• 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 January 13, 2016 3:38 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Yesterday, in between work emails and changing diapers, I received a text message that stopped me dead in my tracks: "I'm being admitted Thursday at 10:30...relieved but scared." An admission date and time was finally bestowed upon a sweet young woman I've been helping. Reading her text brought back those same emotions I felt on when I admitted to the Carolina House over five years ago. Fear, relief, sadness, excitement. So many emotions, too many to sort through. You just want to get there and get started. I remember my admission day like it was yesterday. Thanks to Delta's stellar service, I missed my connecting flight in Atlanta. The delay did not put me into Raleigh until after 5pm, which was too late to start the admission process. The domino effect was devastating, I was put up in a hotel (where I would later stay on partial) and spent the night alone. My two bags weighed more than me and I had to lug them around the hotel and up a flight of stairs. Dinner seemed pointless. Why make an effort? I'm going to eating disorder treatment tomorrow, I should at least live up to the part. I decided to try my luck at popcorn. I burned through two bags, before giving up and just nibbling around the black pieces. I got into my pajamas and tried FaceTiming with Jordan. Immediately, we both started to cry so we hung up and decided to spend our night talking on the phone. Hours later, my anxiety still hadn't received the memo that it was time for bed. I laid awake all night, staring at the glow of the TV: Jay Leno, Friends reruns, CNN and even infomercials. There was no need to set an alarm. I was already up when the sun rose that morning. The dusty white mini-van pulled into the hotel's driveway. The cold winter air took my breath away as I stepped out of the hotel lobby. I heaved my luggage out the door and thought, "This is it. I'm finally doing this. Here goes nothing." I had my 'first day of treatment' outfit on. Yes, I methodically planned my first day outfit. I was still of the disordered mindset that I had to appear pulled together. I even held a confident and engaging conversation with the van driver on our way to the Carolina House as if she and I were long time friends. On the outside, I appeared as if nothing was wrong. Of course, I wasn't going to treatment for what was on the outside. It was my inside that was dying. Eventually, the mini-van pulled down a small two lane road and then turned right onto a long gravel driveway. There it was, the Carolina House, a beautiful yellow farmhouse sitting peacefully in the woods. My anxiety turned on and my heart began to race, as I was led to the office for admission paperwork and too many HIPPA forms to count. "Oh shit, this is real," I thought to myself. "Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. What have I done." My panic turned into fear as they guided me to the kitchen for lunchtime. It was buzzing with women preparing lunches and staff checking off exchanges and approving portions. I actually thought that I could 'opt out' of lunch. Yes, this would be my mind set for the first week or so: "Oh, thank you, but I'll pass on this meal...Thanks, but I don't 'do' group therapy...Thanks so much for this opportunity, but I'm going home now." No such luck. I was not able to opt-out of lunch that day. I picked apart my safe, dry turkey sandwich with one slice of cheese. I wanted to run. And I actually tried to. A few hours after lunch, I was informed there was a group outing that afternoon. Once again, I tried to opt-out, telling the staff I should really stay back alone and unpack. Apparently, I thought I had checked into the Holiday Inn. Most fear dessert day when they go to treatment, I feared art therapy. And as fate would have it that was exactly what I had to do on my first day of treatment. It was an art therapy outing to the Scrap Exchange, a place in downtown Durham that offers a variety of crap, I mean scrap for you to use for art projects. We loaded into  the fifteen passenger van and all I could think of is that scene from Girl Interrupted, where they all go out for ice cream into town. I suddenly realized I was living out my fear: I was the crazy girl in the van from the looney bin. We are those crazy people going to town, I thought. What have I gotten myself into and how can I get myself out. What the staff didn't know at the time, is that I still had my cell phone. I was clutching on to it for dear life in the deep pockets of my bright red pea coat. I snuck my phone out and text Jordan this was a mistake and not to worry because I was going to fix it. I always had a plan. Enter: Southwest app. Fantastic! There is a flight out tonight. I can catch a cab to the airport from this scrap place. Peace out. Mistake fixed. Problem solved. We piled out of the van and walked into the Scrap Exchange. My anxiety was rapidly rising in my chest. I turned to the RPA and told her I needed a minute alone and asked her if I could step outside. I walked ran outside, hoping for just a minute alone, but the RPA was hot on my tail. I spun around when we got outside and said, "Can I puh-lease just have a minute by myself?" No such luck. I then put on my Corporate America working woman face and said, "Thank you so very much for this opportunity. The Carolina House and their staff have been fantastic, but there has been a mistake. You see, I'm not that bad. I really don't need this level of care like the women inside. I need to go now." The kind RPA, Mary, saw past my front and began to speak in her calm, soft voice. She questioned why I came, if I didn't need this help? I told her I came for my husband. And she said that recovery would be worth this journey and hardship. I softened a little and somewhere deep down I believed her. I knew I needed this help and I knew I deserved recovery. I released the death grip on my phone in my pocket and walked back inside to dreaded art therapy. The fear that ran through my veins that first day is still palpable today. I felt like such a failure that day. Twenty-nine years old, no job and admitting myself to treatment for an eating disorder that didn't seem 'bad' enough to be in treatment for in the first place. What I didn't know five years ago that I know today, is how extraordinarily brave I was to walk through the doors of the Carolina House. While yesterday's text message brought me back to that first day, baby squeals and dinner duties brought me back to my present life. Cooking dinner once seemed like a foreign concept, having food in the house was frightening. The life I have created for myself today is something I never believed was possible for me. I thought I was destined to hate my body and always be at war with food. Little did I know that person I thought was a failure, was so brave in taking that massive leap of faith that has led her to the extraordinary reality I live in today. So to my precious friend who will walk through the Carolina House doors tomorrow, I say this: Do not walk with fear because you are not alone. Trust the extraordinary team around you. Do not be afraid to be sad, anxious or angry. You are safe. Let yourself feel. Let out your burdens and hand them over. Open your heart to the help and gift of recovery. