parties, as there was nothing left of me but sadness. Nothing. Emptiness!

And from this emptiness came a lie. I became convinced that I was not beautiful enough. I obviously did not meet the criteria of my peers, since I kept being pushed away. I had to change that somehow. I had to somehow fit it, as the isolation was too painful! So I started aiming for ‘perfection’. “Somewhere on this path to perfection I’ll certainly become good enough, and that’s when I’ll stop. That’s when I’ll start enjoying life.” In this misguided belief I doomed myself to several horrible years…

Others only needed to look at me briefly to see that horror. All they could see what a pile of bones, moving about the world without expression. Even though I was not aware of it at the time, I kept moving further and further away from being accepted by my peers. And despite needing nine years to really come to terms with it, I actually had anorexia.

When I look back now, I am truly shocked that the human mind can become so motivated to achieve a certain goal that it is willing to give up its own life. Because, at that time, I really didn’t care about my own life. I didn’t care whether I lived or died. All that mattered was that I look beautiful. Even if I had to give up all food that I used to love so much, abusing laxatives behind closed doors, and having nightmares about my intestines failing. I didn’t care about the pain I felt while doing jumping jacks, spinning the hula hoop, and doing crunches over and over, even though the room was spinning and my lips were completely dry and longing for a sip of water. All the tears I shed in secret, yearning for a hug, didn’t really matter. I truly did not care if I lived or died, the only thing I cared about was losing weight. Or rather, I longed for the acceptance I thought I would finally achieve once I lost enough weight. I kept wondering why I was different from others and why I can’t be like all the ‘normal’ people. Why couldn’t I walk up to someone, start talking to him , dance at a party like no one was watching, and to be attracted to some hunk and act like a schoolgirl!?

After a few months of this self-inflicted torture, when I was truly nothing but skin and bones, and my body could hardly keep me conscious, I was driving somewhere and for the first time asked myself if there was any point to all this. I tried, I really did, but there were no results. I was still alone, and I did not want to live another day with this feeling of loneliness. I couldn’t do it anymore. And because of this question I almost gave up that day.

Or rather, I did. I was ready to end it all.

But something stopped me. Despite all this horror I lived in, my body still wouldn’t let me finish it. It wanted to fight. Even today, I don’t know where it found this strength – where I found this strength whilst hugging my blanket that day, yelling through tears that I can’t do it anymore. I literally starved myself to my limits. That day was a turning point. I only had two options. There was no middle ground. It was beyond obvious that my life can not remain the same. And I was either going to die or regain some weight.

As I wasn’t able to die, it became obvious: all the pain I made myself suffer through would soon become meaningless, as it will take me just a few short months to become what I was years ago, when I still knew that feeling of happiness, eating with enjoyment and having something to smile about during the day. Accepting this fact at that time was hard. Very hard. It required that I change my behavior and personality, which meant a lot of soul-searching, visits to physicians, and talks with psychiatrists.

It was hard. But it was worth it! Can you even imagine how insanely good it feels that I can have a slice of delicious cake and not feel bad about it?! I’m laughing once again and in the evening I fall asleep in the arms of someone I love dearly. The world is beautiful once again and I feel like I can have it all!

So I can say with absolute certainty that it was all worth it. Of course, the entire experience demanded a lot from me, but I believe it has made me who I am today – and I am proud of who I am.

With this feeling of pride, I wrote a book – Notice Me: My 9-Year Struggle against Anorexia – and I hope my story will inspire many others.

Everyone can do it! ❤

Start reading Spela’s book now at: https://www.notice-me.net/free-chapter/.

CLICK HERE FOR SPELA’S WEBSITE

Do you have a story of #Emerging Proud through related struggles?

