Are you struggling with hunger that feels out of control? Do you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of getting control of your appetite and feeling safe being surrounded by and able to eat the foods you love? Can you even imagine being able to control what you eat without the rigid rules of dieting or living in deprivation? You can. But you have to change your relationship with yourself as part of the process. You’ve got to start giving yourself the love you need right now, and not withhold it waiting for the time when you have that perfect body you’ve been waiting for.

Today I was interviewed on the Mary Jones Show and we spoke about the hidden meaning behind our binges. I shared with Mary that I struggled for years living with my guard up, always feeling watched and judged by everyone around me because I was the ‘fat’ girl. Food felt like my only friend. Haunted by my cravings, I thought about food every minute of every day. But trying so hard to lose weight, I feared food and did my best to avoid what I considered temptation. But inevitably there always came a time when I couldn’t stand it a moment longer, and I’d find myself giving into my addiction. I did my best to hide it, my dirty secret of being out of control. I had food stashes everywhere, hid cookies in coat pockets, candy bars under the bed. I ate anywhere I could be assured of being alone, away from prying eyes. Public restrooms, in my car, behind closed doors. For years I binged in secret and my life was a living hell. Then one day a friend named Doc Frost encouraged me to look at my binges in a different way–as a cry for help. A sort of tantrum, if you will, a desperate call to change.

As a dieter I followed my binge episodes with constant critical assaults on my character. I called myself names and verbally bashed myself for my slips. I reasoned that I just had to be tougher, pull myself together, and stop playing games, and this was what was between me and my perfect body.

I was wrong. The disrespectful way that I spoke to myself for years was so hurtful and it only made me feel the pangs of hurt more. Without realizing it, I was re-enacting a lifetime of verbal abuse and criticism from a very desperate, and well-meaning and very fat phobic father.

When Mary asked me what I felt was the single most difficult challenge for women to accept about my way of teaching, I said to her, “No doubt about it. It’s the tenderness with which you have to change the way you speak to yourself.” We just can’t think of ourselves as disconnected from our bodies anymore. When you talk trash about yourself, your body’s listening and it will continue to give you what you expect to receive.

Having just finished writing my first book, “Lovin’ the Skin You’re In, I’m eager to inspire other women to have more self-respect and love for themselves and their bodies through my book signings and discussions, So lately I’ve been busy runnin’ ’round introducing myself to local women-centric businesses looking for ops to spread my Juicy body lovin’ wisdom with a wider audience.

Caught up in my Blindspot

As I prepare to speak at the Women’s Empowerment Expo 2012 in Woodcliff Lake, NJ on September 9, I am struck by how many women live lives of quiet desperation, not just around food, and hating their bodies, but in the degree to which they are settling in their lives. I’ll have to admit, I was recently given a wake up call to the fact that I had been walking around blind, unaware and ignorant, recently assuming something for so long that wasn’t true. I almost feel ashamed sharing my ignorance, but I’m doing it so that you, too can also be aware.

Coming from a background as a woman who has struggled with a past filled with abuse and dysfunction, I have worked for most of my life to reconcile and understand where it all comes from. Having done a great deal of  volunteer work with women in various capacities for years, I had heard so many similar stories from women and lately girls, who also live under a shameful cloud of abuse.

Chipping Down the Walls: The Road from Brave to Juicy

From my personal experience of it, I’ve understood that my issues with my body and my weight, and my lack of resistance to feeling worthy to love my body as-is was due to my history with being abused. Like many women and men, who have endured the intrusions of sexual abuse, I knew that I had long ago built a wall of protection trying to keep harm out. That fleshy fortress of flesh has done it’s job, but it’s also cost me more than it’s served me. Lately as I meet women who face some of the greatest challenges of their lives and live in fear, making the choice to remain with an abusive person, enduring so much pain and suffering because of it, I’ve realized that I’m ready to take down my wall because I’ve developed the inner strength and tools to be able to set those boundaries with others that I lacked for so long. Perhaps like me, you wear your wall of protection on the outside. Others, erect those fortresses on the inside.  Nobody really knows what’s behind each of our walls. As the saying goes, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

For me, during the years when I was being sexually abused, I lived with my mother and stepfather. Jorge was a perverted, manipulative and rageful alcoholic who seized on every grabby opportunity to invade my body, everytime my mother’s back was turned. Sadly I spent a long time hating and blaming her, thinking that she had long abandoned me and that her lack of presence condoned his actions. In reality, I now realize that my sweet and kind, wouldn’t hurt a soul mother was lost to the world and to me because she lived in a cloud of undiagnosed bipolar disorder. When I was rescued by my father and step mother, everything changed and I felt safe. Deep down, I think that I may have assumed that it had something to do with the protection that comes from wisdom and empowerment and even money. Until just recently, I associated abuse with poverty and alcoholism. This is an example of the power of our filters and how it makes it nearly impossible to see beyond what we expect to see.

