The sight of my mother, her hands flying, standing
on a plot of land discussing with an architect the
design of our new home, was my first realization
that we were moving to south Florida. I had just
turned seven and was frightened of the changes:
new house, new school, new friends. My parents gave
me facts; the name of my new school, our new street
address, and promoted the fresh squeezed Florida
orange juice, believing that would be enough to
help me make the transition. I started the second
grade as a shy, tall skinny kid and ended it with
a pot belly and the face of despair. My mother kept
a scrapbook called School Days. That scrapbook held
full color class pictures evidence of my consistent
weight gain from the second grade through my junior
year in high school.
My parents provided me with all the Cabbage Patch
dolls, trendsetting clothes, and trips to Disney
World a girl could ever want. They believed lavishing
on me almost everything I asked for was good parenting.
But as I grew up I experienced an emotional and
spiritual vacancy that they didn’t understand,
so couldn’t acknowledge. In my little girl
way I tried to make them understand on many occasions.
I felt guilty for not being the happy little girl
they expected me to be; I couldn’t win.
Mom cooked all our meals, made sure we ate our
vegetables and cleaned the house like she was going
for the gold in the “You Could Eat Off My
Floor” Olympics. What she didn’t give
me was her attention. When I told my mother I was
scared, she told me, “Don’t be scared.”
When I cried she simply said, “Stop it.”
When I expressed joy she said, “Enough.”
My mother’s short, unresponsive phrases left
me with all those feelings I thought I shouldn’t
express, and no one to help me understand why. I
hid more and more of myself, trying to be the daughter
my mother seemed to want by being more helpful and
less in the way.
My extended family got together every Sunday for
dinner. I remember a pudgy, age-spotted hand with
long red fingernails appearing in front of my face,
squeezing a roll or holding out a plate. I’d
look up and see a glint in the eye of my grandmother
or one of my aunts as a deep throaty, smoker’s
voice said, “Have another.” “Another
roll,” “another serving,” “another
slice of cake:” the amount I ate was a significant
conversation topic among the women in my family.
I knew when I was full and I stopped eating. “No,
thank you,” I said hoping they’d be
impressed with my politeness. My brother told me
I was rude when I said no. “Make them happy.
Take the roll. What’s the big deal?”
The big deal was this was the beginning of losing
my voice, of losing confidence in my ability to
decide what was right for me. My aunts and grandmothers
were relentlessly disappointed I didn’t find
the same joy in overeating.
Eventually I gave in; when I was full nothing bothered
me, the nagging stopped, and being with my family
Looking back, I understand the push for me to overeat
was an initiation of sorts. I learned that a good
hunk of bread could push down any fear I had; it
could even help me get through fearful experiences
like going to school. It got me through uncomfortable
family dinners and eventually muted all the feelings
I was taught were unacceptable. Fruity Pebbles for
breakfast, cafeteria pizza and French fries with
a Good Humor chocolate éclair bar for lunch
became the highlights of my day. Food became my
constant companion; it was a non-critical friend,
my total answer.
During adolescence I feared being made fun of at
school for being fat. I applied mousse to my Cher
If I Could Turn Back Time curls, wore electric blue
eyeliner and iridescent pink lip gloss (with reapplications
of the gloss at least six times a day). I wore the
coolest and most expensive clothes I could persuade
my mother to buy for me. I hoped these additions
to my physical facade would hide my excessive weight
and get me through high school unscathed.
When I was thirteen I began to dream of being an
actress; fantasizing that this would be my chance
to shine, to get the attention I had been denied.
I secretly perfected my autograph in my spiral notebook
during American History class. Mrs. Colabella lectured
about the civil war; I dreamed of being on the cover
of Vogue magazine. I went on my first real diet
the summer before my senior year: I joined a diet
plan with prepackaged food. In four months I was
down to a size eight.
Victory! Sheer will got me through lunchtime drive-throughs
at Burger King and Miami Subs with friends as I
crunched on my apple while they shoved French fries
into their mouths and washed them down with chocolate
milkshakes. The vision of my future self accepting
the Academy Award, looking drop-dead gorgeous, was
my reward. I could finally retire my title of “the
girl with the pretty face. If she’d only lose
Then the holidays arrived — those days when
everyone and every activity are focused on food.
My denial talents went into high gear; I’d
worked hard and deserved a respite. I went on a
holiday binge, eating everything in sight. Not surprisingly,
I found it impossible to return to my diet when
the holidays were over. Thus began a spiraling of
my obsession with dieting and control. I spent the
next five years, between the ages of 18 and 23,
starving and bingeing. I believed I could beat my
food obsession by just being stronger, more consistent
with my control. After two years I hit my “wall;”
I was emotionally incapable of continuing to starve
myself. My feelings and inner turmoil took over.
I binged for ten days straight, struggling unsuccessfully
to regain control. Finally I opened the yellow pages
and called a therapist.
Jane helped me save my life. On my first visit,
I told her I had this “food problem.”
