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The Road to Healthy Eating: “Healing Your Hungry Heart” Author Joanna Poppink

(First of a three-part interview series)

When Joanna Poppink was 40, she faced a pivotal, critical decision – do I continue to feed bulimia, or do I make a choice in how I eat?HHH

The crossroads to which the author of the wonderful book Healing Your Hungry Heart came is familiar. The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that 20 million women and 10 million men will have dealt with one of hree eating disorders – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating – at some point in their lives.

In a culture where up to 60% of elementary school girls are concerned with their weight, the seeds are planted deeply. They are fertilized to alarming and sometimes fatal levels by media messages and concepts of attractiveness that openly espouse the super-thin.

Joanna made major changes in her life during her 30s. When she entered her 40s, she dealt with her bulimia head-on. “So much of my energy and thinking and behaviors went into maintaining my eating disorder,” she says. “If it were free for something else I could do vast things in the world.  That thought gave me real hope and incentive for the first time.”

Today, Joanna works with people struggling with eating disorders as a therapist. She also has written Healing Your Hungry Heart, part-memoir, part-prescriptive and part-self help and exercise, which gets right to her point about the origin of eating disorders – at the heart level. Learning to love and trust ourselves, she says, is a most critical step for coming to grips with any eating issue.

On this holiday season, when food consumption is higher than normal, we present a very special and exclusive three-part interview with Joanna. Once read, if you know someone who is in a difficult situation with their eating, please pass along this link or provide information on Healing the Hungry Heart.

Healing Your Hungry Heart author Joanna Poppink

Healing Your Hungry Heart author Joanna Poppink

WORDJOURNEYS.COM: Joanna, tell us briefly about your professional background, and when you started working with people with eating disorders.

JOANNA POPPINK: I was a returning student in the 70’s. I finished my B.A. at UCLA and Masters at Antioc, majoring in psychology. Then years of internships. I passed the licensing exam, and the State of California gave me my MFT license. Partly because of my age, partly because of my interests and partly because of luck as I advanced in my studies, I befriended senior clinicians at UCLA and at psychoanalytic institutions.

Bulimia was in the process of being discovered.  I had suffered with bulimia since I was 13 and was new in the mental health profession.  My friends had decades of experience in the mental health profession but knew nothing really about bulimia.

WJ.COM: Yet, because of being in a crowd of senior clinicians, you started talking with each other about it.

JP: Because we cared about each other as friends and respected each others’ minds we talked openly and in depth about the symptoms and experience of bulimia – my part, and how that could relate developmentally and psychologically to what was known about normal and abnormal human development (their part). I had no idea just how rich and powerful these conversations would be in furthering our knowledge about the illness and what it takes to recover.  They benefited us and the people we would work with for years to come.

My working with eating disorder patients developed gradually as my own recovery progressed and people who had children with eating disorders and then adult women with eating disorders began to find me.  It was years later that I decided to specialize in the field.

WJ.COM: When you were 40, you came face to face with your own bulimia. How did that happen?

JP: No one knew I was bulimic.  I ask myself the question you are asking and many people have asked.  My answer changes over the years as my awareness grows. I thought the change came, when, after cleaning myself up after a purge, I thought, “What could I do with all this energy I use for my eating disorder if I used it for something else?”

My answer staggered me.  So much of my energy and thinking and behaviors went into maintaining my eating disorder. If it were free for something else I could do vast things in the world.  That thought gave me real hope and incentive for the first time.  That’s when I told a few trusted people in my life I was bulimic and got love and support instead of my expected rejection. That’s when my healing work started in earnest.

WJ.COM: Yet, the seeds for this recognition and healing started a few years before, when you were 32.

JP: Yes they did. Starting at 32, I began to earn my own trust.  I went back to school and got degrees. I made rich friendships with quality people in my profession. I discovered I could learn and that people respected me and what I had to say. I gave talks at conferences and led seminars. People were glad to come and listen.  Colleagues invited me to do more. I made enough money to support myself and my child. I was building a belief in myself that I was valuable, competent and strong.

WJ.COM: How do you look back on that now?

