Mindful Monday 011


Happy Monday once again luminaries! Welcome to another installment of Mindful Monday here at Illuminated By U! Today’s yoga asana is a big of a tricky balancing posture, so if you’re not quite able to get the balance and hold it, no worries, just focus on your breath and calming yourself for the week ahead in one of our previous postures. As always, please consult your physician prior to beginning this or any other exercise regiment.

Warrior 3/virabhadrasana III is an intermediate standing balancing posture that while dynamic, creates stability throughout the entire body. It improves balance, posture, full-body coordination, and concentration.

Begin once again standing at the top of your mat with your feet hip distance apart and your hands by your sides. Step your legs wide apart while keeping your alignment and turning your front foot 90 degrees towards the top of your mat and your back foot 45 degrees inward. Point your pelvis and your midsection in the same direction as your front leg/toes are pointing towards the top of your mat. Slowly bend your front knee, keeping it slightly behind or stacked above your front ankle, avoiding allowing it to protrude beyond the ankle towards the toes to avoid injuries and bring your arms towards the sky to bring yourself into warrior 1.

Press your weight into your front foot and left your back leg as you simultaneously lower your torso and chest. Work to bring your lifted leg, mid section, and arms into a line that is parallel to the ground and reaches forward, flexing your back foot, keeping your entire body engaged. Gaze at the floor a few feet ahead of you, and keep a slight bend in your balancing left to avoid locking your knee. Hold this pose for 30 seconds keeping your engagement, focus, balance, and breath in mind. To modify you can do this facing towards a wall and gently place your hands on it to help keep your balance as needed.

Alo Yogaalo-logo@AloYoga



Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Review by Catherine Cottam

The Gifts of Imperfection was published in 2010 by Hazelden Publishing in Center City, Minnesota and was written by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W..  Its full title is “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life).  It is a fascinating and inspiring read and, at only 130 pages, it doesn’t take too long to read.  I learned about Brené Brown at some point during graduate school when someone showed me her first TED Talk.  I wish I could remember who so that I could give them full credit here because I have loved her ever since.  I’ve watched her TED talks dozens of times each and have read all but one of her books so far (I plan on reading the latest soon).

In the preface, Dr. Brown explains that you must love yourself before you can live a wholehearted life.  She says, “Knowledge is important, but only if we’re being kind and gentle with ourselves as we work to discover who we are.”  Knowledge itself is self-awareness while knowledge and kindness together are self-love.  She also establishes that what happens when we marry, divorce, become a parent, move, become empty nesters, retire, experience a loss or a trauma, work in a soul-sucking job, receive a medical diagnosis, or have a health crisis is an unraveling rather than a midlife crisis.  It’s “a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re ‘supposed’ to live.  The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.”  I so identify with that because I certainly felt unraveled when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, but the letting go of who I think I’m supposed to be and embracing who I am isn’t done yet three years post diagnosis, so maybe the unraveling is an ongoing process rather than a single event.

One of my favorite things Dr. Brown says is that “owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”  She even has an online course where you can learn more about this.  I took the course that she co-facilitated with Glennon Doyle Melton on Courage Works and it was a transformative experience to hear the two of them interact and talk about storytelling.

Brown also says, “I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”  Wow!  That is so profoundly true but hard to grasp.  How do we make ourselves truly believe that we are worthy?  If you have ideas on this, let me know in the comments section.  I’m personally still searching for ways to believe in my worth.

Brené writes, “Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.  Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.  Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”  This doesn’t discount her theory that we should only tell our story at the right place at the right time to the right person, it just means that when all of those conditions are met, it’s best to be vulnerable and authentic about ourselves and our stories.  Brown states that sharing our shame story with the wrong person or people is dangerous and that “they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.”

Dr. Brown talks about how we often hustle for worthiness and trade in authenticity for approval.  We act in ways that are inconsistent with our beliefs and our values.  There have been several people throughout my life who have made me feel like I need to do this.  Hardly any of them ended up long term friends.  I’m sure we have all agreed to something we didn’t really want to do or acted interested in something we weren’t really interested in or listened to music we didn’t really like because we wanted someone else to like us.  That’s hustling for worthiness and it doesn’t feel very good.

Brené explains that “courage originally meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart’ and that ‘heroics is important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.'”  Heroic courage is about putting our safety on the line while ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line and speaking honestly and openly.  I strive to be courageous in this sense and I wish I was strong and brave enough to always be as authentic as this describes people being.