When she asked me about my family I said they were
perfect, my problem had nothing to do with them.
It took me several months to come out of denial
about how angry and resentful I felt toward my family
and toward life. I went from not feeling anything
to feeling overwhelming pain and anger. Food was
the way I expressed myself in the past. If I was
sad, angry, lonely, bored, or happy, I ate. The
memories of humiliation and rejection by my family
played like endless reels of film through my mind
for the next two years of therapy.
My outer life of going to college, working, and
auditioning became almost an illusion compared to
the reality of the flashes of the past that hit
me in the middle of a work shift or upon waking
up in the morning. I felt worse, not better, and
began to question the value of dredging up these
painful memories. But Jane taught me that my feelings
were important, that I didn’t have to be miserable
for the rest of my life because of what happened
when I was growing up. She gave me what I didn’t
get from my mother — being seen and understood.
Jane helped me to understand that my feelings appeared
to have the power to kill me because of the messages
I had received as a child.
Eventually, experiencing those messages with Jane,
right there in her office, I got to a point where
I believed my life, my individual feelings and talents
were valuable. I worked with Jane for three years
as she helped me accept my past and take the steps
I needed to begin adulthood. I also realized I would
never know the outcome of my acting dream unless
I pursued it. I sold my six-year old car that got
me to auditions in Miami: it paid my first and last
month’s rent on a 9x13 “closet”
in New York City.
New York overwhelmed the shit out of me. There
is no preparation for it. I had cleared the slate
of my past, but felt like a deer caught in the headlights
in this cab-filled city. My initial panic led me
to the decision of finding practical survival strategies.
I devoured Geneen Roth’s books on healing
relationships with food. I ate when I was hungry
and stopped when I was full. I went to Overeater’s
Anonymous for support. I was determined to put my
personal hell behind me and start living a life
that didn’t revolve around food. Still, when
I felt caught in those headlights, and nothing else
worked, food remained my salve. I was angry and
felt sorry for myself at the same time. “Hadn’t
I done enough work on myself? Wasn’t I finished
While I struggled with life’s questions,
I supported myself financially, made friends, and
completed a prestigious acting training program.
In the process of learning how to act, I found more
of myself. I realized I didn’t care about
dialects, script analysis or my character’s
motivation. Through acting, I found wholeness in
myself that meant more to me than any character
or role ever could. My focus shifted from stage
life to real life. I decided to star in my own life.
After several years of reading books on self-help/spiritual
growth and attending many workshops, it was time
to take another leap. I was fascinated with healing
and energy work and enrolled at the Barbara Brennan
School of Healing. After my first week, I felt like
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial when he phoned home.
The connection was miraculous, a rare, eerie moment
when the world clicks into place and it all made
Students at the Brennan school are required to see
a therapist for eighteen sessions per year. Core
Energetics therapy, a form of body psychotherapy,
was recommended. It had been five years since I
was on the couch with Jane. From the first session
with my new therapist, Warren, I was sure he could
see right through me — my bullshit and my
gifts. I wanted to bolt, and never come back to
his office again. The wiser part of me knew I had
found exactly what I needed and wanted — a
person who could truly help me at this stage of
claiming myself. I later learned Core Energetics
therapists are trained to read the body for blocks,
defenses and higher-self qualities. Working with
the body in one’s own healing is a tumble
down the rabbit hole; if you’re willing to
risk that tumble it brings lasting change. My fears
were in my gut and solar plexus, not just in my
head. Until now, I thought the only thing I was
holding in my body were the two slices of German
chocolate cake I’d eaten the night before.
Many feelings, beliefs, and patterns that my body
held couldn’t be addressed in talk therapy
alone. Many old, outdated patterns started to quiver
as I “moved my energy.” First I experienced
a new awareness; then I moved to the center of the
direct pain. Beneath the pain were the best parts
of myself. I was literally breathing life into my
body and my life began to change.
I never could have done this work alone. Having
a therapist who had traveled this path previously
created a safe place and guidance for this work,
the work of having myself — a priceless gift.
Five years after I walked through the door of Warren’s
office I continue the work I began with him of relinquishing
my position as a spectator in life and moving into
the position of player. I have found the strong,
loving, talented woman that I am. I’ve been
the same size for ten years and have finally moved
beyond my obsession with food and embraced life
on life’s terms. Almost four years ago I was
introduced to my soul mate to whom I have the privilege
of expressing my love every day. I have started
a private practice as a Core Energetics therapist.
Many years of my own healing have culminated in
a desire to assist others in their process. Pushing
and pulling the whole way, I finally gained a foothold
The bonus of knowing and being confident in myself
is closer and more pleasurable relationships with
family and friends. I don’t need to hide anymore
and (most days!) I don’t need people to be
different for me. My mom and I are close today.
I am grateful for how much she loves me, and what
she was able to give me as a child. I have accepted
what she couldn’t give — and learned
how to give it to myself.