To share your experience on the blog and in Amy’s KindaProud book:

‘#EmergingProud through disordered eating, body image and low self-esteem’

Please contact Amy at: info@soul-shine.org.uk

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Colin’s journey through darkness helped him find his brightest light

Finding the strength to talk about his struggles and go on to tell his story has enabled Colin, not only to help himself, but set him on his mission to help others through the creation of his very own App; DEpressON

Here’s Colin’s story in his own words…

Colin Radcliffe

It was the 21st of June 2016, around 12pm,  I had been struggling with depression and anxiety badly for the last few months, and had begun to lose hope, each day was getting harder and harder, I was losing control, and everything seemed like it was falling apart around me. Then, one day on my lunch break at work I had to cross a motorway bridge to get my lunch, halfway across that bridge I stopped, and decided to end all of the pain,

As I stood and looked down on the motorway below me, I started to watch all of the cars passing under the bridge I was stood on. For some reason, as I was crossing the motorway bridge, I’d suddenly stopped, just over half way to look over, I’d now been stood there for a good few minutes, as I watched the traffic go by, I’d started to think of the people in those cars, I’d started to think about how their lives probably had meaning, they were happy and they were enjoying their lives, they were going somewhere today and were looking forward to getting to their destination, wherever that was. I started to think about my life, or what had become of it at least. I tried to think about; where was I going? Where was my destination? Where had my happiness gone? Why did I no longer feel like I had a purpose? I thought about my family and friends trying to convince me I did have a reason to live, but that suddenly turned into the thought of how much I’d let them down, how much of a failure I was. They had offered support when I’d first been diagnosed with my depression, and even though I’d chosen to fight this battle on my own, I remembered the words I’d used to tell my wife I’d be ok when she offered her support. “It’s in my head and I am the strongest person I know. I will sort it out”.  I thought I’d coped quite well but the last few weeks I’d felt myself falling, and I didn’t want to tell people I needed help, that would just make me look weak. I continued to watch the traffic as people walked past me on the bridge. My head at this point felt like it couldn’t cope with processing all the thoughts that were overloading it, and I remember looking up to the sky which was cloudy today but you could still see the sun shining though. As I looked up I just wanted my head to clear, I wanted to stop my hands from shaking, I wanted to not feel like a failure, but most of all I wanted to protect my family from being affected by all the pain I was feeling. As I drew my eyes back to the motorway I noticed my shaking hands were no longer shaking but instead had taken a tight grip of the railing on the bridge, my left foot was now placed on the bottom of the railing and suddenly maybe I found a solution, I could make all the noise from my head go away, I could protect my family from my pain by simply taking the problem away. I felt myself leaning towards the motorway. Maybe I’d just found my destination.

Since that day, things in my life have totally changed. Since I found the strength to speak out and admit the I needed help, that alone I was struggling to deal with these feelings. I walked from that bridge straight into my office at work and picked up the phone, I was lucky in the fact that I had medical insurance with work, I’d been given the leaflets and numbers to call many weeks ago, but had chosen not to use them, but now in that office I’d decided I had to make use of whatever help was available to me. After a conversation with the very nice lady on the other end of the phone I was referred to a shrink. At first I was against the idea, as in my mind seeing a shrink was all about being crazy and would involve me lying on a couch identifying  ink blots, but despite this, I knew I needed to try anything in the form of help. I needed to accept the advice given to me.

On my first visit with the shrink, after I’d spoken about my feelings and my childhood etc, I remember a look on his face as he looked down on his notes from the session then looked up at me, the look said it all, he was looking at me as if to say; How have you made it to 42 without seeking help before?!!!!!. At the end of the session I was diagnosed with clinical depression and acute anxiety; I’d been promoted! He recommended I attend group therapy, and I will always remember what he said to me that day about this form of therapy; “ You will meet some great new friends and will really enjoy these sessions” I remember thinking; How’s that going to work, your going to stick 10 or 12 miserable people in a room and expect them to make friends with each other?!!!!!. I imagined how the phone calls to each other would go. “ Hi, what’re you up-to today?’ “ I’m avoiding bridges, what about you?” I really didn’t believe these sessions would help, or that I’d make any kind of new friends, but I had to try them.

Unbeknownst to me, those group sessions were about to change my life in so many ways. Meeting that group of people on that first day I would never have imagined how it would help turn my journey with depression and anxiety into such an amazing adventure. Those sessions where really the beginning of something amazing. Whilst in these sessions I soon realised that although the therapist leading the sessions was needed, it was in fact the group that began to really support each other, we found strength and support in each other, we found using humour about our situations helped, because we were all on this journey together. We found an openness when talking about ourselves, an openness to be honest I don’t really think I’d had for a very long time. That room quickly became where we could be ourselves, without fear of judgment or ridicule, once we entered that room we left the stigma attached to these ‘conditions’ behind, and without that weight on our shoulders and each others’ support we began to find it easier to move forward.

