• Posted on May 10, 2017 12:49 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    4

    Last night, I posted a picture of my children enjoying ice cream sandwiches following dinner with a caption that said: "Years ago, I would spend nearly an hour in the grocery store's ice cream section. Opening and closing every glass door, pulling every carton out and quickly putting it back in. My mind raced as I carefully analyzed every black and white nutrition label. Too many calories in this one, too much sugar in that one. I would ultimately walk out with the lowest fat/cal/sugar ice cream-ish substance I could find. I would also leave in the throws of a massive panic attack. Because of my eating disorder, a task as simple as grocery shopping left me crippled by anxiety. When the ice cream made it to my freezer, it haunted me. I wanted throw it away. I wanted to eat it all and purge it. But all I really wanted was to stop the monster in my brain. I wanted ice cream to be just that - ice cream. I wanted freedom from my eating disorder. [Seven years later] Today, I quickly push my cart up and down each aisle, tossing in items on my list: avocados, black beans, chips, crackers, milk. I strolled down the freezer section and caught a glimpse of ice cream sandwiches. "That sounds good!" I thought and tossed them in. I kept my quick pace to the check out so I would make it home to unload the groceries before it was time to pick up the kids. I often hear from parents they limit sweets or do not keep them in the house at all. It is SO important that we offer our children a variety of foods and do not label food good or bad. Food is food - no moral value. All foods fit! When we deny our children certain foods, it creates a hierarchy of food and can possibly shame them from eating it in the future, associating the food with feelings of guilt. Above all else, it is so important for our children to see us enjoying a variety of foods. This evening, my kids and I enjoyed the delicious ice cream sandwiches. I never take a single moment of recovery for granted and the ability to share it with my children. I am so thankful for my recovery and the freedom that comes with - both in and out of the freezer aisle! "ūüíúūüíúūüć¶ The post was shared widely across social media¬†with many 'YES!' comments and women in recovery posting about their own journey with ice cream. ¬†However, I knew it was a matter of time before someone questioned my 'All Foods Fit' approach to food. ‚áí"I disagree in one respect. Junk food is junk. Chemical filled and not healthy. Once in a while a Twinkie or something junky is fine. But children should learn about healthy foods." ‚áí "Moderation is so key. As long as my dd eats a balanced meal that covers most of the food groups, I don't mind sharing my ice cream with her. She's such a fruit & veggie eater, she'd rather have fresh picked strawberries most days over processed sugars. The biggest thing I want her to take away from childhood & food, is that she try new things when they are offered (she nearly always has a different meal than me & hubby) and she get a little protein in. (Like I said, she's a fruit & veggies kid, but getting her to eat a little chicken or pork is tough some days.)" I began to respond, but soon decided my response warranted a longer reply than a simple social media comment. So... Thank¬†you all for your comments. I understand your thought around moderation and labeling food as 'junk' because that is certainly what society and many 'experts' tell us. "Don't eat junk. Childhood obesity is at an all time high! Limit processed sugars. Moderation is KEY!" I get the 'Moderation is key' a lot. And to that, I completely agree 100%. Is it healthy to eat ice cream and pizza all day long every day? No way. And on the other side of the coin, is it healthy to eat kale and apples all day long? Nope. So yes, moderation IS key. I cringe when I see people talk about 'chemical-filled' food. This has little to do with my eating disorder history and more to do with my daughter's cancer. Two years ago, when my daughter was in the hospital fighting neuroblastoma, I posted a picture of her with cupcakes sent by my sweet sorority sisters. I was shocked when I received an anonymous email warning me to keep ALL sugar away from my daughter. First of all, my daughter was 8-months and had just spent a week in the PICU, she wasn't even close to starting solid food yet. Secondly, sugar does not cause cancer. I realize I might be opening Pandora's box here, but my daughter was diagnosed at 7-months old. All she ever had in her body was breast milk. Cancer just happens sometimes. Sure, smoking causing cancer, but there is very little to connect sugar/processed foods to cancer. Trust me, I have tackled every doctor and nurse on our oncology floor and beyond, asking them what caused Marjorie's cancer. I asked them what I can feed my children to prevent it from coming back or to keep my son from developing cancer. Unfortunately, there is very little I can do. Cancer just happens sometimes. My dear friend/earth angel and beloved oncology nurse 'Two Knock', once told me, "McCall, I have had two kids on the unit before, both with the exact same cancer. One of the patients came from a family that was vegetarian and ate everything organic. The other child was of a lower socioeconomic level,¬†with two working parents. His diet consisted