Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: love your body

What eating disorder patients really need is to learn how to manage their deep desire to love and be loved in a world that doesn’t operate according to the law of Love.

That’s where I suspect their deep sense of right and wrong, black and white thinking, “over” sensitivity and a host of other “symptoms” stems from.  Researchers are looking at temperament.  I think there’s something deeper and more basic that drives disordered relationships with food and body — the longing to love and be loved.

That’s where perfectionism comes from.  Love is perfect, complete, at ease.  No disharmony within the self or relationships.

Yet, in our limited world, our limited bodies, psyches, relationships, dis-ease and disharmony abound.

This is my story too.

At our core, we just want love.

It’s so non-scientific.  So irrational.

Love doesn’t fit well into our evidence-based world of psychotherapy.

Yet when it comes to health of mind or body, without love, what good is recovery from an eating disorder or any other dis-ease?

Seeking Wisdom Born of Change

I celebrate twenty years of life since breast cancer this fall. These twenty years of healing my own disrupted relationship with my body and accompanying others on similar paths has taught me that wisdom is born amidst both expected and unexpected changes.

Wisdom comes through accidents, like my dislocated shoulder earlier this year. And it comes through diseases, like the cancer that took my right breast twenty years ago. Yet most bodily changes are part of nature’s rhythm, just like the changing of the seasons.

Celebrating the Seasons of Life

Our female bodies go through necessary bio-psycho-spiritual cycles that birth and sustain life. Our younger bodies abound in hormonally-driven changes that add fullness to our physiques, draw us to relationships, enable us to bear children and activate our nurturing capacities. The reduction of those same hormones in our midlife bodies redirects our energy to guarding and guiding the future generations in ways we could not if we were busy with our own children.

The world tells me to fear these changes and employ fat-fighting or anti-aging methods to stave off anything that doesn’t conform to current beauty ideals. I am told in a thousand different ads to be afraid of my body. But my midlife wisdom tells me that no matter how much I work out, eat well, and do all the things Dr. Oz says will keep me young and healthy, my body is not what it was ten or twenty years ago.

I’m not the same woman I was in those years, thank God. At thirty I was busy trying to save the world, or at least some of you, through my good works as a therapist and church worker–and in therapy twice a week trying to heal my inner turmoil. At forty I was busy writing a book, leading workshops, building a successful private practice–and blaming and resenting my husband for not being the man I wanted him to be. My body was more toned in earlier seasons and the skin on my neck didn’t droop, but if decreased muscle mass and sagging skin is the price of compassion, wisdom and joy, so be it.

Each time I face a change in my body, I get to choose how I will respond. Will I fear change or will I welcome change with compassion and curiosity? Will I fight change or will I work with change, learning and growing with the seasons of my physical life in the same way I go with the movement from summer to fall?

Today, I choose to respond to change with the soulful discernment of a wizened fifty year old, not ego driven reactivity of my younger self. Many of my “good choices” to eat well and exercise regularly during my first thirty years were more about controlling my weight than good health. My breast cancer diagnosis at thirty, along with years of clinical work with eating disorder patients, shifted the focus of my fear from fat to disease, but I was still motivated more by fear than love.

Over time, compassion and love for my patients softened me. My own harsh views of my body were changed as I walked alongside girls and women whose lives were being destroyed due to their fears of bodily change. Through seeing myself in their stories I realized that fear is never a good motivation for self-care. It may make our bodies stronger, leaner and even healthier, but it sucks the life out of our souls.

Essential wisdom emerges when we respond to change with compassionate attention. The monthly upheaval of menses, the challenges of pregnancy, motherhood, (or non-motherhood when others are mothering) and menopause, invite us to reflect on our lives. Along with these cyclical change, injuries and illnesses also become opportunities to pause and listen more intently than we do during ordinary seasons of life.

– What wants to be born in me through this change?

– What needs to die in order to make space for the new?

– What is the hidden treasure in this dark place?

– What do I sense, feel, need and want right now?

Part of my current self- conversation concerns honoring my limits. My midlife body isn’t the same as my young adult body. My weight and general fitness level have remained steady throughout my adulthood, but hormonal changes, wear and tear from years of an active lifestyle and natural aging processes need to be respected as I consider my mid-life pursuits.

Today I choose to take time to listen to what my body really needs. Earlier this month I “graduated” from my physical therapy for my shoulder, but am still regaining strength. Next week I meet with a personal trainer to investigate the possibility of group strength training classes. Recently I began including stretches of jogging into my walks.

