National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015

February is usually the most hectic month for me – more hectic than even the holiday season! Between my husband’s birthday, my birthday, AND our wedding anniversary, there’s plenty of celebration to be planned (and enjoyed), but it’s also the time of the year when perhaps the gusto with which I attack each January starts to catch up with me. Like, tell me again why I planned to start training for a half marathon while juggling a half dozen private clients, a brand new nutrition group, five public yoga classes a week, two non-profit jobs, and the mounting of a cabaret? In the dead of winter?!

No complaining here though. I feel invigorated, if a little frazzled, and I’m taking it one day at a time, one breath at a time, one break from the computer at a time — and always keeping an eye out for my MBP Daily Three.

NEDAwareness_2015_Shareable_IllusionsFebruary 22nd through the 28th is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, in which people across the country come together to “put the spotlight on the seriousness of eating disorders and to improve public understanding of their causes, triggers and treatments.”

One of my favorite offerings from NEDA so far this week is this Media Literacy Toolkit, which includes, among other awesome info, a quiz to help you determine your digital body image and examples of how to send your feedback to advertisers.

Also included in the toolkit is a pledge designed to “let people know where you stand on picture-perfect body images in the media.”

What do you think — would you take the pledge?

NEDA’s Body Positive Pledge:

  • I promise to move beyond society’s ideal body standards and embrace my own body.
  • I promise to tell myself one positive thing about my body every time I look in the mirror and appreciate that I am original and there’s only one me.
  • I pledge to respect my body and not try to fit media’s image of attractiveness.
  • I promise to keep a healthy and active lifestyle for myself and no one else.
  • I pledge not to judge people based on their body shape and size, especially if they do not fit the cultural body ideal.
  • I pledge to be proactive about negative body images and challenge unrealistic and demeaning body talk.
  • I pledge to advocate for positive body image messages—that includes not to buy from companies or support organizations that use unrealistic and unattainable body ideals to sell a product or promote a cause.
  • I pledge not to retouch my photos in order to enhance my appearance online.
  • I pledge to become more media literate and think critically about what I see, hear and read, especially on social media.
  • Finally, I pledge to love my body unconditionally.

If I’m totally honest with myself, holding to this pledge in its entirety would be a serious challenge. This is not easy stuff here, folks; we’re talking about reversing years of negative conditioning. But what a goal to work towards! Which of the above pledges will you work towards this Eating Disorder Awareness Week? Let me know in the comments below.

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Why I’m Giving Up On My Dreams

A stage; a.k.a. "home"

A stage; a.k.a. “home”

When I moved from San Francisco to New York City, I definitely imagined myself on a stage in front of hundreds of people. After all, I had been doing it my whole life. I was the lead in an opera before I was ten years old. In 2010, just before leaving the Bay Area, SF Weekly readers generously voted me San Francisco’s Best Stage Actor. So I knew I’d make my way to a New York City stage eventually.

I just couldn’t have guessed what kind of stage.

Last Sunday morning I took the subway down to New York City’s Foley Square, right across from City Hall. The fountain had been turned into a stage, and I waited on it as hundreds of people crowded around to listen to an opening ceremony. It was the day of the annual New York City NEDA Walk, raising money and awareness for the mission of the National Eating Disorders Association, and after raising nearly $150,000.00, this huge group was about to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.

Then I heard my name:

Sarah Kit Farrell is a yoga teacher and health coach who recently celebrated 6 years of recovery. She is a program facilitator for mentalfitness, inc., an organization that builds mental fitness in all youth through arts-based awareness and prevention programs…

It was time for me to take the mic, though I wouldn’t be singing. Instead, I spent the next several moments leading all those hundreds of people in a yoga-inspired warm-up.

Just a slice of the immense crowd in Foley Square

Just a slice of the immense crowd in Foley Square

Lemmie tell ya – I wish I had been asked to sing, ’cause I wouldn’t have been nearly as nervous. Singing I know how to do. But playing the part of an inspirational yoga teacher? Now that made me shake in my running shoes.

Performing is in my heart and it always will be, but a few years back I stopped spending the bulk of my free time on preparing for auditions and memorizing monologues. I basically stopped living the “actor’s life”. It just sort of happened. And when I realized that it was happening, I used every weapon I could think of to punish myself for my transgression.

How could you? I thought to myself, everyone will think you’re giving up — you ARE giving up! Have you wasted your entire life trying to perform only to find that you’re not good enough? That you don’t have what it takes? Or maybe you are good enough and you’re just too lazy to make it. If that’s the case, then you deserve to fail. You’re worthless, in fact. You’re a goddamn disgrace. Get it together, SKF!

Wow, right? Um, self-abuse, party of two?

But no matter how many times I told myself to get back on track, how I should be doing this and that, I just didn’t. The truth was, I didn’t want to. It wasn’t enjoyable to me. That lifestyle wasn’t making me happy.