It was that support and how we began to work together that gave me the idea of DEpressON, an app that would embrace our experiences and learnings. We had been advised to download several different forms of apps that could possibly help us, but both myself and others in the group found these apps clinical and sterile in their approach and look. We tried them but each one felt too detached from our real needs, they lacked something and we all quickly stopped using them. I suggested in one of the groups my idea for DEpressON and was taken aback if I’m being honest by the enthusiasm and excitement towards the idea, not just by the group but also by the professionals leading the sessions. The last few sessions of our CBT almost turned into a workshop around the app, with everyone adding ideas and suggestions, and the idea began to grow from there.

This is where my journey really became an adventure. Who would have thought that day on the bridge would of ended up with me having my own business, being invited all around the country to talk publicly about this Journey? I wouldn’t, but the darkness actually helped me find the brightest light. My story, because I found the strength to tell it, has not only changed my life but many others so far, and I know it will change many more. At the beginning of this journey me and wife were getting divorced. We are now still happily married, and now have a new addition to our family, Poppy. Her middle name is for a reason; it’s Hope. Because together we make a difference, together we make this journey an adventure.

If we have hope, we have tomorrow, let’s make tomorrow Amazing. 

Colin, Founder

My own experience with depression and its potentially life-ending consequences took me on a journey that I can now only call a journey to self-discovery.

The importance of support is essential to healing and that’s the plan. It’s all I have been concentrating on for the last year; talking, meeting and connecting with people and industry experts. We want to help people with DEpressOn – PRESSon. Let’s walk together and make a difference.

depresson.co.uk  /   info@depresson.co.uk    /colin-radcliffe/ @DEpressON2

Can  you relate to Colin’s journey through darkness to recognising your own light?

Would you like to share your story of HOPE in this blog and for Kelly’s KindaProud book:  #EmergingProud through Suicide? 

Please contact Kelly at: kelly@positivityprincess.com  to find out how. 

 

 

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Rachel’s work helped her to really see the truth; “everybody’s body is different, unique – and beautiful. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ body.”

We are KindaProud of Photographer Rachel from Norwich, UK, for sharing her experience of coming through breast cancer and bravely getting in front of the camera.

“I soon realised that the main fear I had – that everyone else is totally confident in their perfect bodies – was completely unfounded”…

Rachel

When Amy of SoulShine asked me to take photos at the first Wild Woman Photoshoot, my initial reaction was ‘yes!’, followed by a small amount of apprehension. I thought it was an absolutely brilliant thing – empowering women to represent themselves as they want to be represented, promoting body positivity, celebrating ourselves and our bodies as they are, encouraging self-acceptance and boosting self esteem. But as someone who has my own particular body confidence issues, I wasn’t sure how it was going to make me feel.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, at the age of 31. Since then I have had a mastectomy (and opted not to have reconstruction), and have gained over 2 stone in weight due to ongoing medication. So whilst I was fully on board with what Amy and Soulshine were doing, and very happy to take the photos, there was a small part of me that thought it might make me feel a bit sad, that here were all these women with their beautiful, whole, perfect bodies, and I’d never have the confidence to be so free and comfortable in my own skin, and get in front of the camera like they were.

But.

Within a very short time of arriving at the first photo shoot, I realised the reality was so far from those doubts and fears that I’d had. Amy and the Soulshine team held the space so beautifully, and I quickly felt very much at ease. I soon realised that the main fear I had – that everyone else is totally confident in their perfect bodies – was completely unfounded. As I photographed women of different shapes, sizes and ages, I started to really see the truth – everybody’s body is different, unique – and beautiful. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ body. It’s a myth created by society, the media, whoever. Seeing these women gradually increase in confidence and become more comfortable in themselves throughout the day was really empowering, so much so that by the end of the shoot I was starting to think ‘I could do that – I could get in front of the camera next time!’

The next time came around, and again Amy asked me to be the photographer for the day. I had at the back of my mind that maybe I’d ask someone to take some photos of me at some point, but I wasn’t sure. It was a bigger group than before, and I didn’t know everyone… but I shared a little of my experience at the start of the day, and immediately felt heard and accepted. And again, as the day went on and the Soulshine team skilfully led us through exercises to help us connect to our true selves, to let go of the things that are holding us back, the ‘shame gremlins’ that stop us from achieving all we’re capable of by telling us we’re not good enough/pretty enough/thin enough/etc… I felt it again. That feeling that ‘I could do that’.

