Confessions of a Late Bloomer

If spring hasn’t exactly sprung here in eastern Iowa, it is at least making its slow way here:  we’ve “sprung” forward into daylight savings time, most of the snow has melted, and daytime temperatures are routinely making it out of the 30s.  I am watching avidly for the crocuses to appear on neighboring lawns, a sure sign that spring is here to stay. 

I believe it was George Eliot who said, “It is never too late to become what you might have been.”  I take comfort in this thought because, friends, I am a late bloomer.  Like a shy spring, I sometimes move forward at what feels like a glacial pace.  But if it is truly “never too late”, then it must follow that another axiom is true as well — better late than never.

For example, with this blog I’ve learned that it is never too late to overcome shyness about others reading what I write.  After 30+ years of writing in secret (diaries and journals), it has been a revelation to learn that I enjoy the reactions and feedback of those who read my words — I even appreciate the occasional critique! 

Another example:  for a long time I have believed the notion that the energy we extend to the world around us is what comes back to us.  But, as with many things I have believed in my head, I had a difficult time feeling it in my heart.  Better late than never, I have learned that the first step to feeling this truth is opening myself up to the people around me; sharing my time, talents, and treasures.

The truth about being a late bloomer is that I could have blossomed before now, but was holding back.  Fear, irrational beliefs, all the stuff that keeps us from potentializing allows us to remain in stasis.  And convince ourselves that is where we want to be.  Late bloomers are immature — or at least I have been — in the sense that we’re not growing at a reasonable, healthy rate.

One of my favorite quotes from a novel comes from Tom Robbins’ “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”.  It goes, “Growing up is a trap!  When they tell you to shut up, they mean stop talking.  When they tell you to grow up, they mean stop growing.”   So, to all my fellow late bloomers: flower already!  It is never too late to become the rose (or daisy, or lily) you were meant to be.  Keep growing, stop “growing up”!  And if, like me, this is the first time you’ve found the courage to do these things, I say “Definitely, better late than never!”

U2, Dr. Oz and a great foot massage

In the late 80s, U2 released “Joshua Tree”, including the single “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.  The lyrics of that song have always spoken to me.  Like most powerful poetry, they mean something different to each listener.  To me, the song speaks about a longing I feel for spiritual connection and intimacy that is not fulfilled by simply knowing what I believe (“You broke the bonds, and you loosed the chains, carried the cross of my shame…you know I believe it…but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”).

In “You on a Diet”, I have finally reached the chapters on psychological and emotional factors associated with being overweight – after learning more than a person really wants to know about stomach fat.  There is a whole section titled “The Role of the Soul”.  Drs. Oz and Roizen say that soul-level satisfaction exists at a biochemical level as well as in our perceptible lives.  It is “your deeper drive…to fill the needs of your soul.”  They go on to say, “Many of us, instead of addressing – or even acknowledging – this deeper longing and the restlessness we feel for never quite fulfilling it, try to fill the emptiness with food and drink.”  We long for something deeper, and when we can’t find it, we eat.

Thinking in terms of spiritual hunger puts a whole new spin on the obesity epidemic here in the U.S.  And it makes sense to me — increasingly, we live in a culture that suggests we should find happiness living at the surface.  If we feel longing, that can be easily assuaged…buy a $350 Marc Jacobs purse, or order the buttered steak served on deep fried onion strings with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a chocolate volcano cake for dessert.

On a personal level, maybe its true that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.  But I may just be learning to stop covering that longing up with an overfull stomach.  The good doctors suggest a number of things we can do – other than eating – to satisfy our souls.  They include spending time in reflection and self-exploration, deep breathing, being touched (which releases neurochemicals that make us feel better).  The Docs recommend massages for that purpose.  I can finally stop feeling (a little) guilty about the self-indulgence of  my pedicures.  They come with leg and foot massages that feed my soul!

True Hunger

Last week I picked up the book “You on a Diet: The Owner’s Manual for Waist Management” by Michael Roizen MD and Mehmet Oz MD.  Only a few chapters into this massive book, I have learned some new things, especially about the biology of hunger.  They depict ghrelin, the hormone secreted in the stomach which signals that we’re hungry, as a little gremlin.  I have been making peace with this imp – it turns out, he just wants me to pay a little attention.  I am learning to distinguish his voice from the voice (originating in my emotional self) urging me to eat.

The other day, I had a conversation with a friend who recently caught up on reading this blog.  He said, “I’m just going to be blunt, I don’t always understand the way you think and, frankly sometimes its just stupid”.  I started laughing, because I couldn’t agree more — the way I’ve thought and acted has been not just stupid, but  irrational.  That, dear friends, is the point.  I surprise myself when I discover just how weirdly I’ve mixed signals in my life.

Which brings me back to ghrelin and his competitor, my emotional self.  Most of my life these two have been busy trying to out-shout each other, and as a result I’ve completely confused their voices.  As I’ve changed my diet to eat healthier foods in appropriate amounts, ghrelin and I are developing a natural alliance.  I am learning to manage my physical hunger. 