All the while, little by little, I was giving in to these interests and activities that have fascinated me all along: nutrition, mindfulness, yoga, eating disorders… and I felt awful about it. Each time I gave attention to one of these alternative areas, a little gremlin in my head told me I was betraying my destiny, betraying my true “purpose” in coming to NYC, betraying the goals set out for me by my younger self.

For a while now, I’ve made an effort not to “should” on myself (I should do this and I should have done that). But if I’m honest with myself, for the last few years, my life has essentially been one big SHOULD. I’ve been clinging to this idea that my life was supposed to go one way, and refusing to accept that it might go somewhere else.

This all reminds me of a metaphor used by author Esther Hicks, who says that life is a swift-moving river and we’re all conditioned to think that we’ll be rewarded by fighting to get upstream. But in all actuality, nothing that you want is upstream. In fact, the stream itself is a stream of well-being, and the second you accept the current of your life and learn to move with it, to sway with it, to go with the flow, joyful things begin to happen — and they happen fast.

With my amazingly supportive friends at the 2014 NEDA Walk

With my amazingly supportive friends at the 2014 NEDA Walk

So on the one hand, I’m flabbergasted that I, of all people, would end up leading stretches for this year’s NEDA Walk, but on the other hand, I’m not surprised at all. It’s the same reason that I was hired at the very first yoga studio I applied to, the same reason my coaching practice took off the moment I decided take it seriously.

Because the current of my life is headed that way. The more I trust that current, and the more I can let go of my preconceptions about how my life in NYC should turn out, the farther I’ll be able to go.

Of course I’ll never stop performing, don’t be silly; it’s in my bones. In fact, I’m planning a New York City debut of my one woman show about food, body image, and appetites unchecked. But it may not be the most important thing. As far as those earlier dreams go, the ones in part constructed by a thirteen year old Sarah, consumed by her eating disorder, rigid in her perfectionism, and desperate for approval, well… maybe I don’t need those specific dreams anymore.

I think I passed that fork in the stream a long time ago. And thank goodness.

So what about you? Are you swimming upstream against the dominant current of well-being in your life? What do you think would happen if you stopped fighting in order to go with the flow?

6 Years Recovered

Practice self-care, loves; this post may be triggering to some.

six candles recovery anniversary | MindBodyPlate

Today is a special day for me – one of my favorite days of the year. September 3rd is my recovery anniversary, and today marks 6 years since the last time I binged and purged.

I blogged about my recovery anniversary last year, but a lot has changed since then. Last year I started the day by taking my favorite yoga class; this year I woke up at 5:30 AM to teach a yoga class.

Last year I thought that self-care was something extra you made time for every day; this year I’ve learned that every facet of life and every choice you make is an opportunity for self-care (self-care isn’t the frosting on the cake, it’s the cake itself).

Last year my ideas about what I should be doing with my life were getting in the way of the actual doing; this year I have a private practice which offers nutritional coaching, private yoga sessions, and peer coaching for those in recovery from eating disorders, and I’m in the early stages of planning the New York City debut of my one woman show about food and body image.

The long view almost always highlights growth — I think that’s why I like anniversaries. Because, individually, most of the last 365 days felt like nothing was happening, like I was getting nowhere. But the sum is greater than its parts, as they say.

peanut loves maple syrup | MindBodyPlate

I want you to know that ‘6 years recovered’ does not mean I have a perfect relationship with food. Just yesterday, for example, I was so frustrated with the logistics of setting up my new laptop that I ended up eating a ramekin full of peanut butter mixed with maple syrup… with a spoon.

…and then I went back for seconds.

Emotional eating at its finest, folks. Were there elements of a binge there, where I felt out of control? Sure. The difference is that after it was done I didn’t throw up my hands and say, “Well, now that I’ve totally blown it, I better eat everything else in the kitchen.” The difference is that I didn’t want to purge or punish myself at the gym. The difference is that I knew a little bit too much peanut butter would not send my weight or my body image spiraling out of control. The difference is that I didn’t beat myself up.

Sarah Kit Farrell laughing | MindBodyPlate

Squished on the subway and loving it!

Actually, I had a bit of a chuckle. I mean, we all get frustrated sometimes — let’s be real, especially when setting up new electronics. Of course I lost a bit of control as my brain became overwhelmed. Of course my body tried to comfort itself. And of course it chose the path of least resistance (dietary fat and sugar!!!).

That I can hold yesterday’s mini-binge with empathy, love, and a bit of humor is the real sign that I am recovered.

Just as all of the changes in one year may not be apparent until the year is over, the hundreds and thousands of mini-steps towards recovery may not be apparent day-to-day. That’s how it is with overcoming anything, I think. We relish when we can look back and feel pride in our accomplishment, now abundantly clear. But the good stuff is happening with every mini-step, every choice to incorporate self-care, every day, every moment, every bite.

MBP VIP: Renee Engeln on Beauty Sickness

Hey, are you feeling okay? Are you struggling to engage with the rest of the world? Feeling tired and defeated? Unable to direct your energy toward the things that really matter?

Do you have Beauty Sickness?