I know I’m using a lot of quotes in this blog post, but Brené Brown just says things in such an easily accessible way that it’s sometimes hard to come up with different or better ways to say things.  I love it when she says, “I think asking for what you need is one of the bravest things that you’ll ever do.”  I am very slowly learning how to ask for what I need.  It’s a skill that requires practice and doesn’t come easily to me as one of my negative core beliefs is that I am a burden to those I care about.

Dr. Brown talks about the necessity of boundaries and accountability and explains that a lack of those two causes people to feel mistreated, manipulated, or abused.  She also explains that it’s impossible to practice compassion from a place of resentment.  I think this explains why practicing compassion with family members can sometimes be very challenging as there is always a history with family.

Brené talks about the things that get in the way of wholehearted living before moving on to her 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living.  Those Guideposts are:

  1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
  6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

She also takes time to explain the difference between shame and guilt.  Guilt is thinking, “I did something bad.” Shame is thinking “I am bad.”  “Shame is about who we are, and guilt is about our behaviors.”  Guilt can be helpful while shame is destructive and harmful.


Dr. Brown says more about sharing our stories later when she says, “Our stories are not meant for everyone.  Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: ‘Who has earned the right to hear my story?'”  I really appreciate this idea, especially since I am currently writing a memoir about my experiences with Bipolar Disorder.  I’m being honest and authentic about my experiences without choosing to share every single detail.

When talking about cultivating authenticity, Brené says, “authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”  While the concept seems pretty straightforward, it’s much more difficult to put it into practice- at least for me.  I struggle to be authentic and I don’t always do a very good job at it.  I admire the people Brené calls “Wholehearted” and my goal is to become more like them, but I’m certainly not there yet.

Quoting Lynne Twist, the book says, “Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something.  And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day.”  I wonder if this is in all cultures or just in Western cultures.  When I traveled to Kenya and when I lived in South Africa, the people who lived there seemed to be significantly more grateful for less than people in the United States are grateful for.  The first time I went into the grocery store after returning from South Africa, I had to turn around and walk back out because there were too many choices.  There was a whole AISLE of bottled water and a whole section dedicated to different cheeses.  Scarcity here means something completely different from scarcity in Kenya and South Africa.  In my, admittedly limited, experience, people who have less seem more grateful for what they have.

In closing, I am so grateful for Brené Brown and her writing.  Her books always make me look at life a little differently and more brightly and The Gifts of Imperfection is no exception to that.  This was an intriguing, fun, and fast read and I would definitely recommend it to friends, family, and anyone who is interested in learning more about humanity and about him or herself.

Assignment for January

Make an “ingredients for joy and meaning” list.  This should be a list of specific conditions that are in place when everything feels good in your life.  Compare it to your to-do list and your to-accomplish list.  It may surprise you.

Related Resources:

Click on goireadingcompanion for a guided worksheet for The Gifts of Imperfection.

Brené Brown TED Talk- The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown TED Talk- Listening to Shame

Brené Brown- Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count

Living Brave With Brené Brown and Oprah Winfrey

Brené Brown on CreativeLive

February Book of the Month Pick by

Book of the Month: February 2017

WHO:              Roxane Gay

WHAT:            Bad Feminist

WHERE:          Amazon.com or your local book store

WHEN:            By February 17, 2017

WHY:              Catherine always thinks of herself as a bad feminist, Roxane Gay’s TED Talk                               was good, and Bad Feminist is a NYT Bestseller

HOW: Click here for a worksheet to help you out as you read the book.

Roxane’s Bio from her website says:

“Roxane Gay’s writing appears  in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. She is the author of the booksAyiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, and Difficult Women and Hunger forthcoming in 2017. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel.”

Mindful Monday 010



Happy Monday everyone! Can you believe this makes our 10th Mindful Monday here at Illuminated by U?! I hope that by now you are starting to find techniques and personal mantras that work for you! As always, please talk to your physician before beginning this or any other exercise routine.

Today we are continue our warrior asana journey with warrior 2/virabhadrasana II an asana that commemorates the exploits of a mythical warrior. Along with the same physical and mental benefits of warrior 1 pose, warrior 2 is a deep hip opening asana that allows emotions to flow fluidly to and from your body.

Much like with warrior 1 we begin standing at the tops of our mat with our feet hip distance apart and our hands by our sides. Exhale and step your feet wide apart checking to ensure your heels are aligned with each other. Turn your front foot 90 degrees towards the top of your mat while pivoting 45 degrees on your back foot and rooting down through your ankles.

