Leading up to the Love Your Body Summit, I am introducing you to our presenters through a series of interviews. I am so excited to share these interviews with you. Each one of these women is doing incredible work in the world.
Today we are meeting Shelly Cassivi. Shelly will be speaking at the summit about the Comparison Myth, and leading a meditation workshop in the afternoon. In lieu of an interview, Shelly has sent us a beautiful essay about her personal journey with body positivity.
Tickets to the summit are $70 and are available here.
Radical Self Love Warrior: Shelly Cassivi
The Pendulum Swings
I remember the first diet I ever went on. It was the High Fiber diet. I was in grade nine, which by today’s standards is probably a late start; I hear girls are starting right out of the gate these days! This began my life long journey of measuring, counting, restricting, agonizing and obsessing over food. The age of innocence had ended and I began to mistrust, fear, fight against, and loathe my own body.
Why you might ask. This is the million-dollar question that we must all ask ourselves; for my sake, for your sake, for the sake of our daughters and society at large. Why? I’ll save this topic for another day.
The diet was very effective, as all diet are. I lost a ton of weight. I was skinny! Great right? The funny thing about deprivation though is that it leaves every part of you, body, mind, heart and soul completely anemic and utterly ravenous. Eventually I reached a tipping point where I just couldn’t stand being so severely restricted one moment longer and just like that the pendulum swung in the opposite direction. I began a cycle of binging, relinquishing all control and numbing myself with food. Of coarse the weight came back and I was miserable.
This is the cycle of yo-yo dieting and why I believe that the word diet is a four-letter word that needs to be banished from our vocabulary.
I have spent half of my life trapped in this cycle to varying degrees and for a long time I mistakenly thought that it was about the weight. If I could only lose 10, 15, 20 pounds I would be free & happy! The target always seemed to be moving though; it was never enough. Not only that, no matter how many times I convinced myself that this time I would keep the weight off I never did.
That is the thing about pendulums they are designed to swing and swing they do, every single time. Not only do they swing, each time they do they gain more and more momentum with the stakes getting increasingly higher. It is an endless path of destruction and misery.
Finally the day came, some twenty years later, when it became crystal clear that I had to change for good. It was time to stop the pendulum and time to make peace with myself. This is when I did the unthinkable… I stopped dieting!
If you had ever asked me if I had an eating disorder I would have answered no way, but as I have examined my behaviour, beliefs and feelings there is no way of denying it. There is no black and white just varying degrees and shades of grey. I probably don’t fit the textbook definition of eating disorder, but there was nothing orderly about my thinking! From the outside a lot of my practices appear “normal”, healthy even. Who doesn’t like a good juice cleanse?! I have come to realize that my habits were anything but healthy. It is my belief that anytime we severely restrict, over-indulge or obsess over our food we are engaging in disordered behavior. When we eat when we are not hungry (physically at least) with little thought or awareness or agonize, control and count ever little morsel this is disordered behaviour.
It is funny all of the things that you don’t see until one day you do! Veil lifted. Lights on. Giving up dieting was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. It is still hard, but I have embarked upon the most remarkable journey of self-discovery and healing. I am witnessing my thoughts and feelings shift, as the clouds in the sky shift, on a daily basis. My spirit is opening and expanding. I view myself through a different lens, a softer, kinder lens.
Geneen Roth in her book Women, Food and God says that obsession cannot survive in the light of awareness and I whole-heartedly believe this to be true. Awareness, attention, mindfulness, what ever you want to call it is truly the antidote for addictive behavior.
That is why our deepest shadows have the ability to draw us into the light. Some people call it rock bottom. When you have sunken to the depths of darkness there comes that moment when you can’t possibly continue on the same way and you reach for the light. The pendulum stills and you awaken from the nightmare that has kept you imprisoned. As you emerge from the haze of denial, armed with clarity and resolve, change takes hold of you. A new way of thinking begins to unfold as fresh pathways are forged in foreign territory. Having been through hell a deep compassion is born inside of you. This is the gift that our shadow bestows upon us. We extend this compassion both inward and outward and the planet is better for it. Our shadow is our greatest spiritual teacher. This is why our shadow should not be denied, but embraced! It will lead you home if you have the courage to follow the thread that it provides. It will draw you into the magic of this moment allowing refuge from the endless swinging nature of the pendulum that has controlled your every move up until this point. Do you have the courage? Love all that you are.
As a woman who has had her own struggles with body image, Shelly is thrilled with the current ‘love the body that you are in’ movement and strongly feels that yoga is the perfect vehicle for body acceptance. Shelly’s approach provides students with the tools necessary to slow down, feel into and accept their bodies; allowing them to connect with themselves in a way that truly facilitates deep healing, self acceptance & love. She is currently launching her Women-Food-Yoga-Heal Workshop series at Kushala Yoga and Oracle Yoga.