Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Virtual Book Tour - MeaningFULL: 23 Life-Changing Stories of Conquering Dieting, Weight, & Body Image Issues by Alli Spotts-De Lazzer

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for MeaningFULL: 23 Life-Changing Stories of Conquering Dieting, Weight, & Body Image Issues by Alli Spotts-De Lazzer. This book tour was organized by Pump Up Your Book. On my stop, I have the prologue from the book as well as a helpful guest post from the author. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
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Title: MeaningFULL: 23 Life-Changing Stories of Conquering Dieting, Weight, & Body Image Issues
Author: Alli Spotts-De Lazzer
Publication Date: January 26th 2021
Print Length: 282 pages
Genre: Self-Help, Memoir
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MEANINGFULL: 23 LIFE-CHANGING STORIES OF CONQUERING DIETING, WEIGHT, & BODY IMAGE ISSUES is a blend of motivational self-help, memoir, psychology, and health and wellness. Alli Spotts-De Lazzer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, an expert in eating and body image issues, and a woman on the other side of her own decades-long struggle with food and body.

A $702 billion global diet/nutrition and weight loss industry shows that people worldwide are devoted to achieving maximum health and their desired bodies. Yet mainstream approaches are failing these individuals, and sadly, science proves this. Intent on gaining the “health” and “happiness” that diets promise, consumers keep trying. They become sad and frustrated, believing they’re failing when they’re not. They simply need a legitimate, alternative path, which MeaningFULL offers. Through the contributors’ diverse, real-life mini-memoirs followed by Spotts-De Lazzer’s commentaries, readers will learn about themselves and discover their unique, unconventional formulas for conquering their issues. Along the way, MeaningFULL will also guide them towards more self-appreciation, wellness, and fulfillment.

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PRAISE:
"Have you ever thought that the painful experiences you've had after falling off a diet or being uncomfortable with your body are yours alone? No one else could have ever felt as sad, frustrated, or disappointed as you have! No one else could have struggled with self-esteem or a lack of inner trust as you have! The truth is that these feelings and experiences are universal in a world of diet culture, that only values you for an idealized size or shape of your body and judges you for your eating choices. MeaningFull is a relatable, down-to-earth book that can help you to not feel so alone and isolated in your relationship with food and your body. By reading the stories of a multitude of people who have found their way out of the trap of diet culture and by reading the clear and valuable guidelines and advice that Alli Spotts-De Lazzer presents, you will finally find the hope for a future of joy and satisfaction in your eating and a sense of respect and dignity for the miraculous body that is yours." -Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, FAND, Nutrition Therapist, Author of The Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens and The Intuitive Eating Journal, Co-author of Intuitive Eating, The Intuitive Eating Workbook, and The Intuitive Eating Card Deck

In "Meaning Full" Alli Spotts has put together a trove of inspiring stories for anyone interested in tackling problems with eating, weight and body image. The various contributors in the book take readers on a summary of their own healing journey providing useful ideas and strategies that others can apply where appropriate. Readers not only get honest, personal, accounts, but Alli's summary at the end of each case provides clarification, cites research, and gives further resources on the various subjects brought up. It is refreshing to read a book where individuals dealing with weight and body image struggles describe overcoming their plight. -Carolyn Costin, Director of the Carolyn Costin Institute, 8 Keys To Recovering From An Eating Disorder

For parents who have a child struggling with any kind of eating or body image issues, it's common to feel isolated, scared, confused, and even ashamed. The stigma and stereotypes around these issues and sometimes serious illnesses add an extra burden for so many families, and it can be hard to find other people who truly "get it." Parents looking for hope, insight, and connection will find many poignant stories in MeaningFULL. Caring for a young person through healing from these issues-from seemingly minor self-image problems to serious eating disorders-can take an emotional toll, and families often need a lot of support. Alli Spotts-De Lazzer's collection of diverse personal stories can help parents feel less alone, shed the guilt or self-blame, and start to see a light at the end of the tunnel. -Oona Hanson, MA, MA, Educator and Parent Coach
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EXCERPT:
PROLOGUE

Alli’s Clumsy Conquering—
My Story Leading to this Book


WHILE SEATED AT a dinner table for ten, people passed the last few bites of birthday cake around the table. With intense focus, I watched the plate move like a Ping-Pong ball at play. Some smiled and chatted as they tasted; others made irritating “mmmm” sounds. The pressure built amid the overly polite, drawn-out volley of discussion: “You have the last bite,” “No, you have the last bite,” “No, I simply couldn’t!”