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. And most of all, be kind to yourself. The path to recovery is long and bumpy, but the ride is glorious and filled with beautiful color. I am so incredibly proud of you. Sending you lots of hope and love, McCall And don't forget to vote for Loving Imperfection as the Best Health Blog of 2015. It takes ONE SECOND and does not post to your Facebook, I promise! My blog is in first, but needs your vote every day! First place gets $1,000, which will all go to Southern Smash. Help us raise money and continue our efforts to spread positive body image and eating disorder education! Thank you for your continued love and support - I send it all right back to you <3

    About, Body Image, Carolina House
  • Posted on December 6, 2015 3:24 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    12.07.2010 "...happy birthday dear McCall. Happy birthday to you." As the birthday song ended, I leaned over and blew out the candles teetering atop the chocolate¬†cake. I smiled and made a wish just like a good girl should. But on this particular birthday five years ago, my wish was drastically different than previous years. I wished¬†to disappear. I was dying inside and just days away from entering treatment. But instead of running, I continued¬†to expend my limited¬†energy to make everyone believe I was okay. I couldn't bear to hurt my family. I come from good Cajun genes, which means any birthday (or Flag Day) calls for a reason to eat, drink and celebrate. My family was and is still a very close family, but the one thing we lacked was communication. Remember birthdays when you were younger? You would countdown and wake up giddy. That giddiness vanished for me¬†during¬†my early adolescent years. Each year I became less and less excited about my birthday. I did not remind friends and family or ask for specific presents or even birthday meals. I took whatever meal my mom suggested or whatever restaurant my friends wanted. I said thank you and waited for the day to pass. I never wanted anyone to go out of their way for me because I did not feel worthy. But on the other hand, I also did not want to set expectations that people would remember and do something nice only to be let down.¬†My friends and family were really fighting a losing battle when it came to me and my birthday. So there I was 29-years old and unable to tell my family not just how I felt, but that I had no desire to celebrate. In one week I would be entering treatment. I had just quit my job and I honestly thought my life was over. I wanted it to be over. I wanted to crawl under the covers until it was time to be admitted to the Carolina House. The last thing I wanted or felt like I deserved was to be celebrated on my birthday. But instead, I showered and got dressed like a good girl. I ate lobster, drank wine and yes, even ate cake. Chocolate doberge to be exact. For years, I said this was my favorite cake, but actually, it is not. Recovery not only uncovers who you are as a person, but your likes and dislikes as well. Turns out, I'm not as much of a sweet tooth as I once thought I was. I prefer a good bag of Zapp's chips over a slice of cake any day. In years past, it has been difficult to reflect back on this time of year. The memories, the pain and the painted on smiles. This year, however, brings up a completely different feeling... peace. After years (and a lot of therapy and tears), I have made peace with that woman who was so sick, but silenced with a fake smile. There is no animosity towards my family's lack of communication and emotional empathy. In fact, I feel a large sense of pride in my family. One of the most important and applicable lessons Mary, my therapist, ever told me in regards to processing the past was that I was doing the best I could back then. We were ALL doing the best we could. Yes, my family sucked at communicating. And yes, I have felt (and processed) quite a bit of anger in grieving my past and the 'what could have beens' in my life.¬†But it all circles back to this: I was doing the best I could. They were doing the best they could. We often¬†reflect on our past and criticize decisions and mistakes we've made. Sometimes we even hold grudges at others for the negative roles they played in our lives. While honoring and processing through our anger and grief is an important part of one's journey to health and peace, we must also forgive ourselves and others. Reframing the past and knowing that we were all doing the best we could, helps bring peace and healing¬†to our lives. I genuinely believe and know that my family didn't know any better and I certainly did not have the words to tell them. We were all doing the best we could with the limited tools we had. But here's where my massive pride comes in: my family has not been afraid to step up to the plate and acknowledge the scars of the past. We all did (and are doing) the really tough work, individually and together,¬†to¬†strengthen not just our communication skills, but our family bond as well. So tomorrow on my birthday, I am not afraid to say, "Yep. It's my birthday. I want to go out (sans children) and celebrate." Technically, my hubby is taking me out tonight so I get to celebrate two days. And why not?! I deserve it! We all get one day a year and we all deserve to celebrate it - even me. This year, the last thing I wish for is to disappear. I am so grateful to my family and friends who celebrated me all those years even when I wished otherwise. My birthday wish five years ago did not come true and thank goodness it did not. What a fantastic life I would be missing out on. Today,¬†I am fully present in my messy, imperfect life and I can't imagine not being here. I guess there's nothing left to say, except happy birthday to me! Cheers! (Special thank you to the extraordinarily talented¬†Jeannie Frey Rhodes for the amazing photos of my babies - all my babies.)  