Raise your arms to shoulder height so they are parallel to the floor with palms facing towards the ground reaching actively through your fingertips. On an exhale slowly bend your front knee, keeping it directly stacked over your ankle or slightly behind, again avoiding allowing your knee to extended beyond your ankle towards your toes to avoid injuries.

Turn your torso so that it is perpendicular to the floor, keeping your back leg straight, and your head directly aligned with your tailbone. Slowly shift your gaze towards your hand, draw your belly in toward your spine to engage your core, and hold for one minute keeping your body engaged and your breath in rhythm.

Alo Yogaalo-logo@AloYoga

Eating Disorders by Joanne Phipps #CompassionOrBust

 eating-disordersImage Source: Peacelab.org

It’s universal. It doesn’t discriminate because of a person’s race, age, religion, gender, or wealth. Just like any other addiction, no one is immune. Eating disorders are not just a problem that rich, young, white teens face, and that misconception is part of the growing problem with the way we approach eating disorders.

Last week we focused our podcast and blog on all things body image related. We talked about our own personal stories with body image issues, where body shaming stems from, and how destructive unhealthy body standards can be on someone beyond just the physical problems that can develop. This week it seems only right that we talk about eating disorders and how they not only play a part in the way we approach body image but also how they are equally as destructive and unhealthy for both our physical and mental being.

When we were first planning out the schedule for topics for the first year of Illuminated By U we wanted to start with body image and eating disorders as our second and third week’s topics because so many people put pressure on themselves this time of year by setting new years resolutions around their weight. And to be frank, these two topics were two of very few during the divide and conquer session that neither one of us were too thrilled to have to choose who would write about which, because neither one of us really wanted to write about either, yet, here we are.

So what are some of the common misconceptions/myths about eating disorders?

  • They only effect women
  • They only effect the very young/adolescents
  • They only effect the rich
  • Eating disorders are only for people who are very thin, or who want to be very thin
  • Eating disorders are only: A. Never Eating or B. Eating and then throwing it all back up
  • Eating disorders are not serious mental health concerns and are just about vanity or someone’s choice of lifestyle
  • Eating disorders are simply a cry for attention
  • Eating disorders are simply a “phase” some people go through


Disproving these common misconceptions/myths:

  • While a staggering 80% of children are afraid of being seen as “fat”, transitional periods in our lives put us at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder: school, pregnancy, job change, menopause. People who suffer from additional mental illnesses like depression and anxiety or other serious medical conditions like diabetes are also more likely to suffer from eating disorders.
  • It is estimated that 10 million males in the U.S. alone will suffer from an eating disorder that can be considered clinically significant at some point in their life, making up 25% of those suffering from eating disorders. There is also no significant difference in the number of those with eating disorders under the age of 18 between male and female genders.
  • Men are much less likely to seek help than women are when it comes to eating disorders, and most other mental illnesses, so statistics available aren’t as accurate for men as they are for women.
  • Eating disorders reach beyond mental illnesses and the physical symptoms can have a devastating impact on a person’s quality of life. Physical symptoms can lead to medical complications like: osteoporosis, tooth loss, and even cardiac issues. The video below gives you a look into the sluggishness and exhaustion the body goes through physically when battling an eating disorder.

YouTube Video- Empty

So what causes eating disorders in such a wide variety of different people from different cultures and beliefs? And what are the differences between eating disorder types? If you were with us last week for our week on body image, a lot of this may sound a bit familiar.

  • Unattainable body image standards perpetuated by the media
  • Peer/cultural pressure to be a certain body type/look a certain way
  • Bullying. Sticks and stones may break your bones and words CAN also hurt you.
  • Stressful periods in your life: college, transitioning into parenthood, a major work change
  • Other mental illnesses like depression and anxiety that cause people to feel they lack control or worth
  • Suffering from poor self-esteem
  • Participating in aesthetically oriented sports: ballet, gymnastics, long distance running, sports where an emphasis is put on maintaining a lean body.

3 Major/More “well-known” Types of Eating Disorders:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa- inadequate food intake in hopes of leading to a lower weight. Also the intense fear of weight gain/obsession with weight and persistent behavior to prevent gaining weight.
  2. Binge Eating Disorder- Frequent episodes of consuming large amounts of food but without behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting. Feelings of a lack of control, shame, or guilt are often associated with binge eating.
  3. Bulimia Nervosa- Like binge eating, bulimia consists of frequent episodes of consuming very large amounts of food, but followed by behaviors to prevent weight game like self-induced vomiting.

