Kyira: “What is it about this movement that made you decide that you wanted to sign up or that this was something you needed to be a part of?”

Cindy: “For me, it was the irony of my own thinking, where I can look at anyone and just, you know, ‘Oh, my gosh, she’s so beautiful cuz her skin is so dark.’ Like my friend Ashley just has beautiful dark skin. Or … I just went and just saw “Hidden Figures,” and Octavia Spencer is just gorgeous, soup to nuts gorgeous. And, you know, all shapes and sizes and ethnicities, and I can’t look at myself and think the same thing. I can’t look at myself and go, ‘I am pretty’ Or, you know, I have veins in my eyelids so I have to wear a lot of eye makeup. Or, you know, I can’t – I can see the beauty in other people but I can’t find the beauty in my own self.”

Kyira: “The standards you hold for you are different than what it seems like you have for others.”

Cindy: “I have much higher standards for myself when it comes to what I’m supposed to look like, to be pretty, than I hold for anyone else.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Cindy: “And that’s my goal for 2017 is to recognize and look in the mirror and go, ‘You know what? I’m pretty because I’m me.’ And it’s not because of what I look like.”

Kyira: “Right. Well, cuz the question always is would there ever be standards you could meet that you would ever say that about yourself?”

Cindy: “And you’re right – there isn’t. So what else is beautiful? And Sawyer said courage, and I agree. Courage and confidence, um, and I have a lot of confidence. I get in front of people and talk all the time in big groups. You know, why is that not beautiful?”

Kyira: “Right.”

Cindy: “And I think women as a whole, like sometimes you get a lot of shaming from other women and I just wanna not be part of that. And focus on pretty isn’t outside, pretty is conversations and viewpoints and thoughts and feelings.”

Kyira: “Right. And that everyone can have it. Cuz I think what you just highlighted is, like…does anybody remember playing ‘King of the Hill’ as a kid? Where the only way to win is to get to the top of the snow pile, and you do that by throwing everybody else down.”

Cindy: “Mm, hmm.”

Kyira: “I use this metaphor all the time, like I think that’s the society we live in. And especially like within a shared identity group, that can happen more and more. Because you want to be able to find value and worth, and the only way to do that within the way that we’re bred in our society is to knock everybody else down. It’s that we can’t all be successful and beautiful and wonderful and worthy. It’s that I can only do that if there are other people that are less. Cuz, again, it’s that standards thing. That’s a really beautiful goal, too, cuz that’s not, that’s not like what someone’s typical resolution is, of I’m gonna do this, this and this so that I can be good enough. It’s to get to a point where you just love yourself. Because you already are beautiful, and you deserve to see that, too.”

Cindy: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “Yeah. So how do you think, you know, so the question always talks about culture. But I think culture means something to everybody different. So whether it’s like the family you grew up in, the neighborhood or community you were in, being in Madison, being within whatever identity groups are important. How do you feel like these identities have really, and these cultures have really impacted you and your ability to feel beautiful in your skin?”

Cindy: “Growing up was a little difficult for me, for just how I look and how I’m supposed to look. And my grandmother was always very thin and very well put together. But she focused on food so much, and she would just, she never ate more than 800 calories a day, and I know that cuz she said that all the time. So she was amazingly thin. Um, not amazing in a great way, but shocking thin. But it was always in the forefront of your mind, and you know, she would give me coffee starting at 7 years old. Just, you know, ‘We start our day with coffee.’ And, um, and we ate well, but we just didn’t eat a lot. And so it kinda messes with your brain that you focus so much on food, how much you’re eating and what you’re putting in, that you don’t just enjoy it. It’s not just a part of life, it’s a major part of life, you know.”

Kyira: “Right.”

Cindy: “So that kinda made food really difficult for me to be accepting of just having a meal and going on about your day, like I think about it all the time. And moving past that, I still haven’t moved past that and that’s why I carry an extra 20 pounds, because it’s such a stressful event, just going out to eat is really stressful. And I’ve been working on letting that go, and that was my 2016 focus, letting it go and not be so stressed out about it.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Cindy: “And so that kinda shaped me a lot, my family culture really, you know, and my mom’s a peanut. She’s tiny so she’s, she can’t even put weight on. So that’s really difficult. And my husband can’t put weight on. So that makes it even more difficult, they’re big eaters but they just never put on a pound. It’s, it’s – that kind of shapes you as well. I try to not look at media too much, but it’s always there. You check your Facebook, it’s there, the ads. You know and once in a while I’m like, ‘Geez, Facebook, got it! Need to lose 20 pounds. Don’t need to remind me!’”