I snapped. My hand flew out across the table to stop the passing of the plate mid-Pong. I wish it had only been my thoughts, but I heard my voice rising over the volume of the noisy restaurant. Slowly and with precise enunciation, I boomed, “F*cking eat it, or don’t eat it. But shut-up about it.”

Heads turned. Abrupt silence fell across the table. All movement froze. Unusually wide eyes stared back at me. Blank faces. Jaws slightly dropped.

Sh*t.

I’d just ruined my best friend’s 30th birthday.

While they’d been sharing stories about themselves, exchanging witty comments, and cracking each other up, I’d been growing increasingly agitated. By the time we reached dessert, I’d already endured two hours of my head unrelentingly screeching at me about all the food rules I’d broken.

I’d been feeling frustrated and ashamed of how challenging that dinner had been from its start to this finale. I also felt sad and selfish that I couldn’t seem to pay attention to my friend like she deserved. I knew my window was closing for when I could get rid of what I’d eaten. My public happy mask slid off without my permission. I had lost control.

Since I usually smiled my way through discomfort, people rarely knew how much angst was going on in my head. That night, people saw it: the unease around food that had been visiting me, in varying intensities, since around 11 years old.

I’d already been on various diets before I hit my late tweens, when suddenly and without my consent or knowledge, my common dieting slipped into disorder, anorexia nervosa. Seemingly overnight, my favorite foods became inedible. Swallowing nearly anything other than my safe, steamed broccoli felt like a sandpaper-worm crawling down my throat. Obviously, this made eating a challenge.

Alarmed by my dramatic physical changes, like protruding vertebrae, my parents sought professional help. However, treatment in the 1980s was in its early stages. It was a terrible experience (super blaming on others) and caused me to mention little-to-nothing about food or weight in future therapy experiences.

After I gained enough pounds, I wasn’t considered “anorexic” anymore. People seemed to think I was fixed and fine because I no longer looked sick.

I then spent decades on various regimens. Mostly, I tried to eat a “healthy” and low/no-fat diet and worked out for hours in the gym. I also replaced real foods with engineered food-like products. (As I write this, I can still taste my cinnamon toast made with saccharin and fake butter spray. Nasty.) I did the newest popular diets and followed celebrity diet-tips. One fad program I purchased had these weird pills that creepily filled your stomach once inside you. I mastered counting calories in and exercised off. I tried aids like over-the-counter diet pills that curbed my appetite but messed me up—they made me chase my speeding thoughts but not catch them. I smoked cigarettes to avoid eating. And I purged (got food inside me, out).

For years, I nonchalantly called these health and weight management practices my “maintenance.” I accepted my demanding relationship with food and body as status quo. In public, people often complimented me on what they viewed as my “healthy choices” and “discipline.” In private, the few who knew of the periods of bingeing and purging said little to nothing about it. One best friend used to stand in the bathroom doorway, chatting with me as she watched me make myself throw up. So, no big deal, right? Besides, I wasn’t taking Fen-Phen, which I thought was way too severe and scary. I judgmentally elevated myself above anyone who did that. (Back then, everything diet-related brought out a snotty jackass part of me. I didn’t like or want to feel so petty inside, yet it happened often.)

After my initial, fairly short period of emaciation, I was never that skinny-skinny again. In fact, I gained a lot of pounds (a freaking lot—I couldn’t fit into “average” sizes). Then I lost most of that weight and continued to bounce around between my extremes. My “maintenance” practices spanned from mild to severe methods, frequent to less frequent. Mostly, though, I looked “normal” in our society, and my constant dieting practices were normalized every day by advertisements, articles, and social conversations. I now realize that I would have qualified as having both clinical (meeting the actual diagnosis) and subclinical (problematic but not matching any diagnostic label) eating disorders throughout these decades.

Though I didn’t believe myself to be in danger at any time, physical quirks happened that were likely a result of my “maintenance” practices. In addition to a regularly edgy mood and irregular sleep, I occasionally experienced a puffy face, dizziness, and feeling weirdly “off” inside my body. Usually, we don’t feel or notice our insides or heartbeat; I definitely noticed mine at times. But I disregarded it all—except the puffy face that I frantically tried to de-puff because it looked strange.

Without telling my doctor about my “maintenance” practices, she didn’t know to run the specific tests to check if I was safe inside. I’m randomly lucky that I didn’t develop lasting or fatal health problems. My “off” feeling and my noticeable heartbeat could have been signs of electrolyte abnormalities, weakened heart, dehydration, or other serious issues. Thankfully, the body is forgiving and can often heal when the behaviors are corrected or stopped.

