Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Soul Sister

Ever since the day I heard my first Alanis Morissette song, I was addicted. I adore her free spirit, independent style, honest lyrics, and her love for all things humanitarian related. She's wonderful. I basically want to be her- ok on second thought I don't want to be her- but she is perhaps one of the greatest inspirations to me. So its no surprise when I received a email newsletter from NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) yesterday that I almost fell off my chair when they announced Alanis Morissette had just completed the Bizz Johnson Marathon (26.2 miles!) with NEDA as her organization of choice!! I knew it- I just knew Alanis and I were kindred spirits!! Not only is she passionate about stopping eating disorders, but she also personally knows the pain of having one and now has a passion to raise greater awareness.
*SIGH* - I love it!
Here is Alanis Morissette's interview with NEDA:

1. What motivated you to run a Marathon?

I was excited to have my orientation shift from viewing my body singularly as an ornament to that of being an instrument…and I had begun running for the first time about a year ago, after having been inspired on my tour by watching my assistant leah run like a gazelle every time we would work out.

2. How did you choose the National Eating Disorders as your charity of choice for the run?

I knew that the training for the marathon would not be sustainable if it weren’t for some star of Bethlehem for me to look to throughout it. Infusing the training with a real sense of purpose and contribution was what would make it possible for me. For me to offer up the run to this higher cause. I have seen the positive effects of movement (empowerment, attunement, care, considerate “fueling”, sleep, rest etc) and I wanted to offer this run to anyone who has had a fraught relationship with their food, their body and their heart and soul.

3. Were you worried that training for a marathon might trigger some eating disordered type behaviors?

I was worried, and it did. And I forgave myself. And was gentle. And I saw that there was no way for me to maintain a high level of energy to do the training if I was under eating or eating in a way that wasn’t caring. So the training itself created a great context and container for me to find a balance in how I fueled myself. I was able to tune into the subtleties of what made me run faster and with more fire.

4. What is your number one goal in this marathon? Is it about speed, the accomplishment if finishing or making a statement about getting healthy and overcoming an eating disorder?

I don’t know if an eating disorder can be “beaten” as much as it can be loved and understood into some personal version of harmony. I knew that the training for this would take my healing to another level. My main goal began with my wanting to finish it. As I trained, my goal began to run at an increasingly faster pace..which became the case. Super exciting.

5. How do you think you will feel after you complete this marathon?

Relieved, excited, exhausted, happy. Ready to celebrate. :-)

6. What would you tell people who become obsessed with over exercise?

It’s another sneaky version of bulimia. And that it too warrants gentleness and inquiry. Asking myself questions about why I ate more than I needed (was I staving off loneliness? Was I angry? Was I tired? Did I need snuggles and couldn’t find them? Etc) and then I would look to why I was training. what helped the most was the great structure to the training, its’ benefits were immeasurabe. Ie: I never really went above what I had committed to doing in the training, and my assistant leah and I were accountable to each other (SO important to have this!) and supported each other when we needed to take it easy. And also championed each other when we needed a little wind in our sails. So inquiry, gentleness, and accountability with a caring a wise friend all helped.

7. Where do you draw the line of healthy exercise vs. over obsessive exercise?

I am onto myself these days. So I can tell when I am being obsessive. There is a fiendy quality to the run (and often it is done when I am beyond tired, often at night. So too many late night time runs—not always—can indicate my being obsessive. I have the order of priorities: sleep first. Food second. Running third. So if I don’t have the first two nailed, I can’t run. So it incentivized me to nurture the first two. When I run healthfully I feel empowered and kind. When I run obsessively I feel nervous, stressed out and disassociated.

8. For far too long, eating disorders have been stigmatized and treated as lifestyle choices rather than the serious illnesses that they are. Do you understand how powerful it is that you are willing to stand up and advocate on behalf of NEDA and people struggling with these illnesses that they represent?

Yes I do. It has been at the front of my mind throughout the entire training for me. I have often become choked up on my runs because of it. This relationship with my body and heart and feelings and food and hormones and structure is so delicate and fragile at times…and is complicated in a way a lot of people don’t understand. There can be a flippancy and lack of empathy toward it based on people’s limited understanding. The care and sense of love and community around this subject that I share with fellow strugglers is all the more profound based on the massive misunderstandings that there have been around it. I am writing a book right now and I get into this subject even more in it.

9. Why do you think so many people remain silent about eating disorders?

There’s this perception that overeating is for the weak-willed. But you have never met a more steeled and brave and willfull person as anyone addressing weight and food issues. We are all very smart and steely and there is so much to an eating disorder beyond what people know. There is shame around it as well based on the fact that you often can’t hide your struggle. Many addictions can be hidden and swept under the rug. Often peoples’ struggle with food is evidenced physically. There is great shame that underlies this struggle. And added shame at the fact that there is not a lot of empathy for how intricate and complex the disorder is. I am happy to stand by people (and myself) in this healing, because I understand first hand how there are so many elements that play into it, far beyond the “self-control” admonition that if often hurled at us.

10. Do you see our society doing any better in promoting health rather than size?

I do see there being many more books and articles out there about health. And that’s exciting. However I still see the skew being toward “health for skinny-ness” orientation. Weight loss or gain as an incidental aspect of becoming healthier is exactly that: incidental and unavoidable in a cause and effect kind of way. But ultimately a shift toward greater health is its’ own reward…the energy and sense of well-being and self-love and care are the great brass rings. Sleeping better. Improving our relationship with ourselves, with our feelings, with our sense of spirit, with our friends and lovers and family….it is a holistic shift…not one that is carried by chasing a number on a scale. I do notice that the shift in pop culture has moved toward a body composition conversation versus an outright weight conversation. I see that personalizing a lifestyle skewed toward healthful eating and movement and relating is the key piece. Because otherwise, any change is going to be temporary at best.

11. In your industry, do you feel a lot of pressure to be perfect?

Yes. And that has gotten more extreme with plastic surgery etc being so commonplace. Almost expected of you at this point. I do notice though, that I never feel more beautiful than when I am well fed, well rested and well “moved” as I call it (exercise/dancing etc). I feel so alive when my hormones and sensual pleasure is considered, when the spiritual and emotional aspects of myself are tended to. and when I am tuning in my wounded, fragile parts and my feelings with inquiry rather than food. Beyond that, make up and clothes and color and hairstyle become fun in an incidental, fun and secondary way.

12. As a terrific talent and role model, what would you tell young people struggling with eating disorders?

I would tell them that they are not alone. That they are not crazy. That they are not weak and faint-willed. I would tell them that there is a way toward love and care and self-acceptance, and that it is a process and that takes time, and that time is all we have. And that there is support here for us. And that unconditional love does exist. that there is a way toward a sense of beauty that transcends AND includes color and cut and whimsy and sexiness outside of the confines of what 2% of all human beings look like. And that health is the portal to the unique version of a felt beauty that we all possess.

Thank you Alanis!

No comments: