True confession: I started writing this post on August 6th and have struggled to finish it; rarely am I at a loss for words.

During a recent conversation, with friend and colleague registered dietitian Lauren Anton, it came to my attention that the delay was rooted in fear. I have been scared to share that negative body image thoughts came back to haunt me.

Who wants to hear this from a therapist? Shouldn't we have our shit together? How the hell can we help someone if we are struggling with something?

Well, dear reader, even with my education and training, negative body image thoughts can resurface. How could they not? We live in a society that over values appearance; we are inundated with messages about what our bodies should look like. It can take time to repair our relationship with our bodies; even then, we can still be visited, like the Ghost of Christmas Past, by negative thoughts about our body.

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It started in May. Right after the Emerald Ball; a 3-day dance competition. I knew something was wrong; I hoped it wasn't what I suspected. I rested for a few days. I continued to take dance lessons. I took breaks and wore sneakers to practice. Dancing in sneakers is not ideal; your ability to turn is limited and there is the possibility of twisting your ankle. I kept pushing through the discomfort and pain.... until I couldn't tolerate it anymore.

I gave in and made an appointment with my podiatrist, Dr. Noreen Oswell. Two x-rays and intensely painful manipulation confirmed what I already knew; I had dislocated a toe. Seems minor, right? Nothing to be upset about, right? It could be worse, right? The pain from this little, dislocated joint reverberated through my body and soul like the aftershock of an earthquake.

As a pre-emptive strategy, I asked my doctor if the injury was caused by my weight. Many medical professionals link body weight as the root cause of symptomology, injury, and disease (please consider causation versus correlation - consider, if weight was the cause, how come people in thinner bodies can be impacted, too). Many also prescribe weight loss without assessing for eating disorders, asking about a patient's physical activities, or nutrition practices...and never tending to the symptoms at hand. My doctor assured me that my injury was caused by the mechanics of my foot; genetics (Thanks, Mom & Dad!). She even brought out a skeleton foot to show me.

I hobbled to the car in one sneaker and one not-so-fashionable Velcro, orthopedic shoe (left foot in a soft cast). I donned my sunnies, put on my Stevie Nicks playlist, and cried my eyes out. Thoughts ran through my brain like the SCMAGLEV...….Would a physical injury create disconnection in my body? Would I, to cope, return to old patterns? Would I gain weight? What would people think had happened? Would anyone ask me if I needed help? Would I need to ask for help from others? If I asked for help would people think me weak...would anyone help me?

It was an emotional afternoon. I felt guilty for obtaining a temporary Disabled Person Parking Placard; thoughts of taking up too much space and the privilege of living in an able body surfaced. Only one of my close friends asked if I needed anything; I supposed that was to be expected when one has the "curse of competence". I experienced a few (ok, more than a few) negative thoughts about my body. AND... I felt alone.

Additionally, I would not be able to wear cute shoes (I love my shoe collection - some have jokingly said it rivals that of Imelda Marcos - I can assure it does not). I could not dance for 6-8 weeks and I could not take my dogs on walks. I had a laundry list of all the things I could not do. I was miserable. But, not being one to wallow in my self-pity (for too long), I allowed myself a 24-hour pity party.

The next day, I got busy planning for the 6-8-week recovery. I had negotiated with my doctor to let me do Pilates in a chair; she approved if I promised to ice it often and stay off the foot as much as possible. I agreed to her terms. Whew! As someone who is relatively new to "being in my body", my movement practice is sacred.

For years, I had lived from the neck up; always in my head. I was cut-off from bodily sensations (like hunger and satiety); I didn't fully inhabit my body. Now, I am so attuned to my body that I can feel when I activate the latissimus and rhomboid muscles as I practice arm styling for dance... I geek out by learning the names of muscles and feeling the sensations as they function within my body. I am very aware of my posture and the way that I move through the world....and I like it! I like having this connection, errr, re-connection to my body. The Velcro shoe on the left and sneaker on the right foot skews my posture and causes misalignment; I am, quite literally, lopsided. This wonky posture amplified the negative body thoughts.

I reached out to my Pilates and Burlesque teacher. Ginger was on board to help me create a chair Pilates movement practice. I felt self-conscious hobbling through the building to our studio; cue more negative body thoughts. Ginger met me with her usual "let's do this" attitude. We chatted about how I was feeling emotionally (down) and physically (crooked and uncomfortable). We started with prolonged breath work; the injury HAD caused me to feel disconnected from my body. We focused on arms and back; creating a gentle flow with movement and breathe. She could tell I was frustrated and reminded me that it was an experiment; be an observer. By the end of the session, I was doing a seated Burlesque combination to Darling Nikki; I ended up laughing at the contradiction of being sultry whilst wearing an orthopedic shoe....reminiscent of something you might see on Mama's Family.