    Authentic, Carolina House, Eating Disorder
  • Posted on October 25, 2015 11:20 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    "What do you want to be, McCall? Where is that fire inside telling you to go?" I was 18-years old and just weeks away from starting college. My mom and I were driving to orientation and talking about my future. It was one of those moments and conversations I will forever remember. I wanted nothing more than to blurt out, "I want to be in front of people. I have a fire inside me, momma, to speak and help others. The fire is there. I'm not sure exactly what it is saying yet, but it is there." But instead, I shrugged my shoulders and mumbled, "I dunno. I'll figure it out." It was the first time I vividly remember being muted by my eating disorder/inner critic. It yelled in my ear, "You're not good enough to stand out. People will think you are weird. You'll be lucky if you fit in." My eating disorder dulled my fire and stole my voice. Fifteen years later, I am anything but ordinary. I do not fit in. I stand out. Not because I am a famous actress, but because I am me - authentically and unapologetically me. I knew all along what I was meant to be and do; okay, maybe not exactly smashing scales and speaking about my eating disorder, but I knew in my soul that I had a calling. It took years of self-discovery and learning to listen to that fire inside to make my way here. People often ask me, "How did you start speaking?" "How did you start Southern Smash?" Either they are curious or they too want to give back and pay it forward. My answer is simple and probably leaves them uninspired. I tell them to follow that fire inside, that intangible thing that burns in your belly. It pulls you onto and along your path, but you have to allow it. The fire is undeniably there, but so incredibly difficult to follow. What if you fail? What if you fall? What if you don't do it perfect? Or worst of all, what if people judge you? I don't have a how-to guide on how I got here or where I am going. Sometimes I wish I had a guide for the future endeavors I have on my Life To Do list - i.e. write a book. I mean, seriously, how does one write a book? It seems like such a daunting task. I've had countless people tell me to write a book. And I want to write one. But what would I say? Never mind, that's a dumb question. Clearly, I would not have trouble filling pages. The question is more along the lines of, "How am I going to overcome those critical gremlins telling me that I am not good enough?" Answer: Just Do It. Shit, Nike already copyrighted that. Okay, how about: Just Write It. Yes, write. Simple enough, right? Write, right? Aside from the gremlins that say I'm not good enough, it is also the daunting mountain of uncertainty. Here is my pattern when something feels overwhelmingly difficult and my perfectionism kicks in: I put it on my Post-It note to do list and then find 1,385 other chores to do before getting to it. (AKA: Procrastination) It is amazing how clean my office and house become when I have something scary on that Post-It note. The item remains on the to do list for months sometimes a year. It feels too big to tackle, but I want  to cross it off so bad. I almost think the item will complete itself if I leave it on my neon post it note long enough. NEWSFLASH: Things don't get done just because they are on a Post-It. AND not everything belongs on a Post-It. Post-It notes are where desires go to die. I have learned I can't put things I am afraid of on a Post-It, I simply have to dive in and do them. Post-It notes are for dry cleaning and OB/GYN appointment reminders, not for your life mission and goals. I never put Southern Smash on a Post-It. I just took a massive leap of faith and followed my fire - just like I did with recovery. There were many people who did not understand what I was doing or why I was doing it, but I didn't care. I had to do it. I HAD to follow my fire. I knew well enough by then, that I could no longer ignore that fire in my soul. Southern Smash, speaking, writing. I had been silenced for so many years and was erupting with self-discovery. I wanted to share every minute of it. Lately, I have found myself erupting once again. I want to write a book. I want to continue helping others and keep paying it forward. I want to keep living my life's mission and fueling my fire within. I also want to meet Ellen Degeneres and Brene Brown, but I guess I'll start with the book and put them on my Post-It for now. We are all born with that fire inside. It is up to us to listen and answer it.  No matter how many times we try to ignore it, it will keep erupting. Don't be afraid to go out and chase that dream, follow that passion and fire. So there you go, Momma. Eighteen years later I have an answer to your question. The fire within has been burning for years and is now erupting. There is no stopping it or containing it. Well, I guess there is nothing left to say except... Chapter One.

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