For most of my life, particularly when I was struggling with my eating disorder, I found social situations unbearable – though you may never have noticed. I liked people, and I knew that I was good at talking to them. I had a talent for engaging groups and entertaining crowds. By all accounts, I was the consummate extrovert.

But somehow, such activities always left me feeling drained, both physically and emotionally. Sometimes they made me feel downright miserable. I could never seem to let go and enjoy myself the way other people did. I knew objectively if I was “having fun”, but I didn’t necessarily feel it. Much of the time it felt forced, and all I really wanted was to be alone.

So when Renee Engeln started talking about Objectification Theory around the 9:30 minute mark, I felt like she was describing my experience exactly. Renee explained, “You cannot chronically monitor your body’s appearance and be engaged with the world. When you are Beauty Sick, you cannot engage with the world, because between you and the world is a mirror, and it’s a mirror that travels with you everywhere. You cannot seem to put it down.”

Yeah, that would pretty much explain why I was so exhausted after socializing. I was so preoccupied with how any person might be perceiving me at any moment that it was nearly impossible for me to do anything but go through the motions. I was on guard at each and every moment, hyper-aware of my body in space, constantly searching the reactions of those around me for signs that I was either succeeding or failing.

This also explains why it’s become more and more enjoyable for me to spend time with friends as I’ve gotten older. The more secure I feel in my own body, my own person, the more I’ve been able to fall in love with myself, the more I can relax into social situations. As that hyper-vigilance has faded away, I’ve found more energy to be present in the exciting and inspiring conversations of those around me. As I’ve let go of the fear that I’m being constantly judged, I’ve been able to taste the fruits of companionship and loyalty in a whole new way. And yes, I’ve felt what it’s like to have fun.

More of that, please.

Imagine the power we women could yield were we to be relieved of this ailment, this Beauty Sickness. Imagine all of that energy, all of that focus, being directed toward something more lasting, more loving. The thought gives me goosebumps.

What’s the simplest way to start? I for one will take Renee’s advice: I’m a new “Auntie” to a beautiful baby girl.  And yes, she is a thing of beauty. But whenever I get the impulse to tell her so, I’ll instead tell her she’s smart / strong / active / capable / friendly / happy / curious / courageous / persistant / generous / kind…

What do you think? Do you have the sickness? How will you work towards getting better?

Two Steps to Your Perfect Bikini Body

TGIF and Happy August 1st, everybody! Summer may be coming to a close, but it’s

NOT TOO LATE

to achieve your

BEST BIKINI BODY EVER!!!

These two miracle steps will unlock the bikini body you’ve been waiting for:

two step bikini body | Mucha | MindBodyPlate

Inspired by Alphonse Mucha and rendered by your very own SKF of MindBodyPlate

I Wear Purple

I wear purple because

February draws to a close this evening, and with it, Eating Disorder Awareness Month. If you’re looking for some inspiration, head on over to the facebook page for The Purple Project, a month-long event beautifully orchestrated by an organization called Where I Stand. All month, people from all over the world have been submitting pictures of themselves wearing purple, standing up for eating disorder awareness, recovery, and prevention. The whole project has been quite moving, and I’d like to congratulate Where I Stand for such a successful endeavor!

Why be skinny? Come on and enjoy life!

Wate-On

I saw this old ad a few days ago and kind of fell in love. I dug the cheeky copy, the sexy model (Shannen Doherty?), and the reminder of a bygone era that knew how to celebrate a curvy physique. I almost made it my Facebook cover photo. Almost.

I got so far as to upload it to my profile page. Then I changed my mind.

Because at the end of the day, this ad was making mid-century thin girls feel the same way that I feel when I flip through a high fashion magazine. Like I’m not good enough as I am. Like the only way I’ll ever “enjoy life” is by taking extraordinary measures to change the way my body naturally expresses healthy balance.

Is it important to encourage self-worth in full-figured women who feel abandoned, shunned, and underrepresented by mainstream media? Yes, absolutely.

But we’re missing the point if we think the answer is ousting the thin ideal to reinstate a curvy one.

While diversity in representation is imperative, the larger issue concerns advertisers who objectify the human body in order to manipulate a vulnerable populace into consuming products that promise to “fix” them.

Let’s move towards changing the dialogue completely, wherein the shape of a woman’s body – whatever it may be – is never used against her to make her feel less than whole.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from MindBodyPlate! Some thoughts to keep in mind as you join loved ones around the table tomorrow:

  1. Approach every single bite with mindful awareness.
  2. Take periodic breaks to gauge your fullness level on a scale of 1-10 (and decide to stop before 8).
  3. Occasional indulgence is a sign of healthy balance.
  4. Full is not fat. Fat is not bad.
  5. As always, it’s important to cultivate a sense of humor about these things:

Yours Truly expressing a common post-Thanksgiving sentiment, “I’m Not Pregnant, I’m Just Fat” (music & lyrics by Katie Thompson, accompanied by Sean Kana), as a part of my one woman show, Eat Your Heart Out.