I approach the remaining 3 weeks (yes, I am doing a Casey Kasem Countdown for when I get to wear REAL shoes and dance again) a "To Do" list of (seated) tasks. I am also grateful for this experience. It has reminded me that I am fortunate to live in an able body. It has deepened my vulnerability with my friends; I shared that I felt alone and was hurt that only one person asked if I needed anything. It has strengthened my ability to turn the volume down on negative thoughts about my body. More than just my foot has been healed during this time.

Since beginning this post, I have had several follow-up appointments to have the soft cast changed; every two weeks. While she was recasting my foot, Dr. Oswell and I chatted about the impact of physical injury on body image. That discussion resulted in the following draft....

5 Ways to Navigate Recovery from Physical Injury or Surgery: Managing Negative Body Image

5. Collaborate with your physician to find out what you CAN do during your recovery.

Physicians will provide you with a list of limitations to help you heal and avoid reinjury. This can be challenging for those who lead active lifestyles. Ask how you can modify activities or for alternate exercise or movements. Focusing on what you can do can lessen negative thoughts about your body.

4. Allow yourself to feel the array of emotions that may occur.

Recovering from an injury or surgery can bring about strong emotions as you come to terms with the loss of your abilities; being able-bodied can be taken for granted. Realizing the loss can bring up feelings of sadness, anger, resentment, frustration, and helplessness. These are all normal reactions.

3. Be gentle with yourself; trust the wisdom of your body as it heals.

It is important to follow your physicians’ guidelines for recovery. As you heal, you may be tempted to push yourself to be more active. Pushing yourself can lead to re-injury or a prolonged recovery. Tune in to the wisdom of your body; take breaks, rest, acknowledge and communicate unexpected or unusual pain to your physician.

2. Seek moments of calm, peace, and joy.

Create a plan to engage in things you enjoy while you recover. Engaging in activities that make you feel good can make more challenging emotions easier to tolerate. Incorporating moments of calm and peace can help alleviate anxious thoughts about your body.

1. Reach out for help if you need support during this time.

Develop a support team for your recovery; let friends and family know how they can help you. You can also seek out the services of helping professionals; registered dietitians, physical therapists, and psychotherapists. You aren't alone; you don't have to do it all on your own.

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How have YOU navigated your recovery from physical injury or surgery? What would have been helpful to your recovery? Please feel free to email me your thoughts and ideas.

Updated: Aug 14

For the past few years, I have attended at least one performance of the LA Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl, to watch Gustavo Dudamel conduct. This year, I was contacted to see if I had any interest in season tickets; I did.

My first venture to the Hollywood Bowl was a solo trip to see Dudamel conduct Carmen. I had managed to snag a seat in a box that was relatively close to the stage. I fell in love that night...with Dudamel, with the Hollywood Bowl, with Carmen...and with box seats! Watching Dudamel is fascinating; he conducts with his entire body and as the evening wears on his curly locks seem to grow like a Chia Pet. I also admire the work he does with YOLA (Youth Orchestra of LA).

Tonight, a friend and I went to see violinist Ray Chen and the LA Phil being conducted by Ben Gernon. As we settled into our seats, I noticed the U. S. and California flags flying at half-staff (note: half-mast is when it is on a ship). I was overcome by sadness and felt my eyes tearing up, but I blinked them away. The musicians took the stage, Gernon came out, the lights were lowered except for 2 spotlights; one on each flag. We all rose to our feet as we recognized the opening notes of the Star-Spangled Banner. This was the first time I was not able to sing our national anthem; I was holding back sobs as tears ran down my face.

The current political climate coupled with the events of the past few days (weeks, months, years...) have left me feeling sad, hopeless, and helpless. How much more must people endure? Like many of my friends and colleagues I am exhausted; political fatigue.

Then I remembered something I had read....an open letter Dudamel had written about the political climate in Venezuela. The content could easily apply to the current situation in the US.

He wrote:

My entire life has been devoted to music and art as a way of transforming societies. I raise my voice against violence. I raise my voice against any form of repression. Nothing justifies bloodshed. We must stop ignoring the just cry of the people suffocated by an intolerable crisis. Extreme confrontation and polarization cannot seize common conscience and peace, constituting borders and barriers to understanding and peaceful and democratic coexistence. Historically the Venezuelans have been a fighting people but never a violent one.