And so when I tentatively suggested that maybe I could be in some of the photos, it was welcomed with open arms (literally – I’ve never known a group hug like it!) Before I knew it I was wearing just a sarong, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of friends, some of whom had been complete strangers just hours before, with a camera pointing at us – and I didn’t feel self conscious at all. All that shame about how my body looks now just dropped away, with that realisation resounding in my heart – our bodies are all different, all unique – and all beautiful. ❤ 

Some of Rachel’s shots from the Wild Woman shoot…

The Wild Woman photo shoot is an opportunity for anyone who identifies as a woman to celebrate themselves and their body.

What we offer is a safe, supportive and compassionate space for women to express, embrace and celebrate their truest selves. 

It is a day of empowerment and re-wilding in beautiful surroundings with sisters.

In ceremony and through meditation, singing, dancing, drumming and of course eating. With playful souls and open hearts, we offer you a non-judgemental, compassionate, loving and supportive space to embrace your body, celebrate who you are and awaken the Wild Woman within.

Whether you wish to show your Warrior, Wild Woman, your inner Goddess or your inner pixie, we will support you every step of the way to feel confident and proud of who you are.

We want to prove that it doesn’t matter what shape or size you are, moments of deep empowerment and true beauty are able to shine when we are able to drop all our limiting beliefs and the shame we carry around with us all the time. This is a time to say goodbye to that little voice that says: “you’re not x enough, you’re too x, you can’t possibly have your photo taken!” 

“Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity and agless knowing, her name is Wild Woman but she is an endangered species” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

SoulShine

www.soul-shine.org.uk

Are you KindaProud after coming through adversity in relation to your body?

Would you like to share your story to inspire others ?

To share on the KindaProud blog and have the opportunity to appear in Amy’s KindaProud book:

#EmergingProud through disordered eating, body image and low self-esteem

Please contact Amy at: info@soul-shine.org.uk

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“I don’t model perfection; I model vulnerability…Behind our selves let there be found our Selves.”

You may remember Fran’s story which she shared with us a couple of weeks ago for Amy’s book: “When social judgement and expectations conflict with the call to authenticity, the result is suffering.” We couldn’t agree more Fran…

Now Fran generously shares her additional transition; from Peer Experiencer, to Peer Trainer, and how being her whole Self has enabled her to model vulnerability so that others can dare to find and accept them ‘Selves’ too…

Fran Monro

I trace my recovery journey from discovering peer support groups. Peer support was there for me when I couldn’t afford professional help, when the volunteer counsellor said she didn’t understand what words meant when I used them. In peer support I felt that I’d found my crowd, we were all crazy but I was no crazier than anyone else.

I also found a new identity as an Artist.

I began to wonder if I could model one day. What would people see if they drew my body? Would my body ever reflect who I am inside? Could I overcome my fear of being seen, or being intimate in that way?

(Illustrations from Fran’s life modelling sessions by Leonie Kervin)

I became a peer support worker. I trained, I began working with people in crisis. I began to learn more about mental health , about what it takes to become well. I started to look at my own life and wonder if I dared to admit what I wanted, if I dared to become well, if I dared to become whole. I was challenged by changing attitudes. If my friends could accept me, if my community could accept me, why couldn’t I learn to accept myself?

I did Mind’s 5 day peer support worker training around four years ago with Robyn and Paul. The storytelling was very confronting, as was the goal setting exercise. At the time it was beyond me to claim and own what I wanted in life.

I told my story straight up, first cab off the rank. I’m an anxious rather than confident person, but I know the skill to plunge in and “fake it till you make it.” I knew that if I got it done straight away then I’d only suffer one night’s sleepless anxiety about it, rather than three or four. I’d rather face the fear than face the waiting. This is a double edged strength: I don’t sit well with anxiety and uncertainty – sometimes I make things worse for myself just so I don’t have to wait in uncertainty.

I’ve told my story four or five times in these classes. Each time I have to deal with that anxiety and uncertainty – it hasn’t gotten easier. I get so disorganised when faced with my own story. I forget things. I can’t connect the dots. Pieces fall off. My life isn’t so much a journey or a narrative as a cloud of minnows: the tighter and more anxiously I grasp at it the more it darts through my fingers leaving me holding nothing but a foolish look on my face!

minows

On the other hand my lived experience is always there. When people talk about their own feelings and experiences the fish may swim closer, then maybe I have something to share. For me peer support starts with listening. Listening to the person, listening to my own inner thoughts and feelings.