My emotional self, though, struggles to be healthier. There are 48 years worth of accumulated detritus to clean up and it is slow going.  I have to say, though, there are marked signs of improvement.  Whereas in the past my emotional self has craved comfort, security, and love — and sought these through food, I am discovering that my emotional hungers are changing, too.  Same categories, different contents:


  • Rather than craving comfort food, I am hungry to feel comfortable in my own skin…and my own clothes. I want the exterior to be a closer approximation of the interior self.  In the not-too-distant future I will be able to shop in all, not just specialty, stores for clothing.  This will not seem like a big deal to people who have always had options, but believe me, if you’ve ever tried to put together a fashionable wardrobe when only one store in town carries your size, you’d know it is!
  • I never expect to be comfortable in airline seats or amusement park rides.  But I am hungry to actually fit in the seats without the humiliation of asking for seatbelt extensions or being kicked off the ride because they can’t fasten the safety harness. (I’ve avoided this humbling experience by not going to amusement parks — but I have a secret love of roller coasters and I’ve missed them!)


  • After a lifetime of playing it safe, I find myself hungry to take some risks.  No bungee cords or skydiving — but risk taking none-the-less.  Try new things (new music, new hobbies, snowshoeing), go new places (travel overseas, hike the Grand Canyon, eat at the Linn Street Cafe), push my own boundaries (Run the Flood, take a yoga class, speak truth to power).


  • Open up to deeper friendships, even if it means feeling vulnerable, even if it means entering into other people’s messy lives towing my own messy-ness.  And seeing that as a gift rather than a burden or something to fear.
  • Admitting the truth:  I have desires…let’s leave it at that for today!

It is 7:36 a.m. as I write this final paragraph for today’s blog post.  I took a 6:00 a.m. core exercise class, then completed my usual weight training regimen.  I feel great — but my friend, Ghrelin the Gremlin, is grumbling for me to pay attention to him. What I’m truly hungry for at this moment is breakfast.  I could murder a breakfast burrito!  But I’ll be happier with something a little healthier.  And that is some unusual thinking for me — very rational!

11 Facts about Hunger in the U.S.

11 Facts About Hunger in the U.S. (from DoSomething,

  • In 2007, 36.2 million Americans (up from 35.5 million in 2006), including 12.4 million children, are food insecure, or didn’t have the money or assistance to get enough food to maintain active, healthy lives.  
  • Almost a third of those, 11.9 million adults and children, went hungry at some point. That’s 691,000 children who went hungry in 2007, up from 430,000 in 2006. Of those 35.5 million, 22.9 million were adults and 12. 6 million were children.
  • In 2008 alone, a rise of about 6% in the price of groceries has led the poor to adopt a variety of survival strategies, from buying food that is beyond its expiration date to visiting food banks.
  • About 25 million people in America receive food stamps — coupons that can be used only for food. The computerized system reveals that most benefits are used up by the third week of the month, leaving many families to scramble for other sources of food.
  • America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s major food bank network, annually provides food to over 23 million people. That is more than the population of the state of Texas.
  • The USDA recently found that about 96 billion pounds of food available for human consumption in the United States were thrown away by retailers, restaurants and farmers over the course of one year. Fresh fruits and vegetables, fluid milk, grain products, and sweeteners accounted for 2/3 of these losses.
  • Hungry adults miss more work and consume more health care than those who don’t go hungry.
  • Kids who experience hunger are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other illness.
  • The total cost of hunger to American society is said to be about $90 billion a year.
  • In contrast, it would only cost about $10 billion to $12 billion a year to virtually end hunger in our nation.
  • From 1999 to 2007, the number of people in poverty has increased from 32.3 million to 36.5 million. 
  • Sources: 

    United States Department of Agriculture

    Bread for the World

    America’s Second Harvest

    Washington Post

    Meals for Millions

    Say “Voldemort”

    Because I spoke about my sister, Chris, in last week’s post, I wanted to run the content by her before publishing it.  After concluding that part of the discussion, she mentioned that while she does not intend to publish photos of her scale,  she has started speaking more directly and honestly about her weight and her goals.  She agrees that it has been freeing to do so. 

    And then she said, “It’s a little like saying Voldemort.”

    For those few of you who are not familiar with the Harry Potter stories, Voldemort is the Bad Guy.  Most people in the wizarding world prefer to use euphemisms, such as “he who should not be named”, rather than say his name aloud. They fear dire consequences from the Bad Guy himself, or his cadre of Death Eaters, if they do.  But Harry, and his mentor Professor Dumbledore, believe that the refusal to say Voldemort’s name simply gives him more power by adding to the fearful lustre of his reputation.

    In this blog, I have used Voldemort’s name — talking about Shame, Loneliness, Denial, my upper arms: things I have talked around or kept silent about in the past.  I believe there are many Voldemorts out there — things we want to say out loud, fears we want to share, but our own vulnerability stops us from doing so.  I invite you to think about your own personal Voldemorts (or, as my friend Sara would say, your Lex Luthers) and to consider speaking out loud about at least one. 

    Do so in a manner that feels safe and supportive to you.  It can be a negative experience if you share your Voldemort with either someone who will use it against you (like Dementors, these people will feed on your vulnerability) or with one who dismisses the gravity or magnitude of what you’re sharing (like Cornelius Fudge, they miss the point altogether).   

    Voldemort cannot love, he can only destroy. In the books, Harry Potter discovers that he is the anointed one, born to fight Voldemort. But he also learns he has a power Voldemort does not: Harry has people who love him (and whom he loves), supporting him and standing beside him.  In the end, Harry and his friends defeat Voldemort’s selfishness. 

    By calling out my own Voldemorts, they’ve lost much of their power to control my choices.  Also, I’ve found steadfast friends, loyal family, even distant strangers who have come forward to stand beside me, to help me be victorious.  I wish the same for each of you.