Kyira: “Right.”

Cindy: “So I try not to focus on it, but it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to go shopping and, you know, all the clothes are a 2, 4 or 6. And everything else is just you’re, you know, you’re sequestered to not as pretty clothing or, you know. So I think my childhood shaped me most in how I got to not appreciating who I am.”

Kyira: “And I think that, so I’ve talked pretty openly about being in recovery from an eating disorder. And I don’t want to put that on your Grandma that that’s what she had …”

Cindy: “She did, no, I would put it on her.”

Kyira: “And it’s, I mean, either way it sounds like a disordered way of engaging with food or eating food.”

Cindy: “Uh, huh. Yeah.”

Kyira: “And it’s interesting because so often we don’t realize the impact that that has on the perpetual development of disordered ways of thinking around food. So for you, you’ve developed very disordered views and ways of relating to food simply because of somebody that’s a caretaker or a model for you has modeled this. So there is this danger in that sort of generational cycling of views and lifestyles. And that’s really hard to think about and like probably something she never intended to pass on. Or she probably thought that was normal, you know, cuz that was her norm.”

Cindy: “That was her normal. And I spent an enormous amount of time with my grandparents every day. So it was there every day, it wasn’t like traditional kids now where maybe it’s twice a year. But it was every day. So it was very ingrained. And if she felt I was getting heavy, it was commented on. I was getting a little fat. Need to cut back on the food. You know, instead of just being a kid. Maybe I’m just gaining a little weight cuz I’m gonna grow, having a growth spurt.”

Kyira: “Right.”

Cindy: “You know, it was just not a normal …”

Kyira: “In someone’s voice that’s supposed to be, or hypothetically is … (supportive) … and she thought she was shaping you for what would make you happy or successful or whatever it was.”

Cindy: “And I don’t blame her for anything.”

Kyira: “Right.”

Cindy: “I think she did the very best she knew how, about what she knew and how she lived her life and what she felt was right for her life. And I know she had the best intentions always in mind but, you know, it’s still – it was a disorder, for sure.”

Kyira: “Yeah, and finding for you now that this isn’t what you want your life to look like and moving away from that knowing what you know now.”

Cindy: “Mm, hmm.”

Kyira: “Yeah, that’s heavy. So what would you say has been the hardest part of that and of moving away from – I’m using the term you used now – the whispers? Because we hear those, and our past and what kind of plays into those, what’s been the hardest part for you in moving away from some of those things and making these decision for yourself?”

Cindy: “Maybe stuff like this? This is the first time I’ve ever had a professional picture taken as an adult, which Sawyer was like, ‘How is that possible?’ And I’m like, ‘I just don’t get a picture taken.’ You don’t see it if you don’t have a full-length mirror and you don’t have pictures taken. You just don’t. And you know, I do stuff on social media, just things people have taken. But if you don’t see it then you can quiet the talk in your head. Um, so it’s been hard to get a full-length mirror and to have my picture taken and, you know, that’s been really hard.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Cindy: “But it’s baby steps, you know. It’s, one of my first focuses was if somebody compliments me, just take it in. Don’t dismiss it right away and say, ‘Oh, you’re just …’ And I think you alluded to that, too, just taking it in and just saying, ‘Thank you.’ And believing it. Cuz nobody’s just gonna say that out of the blue unless they mean it – I mean, your parents maybe but (laughing).

Kyira: “But not even everybody’s parents!”

Cindy: “They’re not, you know, we don’t just say that unless we really mean it and are caring about somebody and – just accept, you know, that’s part of it. And that’s, but it’s been really hard to have a mirror that I change in front of, just like, ‘This is what you look like.’”

Kyira: “Well, and I would probably challenge you – as someone who works primarily with people with body-image issues and eating disorders, dual diagnosis – to consider that you probably don’t actually look like what you see when you look in the mirror.’”