For democracy to be healthy there must be true respect and understanding. Democracy cannot be built to fit the needs of a particular government or otherwise it would cease to be a democracy. The democratic exercise involves listening to the voice of the majority as the ultimate bulwark of social truth. No ideology can go beyond the common good. Politics must be exercised from conscience and in the utmost respect of the Constitution, adapting itself to a young society that, like the Venezuelan, has the right to reinvent itself through the healthy and unobjectionable democratic checks and balances.

Venezuelans are desperate for their inalienable right to well-being and the satisfaction of their basic needs. The only weapons that can be given to people are the necessary tools to forge their future: books, brushes, musical instruments; in short, those that embody the highest values of the human spirit: good, truth and beauty.

I urgently call on the President of the Republic and the national government to rectify and listen to the voice of the Venezuelan people. Times cannot be defined by the blood of our people. We owe our youth a hopeful world, a country where we can walk freely in dissent, in respect, in tolerance, in dialogue and in which dreams have room to build the Venezuela we all yearn for.

It is time to listen to the people: Enough is enough.

–Gustavo Dudamel

In those moments when I feel sad, hopeless, and helpless about the current state of the world, I follow the classical music tradition of a caesura. A caesura is a break or a silent pause in the music; the conductor determines the length of the pause. Essentially, I put myself in a time-out; no news, no social media, and no political engagement. As the conductor of my personal pause, I turn my attention to music, poetry, reading inspirational works, dancing, and creating (I knit); I seek out that which will nourish my soul.

How do you navigate the moments of overwhelm? How do you orchestrate your life? How do you nourish your soul?

Gustavo Dudamel. (2017, May 4). Levanto mi voz/ I raise my voice. http://www.facebook.com/gustavodudamel [Facebook update] Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/notes/gustavo-dudamel/levanto-mi-voz-i-raise-my-voice/10155493367329683/

Updated: Jul 29

For as long as I can remember, I have hated being photographed. Somewhere, there exists a photo of 4-year-old me sobbing my eyes out at a portrait studio. I have done a fine job of hiding in the back row, sneaking off to the bathroom, or just saying no when it comes to group photos; the invisible woman.

I was raised with the "children are meant to be seen and not heard" parenting style; being an overachiever, I took it a step further and did all I could to be inconspicuous, inconsequential, and insignificant (how about that alliteration). I worked hard to not take up too much space, to redirect attention to someone else, to not "outshine" anyone (especially men), and not be too much. I succeeded for a very long time; some were convinced that I was shy and extremely introverted. If you know me, you know this is not the case at all.

I cannot pinpoint when things changed; it was a slow progression. In my mid-20's, in addition to my first corporate job, I started working a part-time, evening job in men's retail; I developed a bit of a dramatic flair when creating wardrobe capsules for the customers (I was a pro at men's mix-n-match and could mark-up a suit with just the right break). In my late 20's and early 30's, I moved away from menswear and into the glamorous world of retail cosmetics. Working in the cosmetics industry was a dream come true; I left my office job for a full-time position working for a French company. When one works in the world of cosmetics, one's ability to turn on the dramatic flair becomes an art form....and one also develops a fondness for wearing black. In my mid-30's, I left the not-so-glamorous (the stories I could tell) world of cosmetics to return to an office job. It was during this period that I developed a love of public speaking. I used to drop courses in college that required any kind of presentation. Who had I become?

If you have read the post entitled "I'm A Dancer...What's Your Superpower?", then you know that I love to dance. I have performed in a handful of showcases and danced in 3 competitions, thus far. During the competition, multiple photographers and videographers move around the floor capturing the dancers; I never liked the images that they captured of me. I can speak to a large or small crowd, in person or via video. I can dance in front of people I know and in front of a ballroom full of strangers. And yet having my photo taken has always been intolerable.

That all changed on June 24, 2019. I reluctantly set up an appointment for a professional photo shoot. My headshot was over 5 years old; it was time for a new one. Choosing a photographer was a Goldilocks adventure; one didn't return an email, one took up way too much of my time trying to sell me on a "life-changing" experience, and the one I ended up choosing was just right.

Kaysha Weiner is an incredible photographer. I had so much fun HAVING MY PICTURE TAKEN (yes, I am shouting...more out of celebration than at you, dear reader). Kaysha is kind, patient, and funny, which made for a very relaxed day. I am so pleased with the results from the photo shoot that I plan to work with her again soon.

I am quite comfortable, now, with being heard, taking up space, and being seen; living an authentic and fulfilled life. It is quite liberating to be true to oneself. Judy Garland advised, "Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else."

How about you? Are you living someone's version of who you should be? Are limiting beliefs holding you back from leading the life you desire?

Click those ruby slippers together 3 times and remember what Glinda the Good Witch said, "You had the power all along, dear."

Baum, L. F. (1900). The wonderful wizard of oz. Chicago, IL: George M. Hill Company.