Sunday, August 14, 2022

Come see my new Author site

Much has happened since I last posted here. I've published two books! The first, a book of poems, is a bucket list item completed. I started writing poetry in college. Then, after a two-decade hiatus, I started writing again in my forties. This collection touches on themes of nature and renewal, especially the healing power in each of us, as we find meaning and grace in the act of appreciation. The volume is called Walking on Water.

Then, last year, I was invited to write a self-help book on finding meaning and purpose in midlife. I have long wanted to write self-help, but I didn't know how to structure the material. I seized this opportunity both as a learning experience and to share the ways that I have created a life I love after 40. The book is filled with prompts and practices that I have shared with clients over the years, helping people leave behind work that feels like drudgery and relationships that feel like obligations. At the same time, the exercises help readers identify how they want to live going forward, in ways that feel juicy, rich, and aligned with their adult selves. This book is called After 40: Meaning of Life Journal.

Because I am now writing in multiple formats - poetry, self help, and personal essays, I've created a website to share my work, rather than this blog, which has served me and my readers well for so many years. So, I want to invite you to visit me at There, you will find all my latest pieces, and you'll be able to subscribe to get notifications whenever I publish something new.

I'm looking so forward to sharing my work with you!

Friday, March 06, 2020

Going Vegan (and weighing exactly the same)

roasted veggies

Next month, I will begin my third year as a vegan. And I have to say, it's a little weird to be a body-positive activist AND a vegan.

Why did I stop eating animal products, you ask?

As with most big changes, it takes getting the message multiple times from multiple sources.

1. Water

First, I have a FB friend who shared how much water is used in raising livestock. I live in the San Francisco East Bay, and I am so heartbroken seeing our redwoods literally turning red as they die from the lack of rain. I'm even more devastated by the worsening fire seasons we have seen lately. Last summer, the fires were the worst ever, and the closest ever. It's scary.

2. Climate change

See above. I want to have a smaller eco-footprint. Plants sequester carbon. Animals emit carbon.

3. Health and aging

As I entered peri-menopause, I felt stiffer and achier. I noticed my cholesterol creeping up. And my energy was low. My older sister had gone vegan and shared how all of her health numbers had normalized. Then another friend shared that she was recovering from cancer. She decided to go vegan after learning how animal products feed tumors, while certain veggies inhibited tumor growth.

vegan poke bowlThat was enough for me to give vegan eating a try.

It was easy to let go of meat. I had never been a meat lover. Sushi was a bit harder, but I find a veggie poke bowl really hits that craving. I'm also a huge fan of veggie sushi, especially inari. I thought dairy would be my greatest challenge. Turns out there are some decent vegan cheeses, butter, and ice cream. So that's worked out.

Finally, I found a group of vegan friends through meetup who took turns hosting a potluck each month. With their help, I discovered really yummy ways to feel full and happy. We even have a virtual group on FB. I found my cooking became so creative and fun, I even started another blog,

The weird thing about going vegan (for me) was how many people turn to plant based diets to lose weight and how many people believe that the only way to be healthy is to be thin. So I am choosing to be a fat positive voice in the vegan community. I am still fat. But my health numbers are all excellent. My energy has improved, and my pain has decreased.

I have no judgement about how anyone else chooses to eat, just like I have no judgement about size or shape. We are all unique and individual. I just like advocating for unconditional self love. That's my jam (preferably on homemade sourdough bread).

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Understanding Body Positivity

A million years ago, in 1999, I took a class in grad school on eating disorders. I was 34 years old. And for the first time, I was introduced to the idea that bodies come in all sizes and shapes. For the first time, someone I respected and trusted shared a revolutionary idea...

Fat is not a problem.

It's our culture and our socialization that makes fat a problem.

If you've read this blog, you know I come from a family of people with eating disorders. So to hear that I could learn to love and accept my body without having to change it was akin to a miracle. To see our teacher, Professor Ellyn Herb, modeling what she taught - that we and our future therapy clients could live without shame in our bodies, regardless of our weight was liberating. I wanted it.

This blog was one of the many tools I used to deepen my own growth and understanding of body positivity and self acceptance. Because when I started this journey, there just weren't very many people on the same path. And there were a LOT of people who thought this path was wrong, scary, dangerous, unhealthy, even disgusting. Writing the blog provided a space where I could share what I was learning.