I choose to be present, vulnerable, and open to what each day, each moment brings in each season. I choose to listen for the wisdom that comes in ways I don’t ask for and wouldn’t expect.

Change is inevitable. Wisdom is a choice. What wisdom wants to emerge in this season of your life? Will you choose to listen?

A dislocated shoulder on New Year’s Eve 2011 and arthroscopic surgery to repair all four of my rotator cuff muscles in early February have provided ample opportunities to practice what I preach about loving and enjoying my body, just as I am!  I was practicing a yoga pose I’ve done many times, being spotted by a trusted teacher, when my shoulder gave out.  Instead of dropping back gracefully from handstand into a backbend, I collapsed onto the yoga studio floor. This was not how I planned to end the year!


Eight hole arthroscopic shoulder surgery - Ouch

Yoga is supposed to be good for me, right? Yes.  But at midlife, poses that were safe for me when I began a serious yoga practice fifteen years ago, might not be most advantageous now.  The risk of injury may outweigh the benefits.  Coincidentally, New York Times journalist William Broad’s The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards came out within weeks of my accident.  Some people dismissed his work as sensational. But my experience with yoga and life tells me otherwise.

Embodied life is inherently risky.  Challenges and changes to our physical lives are expected: natural aging and developmental processes, illnesses, accidents, injuries.  It is always something: either you’re excitedly watching your breasts emerge at adolescence or bemoaning how large and unmanageable they are; either you’re trying to lose weight after pregnancy or gain weight during chemotherapy; either you’re trying to eat more soy because some expert said it is good for you or trying to avoid it because another expert said it’s going to give you cancer.  You never know what tomorrow might bring. But you don’t stop living just because at times the risks seem to outweigh the benefits.

you never know what tomorrow may bring

No one in their right mind signs up for a class, takes a trip or goes on an adventure hoping to have an accident, catch a disease, or face danger. Yet trauma, loss, injury, trouble are unplanned realities of being alive, of being in a relatively healthy body. Dead people don’t have the privilege of injuring their rotator cuffs doing yoga!  That may sound morbid, but as a twenty year cancer survivor, it helps me keep things in perspective when I’m feeling sorry for myself.

Challenges to my physical health harden me or soften me, distance me from my body or deepen my connection. I didn’t plan to spend the first half of 2012 this way.  But each day, I choose compassion and curiosity instead of resentment and blame. I choose gratitude for the blessings that far outweigh the burdens of my recovery. I choose to be present, vulnerable, and open to what each day, each moment brings on the path of healing. I choose to receive the fullness of life that comes in ways I don’t ask for and wouldn’t expect. I choose life in my body, with my shoulder, just as I am.

My injury took me down a road I didn’t know I needed to travel in order to fulfill my commitment to teaching and mentoring others in more loving ways of being in our bodies. I wrote Dislocation: Reflections on Elliot’s Journey of the Magi, a few weeks after my injury. It offers a glimpse into what God is teaching me on this unplanned detour.  I pray that the purifying beams of love”** will open the eyes of your inner being to discover the treasures hidden in the detours of your journey as well.

Love Yourself: Eat Real Food!

Loving yourself requires taking responsibility for your own needs with the same dedication you demonstrate in your responsibilities to others.

If you are like a lot of women, you may be giving too much of your good energy to others while neglecting yourself–especially your need for energizing food throughout the day.  Physical deprivation at the end of the day is a major contributor to nighttime binging and grazing.

You can reduce the likelihood of emotional eating in the afternoon and evening by eating more during the day.  And, if you’ve spent too many years not listening to the real needs of your body, you may need to eat more than you think to properly fuel your body during the day.  Instead of  eating “diet” portions during the day, experiment with eating more heartily during the day and see how that impacts your relationship with food at night.

Simple shifts to eliminate deprivation include:

Eat breakfast and lunch.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Eat energizing snacks.
Eat nutritious food when hungry.

Take loving action on your own behalf by saying “yes” to other basic needs too:

Forgive yourself when you fail.
Enjoy time with people you love.
Go to bed early enough to get a solid eight hours of sleep.

Loving yourself  isn’t complicated. You already know how to help others thrive—now it is your turn!  If you aren’t sound of body, mind and spirit, then nobody gets your best self.  And that is a huge loss for everyone!