Monday, April 19, 2010


Yesterday I sang the last performance of my opera, "Belisario," at the Garden Church in Lansdale. That's one hurdle done, yay!

I'm so happy to report, that for much of this performance, my voice felt FREE, in control, free of tension, powerful, full, able to also sing lightly, able to sing very high (to high C) easily and fully, connected to my 'body.'

In other words, for much of the performance, i was freakin' fabulous.

Anyone who knows me knows I don't brag, or gloat. I am the FIRST person to tell you when i suck. In fact, I was shocked i was so good. Two people came up to me afterwards and said i should have a major opera career and be singing at the Met. "We expect to see your name in lights!"

THAT felt fabulous!

NOTHING feels better than singing WELL to me. What an amazing experience, what an amazing feeling. I often liken it to the feeling a skater must feel in aceing a triple flip. To have succeeded personally in this tough opera was a major breakthrough for me. Major.

What was so amazing was that when I started singing the opera on Sunday....I was awful. But, something changed.

The idea of tension or no tension, or control or no control fascinates me. In my first aria, which was a recitative section where i am very angry, followed by a sad, slow aria, followed by a gangbusters "vengeance" cabaletta (a fast added on section to the slow aria), I sang the first part very poorly...and then i had an "ahha" moment as i was singing, i adjusted, and i was freakin' brilliant. The adjustment had to do with tension and control. More on that...

First, just to explain VERY briefly, this was a very dramatic opera role, which demanded alot theatrically and vocally. Briefly, the plot: My husband, Belisario, had our son killed because he was told by a soothsayer that our son would destroy the Grecian Empire. Needless to say, as my son's mommy, i now really hate my bastard husband for killing our son. So, i am a raging lunatic the entire opera, filled with anger, filled with the desire for vengeance against my husband. I even plot a revenge on hubby with my boyfriend. Hubby subsequently gets his eyes poked out and dies at the end of the opera because of what we finagle, and when I find out that my son is still alive at the end of the opera, the plan is in motion already and can't be undone. I watch my bloody empty-eye-socketed husband collapse and die right in front of me, and am left guilt-ridden for eternity for having my husband killed for killing our son, when our son is actually still alive. I tell my husband i'm sorry for what i put into motion - his destruction - and he collapses dead before I receive my pardon. Okay, you get it: it's a very very dramatic role.

So, there I am on stage, feeling all of this tremendous feeling, my son is dead, i'm the grieving mother, i hate my husband, my fists are balled, my lower teeth are jutting out, i'm a bitch on wheels...and my chest is all collapsed and my shoulders are all hunched over from the sheer emotion of it all. The Method! I'm really feelin' this shit! And singing HORRIBLY! My first slow aria before the quick cabaletta was horrendous. I couldn't get my voice out, my voice was shaking, i couldn't shade the tone. I couldn't control my voice. As the singer, I was sick with grief....what the hell was happening to me? You can't really let yourself FEEL this stuff AND sing well.

Thank God, i had a minute before the cabaletta to gather up my energies and figure out what the hell i was doing wrong. When it dawned on me I was MISUSING MY ENERGY by FEELING all of the anger and grief with my shoulders hunched over, my ribcage collapsed, my head jutting out in front of me (out of line with my spine)....I realized I was (ala the many, many Alexander Technique lessons i have taken) outta whack. I calmed down, zipped my head up, pulled it up and back "neck free, head free," pulled my shoulders back, tucked my swayback lower back in...turned all of that tension from emotion into tension of self control....and SHAZZAM...THERE'S my voice. THE voice. A very, very special powerful voice that God gave me. It really is something when it is on. I KNOW that. But when i lose it, I doubt. Forgive me, Lord.

I sang the rest of the opera like that...only focusing on keeping my alignment. Yes, that takes energy and control and tension to do that. But, in doing that, i completely eliminated tension in my voice and gifted myself control and energy in the controlling the body. So, waves of sound were just pouring out of me....and i knew I was on.

World-class singing. And only 1 minute prior was shit singing where i wouldn't even get past an audition. What a freakin' lesson in singing technique. One change and everything changed. I hope i never forget it. Please, Lord.

Okay, so how does this lesson relate to eating?

Well, in applying control in one area, suddenly you have freedom. Sounds the same as with food. Control something to achieve freedom.

What i'm stuck on is just WHAT you control.

Do you control WHICH foods you eat? Do you control the amount? The time? The way in which you eat them?

I had a binge last night. Even after that fabulous blog..."oh, i'm cured...Susan is going to help me...i'm going to eat pizza weekly." And there i am rading the refrigerator last night. Despair returns, hopelessness.

I wake up in the middle of the night, can't fall back to sleep, so i trudge all the way upstairs to my 3rd floor living room library, locate the eating disorder books, take about 10 of them downstairs and start to read.

I ended up re-reading through most of Geneen Roth's, "Why Weight? How To End Compulsive Eating." I hadn't touched it since I was 29. I had once lost ALL of my weight, weighed 150 lbs, by doing OA HOW (VERY rigid food plan). I gained it all back obviously.

Well, Geneen, too believes that binge eating is caused by dieting and suggests what i've talked about many times here, "legalizing" all food. For her, that means, taking one binge food after another into your home, eating it until you're sick of it and until you learn to trust yourself with it, after you've gained 50 lbs trying and hopefully succeeding, move on to the next binge food.