JP: I believe I was creating value, competence and strength in myself. When it was solid enough, I could ask myself the eating disorder question that set me on my path to recovery and freedom. When the pain of early recovery work unleashed itself, I had wonderful friends to hold me with Sunday brunches and walks in nature, and even a recovering alcoholic psychiatrist who shared his story and the power of 12-step.

All that had to be in place before I was ready to begin.  Even my therapist was in place.  She was my supervisor and agreed to become my therapist when I told her I was bulimic.

I suppose the quick answer to your question is that I created the healing and recovery environment I would need to go through recovery.  When that environment was complete my inner dams burst and the healing environment held.

WJ.COM: Since bulimia was barely on the medical recognition map, it took a lot of self-discovery, fortuitous events and people dropping into your life to set out on your recovery path. It’s far easier today.

JP: Today, with so much more known about eating disorders, people don’t have to wait as long as I did to find a healing environment that can hold them as they work for recovery.  Clinicians and treatment centers abound and are ready to work with eating disorder clients.

WJ.COM: You cover far more ground in Healing Your Hungry Heart than any other book on eating disorders I’ve ever seen. Why do you feel it’s so vital to approach this situation with 360-degree vision versus symptomatically?

JP: When a person’s eating disorder begins, a good chunk of normal development stops. The eating disorder behavior moves her mind away from stressful situations that develop in normal life.  She learns to deal with stress by using her eating disorder to go numb rather than feel, assess, communicate and learn, as her life grows more complex over the years.

Often a person with an eating disorder feels very young and acts with teen-ager and even infantile responses. She’s not trying to be cute. That’s her immature response.

Real and lasting recovery involves picking up development where it left off and supporting healthy development as it occurs for the first time.  When she gives up her symptoms, she’s given up her coping style.  This is a frightening and vulnerable place to be.  Yet it’s essential that she get to this psychological place so that she can learn anew what it means to be a mature woman.

Through the exercises at the end of each chapter and the chronological development of the chapters in Healing Your Hungry Heart, I did my best to give the reader a graduated pathway to develop her own personhood.  Once that is well on its way, she has no need for an eating disorder. She has much more effective ways of dealing with the complexities of an adult life.

(Part 2 of the Joanna Poppink interview will post on Friday, Dec. 13)

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A Change of Pace: New Blogs, Author Interviews, The Legacy Series Magazine Release

• Word Journeys Media

• Blog Interview with Author August McLaughlin on Dec. 12

• The Legacy Series Magazine Releases Nationally on Dec. 10

For the past five years, we’ve presented a wide variety of topics on the Word Journeys Blog. Much of it revolved around the writing profession, practice and book publishing industry, but we also wrote blogs on culture, travel, surfing, running, and many other topics.

Starting in January, we’re going to expand our reach — while more tightly focusing this blog. Our new blog, Word Journeys Media, will focus on industry-specific topics for writers, publishers, literary agents and others. It will be tied to the new wing of Word Journeys, which will specialize in promotional, publicity, marketing and consultation services for authors.

Among the Word Journeys Media services will be the 360 Book Publicity Suite. We’re partnering with Innovative Properties Worldwide to present this sweeping press release and publicity service for authors that connects their new books with up to 300,000 media, online, blog, book review and industry destinations — a reach most publishers can’t match. It also provides deep social media connection and establishment of the author as an expert on their subject in the eyes of the media. More on this in a special announcement blog next week. Write me at ryehling@wordjourneys.com if you’re interested in learning more.

• • •

Meanwhile, the Word Journeys blog will offer more author interviews, book reviews, and pieces that celebrate life and the writing lifestyle. We’ve just become a part of a number of major book blog tours, so get ready to meet some of the authors who are producing the latest fiction, non-fiction and children’s titles.  I was inspired to take this approach by Santana drummer Michael Shrieve, who hosts a weekly radio show, “Notes from the Field with Michael Shrieve,” that features, well, conversations with other musicians. His recent interview with Rush drummer Neil Peart was truly extraordinary.

We will begin our greater focus on authors next Wednesday, December 12, when we sit down with August McLaughlin, author of In Her Shadow, a psychological thriller that releases in January. This interview is part of The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. August recently contributed to The Legacy Series Magazine, which I edited. August is an exceptional writer with one of the most entertaining and informative (and, at times, spiciest) blogs, “Savor The Storm” 

So be sure to stop by The Word Journeys blog on Wednesday to meet August.