……………………..

I’ve worked as a peer support worker for four years. It’s a strange paradoxical job, sometimes it hardly seems like working at all. Some of the best work I do is walking around the block with people and going to the coffee shop and listening to them talk. Get people out in the sunshine, get them talking. Catch them doing or saying something positive! Don’t underestimate the humble walking group or shared cup of tea – it can do more good than pills and doctors sometimes.

I like to practice being available. Hanging around the common areas of the residence, preparing food and having lunch with residents. For me good peer support happens in the informal moments and the little spaces between meetings, groups and psycho education sessions. I keep myself occupied and active, even if no one is around or no one turns up for a scheduled group: Let them catch me doing something positive! That’s modelling.

I try to actively practice my self care. I look after myself. I access my supports when I need them. I work on my sleep hygiene and my exercise. I share this process at community meeting. Talking about my self care and my challenges is another way I can model a recovery attitude. I share this with staff as well.

One of the most empowering things about being a peer support worker is that you have permission to say “I don’t know.” I’m not God, I’m not a doctor, there’s so much I don’t know. I don’t model perfection; I model vulnerability, enthusiasm, anxiety, curiosity about people, and hard work. I love that I can bring myself to this work.

I try to think about how things feel for people. What experience people have in the system. The things people force themselves to do or say in order to get help, why people twist themselves all out of shape. My minnows help. I try to communicate some of these feelings to other staff, to speak to the feelings of mental health. Part of our job is to support people, part is to represent people to the system. Our humanity, our vulnerability, our hope and authenticity is found at the bottom of both of these roles. Behind our selves let there be found our selves.

………………….

A key milestone in my experience was being challenged by greater community acceptance to start to find a way to accept myself. Your acceptance, your compassion matters – especially to those in your own family and community.

I hope that my story helps you to find yourself, to accept yourself and to learn to care for yourself and to find your way home. Never give up hope.

Does Fran’s story resonate with you? Would you like to share your personal journey to provide HOPE to others who might be struggling? To appear on the blog and in the KindaProud pocket book of hope: 

#EmergingProud through disordered eating, body image and low self-esteem

Please contact Amy at: info@soul-shine.org.uk

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Shae from Hawaii now nourishes herself with Self- love

“And I said to my body, softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ it took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’

~Nayyirah Waheed

Through her studies, Shae has come to realise how interrelated our self- care is to the environment and the planet. She says; “It was this love that I had for myself, even in the very beginning of my journey, that allowed and influenced my transformation.”

Here Shae shares her transformation journey from a negative self- image to allowing herself to devote valuable time to her needs, desires, pleasures, and inspiration…

Shae Clark

When I was 8, my first memory of feeling negatively self-conscious of my body, was when my mom saw me touching the skin on my belly and she asked me if I was playing with my rolls. I am not sure why she referred to my belly as “rolls” because I was a slim, healthy young girl. However, I do not recall having a specific body image prior to that comment and it planted a seed that followed me throughout childhood and well into adulthood. I began to gain weight and binge-eat occasionally during my teens. My weight fluctuated and I gained and lost around 30 pounds through my early 20s. When I moved into a cottage alone and was working at a law firm I hated, I gained a lot of weight in a couple of years. I was on my own and completely uninspired.

I ended up deciding to break free from city life and move up to a quaint, small town in the mountains to attend a community college that had a horse program (I trained and bred horses throughout my teens and 20s). During college, I met the man who would become my husband and the love of my life. We married and had our daughter. After our daughter was born in 2003, my husband and I experienced extraordinary difficulties and challenges from external circumstances that forced us to live apart for years. The stress of missing my love and raising our daughter alone caused me to become obese. I spent most of those years in survival mode. There was a period of time I was alone and homeless with my one-year-old. We camped for a whole summer until school resumed and we moved into a homeless shelter before finally being able to find an affordable home.