Other “less known” eating disorders include:

  • Pica
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
  • Ruminant Disorder
  • Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder
  • Night Eating Syndrome


I personally, have dealt with binge eating disorder episodes in my own past, and much like any who suffer with eating disorders, I was unaware (or possibly in denial about what I was doing) that I was hurting myself or that what I was doing could even be considered an eating disorder. Within those who do seek help for eating disorders, an average of 4 years passes between the onset of the disorder and the time that they seek help. So how do we help those suffering from eating disorders? And how can we create a support system for those we know enduring these so often silent disorders?

For those suffering:

As with any other mental illness, this journey is yours and yours alone. It isn’t a race or a competition, it is something you take one day at a time, starting first with seeking help and being honest with your goals. It is also important to create a relapse prevention plan as well as steps to take in case a relapse does occur, and understand that relapses in behavior during recovery are normal, and while discouraging, in no way mean failure or that you “can’t”. Support groups are another great tool to utilize on your road to recovery as well as surrounding yourself with a great support system.

Supporting and creating a support system for someone with an eating disorder:

Be nonjudgmental in your support. Offer them an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on, an don’t push. Don’t judge their feelings or how they came to develop an eating disorder, or if you yourself have had/currently suffer from an eating disorder, don’t compare their experience(s) with those of your own. Educating yourself and having even a basic understanding of eating disorders can also be helpful in creating safe support system for your loved one(s).

When talking to a friend or loved one about an eating disorder, it’s important to communicate whatever concerns you may have in a loving way that in non-confrontational. Try to remain positive, calm, and respectful while both talking and listening. Focus on your feelings and your relationship, do no comment on their appearance, and avoid placing shame, blame, guilt or power struggles over eating habits as well as simple solutions like: “if you would stop x, then everything would be ok.”



Resources for Eating Disorders

Anorexia Isn’t Just for Teenagers

Eating Disorders in Men

An Open Letter To My Friend Stuggling With Eating Disorders

Dave Chawner: My Battle with Anorexia

Laura Hill: Eating Disorders from the Inside Out

Lauren Bagwell: Let’s Flip the Golden Rule

Eating Disorder Hope

Mindful Monday 009


Good morning everyone! Happy Monday and welcome to another installment of Mindful Monday with Illuminated By U! As always, please speak with your physician prior to beginning this or any other exercise regiment, listen to your body, and do what you’re comfortable and capable of doing.

Today we are beginning the warrior sequence in the yoga practice with warrior 1/virabhadrasana a standing posture named after a mythological Hindu warrior. This powerful and grounding standing posture develops balance, coordination, and stamina and cultivates a deep concentration. Your mind becomes focused, calm and clear while focusing on your foundation and alignment in this pose.

Begin standing at the top of your mat or practice space with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Exhale and step your feet wide apart, turning your foot at the top of your mat out 90 degrees to keep your toes pointing towards the top of your mat and pivoting your back foot inwards at a 45 degree angle. Align your feet so that the front heel is in line with the arch of your back foot, keeping your pelvis turned towards the front of your mat, avoiding rotating out.

Exhale and bend your front knee over the front ankle, or slightly behind it, avoid letting your knee extend out past your ankle to avoid injuries, and root down through your ankles. Raise your arms by reaching up strongly and with purpose and lift your chest. Keep your fingers, palms, and arms active by constantly reaching towards the sky. Gently title your head so that your gaze is towards the sky/your thumbs. Keep your shoulders dropped from your ears to avoid carrying tension into the pose.

Hold pose for one minute, staying actively engaged throughout your body, breathing deeply, and keeping your back leg straight and the outer edge of your back food pressed down into your mat.

Alo Yogaalo-logo@AloYoga

Body Image by Catherine Cottam #CompassionOrBust

If you haven’t already, please watch the video above.  It is so emotional, so raw, and so powerful.  The video is of two best friends reading thoughts they have had about themselves out loud to each other.  I have heard the phrase “talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love” many times, but this shows just how damaging our negative self-talk can be.  I constantly talk to myself in ways I would never even think about other people because it’s too cruel and that is so sad to me.