• • •

The other big event next week is the release of The Legacy Series Magazine: Celebrating Technology & Innovation. It releases on newsstands nationwide on Monday, Dec. 10. In the year since I took on the editing job for this publication, I have learned so much about our relationship with technology, how the craftiest and most visionary innovators turn their ideas into reality, and just how far we’ve come in technology — and still have to go. To paraphrase IT expert Mary Meeker’s take on the status of mobile apps, we’re still in spring training.

As one who was born in 1959, the year the transistor first started shipping, I’d have to say we’ve come pretty far. In fact, if you told someone in 1959 that they could watch TV on their computer, or text, or run one of more than 1.4 million applications off a portable palm-sized phone, they’d say two words: “science fiction.”

The Legacy Series Magazine is a fun, fun read. We feature incisive, expert-driven looks at the future of publishing, social media, filmmaking, cloud computing, tablets and much more. We built this issue around the legacy of the late Steve Jobs, who as Apple’s CEO revolutionized and/or redefined eight specific industries with his inventions, products and innovations — the most since Thomas Edison. The more I learned about Jobs from those who knew him best, such as Ken Segall, bestselling author of Insanely Simple and the man who came up with the “i” branding concept for Apple products, the more deeply I appreciated what Jobs did for our lives.

We talked with a lot of industry experts. My favorite conversations took place with Chris Voss, host of the Chris Voss Show and a Forbes magazine Top 50 Social Media influencer; Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, co-star of Shark Tank and co-owner of Magnolia Pictures and AXS-TV; Jeanniey Mullen, executive VP of Zinio, the world’s foremost distributor of digital magazine content; Beth Comstock, senior VP of GE and the mastermind of the hulu.com TV website when she headed the digital division at NBC Universal; Dr. Gustavo Rabin, author of Becoming A Leader; and Craig Perkins, winner of the 2012 iPhone Film Festival. You’d be amazed at the cinematic quality iPhones have!

You can pre-order a copy of The Legacy Series Magazine, and receive 50% off the newsstand price.  Go to www.legacyseriesmagazine.com and visit the online store to place your order.

• • •

Finally, I’d be remiss in failing to mention two holiday gift ideas that I had a major hand in creating:

“The Champion’s Way,” which I co-wrote with Dr. Steve Victorson, offers a unique insight into the 11 characteristics all great champions share in common — whether sports champions, business icons, chart-topping entertainers and musicians, or champions in other walks of life. Our revised edition includes an update from the Summer Olympic games. You can order it by going to our website at http://thechampionsway.com.

“The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Enhance Your Writing Life.” I compiled and wrote this book to offer 366 unique, story-driven writing exercises that are guaranteed to increase your range and versatility, whether you’re a middle school student, teacher, or professional writer. There are exercises for virtually every fiction and non-fiction genre, along with “workouts” for poets, screenwriters, lyricists and essayists. I compiled the exercises developed during 10 years of teaching writing workshops, and added some fun asides you will find on every page — inspiring quotes, author birthdays, and much more. You can pick it up by going to http://www.penandpublish/writetime.

 

 

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12 Days of Christmas … In Writing

(EDITOR’S NOTE: I originally posted this in 2007, but it’s one of those blogs with renewed relevance this time of year.)

For those who celebrate Christmas, we’re moving towards the Twelve Days of Christmas, a measure immortalized in our culture by 12 pipers piping, 11 drummers drumming…and a partridge in a pear tree.

This is a time of family get-togethers, gift giving and receiving, traveling to meet friends and relatives, holiday parties, dealing with snowy and icy road conditions (or perfect beach days in California!), drinking egg nog, and other observances of the season. It’s also a time of heightened emotions, poignant feelings, remembering those we’ve lost, appreciating and honoring more fully those who may not be with us much longer. We can also luxuriate in the feeling of a new love kindled, or celebrate a love held and strengthened for many years.