No matter what was going on inside me, I still appeared to be fine. In fact, people referred to me as a “high achiever.” I consistently performed well in school, and from my first “real” job as a teen (a juicer in a juicery) to full careers, I excelled at work, too. However, my dieting, weight obsession, and body image issues ruled my days from my tweens into my thirties. Always present, their intensity and severity ebbed and flowed. Correspondingly, my contentment in life was limited and uneven.

I couldn’t fully witness or participate in most things, because there was usually this humming or banging distraction. During my courting years, I romanced the bread on the table instead of my dinner dates. Celebrations all involved food and were usually more like scared-ebrations for me, like my friend’s 30th birthday. Thankfully, she forgave me.

People tell me that I presented, for the most part, a free-spirited, full-of-life persona to the outside world during those years. But I was far from feeling free or full-of-life.

Why-Oh-Why Change?
You may be wondering; when food and body issues are that embedded—a way of existing—why and how does someone heal, change, or recover from them?

As a mental health professional and eating disorders specialist, I can wholeheartedly share that what each person wants to conquer and their journeys to do so are unique. For me, the birthday cake incident humiliated me, but it wasn’t enough to make me challenge or change my “maintenance” practices. Instead, a bunch of other stuff lined up to help me realize that I wanted a different, more contented life—one with less focus on food, body, and weight.

Here’s one of the most influential factors: anger. Though the feeling often takes a bad rap as a negative emotion, I think anger is awesomely informative. It’s a waving red flag that broadcasts, “Hey, something is wrong! Since you’re not acknowledging it, I’m going to get your attention!”

For years I had fastidiously kept photo albums. I finally noticed that when I looked back at decades of what others regarded as “cool” or “exciting” memories, I rarely recalled the event, my connections to the occasion, or the people in the photos. Who did I go to that formal with? Why did I meet that celebrity? How did I get talked into being on that parade float? Instead, I remembered my weight or dress size in each shot. This made me mad.

Simultaneously, I’d met someone special who would become the love of my life. I felt protective of being able to recall both present and future memories—and not by weight or size. Also, my parents were getting older, and I wanted clear recollections with them too.

Then one more significant thing happened to jolt me. Long after that cake episode, that same dear friend confronted me in a loving way. It went something like this: “I know you may get mad at me, and this could ruin our friendship, but I don’t think what you’re doing—your ‘maintenance’—is normal. I don’t think it’s okay or healthy. I feel concerned about you.” Of course I got outraged inside. But something about her bravery touched me. I must have been sufficiently open and the timing must have been right enough to hear it. Plus, I think the guilt I had from messing up her birthday helped me listen to her.

For years I’d been working with a really skilled generalist therapist, but I’d mostly kept the eating and weight stuff out of the room. I hadn’t wanted her to know much about it or to meddle with it. After all, I’d accepted my “maintenance” practices as a forever part of my life.

Angry and fed up (no pun intended), at last, I said it: “I need accountability and help. Here’s what I’ve been doing...” I wasn’t scared when I told her. I felt calm, desperate, determined, and also relieved to stop hiding my secrets.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alli Spotts-De Lazzer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, and eating and body image specialist with a private practice in Los Angeles, California. Alli has presented educational workshops at conferences, graduate schools, and hospitals; published articles in academic journals, trade magazines, and online information hubs; and appeared as an eating disorders expert on local news. A believer in service, she has co-chaired committees for the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (“iaedp”), facilitated an ongoing eating and body image support group, and created #ShakeIt for Self-Acceptance! - a series of public events sparking conversations about self-acceptance. She was named the 2017 iaedp Member of the Year, and Mayor Garcetti recognized July 13, 2017 as “#ShakeIt for Self-Acceptance! Day” in the City of Los Angeles. MeaningFULL: 23 Life-Changing Stories of Conquering Dieting, Weight, & Body Image Issues was inspired from both Alli’s personal and professional experiences.

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GUEST POST:
Summer Body Comfort, Courage, & Confidence
by Alli Spotts-De Lazzer, M.A., LMFT, LPCC, CEDS


In the United States, the month of May typically revs up for the “summer body” campaign season. Adding to this year’s angst about hot weather and wearing less clothing, many of us are bombarded with daily ads telling us to lose the weight gained during Covid. As a mental health therapist who has specialized in eating and body image for over a decade, weight loss posed as a solution to nearly all of life’s woes especially bothers me.

Instead of focusing on changing our bodies—which takes up time and energy and may not be possible without harming ourselves—perhaps feeling more comfortable in our bodies right could be a goal. Here are some ideas.

Challenge the Message

The phrase “swimsuit body” implies that one type of body is best. Yet, it's just not possible to have one kind of body in the world. If you think of 10 people, they’re probably very different even though their basic structure is similar. Next time you hear that phrase, “swimsuit body,” ask yourself, “WHO is saying I’m supposed to have that body?” “WHAT authority do they have?” and “WHY am I supposed to have that body?”

