The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage on Ourselves

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The Romance Diet cover draft

I didn’t expect to do this yet, but word from publisher and publicist is go. Wow. It’s real. The Romance Diet: Body Image and The Wars We Wage on Ourselves will be released January 18 from Sunstone Press.

Here’s the jacket blurb:

Brave, raw, and unflinchingly honest, this book is a weight loss journey, a love story, a heart beating loudly on the page. Every day we battle against something–injustice, our spouses, our weight. Seldom do we acknowledge the real wars we wage. Repressing feelings and silencing our voices, we suffer under the surface, attributing emotional distress and unwanted pounds to the inescapable effects of hormones or age.

But weight gain, anxiety, and marital difficulties aren’t always so easy to explain.

In her poignant and touching memoir, Allison doesn’t offer recipes, exercise tips, or advice. Instead, she shows us how to stand up, express what we want, and develop empathy for ourselves and the people we love. In doing so, she provides invaluable insight for those seeking to lose weight, save a marriage, or make a significant life change.

Here’s the inside scoop:

After my back went out and I had to give up my sculpture career, I did what most do. I sat around the house, wrote a few books, and ate too much. I gained a ton of weight, almost destroyed my marriage, and had to find myself again. In the process, my husband and I discovered things we never knew about ourselves and what it means to truly love someone.

This is a short book, spanning a year in my life, and writing it required more courage than I thought I had. But I did it because my husband and I both think the story might save women and the men who love them some real pain.

At its heart, the book explores the undercurrents that determine gender roles, identity issues, and women’s equality. Every woman who read it in its beta stage asked to share it with their significant other so that their men would finally understand who they are. I’m not exaggerating and I’m not bragging. The response this book is getting is amazing to me and, while I’m terrified to tell this story, I’m more determined than ever.

This isn’t Lean In. There are no shoulds to make you feel bad about yourself and it’s definitely NOT a diet book. It’s just our story about loving each other enough to do the hard work. Maybe, if I did it well, it will inspire you.

If you’d like to support this endeavor and be one of the first to read it, you can pre-order a copy here.

Pre-ordering will help the book sell by improving its Amazon ranking. The higher the ranking, the more people will take a look. The goal here isn’t money, though that is necessary. The goal is to help.

If what we live through has a purpose, it is in helping others hurt a little less than we did.

Thanks in advance for your support and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts when it’s released.

Picking Up Sticks

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Now that The Romance Diet is in the publication pipeline, I’m starting a new project. This time, I’m going to do it differently. You have been wonderful over the years, supportive of my projects and generous with your thoughts and comments. In gratitude, I’ll be posting each segment of the new project here. It’s called Picking Up Sticks. It may turn into a book. It may not, but I’m compelled to discover the next part of the story and want to share the journey with you first. As always, your comments are encouraged.

1

It rained in the mountains. Aspens bent like a woman’s back against wind’s relentless onslaught. Birds went wherever birds go when weather refuses to cooperate. A hail of pine needles buried the path. A bright red raspberry fell off a branch, lay blood red and broken in matted grass. The creek heaved and lightning flashed.

Shivering under the shelter of an immense blue spruce, I wiped the wet from my face with trembling hands. Ozone hung thick in the drizzle, a lingering reminder of what had recently passed. Oh god, the dance of low clouds and mist in the meadows, sun on briefly glimpsed peaks, the first returning dragonfly hovering helicopter-like over a stagnant bog. Primrose. Soaked denim. Lichen covered rocks.

Standing, my head brushed a low branch. It released a shower of drops. I fled through tangled brush and over logs, slipped on a mushroom, landed on my ass.

“Come on you fucker! Is that it? Is that all you’ve got?” I laughed.

The storm exhaled another blast. Thunder rumbled. Rain, heavy as pebbles, pummeled my shoulders, ran between shirt collar and neck, and made rivulets down my back. A Search and Rescue daughter should have known better, should have packed food and water, whistle and compass, matches, rain jacket, and warm wool socks. And here I was in cotton and sneakers, lacking even a hat. In the mountains, temperature drops fast.

I picked my way down the trail, slipping here and there on mud or slick rock. My balance has never been good. Grace eludes me. I wanted to be willowy, to bend not crack, but I didn’t get that. Nor did I get thick, glossy locks. I’m of common stock. “Womanly,” my husband says and most days I take it as a compliment. It’s what I have.

The trail switch-backed through dense forest. My knee throbbed from an old injury, or maybe the creep of age. Blinking water from my eyelashes, I caught glimpses between rain drops. The world blurred, a child’s watercolor in brilliant hues smeared across a granite page. I made mental notes: Mullein stalks like giants in meadow grass, the whoosh of hawk wings, the earthy smell of organic rot.

