I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I opened the pages of MeaningFULL by Alli Spotts-De Lazzer, but the fact that it contains life-changing stories of conquering dieting, weight, and body image issues…well…I was curious enough to want to read it.
If you’re relatively new here, let me just share that I have chalked up a wealth of experience in battling these issues myself. I was the fifth child of six in an alcoholic, dysfunctional family. The quiet kid. A people pleaser. When I was 9 years old, my dance teacher (and the most consistent male figure in my life) stood me in front of a mirror in the dance studio and pointed out all the parts of my body that were too fat. I learned to hide my feelings and be agreeable. When I was 15 years old, I was being stalked by a boy at my school and bullied by the popular girls who wanted to date him (he only had eyes for me…shudder). That same dance teacher pulled me aside to tell me that I should be grateful for the boy’s attention because I wasn’t skinny and I bit my nails, and had too much hair on my body. The fact that any boy wanted to be with me was amazing to him. It got worse from there, but suffice to say I grew up with a horrible self image, a lot of self hatred, and feeling like I was less than every other person on the planet.
More often than not, I found a little bit of my own hot messness in the stories in these pages. The further I got into the book, the more I felt less like I was reading a book and more like I was sitting around the house talking to a bunch of old friends who understood exactly how I feel about my body and my choices relating to food and exercise.
I related to so many of the voices that lifted up from these pages: the dancer without the classic dancer’s lean, long body…the Jewish girl with the fuzzy hair, driven to cover every part of her body…Aaron, the dietician who heard the message loud and clear that it was only acceptable to be in a larger body if he was in the process of changing it to a smaller one. Reading their stories and getting a glimpse at the moments that helped them embrace change and let go led me to a few of my own…
My Totally AH-HAH and Holy Sh*t Moments
After reading MeaningFULL, I’m finally connecting with what the universe has been trying to tell me for awhile: the tools that have served me well in the past are not the tools that will get me through this next part of my journey. Like many, I grew up using the scale as a tool to measure my value as a person – but in the past six years, I’ve learned how not to do that. I’ve grown to a point where the scale truly is just a tool for me to learn how many pounds I weigh…and there is no other value attached to it. But I’ve still struggled lately, in this Covid world, and have found that the tools I’ve relied on to lose 132 pounds (so far) are not helping me much at present.
The stories in MeaningFULL are from a diverse group of people who had many different experiences, but there are some central themes too – and that’s helped me understand that I need to adjust my focus. Overall, the message of self-care, self-acceptance, and allowing one’s self to be open rang true for me. Reading about the AH-HAH moments of others has led me to realize it’s time for me to turn away from the scale, the mirror, and the tape measure and embrace the self care tools I’ve been inconsistent with up till now. That is what I need to work on.
As I read on, more of these moments floated easily to the surface for me, including:
Realizing that my dance teacher was not my only abuser. I am also my abuser. Oh. My. GAWD. I truly never thought of it that way, but…it’s true. There’s probably another blog post coming along about that. I need to dive deeper.
Understanding that the personality traits that help me to beat myself up about my weight are just my super powers being used for evil instead of good. I can flip those around and use them to my advantage.
When I dive into needlework, which is my safety net when I need mindfulness, I don’t need to feel guilty about it. I need to let myself enjoy it and understand that I’m practicing self-care.
What I Loved Most
After each person’s story, Alli pops in with her amazing therapist superpowers to help guide the reader through the helpful takeaways of every Storyteller’s experience. For me, that had huge value, especially when reading the stories of the people I felt less in tune with. There was always something there that I could learn from and her insights helped shine the light right where it needed to be.MeaningFULL: 23 Life-Changing Stories of Conquering Dieting, Weight, & Body Image Issues by Alli Spotts-De Lazzer Publisher: Unsolicited Press (January 26, 2021) Category: Self-help, Non-Fiction, psychology, memoir, health/wellness, inspirational, eating disorder recovery, weight loss, & body positivity Tour dates: March-April, 2021 ISBN: 978-1-950730-69-8 Available in Print and ebook, 282 pages
Every story is unique and has something to learn from. Here’s an excerpt directly from the book:
My Body Wasn’t the Enemy (Anonymous)
MY FATHER, AN Orthodox Rabbi and hands-on dad, made sure my siblings and I understood that “God loves you, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.” My mom had eight children within 12 years and worked full time. With practicality and a smile, she’d explain not getting her nails or hair done: “Your nails and hair are dead.”
I grew up in a home with zero focus on dieting, the body, or weight loss. We ate in a balanced way—lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, starches, and also good amounts of ice cream and treats. So long as it was Kosher, any food was okay.
I was on the slimmer side and an adventurous, healthy eater. I had a good relationship with food. (I would say I had a good relationship with my body, too, but I was still a young girl who wasn’t aware of her body yet.)
Like many tweens in middle school, self-consciousness abounded. I looked different because of my hand-me-down clothes. I felt different, too. While most of my classmates lived in multi-million dollar brownstones and penthouses in the city, my family, all ten of us, lived in a basement apartment. I remember I cried on the subway ride home after my 8th-grade pictures. I thought I was ugly with my untrendy, uncontrollably frizzy hairstyle, faded blouse, and glasses.
Right before my freshman year of high school, my mom’s friend gave me a compliment that definitely woke me up to the fact that I had a body. We were saying our good-byes while getting ready to move for my father’s new job. She announced, “You look great! You’ve grown taller and lost weight, and you look fantastic. All that baby fat is gone!”
I filled with pride. I stood straighter. I beamed.
Why I was proud baffled me because I hadn’t actually done anything to earn such praise. It felt good, though.
A few weeks later, my family settled in, my father met his congregation, and I started my first year at an all-girls, ultra-conservative religious high school. It was much more right-wing than anything I had known. My new and stricter Modesty Code required that long sleeves and tights cover any flesh not concealed by my uniform. No more nail polish or flip-flops. Teachings about God went from loving and positive to “if you don’t do this, God’s going to punish you.”
None of this felt like “me,” but I had to do it. For the first time ever, I experienced strife and disconnection with my parents, my culture, and myself. I felt depressed.
That compliment from my mom’s friend rang in my ears. Although I wore a junior’s size five, I believed that if I could just lose a few more pounds, then that pride, that inner beaming would come again.
I didn’t know much about dieting, but I figured it couldn’t be that complicated. I understood very little about human physiology, except that the fewer calories I ate, the more weight I would lose. My grand plan was to go on a water diet for a couple of days.
I lasted half a day, and then I broke my water diet. I felt out of control. As soon as I arrived home from school, I raided the refrigerator and kitchen cupboards. I scarfed down food to the point of feeling sick. That was my very first binge.
I had failed at dieting, but I would try the next day again.
And the next.
Let’s Get MeaningFULL : Win a Copy!
This book was helpful to me in ways I did not expect. I usually loan out books once I’m done, but I’m keeping this one close. If you’ve ever struggled with diet, weight, or body image issues I think you’ll find this book inspires you with hope and gratitude.
Want to win your own copy of this amazingly inspiring book? Here’s a direct link to enter a raffle for just that purpose.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Alli Spotts-De Lazzer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, and a “CEDS” Certified Eating Disorders Specialist, and a person on the other side of her own decades-long struggle with food battles and body dislike. She has presented educational workshops at international conferences, hospitals, and graduate schools and has published articles in trade magazines, academic journals, and online information hubs.
A believer in service and advocacy, Alli serves on multiple committees and created #ShakeIt for Self-Acceptance!—a movement embodying its message.