Over the years, I've posted less and less. Probably because this was my tool for self understanding, as I grew more and more comfortable with myself, I needed to write less and less. But there is a world full of people out there who still suffer so deeply from the shame and stigma we learn to torture ourselves with if we think our bodies are not desirable (or even presentable).

So today, I was overjoyed to hear a podcast on body positivity that I want everyone to hear. So, I have created this post to share it with you. If you struggle with body shame, please listen. And even though I don't blog here much anymore, I do still LOVE supporting clients on the journey to radical self acceptance. So if you're in California and looking for a therapist, visit my website to see if we'd be a good fit:

In the meantime, though, listen to this podcast on Body Positivity. You deserve to love yourself all the time, in whatever body you happen to have!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Anxiety and Stress Relief, Part 1, Dissipating Intense, Unpleasant Feelings

Dissipating Intense, Unpleasant Feelings

When you're having an intense and uncomfortable feeling like stress, worry, fear, anger, sadness or aversion, scan your body slowly from head to toe. Notice any places where you feel physical discomfort. 

Anger and sadness often show up in the chest. Anger can feel hot or like wanting to push outward. Sadness can feel cold, heavy or empty. 

Worry and fear often show up in the stomach. Worry can feel tight or jittery. Fear can feel icy or spiky. 

Everyone's experience is unique. Just notice yours without trying to suppress or change anything. See if you can bring a friendly and compassionate feeling toward your discomfort, as if you were sitting with a beloved friend who needed company through a difficult moment. 

Notice if your breathing feels constricted or open. Notice the intensity of the distress, and give it a number from 1 (not too bad) to 10 (horrible). You can use this awareness to track any changes as you do the next steps.

Find the part of your body where the discomfort is worst. Imagine giving more space to the sensations. If your chest is tight, imagine the energy inside expanding outward beyond your body, it can extend three or ten or fifty feet beyond your skin. It's just energy. I've had feelings that fill up whole city blocks.

stress relief technique, anxiety relief technique

As the feelings have more room, you may notice that the intensity of them dissipates. Scan your body again, and see if the distress has decreased at all. If it has, this may become a stress-relieving tool you keep handy.

To practice this skill and learn even more body-mind tools to feel good, join me in the class, Techniques to Relieve Stress, Anger & Anxiety, May 19th, 7pm, at Pleasant Hill Rec and Parks.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lovingkindness: the *Shpiel Method

*In Yiddish, Shpiel (spiel, shpil) means a long, involved story, often used to persuade. When someone calls you to donate money and reads a canned speech, that's their shpiel. When your uncle Morty tells the same old tale about a no-goodnik trying to get one over on him at the flea market, that's his shpiel.

In a few weeks I will be teaching a meditation class. The goals are stress reduction, lowered anxiety, increased self-awareness, self-compassion and resilience. My plan is to start with LovingKindness meditation.

Meditation Class, Pleasant Hill, CA
LovingKindness provides a focus, something for the mind to do instead of thinking all of its habitual thoughts. If we let ourselves really feel the emotions that go along with the words, we also generate some very nice feelings, and with that, we change the chemical bath our neurons live in. LovingKindness also creates a new mind-habit: thinking compassionately about ourselves and everyone else.

As a therapist, I think this is a great way to begin a meditation practice that will gradually shift toward mindfulness in general and insight in particular. Having our own compassion is a gift when we sit quietly and notice all the mental debris that has collected in our minds over the years. It's a gift when we begin to feel the emotions that a noisy mind is trying to keep us from feeling.

In preparation for the class, I've been thinking about my LovingKindness Spiel - the talk I plan to give to introduce the practice, and to help students deepen into the feelings that LovingKindness invites. It helps that SHPL is the acronym I use when I teach my version. Here's what I plan to tell them.

S is for SAFE. May we all be safe. May we be safe from muggers and terrorists, from car accidents, financial setbacks. May we be safe from the latest virus making headlines. When I wish safety for myself and all beings, I imagine a wave of energy circling the planet. In the mind-movie I create, people literally put their guns down. This is a prayer I send out to the universe, just in case anyone with any kind of power is listening. Then I reflect on my part in this change I wish to see. I lay down my own weapons - usually sarcasm and judgment. And when I do this, I usually feel a sense of relief and ease wash over my body. Then I focus on the good feeling my intention creates.