of a lot of fast food. Extremely different diets and home life - exact same cancer. You can't keep Marjorie or Manning from getting cancer based on what they eat." Again, is it good for us to eat processed foods and lots of sugar all day, no. MODERATION. Kale and cupcakes. Hell, kale and chemicals if that is what you label cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches. And to be completely honest, I do buy organic meats, dairy, etc. That is just my personal preference. You will also find non-organic bananas and oreos in my pantry too. At the end of the day, we can't deny our children and ourselves what our bodies want. You can't tell me that at the end of a hot summer day, an ice cream sandwich didn't sound amazing! I don't think I've met anyone who craved frozen kale after a hot day on the beach. Food is food. Sure, some foods pack more nutrient punch than others, but it is SO critical not to create a hierarchy. When we limit or deny our children (or ourselves) certain food or food groups, that is all we will crave. When we can truly listen to our bodies, it will tell us what we need. Our bodies might signal us to want leafy greens or they might crave a burger because¬†our iron is low. My children are small, but they understand that food is food. My son sometimes turns down cake for bananas and sometimes it is vice versa. The bottom line is we are born with an amazing hunger/fullness system that gets distorted with every diet or food denial. Often times we unknowingly pass that guilt on to our children. We love our children and want to see them healthy and happy, so we limit sweets or fast food. I can't tell you how many young people I meet who feel like they have to sneak McDonald's because they feel so ashamed about it. What if we drove through McDonald's with them? No, seriously. I recently gave a parent presentation with Oliver-Pyatt's amazing director of nutrition, Mary Dye. A mom challenged¬†the All Foods Fit theory, saying that if she allowed her daughter to eat whatever she wanted, her daughter would go through McDonald's every day. "Let her," I said. "She will kill herself with it," the mother responded. "No she won't. I promise," I said. "She will get tired of it. It will lose it's novelty. She won't eat it forever and it will not kill her." Mary then elaborated with a story that gave me chills: "I once had a patient who struggled with Binge Eating Disorder," Mary said. "Her father was a cardiologist and she grew up in a house that shamed and labeled food bad, especially fast food. My work with her was to normalize food and to eliminate the shame factor. In fact, as a therapeutic exercise, we drove to McDonald's. Fast food was something she would binge in secret and shame, alone in her car. I wanted to normalize the fast food experience for her. So we drove through, ordered, parked and mindfully enjoyed our meal. The more we deny, the more we want." I have told that story countless times. And what I would give to one day meet the brave patient who did the hard work of recovery, changing not only her life, but maybe her family's as well. I know the thought of keeping a variety of foods in the house or even you yourself driving through McDonald's is outlandish, but try it. You might even surprise yourself. I never thought I could have ice cream in my house. Today, I have ice cream, candy, cookies, bananas, kale, crackers, chips, cheese, apples...you name it. And guess what? I don't think about what I have in my pantry or freezer - unless, of course, I'm heading to the grocery store and need a list! My motivation to recover was to not only be a mom, but be a mom who led by example. I wanted to be a mom who could eat ice cream¬†and kale and everything in between. I am proud to say that I AM that mom today. There is also no doubt¬†I am screwing up motherhood in a thousand other ways, but I¬†make a conscious effort every day to do my best to live and lead by example. My hope and prayer is not to raise healthy kids, but kind kids who love and live life, kids who forget there are cookies in the house unless their bellies tell them they want one. I want my kids to listen to the amazing bodies God gave them. Moving their bodies when they have bursts of energy or when the sun is shining just right, eating when they are hungry, stopping when they are full and if they eat too much, well, then they know next time to stop.Food is not the focus of our lives - it is important, but our day does not revolve around it. Our daily focus is on loving and living - playing outside, building towers, chasing lizards and avoiding shoes flying through the air when Marjorie throws them in her daily tantrum! Raising healthy kids isn't as important to me as raising kids who love themselves. At the end of the day, if we love ourselves, like truly love ourselves, we will honor our body. We will nourish, move and rest it as it desires and needs. When we love our bodies, we take the time to take care of it in all aspects: mind, body and spirit. So ahead, eat the McDonald's, the kale shakes, the daffodil sprouts and yes, even the 'chemicals'. Because in the wise words of our Ole Miss SMASH Ambassador: "Life is too short to count calories...enjoy the cupcake!" For parents wanting more information on childhood nutrition, download my list of resources:¬†Body Awesome Parent Resources. (Highly recommend Ellyn Satter and Katja Rowell!)