Because of the heightened emotion and sense of presence the holiday season often brings, the time can also be ideal for writers, artists and musicians to lay down new stories, poems, paintings, sculptures, drawings and lyrics.  It’s always such a joy to chronicle the season, to find nuances, angles or relationships, match them with setting and write your own Christmas or holiday stories.

I’d like to share 12 pointers ad prompts on writing Christmas stories:

1)    What moves you this season?

2)    What event, person or circumstance stirs you and reminds you of the most important values and virtues of the season?

3)    Ask an older relative about his/her first Christmas that he/she remembers. Create a short story around that setting.

4)    Take your older relative’s memory and compare it with a modern-day Christmas. Note the differences … but also the similarities.

5)    What is the most surprising Christmas present you’ve ever received? How did it change your day, week, year or life?

6)    Who is the craziest person ever invited to a Christmas event you attended or held? What made them crazy? What did they add to the day? Characterize them as they interacted with you.

7)    What was (is) your favorite Christmas dream or fantasy? Hanging on the North Pole with Santa? Building toys? Hijacking the reindeer for a joy ride unlike any other? Become childlike for a couple of hours and write a fantastical story.

8)    Spend the next two weeks capturing specific images of this particular season in your journal – settings, faces, moods, storms, twinkling lights. Write little vignettes or poems, then string them together into a commemorative chapbook of your holiday season.

9)    Where is the coolest place you’ve ever spent Christmas? Deep in a snowbound New Hampshire forest? Rubbing your toes in Hawaiian sand? Take yourself back there and write a Christmas travelogue.

10) We all seek to extend helping hands to the less fortunate during this season. Remember the person who needed your help the most – and received it? What was his/her story? Recount the story, with your interaction as the plot line. Show the dance of giving and receiving in its most significant form.

11) During which holiday season were you immersed in the deepest love of your life? This season? Or another? Take your lover by the hand (literally or in words), walk to a fireplace, sit or lay down with each other, and write as if you’re staring into your lover’s eyes and every word is a beat of your heart. Go deep. Feel all. Be smoking hot. Embrace the love.

12) Dig into your stocking of ideas, pull out some of them, and treat yourself to the special gift of storying out these ideas, either entirely or in preparation for a fast start to the new writing season.

See what you can write in the Twelve Days of Christmas. Let us hear about the collection you put together!

 

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Emerging From A White Christmas

Sometimes, all the forces just seem to come together. Our first full-family Christmas in ten years — and in fifteen years, if you count my mother’s grandkids, now all adults — turned into one of those days people write entire books trying to capture or experience through their words.
We gathered on the western slope of Colorado, heading in from all directions by car. I had some interesting experiences along the way: discussing poetry and the writing of a memoir with a 78-year-old woman suffering from terminal liver cancer; running stride-for-hop with a quartet of kangaroos at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis (now there’s a story — running with kangaroos in December in St. Louis?); staying the night in Hays, Kansas, where many scenes from my favorite movie, Dances With Wolves, were filmed; heading through the Rockies on a blustery day in which fresh snow honeycombed off the tallest peaks; and reminiscing about the last time I was in the heart of the Rockies — December 1999, when a freckle-faced 12-year-old redhead nearly stole Vans Snowboard Halfpipe event at Breckenridge from the world’s greatest pros. His name? Shaun White. He’s dominated the sport since, in the same way Kelly Slater owned surfing and Tony Hawk — like Shaun, from my hometown of Carlsbad, Calif. — defined skateboarding.
We gathered to celebrate together and honor my mother, who’s fighting cancer. She showed up with a sleigh-load of presents, and everyone in the room conveyed a spirit of life I haven’t seen in my family in ages. With a couple inches of snow on the ground, it looked like we’d experience something my mother hasn’t seen in 40 years — a White Christmas, even if that was gauged by standing snow.
I awoke at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning. I looked outside the window. Snow. After writing a short-story and a poem, my creative faculties revved up from the day and the weather activity, I looked outside the window again. It was dumping. It fell on the city of Montrose as though a single cloud dumped the White Christmas for my mother’s benefit. It kept going right through Christmas services, through a mid-day gift opening and up until dinner, some 12 inches later. All of the surrounding areas received four or five inches, including the nearby mountains. I looked at my mother. “You brought the magic of the day,” I said.
As one who follows tradition about as often as freezing rain falls in Hawaii, I found myself slipping into the whole deal — Christmas carols, snowball fights, making snow angels, writing down names of people who gave me gifts to send thank-you cards, shooting photos, telling tales of Christmasses past, talking with my nieces and nephew about things that mattered to them.
I also learned something that warmed my heart: my two nieces are going to fly high in the creative arts and communications, one a fabulous photographer, the other a very good writer and graphic designer. To see their work, and to learn my books have been circulating in their classrooms, really brought home the purpose of writing … to express and share a window with others.
It was one of those Christmas days about which people dream. One thing is for certain — I will be writing more about it. Next winter, images from this day will either be in print or in an e-book.
One final note about our White Christmas: The 12-inch snowfall in Montrose was the most for a Christmas Day since 1895. For a day, the matriarch of our family wove her magic … and we celebrated the greatest gift of all, living fully.