H is for HEALTHY. May we all be healthy in mind, body and spirit. May the delusions that cause fear and animosity fall away. May the stress that creates tension and illness fall away. May doctors and scientists discover treatments or vaccinations for cancer, MS, ALS, and all the other diseases we struggle with. I send the prayer. I see the wave of energy. And then I reflect on my part. May I eat wholesome food. May I do cardio most days. May I work on dissolving the mind and body habits that create pain. When I wish myself and the world health, that sense of relief and ease usually expands, and I marinate in the good feeling in my body.

P is for PEACEFUL. May we call feel peace and contentment. Especially because we can't control how life unfolds or how other people behave. May we all discover the ability to observe our feelings and respond gently to them. I send the prayer. I see the wave. I bring it inside. May I continue developing my own compassionate, observing self, who can feel all the feels, big and small, without trying to control things I have no ability or business trying to control. Now the relief is even bigger. It's so good to remember I can be peaceful even when I am struggling or in pain.

L is for LOVINGKINDNESS. May we all be filled with lovingkindness. May we awaken in the understanding that life is painful for everyone, even Dick Cheney, as Anne Lamott would say. I send the prayer. I see the wave. May I grow more and more compassionate with myself and others. May I remember to practice random acts of kindness. When someone drives like a jerk, may I remember they are struggling and send them wishes for safety, ease and peace.

Lovingkindness usually fills my heart with tenderness and openness. Sometimes I can feel it in every cell of my body, as if I am glowing. I imagine (and studies are beginning to confirm this) that I am flooding my body with happy neurotransmitters and new neurons are growing.

So that's my plan for the first few sessions, steeping in LovingKindness. Later we will use that compassion and the bath of happy neurotransmitters to deepen into compassion for all of our thoughts, crazy and sane,  and all of our feelings, comfortable and uncomfortable.

And that is my shpiel.

If you want to join us in this practice, you'll find all the details here.

To learn more about how meditation changes the brain, read this article by Dr. Rebecca Gladding.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Review: Amanda's Big Dream

I was a fat kid. I had a mom with an eating disorder, who restricted my food intake before I was even born. She liked to brag that she only gained 22 pounds when she was pregnant. In school I was teased for being fat. By the time I was in kindergarten, I assumed that if someone was mean to me, it had to be due to my body.

At age nine, I was a member of weight watchers, weighing and measuring my food, but also weighing and measuring my worth. At fourteen, I was eating between 600 and 900 calories a day. By eighteen, I was binging and vomiting. No matter how thin I became, I could not outrun (or out-diet) my anxiety. I wasn't a naturally thin person, so an anvil hung over my head, waiting to drop. If I regained the weight I'd lost, which surely I would because I was sooooo hungry, who could possibly love me?

It would be another fourteen years before I discovered the size acceptance movement and began to practice loving myself unconditionally in the body I have. It's been a long and arduous process, full of fits and starts, to really embrace myself lovingly. Along the way, I learned from experience that how I feel about myself and how I treat myself sets the tone for how others treat me. When I felt ashamed of my body, people were openly critical and judgmental, even though I was a size four. Now that I am comfortable in my skin, people just enjoy who I am at a size 16.

I would never want a child to experience the shame, blame and rejection I felt. I would never want another human being to feel less than because she or he weighed more than fashion or weight charts dictate. Yet we still live in a world where fat is held in fear and contempt, fat people are seen as inferior and morally weak, and thinness is equated with desirability and good health (despite growing evidence that fitness, not fatness, is the best indicator of health).

So I am thrilled to share a book on size acceptance written for kids (and their parents). Amanda's Big Dream is about a little girl who loves figure skating.

When her coach suggests that losing weight could help improve her performance, she begins to doubt her ability. Her parents and her doctor (who thankfully practices a Health at Every Size approach), are supportive and encouraging. Amanda's best friend teaches her that it's not size, but lots of practice, that makes a skater great.

We need more books that help parents, teachers, doctors, coaches (and first-ladies) recognize and stop playing into fat-shaming kids. A couple TV shows and video games would be good too. Until that happens, we are the front line. We need to become role models of self love and self acceptance for our kids. And we need tools to talk to them about the fat discrimination they will likely face or witness in this culture. Amanda's Big Dream might help start those important conversations.

Saturday, October 24, 2015