When I was thinking about writing this blog post, one of the first things that came to mind was a day in July or August when I saw the above picture and it sent me into a tailspin of horrible depression with suicidal thoughts.  I had gained a substantial amount of weight following my hospitalization for mania and medication changes and I was horrified when I saw my body reflected back to me.  I completed a Thought Diary worksheet about it the next day at my intensive outpatient program (IOP- group therapy in an outpatient hospital setting) and I thought I could share some of the related feelings and beliefs with you.  These are things I wrote at the time:

How I feel: fat, ugly, gross, disgusting, waste of space, unhealthy, worthless, ashamed

What I believe: I will never feel beautiful, I’m not skinny enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not motivated enough, I’m lazy, I’m not funny enough, I’m not happy enough I’ll never find love, No one will ever love me.

I would never say such awful things to someone else, so what on Earth made me think it was acceptable (and is still acceptable) to say them to myself?  I believe it’s a combination of dating someone who was cruel to me at one time and a lifetime of seeing and hearing girls denigrating themselves.  I had a boyfriend once who told me that I had gained too much weight and he no longer found me attractive.  That was not the only hurtful thing he said.  It was also roughly 65 pounds ago.  If the person I cared for so much back then couldn’t find me attractive with 20 extra pounds on me, how could anyone love me now?

The other thing is, we aren’t meant to take compliments well.  Girls are meant to deny any compliments given or come up with something else that is wrong with us.  “Oh you have such pretty skin,” “Ugh, but look at this muffin top!”  “I wish I was as thin as you,” “I wish I could eat whatever I want.”  We are taught to counter every compliment with a self-insult.  I’m not sure where the message to do this first came from or why we think it’s ok but it reminds me of Regina George in Mean Girls:

Regina: “You’re, like, really pretty.”

Cady: “Thank you.”

Regina: “So you agree?”

Cady: “What?”

Regina: “You think you’re really pretty?”

Cady: “Oh…I don’t know”

It’s an awkward exchange primarily because Cady accepts the compliment without arguing about it or insulting herself, which is what we as viewers expect her to do.

Society teaches young girls that skinny and pretty=good and overweight or not traditionally pretty=bad.  We are supposed to be small and quiet and take up as little space as possible.  We aren’t supposed to be loud or rambunctious or big or dirty or messy.  When I was young, my brother gave me the nickname of “Chubby,” which lasted for several years until my parents finally had to have a talk with him about how much it bothered me.  Of all the things I could be, fat somehow seemed and, to some degree still seems, to be the worst.

Body image problems are not exclusive to bigger people or to women.  People of all shapes and sizes struggle with how they appear and how society and the media tell them they are supposed to look.  According to NationalEatingDisorders.org, a staggering 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders in the USA alone.  We’ll talk more about eating disorders next week, but the statistic is alarming and speaks to the magnitude of body image issues faced by all types of people.  One population that struggles with body image is professional swimmers.  Swimmers need to have large shoulders and strong muscles in order to swim quickly, which puts pressure on both the men and the women who choose to participate in the sport.  Where it gets a little bit trickier is that the women have that body ideal to work with but also a second body ideal, one for when they are out of the pool and should be skinny with a few curves in the correct places.  In an article for USA Today, Jennifer Carter, the Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center’s director of sport psychology, said, “in terms of the body type that athletes are going for, we know in our culture that thinness for women and muscularity for men is the cultural ideal of beauty right now.”  An example given in the same article was that “a female swimmer might feel good about her broad shoulders in the pool but negative about them when she cannot find shirts that fit properly at a shopping mall.”

An emerging trend is the Body Positive or Body Positivity Movement, which encourages love and acceptance for all body types and came up with the phrase “all bodies are good bodies.”  The movement is aimed at increasing self-esteem and self-compassion across the board, regardless of a person’s size.  Tess Holliday, who started the hashtag and movement #EffYourBeautyStandards, hopes her movement will combat the marginalization of plus size people and said, in an article for Bustle, “In an ideal world, it would just be great to be allowed to be who we are, and not have to defend our bodies or our health.”