Because this was my circumstance and I had heard so many similar stories from other women who also lived under a shameful cloud of abuse, this horribly damaging circumstance always seemed to come bagged with ignorance, substance abuse and poverty. In one of my most recent talks with a group at at risk teen girls at my local high school, I shared with the girls how my experience of abuse had led to my belief that I was just a body and that set me for other situations where I found myself up through my early 20’s acting out and being promiscuous. My years of therapy taught me that was not promiscuity. In terms of level of emotional maturity, I was still a child with an adult woman’s body. So my experience of my promiscuity, was more like an extension of abuse, and the result of not having a personal sense of boundaries of one’s body. She explained that many times women who have experienced abuse, label themselves and others call them promiscuous when in fact that is not the truth at all.

Until this week, I didn’t realize how prevalent the situation of living with abuse was in the more affluent communities. I knew that verbal abuse was tolerated in circles of wealth, but never the physically invasive abuse that is sexual and barbaric.

Hearing stories of domestic violence and misery endured by so many beautiful, bright, phenomenally accomplished and financially successful women, has opened my eyes to the scope of need for women’s empowerment across the board. Perhaps like many people, I assumed that abuse was something that happened to those living a life of oppression. Fueled by addictions and other situations that flourished in states of poverty and ignorance, I had no idea that women who were well-educated and professionally accomplished, would ever be in a position to be treated in such a horrible way.  I was so wrong.

Having been in business for nearly 27 years, I recognize the importance of keeping things practical. If something can’t be reduced down to it’s basic essentials and understood and applied easily, it’s worthless.

So to that end, I’m going to begin a series of articles to break down for you the basics of my RECLAIM™ system. To summarize, the word RECLAIM is an acronym and it’s also the foundation of what I teach women: how to reclaim their power over food and their lives.

Here’s the Cliff Notes version of my Juicy Woman RECLAIM™ system:

R – Take full and complete responsibility for your life. No more wasting time blaming.
E – Embrace your emotions. – Accept however you feel as justified and honor that emotion.
C – Cope with your stress. Deal with the overwhelm that comes from accepting your emotions.
L – Love Your Body – Relieving yourself from stress will free you to see yourself and your body from a fresh perspective
A – Act to Attract – Take daily action to support and reinforce a new positive self-image filled with possibility
I – Set a powerful intention – Use mindfulness and visualization to imagine new opportunities for your life
M – Mastermind – Surround yourself with other women also on the road to lovin’ the skin they’re in

Here’s a more detailed description of how to apply the first principle:

Take Responsibility: Take charge of your life:

Accept that your life turned out the way it did for a reason. You may not like the horrible things that have been done to you, or the circumstances you’ve faced, or even the body you were given, but all these elements from your life have come together in perfect harmony and made you who you are. To live in the past, you guarantee the death of your future. Be willing to move on and let go of old resentments and disappointments. First forgive yourself for not being perfect, then forgive others. Do this daily.

Stop living in the past. You’re no longer that same person you were at the time when you were weaker, more vulnerable, perhaps younger and more naive. Now you’re an adult woman with the ability to choose what you want. You may not have had a voice or a choice, then, but you do now. Only you have the power to change the way you tell your story. If I can change my story, you can too. As long as you continue to feel sorry for yourself and blame others for your unhappiness or misery, you give them unconditional permission to hold your happiness hostage. Can you really afford that luxury? Are you willing to become one of the rising statistics of women for breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke? Stress kills. Living with resentments will suck the life out of you. Don’t waste a minute letting your past or your limitations keep you down.

Be honest with yourself right now and realize that despite not being able to control many circumstances in your life, now and in your past, you have more power than you’ve been believing you do. Look at your fears and limiting beliefs as new opportunities to challenge yourself to become a better, stronger, more capable woman. You always have a choice, no matter how bleak or miserable things may seem. It’s often your story of saying, “I can’t… that makes it seem so impossible. True. Many times you can’t control your circumstances but you can control the way that you respond to them. And you can break the pattern of acting like a victim. Empower yourself by re-teaching people how you want to be treated. There are no victims, only volunteers and it’s human nature to move in and out and straddle the line between the two. If you notice that you’re stuck, ask for help.

Be willing to open your eyes and see what’s in front of you at this moment. Start exactly where you are. If you don’t like what you see, gather the courage to do something about it. Find role models of other women who have overcome similar situations and let their lives and stories inspire you. Times ‘a wastin’. So stop blaming others and realize that the power to change your life lies in your ability to make choices. Never be afraid to start again. Be flexible and have faith, in God, the universe or whatever higher power your believe in, and invest in learning all you can so that you can think differently. Put stock in yourself. That’s where your greatest strength lies. Now moving onto the next aspect of the system, ask yourself how do I feel about all that? That’s what we’ll cover next. Stay tuned.

Andrea Amador

Andrea Amador, CEC. M.NLP is The Juicy Woman. She is a Body Image/Self Esteem Expert and a Professional Certified Empowerment Coach

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