Life for my toddler and I smoothed out as the rhythmic school routine set in. It was during this phase that I tried extreme measures to loose weight and regain health and self-love. I tried teas and diets and read everything I could get a hold of to try and solve my “problem.” I would do well for a while and then slip back into self-sabotaging habits. I graduated and transferred to a four-year university. We stayed there for a year and I transferred again to Mills College in Oakland. My daughter and I lived there for two years on campus in Family Housing until I graduated and moved again. At this point we were living with my husband again and moving a lot.

I continued on in school and was accepted into a doctoral program. The financial, emotional, and academic stress was overwhelming. I never stopped trying to get control of my weight and I also never stopped loving myself. I was disappointed with myself but practiced self-love and was generally gentle with my process. I remember feeling more desperate and depressed than angry and hating myself. The doctoral program began to require my cohort to focus on our research interests and mine was mindfulness. I loved that it encompassed so many aspects of life and had such a positive impact on people who use mindfulness techniques. Eventually, I narrowed my focus to mindful eating and my dissertation design unfolded to include human and planetary health and our food system politics, which was all framed within mindful eating. The experience of researching and writing my dissertation was extremely rewarding and an amazing journey. I felt and still feel I found my life’s mission. Also, during that time, I became a certified health coach. It was at this point in my journey I finally found my balance.

Nourishing one’s body is a significant aspect of what it is to be human. I believe that finding ways to connect more intimately with the body, food, the eating process, and the ways in which they are all connected to the environment, is purposeful and worthwhile. If these connections are made, I believe the heightened awareness may cultivate improved physical and environmental health. In my research I learned so much about how a plant-based diet improves health and it just resonated with me. I deeply believe in the power of the connection between how food is grown and produced and the ways it is interrelated with the environment and planetary health.

Once I began eating whole food plant-based, my body began to feel so vibrant and alive. My digestion was on point and my sleep patterns fell into a satiating rhythm. All health issues disappeared within a few months. I began walking regularly and enjoying yoga in the mornings. Another piece of my healing was committing to a regular meditation practice first thing in the morning. I made it my first self-care priority. This practice was paramount in my transformation. It has been one of the most powerful aspects of coming back into balance. Another very important facet of my transformation has been spending time with loved ones. When I was overweight and feeling depressed all those years, I did not have a desire to spend a lot of time with my family and friends. This fell away almost immediately when I changed my self-sabotaging habits.

Realizing that it was my habits that held me out of balance with my body-mind, I did a lot of research on the subject of habits. I learned that most of us are three days away from making positive and sustaining habitual changes. In other words, it is especially hard for three days and then as our internal audience becomes more impressed with our new and healthier habits, the transition becomes easier and the momentum begins. I take each day at a time. This is what mindfulness teaches. My goal each morning is to do things that specific day that will make me feel healthy, strong, joyful, and clear-minded. Every morning, after meditation, I read a page of notes I created to remind me of all the inspirational reasons I have to continue my healthy habits this day. I only focus on the present day and try not to ruminate on the past or future unless it is reminiscing on pleasant memories or daydreaming of pleasant future thoughts.

Over a couple of years, I have lost more than half my body weight and completely transformed not only my body but the way I show up in the world and my life experience. I am free in my body now and I intentionally practice self-love and self-care everyday. This transformation really is an internal process. I find myself listening carefully to the subtle whisperings of my internal audience and the longer I do, the more love and health emanates from my Being. Self-love, for me, is listening to my authentic self and following through each day with the commitment I made to devote time to my needs, desires, pleasures, and inspiration. It was this love that I had for myself, even in the very beginning of my journey, that allowed and influenced my transformation.

Two mantras I say to myself daily: 

~I am happy, healthy, calm, and beautiful.

~How rare and perfect you are.

Today I asked my body what she needed, which is a big deal considering my journey of not really asking that much.

I thought she might need more water.

Or protein.

Or greens.

Or yoga.

Or supplements.

Or movement.

But as I stood in the shower

Reflecting on her stretch marks,

Her roundness where I would like flatness,

Her softness where I would like firmness,

All those conditioned wishes

That form a bundle of

Never-Quite-Right-Ness,

She whispered very gently:

Could you just love me like this?

~Hollie Holden

Does this subject resonate with your own experience? 

Would you like to share your story for Amy’s KindaProud book, #EmergingProud through disordered eating, body image and low self-esteem? 

Please contact Amy to find out how by contacting her at: info@soul-shine.org.uk

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