Another proponent of positive self-esteem and body positivity is Glennon Doyle Melton, an author and TED speaker who I’m honestly a little obsessed with because she just seems to speak from her soul and is all about telling hard truths.  In a recent blog post, Glennon tells how her ten-year-old daughter made a comment that all of the other girls are skinny and she is different and Glennon sat her daughter down and told her the story of her life and her eating disorder.  They talked about the messages girls get from the media and other people and about how it’s all designed to keep girls “weak and separate from each other, so we can’t join forces and lead.”  They talked about what bodies are for and what bodies are not for.  The next day, the two of them went to a bookstore and her daughter noticed the emaciated women on the magazine covers.  Glennon explained to her that the reason seeing the magazine covers made her feel bad was because women’s bodies aren’t for selling things and told her that there was nothing wrong with her, there was something wrong with the media and the magazine industry.  Her ten-year-old daughter, who is a total badass, wrote a petition:


Dear World,
This is a petition to show that I, ____ ______, strongly feel that magazines should not show beauty is most important on the outside.  It is not.  I think magazines should show girls who are strong, kind, brave, thoughtful, unique, and show women of all different types of hair and bodies.  ALL women should be treated EQUALLY.”

Glennon Doyle Melton has written several wonderful blog posts (and parts of books) about body image and she is an inspiration to me.  In an effort to be more body positive, Joanne and I have elected to share photos this week on our Instagram that we would not normally share because we don’t like how we look in them.  To check them out, visit https://www.instagram.com/illuminatedbyu.

Resources on Body Image

Huffington Post- Body Image in Boys

Glennon Doyle Melton- Your Body is Not Your Masterpiece

Whitney Way Thore TED Talk- Living Without Shame: How We Can Empower Ourselves

Jean Kilbourne TED Talk- The Dangerous Ways Ads See Women

Ashley Graham TED Talk: Plus-size? More Like My Size

Cameron Russell TED Talk: Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m A Model.

Renee Engeln TED Talk: An Epidemic of Beauty Sickness

U.S. Women’s Swim Team on Body Image, Eating Disorders, and Supporting Each Other

Momastery- Pe-Tish-ion

Model Whose Body Was Criticized By Her Agency Starts Rad Body-Positive Campaign

Here’s What Hillary Clinton Had To Say To A 15-Year-Old Girl Who Asked Her About Body Image

25 Famous Women on Body Image

8 Things People Need To Stop Saying To Athletic Women, STAT

Best Friends Filmed A Body Image Video Where They Said The Negative Thoughts They’d Had About Their Own Bodies — To Each Other

Jade Beall TED Talk- A Beautiful Body Project

Tess Holliday Reflects On The Year Body Positivity Went Mainstream

Dove Evolution Ad

Dove Onslaught

Dove Real Beauty Sketches

Listening to Our Podcast

Our podcast will be available every other Friday starting January 6,2017.  There will be three podcasts in January 2017 to accommodate our book of the month podcast.  Going forward, the book of the month podcast may continue to be a third podcast on its own or it may be incorporated with the second podcast of the month.  We have not decided yet.

You can find us in the Apple Podcast App by searching “Illuminated By U”, selecting the podcast that has our logo on it, and clicking “Subscribe”.

To use a different app, such as Overcast, click the “+” button to add a new podcast or RSS feed and copy and paste the following before hitting “enter” or “done”:


For the time being, you can also listen to our podcast directly on our website by going to the “Podcasts” tab and clicking on the podcast you wish to listen to, then clicking the play button that looks like a triangle on the top left.

If you wish, you can go directly to our SoundCloud page and listen to the podcast that way.  That URL is https://soundcloud.com/illuminatedbyu

Farewell, General By Catherine Cottam (About @Carrieffisher) #CompassionOrBust

I’ve known that I wanted to write this post since the day we lost the late, great, amazing, wonderful Carrie Fisher, but every time I’ve tried it has just seemed to fall flat and has made me very sad.  Carrie Fisher was so many things to so many people and there have been hundreds if not thousands of articles and blog posts written about what she meant to people, many of which are more articulate than this one will be, but I still feel compelled to share why Carrie Fisher’s life matters so much from an Illuminated By U perspective and, more personally, from a Catherine Cottam perspective.

I was introduced to Star Wars at the age of 19 by a guy I was seeing the summer between freshmen and sophomore year of college (Thank you to that guy, by the way).  I had seen at least one of the prequels when they came out in theaters when I was younger, but I had never gotten around to or had much interest in watching the originals until then.  My age is significant because it was the age Carrie Fisher was when she began filming Star Wars and playing Princess Leia, which I know because she talks about it in her book, Wishful Drinking.  In her first interaction with Luke, Han, and Chewbacca, Leia grabs the blaster out of Luke’s hands, blasts an opening into the garbage shoot, and gets the group to a place that is at least marginally safer than the hallway in which they were previously residing.