The world is too vast — horrible and beautiful and tangled. In my mind, I’m always on the outside; pushing, prodding, and dragging metaphorical fingernails along tiny cracks in search of the magic opening. I want in. I want to matter. I want to last.

Writing helps, some.

I grew up thinking art was God. Bring hurt and confusion, longing and loneliness to the Church of the Blank Page. Tithe heartache, love, wonder, and rage. Be saved.

By the time I reached the parking lot, found my car, and toweled my hair with a dirty old fleece I found on the back seat, the storm had abated. They do that in New Mexico. Sometimes it will rain on one side of the house and not the other. We sit at the dining room table in the mornings with our tea. My husband faces west. I face east. He comments on the Rufus hovering over a butterfly bush, the deep blue of the sky, the hues of green on pinon and sage. I see rain, wind in saplings, a mist gray sky. And that’s it, I think. If I saw what he did, could face another direction at the same time, I’d find my opening. But I can’t look everywhere all the time.

Making Time

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meteor

Last night, we lay under the stars on a makeshift bed. As our eyes adjusted, we tracked satellites across an inky sky.

Our conversation meandered lazily; the scale of galaxies, the barking of neighborhood dogs, a hardware store buy, the upcoming release of my new book

Then a meteor streaked across our view of the sky and we gasped in delight. Its passage was a simple thing that lit up our life.

We’re insanely busy over the next several months. Lots of travel, lots of work. The days bleed into each other. The respite of night passes too fast.

And yet…

If we allow it…

There is time to hold hands and marvel together at a vast and brilliant sky.

Invisible Fences

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arroyo

The arroyo where I walk my dogs

Crisp early morning, mountains in the distance, warm sun on chilled shoulders, dogs bounding up the road – it doesn’t get much better than this. I love watching them run, the way they catch a scent. Muscles rippling under glossy coats, they dart up the hill and I stand transfixed.  In our neighborhood, most dogs run free and this is a good thing.

The other day, they took off after a rabbit. There wasn’t a chance in hell that they’d catch it, but the pursuit was joyous. Then another dog yipped and my dogs changed course. A minute later, a man started yelling. I whistled for my dogs and they returned. The ruckus, however, didn’t stop. The other dog, a little puffy white thing, kept yipping. His owner did the same. In a nasty, tight voice he called down the hill, chastising me for my dogs being off leash.

I observed that his dog was also off leash and happily wagging his tail. The man hurled an obscenity and followed it with this: “I have an invisible fence!”

His words gave me pause. How many invisible fences are out there? What barriers keep us from running free? I know I’ve experienced a painful shock when I get too close to an edge. Are old wounds invisible fences? Is fear?

I have to wonder. What might the man discover if he let his little dog play with mine? Would he know joy if the dog were allowed to run?

Invisible fences don’t protect us. They just keep us penned.

Changing the World…

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This morning, on Facebook, a friend raised a question about outrage in response to the death of Cecil the Lion. He asked why people weren’t so upset over the death of Sandra Bland.

They were. Or at least a large portion were. Then, the next outrage hit the feed. It’s so easy to become numb, to let the content stream and news feed keep us limping from one tragedy to the next. Reading it all sometimes feels like drowning. And then, someone posts this:

The tension relaxes. Our souls sigh. Tragedy is lessened a bit.

The oscillation is pretty intense. It’s so easy to forget the ground we stand on — the families, friends, neighbors, and businesses that comprise our community. Here, news isn’t the flash of a match in a turbulent wind. It’s the stuff of bonding and memories.

There is a big, wide world out there, to be sure. It requires us to think and act, to be stewards, to connect and comment, vote and lament. But there are also the microcosms, the communities, the places where our voices are heard every day.

We can’t change the macrocosm. There, our voices are lost in the storm. It is at home and in our communities that we change the world.

Getting What You Want

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Getting recognized.

Getting paid.

Getting our needs met.

Focus on getting renders us powerless and entirely dependent on others. It consumes our energy, builds resentment, and wears us down.

What if we focused on giving instead?

I can give you a discount because it helps you.

I can give you a well edited book, a painting with proper mounting hardware, or a sculpture attached to a beautiful base. That way you aren’t frustrated when you try to appreciate what I’ve created.

I can give you my attention, a back rub, or a strong hug.

I can give you what you want.

Changing our focus changes the game.

If you’re happy with things the way they are, by all means stay the same.