Suddently, after reading this I became hopeless again at the prospect of legalizing food. I've tried it many, many times to no avail. I just gain weight.

I can't afford to gain anymore.

I'm just not sure it is the best route for me. The legalizing process is probably BEST for people who are of average weight who don't have health issues.

One thing Geneen said gave me a clue that this process might NOT be for me. Someone in her book asked, "if i have diabetes, how can i legalize icecream? it'll kill me." So, Geneen says, "Obviously, if you have diabetes, you cannot EAT icecream, so legalizing it would be HARMFUL to you. You should explore WHY you want to HURT yourself, or PUNISH yourself by eating it."

So, i say to MYSELF....i'm not a diabetic, but somehow i relate, I do have reflux laryngitis (fatty foods ruin my voice), I weigh almost 300lbs now, and formerly weighed 425 lbs. Somehow eating pizza and onion rings seems like it ACTUALLY WOULD be punishing myself, a person with an extreme weight problem whose voice is extremely affected by what she eats. What the hell was i thinking?

I remember before I went to OHI (, that i had the same epiphany. I finally gathered that there was no way legalizing food would work for me. There was no way that Weight Watchers has EVER worked for me. The only hope for me was raw food.

So, i went to OHI for 8 months and was RARELY compulsive there. Why???? No STRESS. Livin' the life of luxury, no bills to pay, no family to deal with, just palm trees and swimming pools and bean sprouts. It was sheer HEAVEN.

So, i return from OHI and start to live. I MANAGED my eating problem, it wasn't gone by any means. In fact, I binged daily, but on raw food, little damage was done. I managed to maintain a 140 lbs weight loss, started to gain weight the more Rita's water ice i ate (obviously not raw, but i never went over that line), and then when i discovered 80-10-10, i lost 175 lbs total.

In doing 80-10-10 I eliminated almost all fat.

Everyone who is a raw foodist who ends up doing 80-10-10 will understand the obsession with nuts and fat. I mean, everyone at Arnold's Way is either obsessing about eating nuts and fat or obsessing about not eating them. So, i say, "well, cooked beans are healthier than nuts. they have no fat. why can't i replace nuts with cooked beans?" It made total sense. But it didn't end there and I fell off of the raw wagon after 3 years. I've been struggling since.

I said that cooked beans were my ticket to freedom. Were they????

Geneen Roth writes that Binge Eating is completely emotionally based, that we use food to handle our emotions. I've talked about it being a mental disorder, but after reading her book, i think she is right. I think there are deep-seated reasons I am fat and I use food.

For one, food numbs. When i feel scared, i medicated.

And as to why I'm fat? Why I allow myself to struggle with reflux? I'm afraid to be GOOD. Singing-wise. FEAR OF SUCCESS. Or is it FEAR OF FAILURE? Who knows...i'm just afraid.

I grew up in a house where emotions were not talked about. Still no one talks about them, well, rarely. My brother's been depressed for years, no one talks about why (his girlfriend kicked him out and he misses her children) my mother confides in me, but rarely, my father is insensitive and abusive, he mopes around, i start gaining weight.

I cope with life by getting fat and by eating. Binge eating harms my voice (reflux laryngitis), and being fat reduces my chance of a professional operatic career.

Roth states that the one thing that eating disorders DO to a make their life SMALL. Eating disorders REDUCE your life. How did she put it? Yeah, they make your life small. Here i am singing in Landsdowne at a church....when i should be singing at the MET. If i didn't have my eating disorder or my fat, I would be at the MET.

So, why do i keep my small???

Fear, fear, fear. Fear i'm not good enough. Self-Doubt. Lack of discipline. Lack of Drive. Lack, Lack, Lack, Fear, Fear, Fear.

Anyone for a twinkie?

I think the legalization process may be a dead-end road for me. It will only give me more and more reflux and put on more and more weight. Fat is actually not my friend and does serious harm to my voice (Fats cause reflux laryngitis). The half of a stick of butter I ate last night was not my friend.

So, i'm back to square one. I meet with Susan on Tuesday and I'll discuss my insights with her. Maybe our initial idea to cure my binge eating by way of just NOT practicle. How fat do i have to get to finally be OK with pizza?

If i am going to do cooked, something more akin to Dr. Fuhrman's diet is much more where i should be. Mostly raw, beans, veggies, low or no fat. Forever. That's it.

Listen and read about Rebecca, an Arnold's Way customer I met who follows Dr. Fuhrman's plan:

Here she is with Dr. Fuhrman holding up her size 7x shirt. She's lost 330 lbs.

I feel insane to switch ideas constantly, but i know that something will come to a head and make total and perfect when i went raw initially. I KNEW it was the answer....because i WANTED it to be the answer.

I just have to get back KNOW what i need to do.

Roth's awareness and insight into the emotional reasons we eat is right on. There's no reason i can't do that work...on any kind of a food plan.

Again, the question is of control. But what kind of control? For all the millions of success stories out there, people who have overcome eating issues....there are a million routes to success. Which one is best for me?

It would seem that a plan that addressed my need to control my reflux laryngitis for the sake of this glorious voice, and that promoted weight loss for this glorious professional opera singer in the making....would make the BEST sense.

And therapy to help me cope and work through my emotions instead of stuff them. A person can accomplish that on ANY kind of a plan.

xoxo michelle joy

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