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Twelve Days of Christmas…in Writing

For those who celebrate Christmas, today marks the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas, a measure immortalized in our culture by 12 pipers piping, 11 drummers drumming…and a partridge in a pear tree.

This is a time of family get-togethers, gift giving and receiving, traveling to meet friends and relatives, dealing with snowy and icy road conditions, drinking egg nog, and other observances of the season. It’s also a time of heightened emotions, poignant feelings, remembering those we’ve lost, appreciating and honoring more fully those who may not be with us much longer, and luxuriating in the feeling of a new love kindled.

Because of the heightened emotion and sense of presence the holiday season often brings, the time can also be ideal for writers, artists and musicians to lay down new stories, poems, paintings, sculptures, drawings and lyrics. It’s always such a joy to chronicle the season, to find nuances, angles or relationships, match them with setting and write your own Christmas or holiday stories.

I’ll be teaching a Christmas story-writing workshop Tuesday night, always an enjoyable occasion. In advance of that event, I’d like to share 12 prompts for writing Christmas stories:

1. What moves you this season?
2. What event, person or circumstance stirs you and reminds you of the most important values and virtues of the season?
3. Ask an older relative about his/her first Christmas that he/she remembers—and create a short story around that setting
4. Take your older relative’s memory and compare it with a modern-day Christmas. Note the differences … but also the similarities.
5. What is the most surprising Christmas present you’ve ever received—and how did it change your day, week, year or life?
6. Who is the craziest person ever invited to a Christmas event you attended? What made them crazy? What did they add to the day? Characterize them as they interacted with you?
7. What was (is) your favorite Christmas dream or fantasy? Hanging on the North Pole with Santa? Building toys? Hijacking the reindeer? Become childlike for a couple of hours and write a fantasical story
8. Spend the next two weeks capturing specific images of this particular season in your journal — settings, faces, moods, storms, twinkling lights. Write little vignettes or poems, then string them together into a commemorative chapbook of your holiday season.
9. Where is the coolest place you’ve ever spent Christmas? Deep in a snowbound New Hampshire forest? Rubbing your toes in Hawaiian sand? Take yourself back there and write a Christmas travelogue.
10. We all seek to extend helping hands to the less fortunate during this season. Remember the person who needed your help the most—and received it? What was his/her story? Recount the story, with your interaction as the plot line. Show the dance of giving and receiving in its most significant form.
11. During which holiday season were you immersed in the deepest love of your life? This season? Or another? Take your lover by the hand (literally or in words), walk to a fireplace, sit or lie with each other, and write as if you’re staring into your lover’s eyes and every word is a beat of your heart. Go deep. Feel all. Be smoking hot. Embrace the love.
12. Dig into your stocking of ideas, pull out some of them, and treat yourself to the special gift of storying out these ideas, either entirely or in preparation for a fast start to the 2008 writing season.

See what you can write during these Twelve Days of Christmas … and I look forward to hearing all about the collection you put together!

Buy Now!
Writes of Life: Using Personal Experiences In Everything You Write — $10.95
Coyotes in Broad Daylight: New Poetry & Essays — $11.95
Shades of Green: Selected Poetry & Essays — $11.95
Freedom of Vision, edited by Stephen Gladish and Robert Yehling — $15.95
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http://www.amazon.com

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