To Be of Substance:
A Personal Recovery Call to Action
A few years back, I read The Paris Wife, a fictionalized account of Hadley Richardson’s
marriage to the famous American author Ernest Hemingway, by Paula McClain. I’ve been in
love with Paris ever since visiting that magical city for the first and only time (so far) in 2010.
Admittedly, I was much more interested in reading about Paris than Hadley or Hemingway. This
book offered me an escape to the beauty, charm, and poetic existence I imagine of Paris. Never
did I expect, however, to find the essence of what would become my personal “Recovery Call to
After becoming pregnant, Hadley describes her body in positively astounding terms. Full of
pride, Hadley explains: “My middle thickened, and my breasts grew fuller. I was tan and strong
and content—more substantial…—and began to believe that I’d finally discovered my purpose.”
I reread Hadley’s words in disbelief. Did she just call her body more substantial? I never heard a
woman feel proud of or describe her body in this way. I wondered what it would feel like to be
both proud of my body and welcome weight gain.
Without apology, Hadley was clearly at ease with her thickening, changing, more substantial
body. Of course, pregnancy can be beautifully empowering, but the body changes that result
aren’t always easy to accept. I speak from experience and share the voices of many women also
in eating disorder recovery who gain weight from pregnancy and/or as a natural progression of the
healing process. To become more substantial, to expand and take up more space, can be an
intolerable feeling that requires perseverance and time to accept.
As I continued to read The Paris Wife, I obsessively flipped back to Hadley’s description of her
body. I was compelled to make sure her words hadn’t disappeared, that she hadn’t taken them
back, or changed her description from one of empowerment to disgust or shame.
To be slight, barely there, a whisper of a body passing through—that was my personal mission
statement at the height of my illness. The quiet violence of anorexia starved out my
substance—my goals, dreams, energy, and self-confidence. To be slight—small from every
angle—was an all-consuming effort that stripped me to my bones and mercilessly dropped me to
Hadley’s declaration of pride in her growing and changing body inspired me to imagine what it
means to be and live more substantially. Over the past several years (more than 20 to be exact),
my return to substance—to become more substantial in mind, body, and spirit—has been my
To be of substance means to live in my body, fully in touch with its sensations, unpredictable
changes, and the ebb and flow of emotions. To be of substance is to choose satiety instead of
hunger, to taste instead of deny, to listen instead of numb. To be of substance means to stand tall
instead of slouched, whole instead of fragmented. It’s a commitment to assert rather than
abandon and to dream instead of despair. To be of substance means to live unapologetically for
my body, my words, my achievements, and my choices; to be motivated by self-compassion and
assured of my resilience.
In the past, I would have resisted the idea to strive to be more than slight of frame. I admit, the
temptation to become small and quiet creeps up every so often, as does the urge to flirt with
hunger. But my personal recovery call to action pulls me back on my path, and it’s not always a
smooth transition. Still, the days of existing as a whisper are behind me. Now, I enjoy living a
life of more substance in a body that is strong and capable, whole and alive.
I share this story with you, my friends, in the hope that you, too, will choose to unapologetically
own your body and mind, your story and choices, and your gifts and passions by creating a
personal recovery call to action. This intention of sorts will help you clearly define your own
mission for recovery and allow your commitment to heal to take root. Doing so will also
cultivate the beautiful gifts of self-reliance, resilience, and trust for yourself and the healing
process. I truly believe we each have the right to become more substantial and experience what’s
possible with deep and lasting healing.
About the Author
Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, is a certified yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. She is a sought-after international speaker and creator and host of “Real Body Talk,” an online interview talk show. Through her virtual school, Yoga for Eating Disorders, Jennifer offers individual yoga therapy, groups, yoga classes, and continuing education and mentoring for professionals. She is the author of Body Mindful Yoga, and her writing about her eating disorder recovery and experience as a yoga therapist has been featured widely in print, broadcast, and online media. Her next book, The Courageous Path to Healing (Llewellyn Worldwide), is due out April 2022.
To learn more, visit Jennifer’s website: www.yoga4eatingdisorders.com