    Eating Disorder, Family, Food
  • Posted on May 1, 2017 8:48 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    3

    To my dearest anti-diet community, I get it. I totally get that every diet post, cleanse,¬†and celebrity detox makes your skin crawl. I. GET. IT. I'm on your team, but I am not behind the shame storm that happens when someone decides to go on a diet or change their eating habits. Recently, I awoke at 3am (because my brain deems it a great time to wake up) and began scrolling through Instagram. I was taken aback by the diet war happening on Bren√© Brown's latest post. There were countless comments shaming Bren√© for her decision to do the Whole30. I then saw that Glennon Doyle Melton (my other 'she'ro) recently posted a Whole30 picture a few days earlier. The comments were inline with what I saw on Bren√©'s picture.   All I have to say to my fellow anti-diet community is BE NICE. These two women have written best-selling books and changed countless lives, including mine.¬†I am pretty sure they know what is best for them. My favorite mantra lately is 'You Do You'. Do what makes you happy and feel alive. Do what makes your heart beat a little faster. Take care of your body in whatever way you see fit. And if you feel like you need a little extra help and support, find a therapist and/or a nutritionist near you. I am happy to connect you. But whatever you do, don't shame others for their diet decisions. Advocacy does not mean shame and judgement. Advocacy is leading by example, promoting your message through your channels and being kind to others with opposing thoughts and feelings. Do I support the Whole30? No, it isn't for me. Any diet for me is a slippery slope back into my disorder. Also, my husband would literally die if we didn't have pretzels and beer in the house. I honestly don't know much about the¬†Whole30, other than it is 30-days of eating 'clean'. It should also be said that the term 'clean eating' makes my skin crawl. I don't think my pretzels are dirty, but, YOU DO YOU and I'll do me. And I certainly won't insert my opinion on¬†Bren√© or Glennon's life choices. Both¬†Bren√© and Glennon are sober; I highly doubt they would judge me for my glass of wine so why would¬†I judge them? Often times, we want to jump and say NO DIET! Trust me, my close friends can attest to receiving my anti-diet soap box over the years. I used to be very quick to judge, pleading with my friend and giving her all the reasons why she should not diet. Today, I still stand firm on my soap box, but I try to remind myself that the best way to promote my message is to live it myself - not shout it in unwilling ears. For many of us, a diet led to a lifelong battle with an eating disorder, crash dieting and all around unhappiness. I get how it can be triggering and you want to save everyone from the same dark rabbit hole. But for many other, diets will simply be that - a diet. Will the diet work for long term success? Probably not since diets have a 95% failure rate. But, again, you do you. My first encounter with the Whole30 happened in January. I was at a friend's house and her co-worker was over explaining how she was on Day 20 of the Whole30. I was intrigued and asked her about her experience. This woman knew what I did for a living and tried to explain it as a 'lifestyle change'. I went back and forth were a bit on why I hate the term 'lifestyle change' when it comes to diet, but she explained her reason for going on the program. Her fall had been fast and furious and the holidays followed. She did not feel good in her body, not necessarily from a weight perspective, but she felt sluggish and foggy. She went on to explain how much energy she has and how great she feels. Her diet is filled with wholesome food, no calorie counting or rigid schedules. She enjoyed the meal planning and prepping. So I get it. I get some people's reasons for wanting to reset. Some people need a plan to restart. I can totally get behind that. I don't agree with cutting entire food grounds or denying ourselves the calories we need to survive like many diets do. However, we have to remember that there are two sides to having a healthy relationship with food: flexibility AND¬†meeting nutritional needs. It is a tough balancing act. In fact, lately I have been trying to get more veggies and fruit in my diet. The reason: my life has been fast and furious this spring and I haven't been feeding my body enough of those nutrient packed foods. I've been on the road, grabbing and going. When I finally landed home two weeks ago, I decided to take this next month to slow down, do a bit more yoga and get some color back in my diet. I also use my extra time to sit down and enjoy Easter candy and chocolate with my kids. It is all about balance, moderation and flexibility. But again, that works for me. I don't know what works for you. Now, would I recommend one of the young people I mentor to try the Whole30? Probably not. I would direct them to talk with their therapist and nutritionist if they feel like they need to make diet changes. The diet industry is sadly one of the most robust and booming industries. We can't rid the world of diets and guess what? That's ok! We can't stop others from dieting or changing their food habits whether it be by slowing down or doing the Whole30. We can lead by example, showing those around us what it means to love and take care of our bodies. We can admire and connect with like-minded people, people who make us feel good, people who challenge us, but we can't shame others for trying a diet or lifestyle change. We can't be quick to judge. Bren√© and Glennon share so much of their lives with us, but at the end of the day we don't know them. (Even though I claim them as friends in every talk I give "My bestie Bren√©/Glennon/Ellen says...") At the end of the day, we can't put people on a pedestal. We are all humans, trying to get through this thing called life as best as we can. No one is higher than the other. When we place people on pedestals, they will inevitably fall off and that fall hurts us more than it hurts them. Remember when your parents fell off? It hurts.   