While exploring those questions, you might discover that it’s challenging to find a real answer. Personally, I see at least the following explanations: to keep us spending money to “fix” ourselves and to keep us feeling dissatisfied so that we can't stand in our authentic power. Can you imagine the financial impact if people gave up trying to change their bodies? What about the effects of accepting our looks or even feeling honored about our body/appearance diversity? If, for example, the 90+ million “dieters” in the United States felt body acceptance or even confidence, that would massively disrupt the existing financial and power structures.

Regarding this year’s extra messaging about our post-Covid bodies, some bodies changed, and some stayed the same. In either case, if you’re still around, then you survived a global pandemic. I think your body is pretty fabulous—it either fought for you to stay alive, or it kept you safe from sickness. Your body did a fantastic job!

Wear Clothing for Summer Weather & Work on Improving Your Body Acceptance

We usually wear less in the heat. No matter what our size or how fearful we might be about showing arms/legs/whatever, maybe ask yourself: “What do I want to wear to feel as comfortable as possible?” (Post pandemic might be an opportunity to start new and desired habits, styles, etc.) Life can already be uncomfortable enough. Though I've never met you, my heart knows this: You do not deserve added discomfort.

A recent study by Dr. Rachel Weaver and Kate Mulgrew showed that writing about the functions of your body, such as how your body serves you, can help improve body image. Focus on gratitude for what your body does for you. For example, “Thighs, you’re strong. You let me sit and stand hundreds of times a day. Thank you." Get the picture? There are some examples from MeaningFULL: 23 Life-Changing Stories of Conquering Dieting, Weight, & Body Image Issues in a Psychology Today article by Dr. Charlotte Markey, “One Way to Improve Body Image at Any Age: Write About It.”

Also, try picking styles that make you feel good to look at or seem comfortable. If your brain says, “I can’t wear that,” is that true? Start doable. Maybe wear the different outfit first in your home and then outside for five minutes. Increase exposure along the way if you can tolerate how vulnerable it might feel. And, if you discover that the stores don’t sell the style in your size, consider this: The problem is not you. Often, the lack of available, diverse sizes out there stinks, but that’s not on you.

Pull the Swimsuit Out of the Drawer

Did you just experience a reaction to “swimsuit”? If you read MeaningFULL, you were reminded that sometimes a child doesn’t know their parent even HAS a swimsuit. Have you missed out on experiences because your swimsuit lived in your drawer instead of on your body? If so, here are four ways that any of us might feel more confident and courageous about that swimsuit.

-1-) When you find yourself comparing your body to the models on ads, the tags hanging off new clothing, and magazine pages, please remind yourself that many of the images we view are ridiculously photoshopped. Also, only a tiny percent of the world has a build like we see in live fashion shows. Measuring your own swimsuit fit against these unrealistic, mostly unattainable images could probably crack the confidence of almost anyone.

-2-) Look at your existing suit (if you have one). If available swim fashions don’t seem right for you, ask yourself what kind of style you might like. For example, I never have felt “myself” in a bikini. Ever. I prefer vintage looks partly because they cover more and partly because I find them to have personality. Also, I love that I never risk my boobs falling out because the tops tend to be secure. Please look for what works and feels best for you. Even if you don’t love wearing a swimsuit, a more neutral experience of wearing one can feel positive and powerful.

-3-) If you’re seeking a new suit and trying them on in the stores feels too uncomfortable, maybe order a few returnable sizes and styles. Try them on in your home.

-4-) Finally, perhaps you have a suit in your drawer, and it doesn’t feel good to wear. However, a new one isn’t possible right now. (For such a small amount of material, they sure can be expensive!) See if there’s a way you can still make your memories in it until you can get a new one that feels better (e.g., tie material like a sarong, don't look in the mirror once you’ve put it on, etc.). Find what works for you to get out there and LIVE!

In Conclusion

After almost a half-century alive and 13 years as a professional therapist, I can say this with assuredness: People often give a lot of power to what others MIGHT think of their bodies. Yet others around us can be so worried about their own bodies (or something else), they don’t even notice much about yours!

I hope that something here might help you experience your upcoming summer memories with a bit more comfort, courage, and confidence.

NOTE: Therapists are encouraged to delineate their roles whenever sharing publicly. So here it is: Though I am a therapist, this blog does not provide therapy. It provides ideas for your consideration. I believe that we are on a journey—together, each of us (me included) trying to find our ways to live our most fulfilling lives. May we each find our selves.


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