Leia is not a damsel to be rescued, but a badass who resists interrogation and torture, helps lead a rebellion and defeat a fascist regime, and is instrumental in her own rescue and the rescue of others.  Carrie Fisher gave us the gift of a strong, independent, female co-lead back when having one was even less common than it is now.  I know that George Lucas wrote Princess Leia’s character, but Carrie Fisher brought her to life and therefore represented so much to so many people.  I know of girls who grew up with Star Wars who knew that you could be a princess AND a warrior and who grew up with a role model who was strong, brave, fierce, and a woman.

Last year’s Star Wars film, The Force Awakens (Episode VII), even passes the Bechdel Test, which means for the movie that (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.  It’s also worth noting that Leia, previously referred to by her titles “Princess” or “Her Highness” or “Your Worship” (albeit sometimes in a smart ass way by Han Solo), is now “General” Organa and has clearly accomplished much for the rebellion in the years that have passed between Episode VI and Episode VII.

But Carrie Fisher’s gifts to the world do not begin and end with Princess Leia/General Organa.  Oh no.  Carrie Fisher was an outspoken proponent of reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and was, at least to me, a sort of ambassador for people with Bipolar Disorder.  I don’t know of any other celebrity that has been as completely and totally honest about what it means and what it is like to have Bipolar Disorder.

I watched her special on HBO several months ago and it was part of what inspired me to disclose my status as having Bipolar Disorder on Facebook to all of my friends and family.  If you haven’t seen the special, it’s called Wishful Drinking and is on HBO Go right now.  I highly suggest you watch it.  I just re-watched it yesterday.  Simply put, Carrie Fisher was an inspiration to me.  Not only because she was open about her illness, but also because she has the same illness I do and was still able to lead a productive life and be a loving and devoted mom.

Carrie Fisher gave me hope for my future and I’m currently in the process of reading and/or listening to all of her books.  I’ve got Wishful Drinking and part of The Princess Diarist down so far.  They are funny, informational, and poignant.  The only issue I have taken with anything so far is that Carrie got Bipolar I and Bipolar II confused in Wishful Drinking.  You can read more about the difference between the two here.  I also plan on watching the movie Postcards From The Edge, which is based on a novel she wrote that was about her own life and her relationship with her mother, Debbie Reynolds.

Fisher was also outspoken about her experiences as a drug addict and alcoholic, which had to be comforting and normalizing for so many people.  Addiction is an illness and Carrie Fisher helped people to see it as such by being open and honest about her problems with opioids, acid, and alcohol among other things.  I say among other things because I’m not done reading her books yet but I feel sure I’ll hear about more drug use due to her candor.

Carrie Fisher was a national treasure and her loss is a devastating one.  It’s also tremendously sad that we lost Debbie Reynolds, her mother, just a day later.  I only knew her from the Halloweentown movies, but I’m going to be sure to see Singing in the Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown soon now.  To see a fantastic tribute to Carrie Fisher, please click here and read what an awesome random person onTwitter, Anne Thériault, had to say.  Here at Illuminated By U, our thoughts are with Billie, Todd, the rest of Carrie’s and Debbie’s families and friends, and any of you who feel affected by this tragedy the way that we do.

Mindful Monday 008


Happy Monday everyone! Welcome to another installment of Mindful Monday here at Illuminated By U. As always, please be sure to check if your doctor before starting this or any other exercise regiment.

This Monday’s asana is standing forward fold/uttanasana commonly known as forward bend. Standing forward fold combines the benefits of forward folds for your spine as well as inversions without the need for an advanced practice. By dropping your head below your heart you begin to calm your brain, relieving stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, and mild depression. This can also help with insomnia and relieving physical tension in your neck and shoulders.

Begin standing with your feet hip width apart and your hands on your hip. Exhale as you bend forward at the hips creating space with your exhale to fold. As you fold lengthen the front of your torso and spine. To start, bend your elbows and hold the opposite elbow with the opposite hand to create a cradle with your arms as your allow your body to begin to warm and stretch.

Press your heels into the ground to lift your bottom towards the sky. If you are flexible enough to keep your knees straight, place your palms or fingertips on the floor or use a block or stack of books. Engage your legs as your stretch, remembering to breathe, and shifting your weight to the balls of your feet while keeping your hips aligned over your ankles. Release deeper into the pose with each breath.