And if you are thinking of going on the Whole30 or a diet, I would simply caution you and ask you to reflect on your motivation. Weight loss does not equal happiness, despite what society says. On the other side of the coin, there is NOTHING wrong with wanting to feel good in your skin. Remember that health is mind, body and spirit. Do what you love, move your body in a way that excites you and challenge¬†yourself to make every day count.   So to Bren√© and Glennon, rock on. You do you and I'll do me. And I'll keep loving you, buying (and recommending) your books, quoting you, photoshopping myself into pictures with you and claiming you both as my bestie. With a WHOLE (see what I did there?) lot of love and gratitude, McCall

    Body Image, Brene Brown, Eating Disorder
  • Posted on April 2, 2017 3:31 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Lorelei splashed in the tub as I gently washed the shampoo from her curly hair. She is the first born of one of my dearest and oldest friends, Katherine. I¬†spent the week with them during my Chattanooga speaking tour. "My curls are tiny!" Five-year old Lorelei exclaimed. "Some people have bigger curls and some people don't have curls." "You are absolutely right," I said. "I used to have tiny curls like you, Lorelei! They are so beautiful and they make you so special." She nodded in agreement and we went on to talk about other things that make us different. "My friend has dark skin and doesn't need sunscreen, but my skin is really white and needs lots of sunscreen," she said proudly. We talked about tall/short, curly/straight, dark/light, large/small...all things that make us each uniquely different and beautiful. After bath, Lorelei, her mom and I snuggled in bed watching a quick cartoon before bedtime. Lorelei happily chomped away at her night snack before her mom turned off the TV. She kissed me goodnight and headed upstairs for her final bedtime routine. I went into the living room and began thinking about my night with Lorelei. Suddenly, my heart sank. In a few years, Lorelei will start questioning all of those wonderful things that make her uniquely beautiful.¬†The¬†world is going to tell her that her hair should be straighter, longer. Her skin should be tanner. Her body taller, smaller. While we can't rid the world of these messages, I know we can and will do everything to protect Lorelei's ears from these unwanted messages. Luckily, Lorelei was born into an extraordinary tribe of women. First off, her mama is one of the most ferocious, compassionate, sensitive and bright women I have ever met. Her aunt, Charlotte, is always there, along with her tribe of Green Cove aunts - ready to remind Lorelei that what she hears from the outside world is noise and we don't listen to it. We measure our worth by what is inside and how we treat others. My time in Chattanooga was closely followed by my annual camp reunion weekend. A weekend filled with yoga pants (no yoga, just the pants), wine, cheese and mountain sunsets. It is a weekend where my tribe comes together to laugh and refuel our tired spirits. We are all so very different, living in every corner of the US. We love different partners, we believe in different faiths, we are tall, short, big, small, dark, light, curly and straight. No matter how different we are, we stand together, lift each other up and support each other through life's trials. I'm fairly confident I would not be alive today without these women. Established in the 1980s, our bond runs deep. In a few years, our children will run and hike the same paths we did as children. Marjorie, Lorelei, Cecilia, Kate, Harper, Woods, Ramsay and many others will find their tribe. Marjorie and Lorelei will remind each other that their curly hair rocks and they can be girly AND strong. So while my heart momentarily broke for Lorelei, I quickly realized my heart should rejoice. Because Lorelei will be forming her tribe soon that will help her tune out that outside noise. Lorelei will forever know and be reminded that tiny curls are amazing and porcelain skin is beautiful. We are all beautiful, in every way, every color, every body. So to my sweet Lorelei, never listen to the haters - find your tribe and know you are beautiful and amazing just as you are. It is never too early to start talking to your little ones about what makes us different. Knowing that we come in all different colors, faiths, bodies is a wonderful thing. Start embracing these differences before they hear the world tell them otherwise! Who knows, you might learn something! Sometimes our biggest lessons come from the tiniest messengers.  

