I walk into my Circles of Change event every year at a different emotional state. Some years I walk in with more of an informative approach, and then there are some years when I walk into the studio and get far more personal about my own connection to eating disorders and body dysmorphia. This year was one of those years.
My story is one of hope -- a happy story that had its bumps in the road to find said happiness with who I am. It began many years ago with an inability to be content with where I was at on the scale. I went to great extremes to try to find contentment, and it just was not happening. My appearance got to a point where it began to worry many, and scarily enough it still didn’t feel thin enough. It didn’t end there.
Though I ultimately went through a phase with all different types of eating disorder behaviors, my diagnosis became bulimia. It took me a long time to realize this, but today I understand that my actions were so much more than a desire to look a certain way. It was a coping mechanism for things happening in my life, a way to deal with stress. My mind telling me that it had the answer to my problem and that it would make me feel better. It didn’t. It brought about a state of sadness that I don’t think I can ever explain in words. Throughout this period in my life, I always said that I would never let anyone that I knew go through this too. And so, even in the first year of my working on my own recovery, “Beautiful You” became a Circles of Change event that would continue on year after year. The message of honoring and loving your body was delivered, with all profit going to the very place that took my eating disorder on with such hope and heart; Ophelia’s Place (OP).
Even in the moments that were especially hard in my treatment, I was always thankful to OP. Bruce, my nutritionist at OP is without a doubt one of the most influential people in my life. He believed in me from day one, never judged if I had a setback, and to this day is one of my biggest cheerleaders as I celebrate my being in a state of recovery. I am forever grateful to him and Ophelia’s Place. I recently had the opportunity to host my very own Circles of Change event with Ophelia’s Place as my special guests. This little event of mine has grown and grown over the past few years, with the message remaining the same; to change the conversation about ourselves and one another. Being a fitness instructor, I decided to keep the event inside the studio over the years, holding a master class consisting of yoga, dance and cardio/strength segments. The intent being not to burn calories, but to burn a flame within ourselves, to appreciate and thank our bodies for moving so freely, to allow us to express ourselves, to show ourselves how strong and capable we are.
Fast forward to years later, I am sitting at our Circles of Change event this year, listening to the lovely Jill Catherine from Ophelia’s Place talk about appreciating our bodies, not for getting thin or looking perfect, but for reasons that I personally have never even stopped to think about. I have always loved to dance, but I never reflected on how thankful I am to my body for letting it express myself through movement. I participate in an annual 100 mile cycling event for awareness of Missing and Exploited Children, and I now give kudos to my body for its strength and perseverance.
Over the weekend, I discovered a photo of Jill and myself from the event, and in this photo I remember exactly how I was feeling in that moment. I felt relief, at peace and at home with the conversation. This is why I love Circles of Change events. Circles of Change events give me hope of a future where the conversation is less about diet, weight gain, weight loss, outer beauty and more about who we are as individuals, how beauty truly comes from within, and recognizing that our bodies deserve praise for allowing us to do the simple pleasures that we partake in everyday, be it a walk in the park, or a simple gesture of a hug to express love and gratitude. Though I cannot sit here and call myself completely at peace with my body, I can stand here and say that I am completely at peace with who I am as a person. And that to me is as beautiful as it gets.