Cindy: “I don’t.”

Kyira: “So it isn’t even that if you just bought a full-length mirror you need to accept what you see in it, it’s deciding probably what I’m seeing until I have healed enough that I can at least find an essence of what reality would be for me, my perception is gonna be tainted and skewed. And so it’s even embracing that like when you buy this mirror when you’re ready, or when you see these photos, or any of these things that you do and the negative self-talk pops up, it’s grounded in a really fucked-up perception that’s not real.”

Cindy: “Right, yeah. But it’s a huge moment to get a full-length mirror …”

Kyira: “Yeah, yeah. And so you don’t have one yet?”

Cindy: “I do.”

Kyira: “Oh, you do?”

Cindy: “It’s been, it’s actually been great, you know.”

Kyira: “Maybe freeing?”

Cindy: “It was freeing. You know, I’ve, I go to the gym a lot and I’m very strong so I’m like, ‘I do have toned arms. You know what, I actually do.’ And maybe this doesn’t look great, but I have other things that do. I actually look nice, yeah.”

Kyira: “That’s awesome. So what piece of advice, next time that you are standing in front of the mirror and the negative self-talk gets really loud, what do you want to hold on to? What message do you want to hold on to in those moments?”

Cindy: “For me, it’s this is what you have. And this body does a lot of great things. And it helps a lot of people. You know, I do great work – I work in the nonprofit world and I, you know, this body has gotten me there. And I, like I said, I’ve done amazing things. And I have to remind myself, you know, I’ve biked across the state of Iowa, you know, I’ve biked White Rim (biking trail in Utah) …”


Kyira: “I’ve biked like one block and I thought that was good! (Laughing.)”

Sawyer (Another Warrior): “Yeah, that’s good! That’s huge! (Laughing.) …”

Cindy: “I’ve done that. So this body is capable of doing something really amazing. I think anyone, any mother, like she can just say, ‘I birthed a child.’ You win! (Laughing.)”

Kyira: “Yeah!”

Cindy: “So that’s what I focus on … ‘You’ve done some amazing things.’ And I’m really healthy and that’s enough. People, you know, can look at me and not think I’m pretty enough to talk to, I probably don’t wanna know those people. And I just need to make them not be around me.”

Kyira: “Yep. And that’s the power you’re taking back, of that’s their stuff and I can choose that. That’s huge.”

Cindy: “Mm, hmm.”

Kyira: “In what ways have you or will you take steps to really nurture those growth points that you’ve made and the next steps you’re going to take in your journey as you move through the world?”

Cindy: “It’s a tough journey.”

Kyira: “Mm, hmm.”

Cindy: “It’s a tough journey. I have to say, though (to Sawyer), you have like one of the most approachable smiles! (Laughing.)

Sawyer: “Oh, thanks! (Laughing.)

Cindy: “Your smile is so approachable! I just want to walk up to you and start talking to you on the street, like, I don’t even know this person!”

Sawyer: “Thanks! That’s so thoughtful! (Laughing.) Like embracing, thank you! I hope you know you’re stunning! Your hair is beautiful.”

Cindy: “Thank you. Thank you.”

Kyira: “So you both will need to take those things with you, too, what you just said before is people don’t say things unless they really believe them and want to.”

Cindy: “I know. And I’ve and been thinking about it the whole interview – she just looks at me and smiles, and I just wanna …”

Sawyer: “Aww, thanks!”

Cindy: “Like, let’s go have a glass of wine! (Laughing.) …But for this year, my journey, I’ve been trying to journal about the specific goals I wanna accomplish. You know, buying a mirror was one. Um, I don’t know what I wanna do next, just quiet the voices, hang out with my friends and not go, ‘OK, a glass of wine has 40 calories, if I have a half glass’ …”

Kyira: “Right.”

Cindy: “Just enjoying the moment.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Cindy: “Being in the moment and not worrying about the past or the future. Or what I looked like before, or what I’m gonna look like at the end of the year. Just be in the moment, in the present. Those are good, I think that’s good goals for the year.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Cindy: “There is some commonality, like we all have these traits. So we should be lifting each other up …”

Kyira: “Yeah, absolutely!”