    Body Image, Motherhood
  • Posted on March 8, 2017 4:27 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Today is International Women's Day. And I feel fat. Gasp. How could ¬†McCall Manning Dempsey, a positive body image speaker, feel fat? Oh the horror! Well, folks. We all have our days. But here is the difference. I know that fat isn't a feeling and that when I start thinking and having anxiety about my body, I know it is really about something SO much more (i.e. stressful move, work, tiny humans and cramps). As women, we are programmed by society to go to war with our bodies. Our bodies are seen as the solution to happiness and world peace. If we can whittle down to the perfect size, then we will find ultimate happiness. When I realized it was International Women's Day, I thought 'Hell yeah'. I thought about my personal she-ros: Ellen, Brene, Glennon, my mom, sister and countless friends. I thought about my daughter and nieces. I thought about my friends who are stay-at-home moms. I thought about my camp tribe, my therapist tribe, my high school tribe and my college tribe. I thought about the countless women who have shaped my life into what it is today. So many extraordinary women in my life. How blessed am I?! But no matter how awesome they are - each and every one of them knows what it means to feel fat - aka feel less than. It really isn't about feeling fat. I mean, seriously, how amazing is my body? How amazing is YOUR body? For me, it is about feeling less than. Because as a woman I am split into a million little pieces and jobs: the mom, the maid, the working mom, the carpool lady, the speaker, the writer, the wife, the dog groomer, the accountant..the woman, the myth, the legend. Being a woman is hard y'all. So damn right we get a day. I know everyone reading this can relate to being divided into a million pieces and feeling like you are so split you can't do one thing right because you are doing it all half ass. Well, today is about embracing our half ass(ness). Today is about holding up our countless jobs and responsibilities and shouting, "I am good enough. I am woman. Hear. ME. ROAR. Damn it." Today is about giving the middle finger to society's standards and saying, "I am awesome just as I am. My body is miraculous. My mind is exploding with intelligence and I AM WORTHY." I refuse to go to war on my body any more. I did that for years and guess what, I was a size perfect and I was MISERABLE. I was dying. I'll never forget feeling inferior when I was in my teens and twenties by men who would comment on my body as if it were some inanimate object, like a toaster. I was too ashamed to speak up. I wanted so badly to talk back to the sexist comments, screaming that my was not some new shiny convertible car they could comment on. Sadly, I didn't have a voice so instead I focused all of my energy on changing my body instead of changing the world like I was born to do. Well, not anymore. Today, my voice is strong. It may shake from time to time, but it shakes with passion. It shakes because I am using it. A voice can't shake if it is silent. I speak up and stand up for women today because I was once that silent girl, muted by society's standards. I'll spend the rest of my life speaking out for that girl. I will never stop screaming back at the gremlins in my own head who continue to tell me I'm not good enough. Because I am. I am not perfect, but I am worthy. Worthy of love, of belonging and worthy to have a voice and take up space on this planet. If you are at war with your body, if you are confused about women's day, then let me set the record straight. You do not have to be a civil rights leader or international activist to mark your place in history. You are marking your place right where you are by being who you are. You are cementing your place by standing up for others and yourself, wherever you are. Talk back to those gremlins, look in the mirror and say I am worthy. Because that is what International Women's Day is all about. Always remember you are WORTHY, valuable and loved just as you are. I no longer waste time feeling fat or unworthy because I'm too busy changing the world to change my body. Oh Happy day ladies!  