 

 

 

 

 

Not that Monkey, Not that Ceiling

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I’m reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. It’s inspiring, honest, and chock full of good advice for women seeking to climb the corporate jungle gym. Unfortunately, I’m not that monkey.

Women like me never made it to Harvard. We didn’t take Larry Summer’s economics class and our first jobs weren’t at the World Bank. No, we worked as waitresses and sales clerks, in daycare centers and hotels – underpaid cogs in the service industry.

Men slapped our asses while we slung their drinks. Harried parents took advantage of us and regularly picked their children up late. For us, the glass ceiling was so far away we only occasionally caught a glint on its surface while we dreamed of bigger things, a life that wouldn’t grind us down, some money in the bank.

On my way to work this morning, I thought a lot about what I’ve done and who I’ve become since those early days. I did achieve a modest wealth. I did receive a fair share of accolade, but I did it the hard way. Without a degree and with three children in tow, ordinary doors weren’t open to me.

Women like me find their way through cracks in the wall. Sometimes we even leave the building. Rather than live under that far away glass ceiling, we step outside and build a new structure, one that works for us and our families. It is this movement that may just change our world. Women in leadership positions are essential, but women need to create those positions, not just attain them.

As Seth Godin says frequently, we live in a permission economy. Women are great at asking permission. We thrive in community situations. We know how to work as a team. There has never been a better time to pursue our passions and make a living from our dreams.

Asking Amazon to Add a New Book Category for Women’s Empowerment

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This morning, doing research for my upcoming book, I went in search of books dealing with women’s empowerment. I didn’t find much. Next, I searched Amazon for best selling books on women’s issues. Again, the search engines returned bizarre results. When I searched body image, I found results. Unfortunately, they were all in the pathology or eating disorder categories.

Body image issues are often not tied to either of these (and the category itself is shaming) but try finding a book about them outside these hurtful categories.

I searched for Lean In and found it in memoir and business. I searched for Brene Brown and found her in mental health/emotions and motivation.

I want a new category — one in which all these books are easily found and work in tandem to help women feel empowered and gain traction not only in the book industry, but in their everyday lives. So I wrote the company and asked for it. Here’s what I said:

Hi,

I’ve been searching for best selling books on women’s issues. There is no category. I’ve looked for best selling books on body image and they are all either in eating disorders or pathology. Brene Brown is in mental health/emotions and motivation. “Lean In” is in business and memoirs.

Women are woefully under-represented in book publishing and, when they do come out with a book that might help women take their rightful place, the search functions and category placements seem to render them, again, less important.

I’m wondering if Amazon would radically increase sales of these kinds of books (and help the women who need them find them more easily) if Amazon created a new category of books for women’s empowerment. Just a thought. Thanks for considering it.

If you feel Amazon (and other book sellers) would benefit from this kind of category, maybe you’ll spread the word and join me in telling them that women need a room of their own.

This Doesn’t Help the World

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hurting-sentinelwolf-and-dark-blood-34688661-500-401

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time on social media. My Facebook feed is filled with cute animals, people dancing, politics, and propaganda. It is also filled with outrage, pain, and bewilderment.

We’re all hurting. Every day, we’re inflicted with tiny cuts so small we don’t notice them. But, in spite of their seeming insignificance, we bleed.

rolling stoneYesterday, this image offended me. So did Sinead O’Connor’s word choice in her impassioned response to The Rolling Stone. Neither helped the world.

A few days ago, I saw a cartoon of Hillary Clinton in a bucket. The caption read, “Two fat thighs, two small breasts, and a whole lot of left wings.” The image hurt. Every woman, hell every person, deserves more respect.

I’m tired of the vitriol, of the hateful comment streams, of the sting of a thousand, tiny cuts.

So I have an idea. From now on, when someone says something particularly nasty, I’m going to reply with #Sorryyourehurting. When someone posts an offensive meme and/or a nasty comment, I’m going to say #ThisDoesntHelptheWorld.

Maybe, just maybe, if I engage gently I might make some small change.

What do you think? Will you join me?

Race to the Finish

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race to the finish

I saw this image on Facebook this morning and had to laugh. In so many ways, it’s an excellent graphic of what women face in the workforce. But, thinking about it again, I had to wonder about the race itself.

The woman’s terrain lends itself to slowing down, to curiosity and exploration. The broken wall, pond, and garden feature juxtaposed with the industrial elements have my creative juices simmering.

I’m curious. If you had to choose a path, would you choose the easier one? The one with the fewest hurdles? The one without a landscape worth exploring?

If we stop for a moment, break the chain that hinders us and leave that ugly weight behind, do we get to define not only who wins the race, but the nature of the race itself?

What do you think?

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