    Advocacy, Authentic, Body Image
  • Posted on February 22, 2017 8:02 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    My current state of mind is similar to that of six years ago when I leaping from treatment back out into the 'real' world... Journal entry (2.23.2016) "I am feeling lots of things. I am worried about work. I am kind of angry. I want to cry. I want to fall apart. I want to scream. I want to feel competent. I want to feel my age. I want to breathe. I want to feel like I haven't been forgotten. I don't want to be lost and behind. I want to stop this voice in my head. I feel scattered."  Okay, so maybe I'm not feeling everything I did six years ago today, but certainly can relate to the anxious, scattered and breathing part. Life is changing. Again. Sigh. Unlike my anxiety six years ago, today's anxiety comes with a big slice of confidence and joy. How is it possible for one person to feel so much joy and anxiety at once? I'm not sure. But it is where I am and I'm rocking it. Recently, I shared the news about my family's upcoming move. It is beyond bittersweet. But with this move come chaos. And I mean capital C-H-A-O-S. Our house will hit the market next week. Showings will begin and so will the inevitable scenario of putting the dirty laundry in the dryer, gathering the scattered toys in a box and putting them in the car as you drive around with shoeless kids in their jammies, as well as a dog and and rescue cat who thinks she is a dog. Since returning home from our amazing vacation, sleep has been hard to come by. Jordan and I wake at all points in the night. We talk and toss around, while we remove our son's foot from our face (ah the joys of sleeping with a five year old). We are taking a huge leap of faith with this move. It is scary. It is unknown. But it is necessary so we rise up and march on. As I am rising up and marching on, I am also inundated with the growth of my beloved Southern Smash. Walking upstairs to my office every day, makes me the richest person on earth. Certainly not monetary rich, but rich in the greater since - the one that makes your soul burst with joy. I pinch myself on the daily. I am doing the exact work God put me on this earth to do. And because of that, I know that no matter what curve ball life throws again (and again) my family and I will be okay. I will be okay. Because look at how far I've come. When I think back to six years ago, I am in awe of how brave I was - probably because I, at the time, had no idea of my courage and inner strength. I felt so many emotions and marched on. I knew recovery was out there and I wanted it. Bad. I knew I just had to keep marching falling forward to get there. Today, I feel so many emotions as I march on. This leap of faith (like all leaps) is scary. But I rely on my perseverance was born six years ago. I rely on the solid relationship and friendship I have with my soul mate and best friend. We have gone through much worse. Jordan and I can literally conquer anything together. In the past few weeks, I have talked with more people struggling than I can count, guiding each of them (and their families) to professional help. This evening I spoke with a young group of women gravely concerned for their best friend. They listened so intently and laughed as I cut a joke here and there. But what they didn't know is the tears that fell silently down my cheeks. I was once their friend praying for someone to tell me I needed help - that I deserved help and treatment. That my life mattered to them. I cried because I feel so damn blessed to be a listening ear and sounding board. I cried because I am so alive. I cried because I am so scared of what is to come. I cried because I love life and my family so damn much it hurts. I cried for the young woman six years ago who had no idea the extraordinary path God was laying before her. I cried because I was brave enough to walk that path. I cried because I get to pay it forward and help others every day. Life is terrifying and also filled with such joy. When I started Southern Smash, never did I imagine it would grow to this extent. Never did I see myself in an office where I spend hours on end and still never finish the job. My job will never be done because it isn't a job! Jordan asks me every morning, "What do you have to do today?" My response, "My job doesn't come with a to do list." My work is led by my calling, my fire and passion. We all have a fire. A calling. I found mine. Don't be afraid to chase yours. It is that fire that stops you in your tracks. A fire that hurts because you feel it so deep. A fire that can never be extinguished, no matter what leaps you take or where you move. Walk your path. Open your heart to others. Take leaps of faith. Life would be pretty boring if we all sat in the comfort zone. [Insanely gorgeous photo cred to the extraordinary Ileana of Attimi Photography]

    Authentic, Eating Disorder, Pay It Forward