We’re so excited to introduce you all to our friend and colleague, Carmen Cool. Thank you so much Carmen for sitting down with us and sharing your wisdom!
Carmen Cool MA, LPC is a psychotherapist, educator, and advocate. She has a master’s degree in transpersonal psychology, and is also a certified Hakomi therapist. She has worked as a psychotherapist for 15 years, both in private practice and in group settings. As founder of the former Boulder Youth Body Alliance in 2004, she has championed youth to raise their voice and create new cultural norms around body image. She has been a Boulder County Leadership Fellow, was named “Most Inspiring Individual” in Boulder County and won the Excellence in Eating Disorder Advocacy Award in Washington DC. To learn more about Carmen’s practice please visit www.carmencool.com.
“Things like “health” and “self-acceptance” aren’t nouns to me, but verbs. They aren’t places for me to get to, but practices I engage in, by being in a partnership with my body.”
1. What led you to Health at Every Size® and Intuitive Eating?
I spent many years wishing I had a different body and trying to achieve one. I’d travel back and forth between dieting and binging and bulimia, and ended up taking a semester off of school to get help. When I arrived at the treatment center, I realized that I had always believed that I needed to be thin to be successful, beautiful and powerful. But my therapist there was not thin. And – she was successful, beautiful and powerful. By itself, that was transformative for me. I felt sad and angry at all the time I had spent trying to be different, the ways that trying to make my body smaller really just made my life smaller.
Recovery from bulimia meant learning to eat and move in a way that was connected to my body. It also meant that I needed to learn to live inside the body that I had.
In the middle of that journey, my sister died from anorexia. I became very interested in the intersection of eating disorders and weight prejudice. I had a mentor who pointed me in the direction of others working in the area of size acceptance and it ignited a passion in me. I started looking at the ecology of women’s experiences – the cultural and political landscapes that shape how we feel about our bodies.
So for me, HAES ® is a paradigm I work in and also the way I live my life. It includes both my relationship with my body and the social justice component about the ways we ascribe meanings to weight. This combination of personal and cultural transformation is what I love.
2. What has surprised you the most as you have learned to accept yourself?
The importance of community. I am a strong introvert, and have very high needs for solitude. Learning to be a part of, trust, and belong to a community took some time. And now I can’t imagine doing this work, personally or professionally, without my community and living an autonomous, but embedded, life.
3. What are three aspects you feel are the most important to remember when moving toward radical self-acceptance?
~ The power is in the present. Remembering that “there” is not better than “here.”
~ It’s about the process, not the outcome. When I was trying to get into the “right” body, I stopped paying attention to the one I had. Things like “health” and “self-acceptance” aren’t nouns to me, but verbs. They aren’t places for me to get to, but practices I engage in, by being in a partnership with my body.
~ Move in the direction of more freedom.
4. What is your favorite part of your body? How do you celebrate it?
I’m surprised by my answer, because for most of life it was my least favorite part: my hair. It’s becoming increasingly gray, and I love that because I feel like I’m growing into my wise woman self.
5. What is your favorite food and how do you like to enjoy it?
I love so many foods, and I’m always discovering new things and combinations. My favorite depends on the season! In the late summer, my favorite food is a palisade peach straight from the western slopes of the Colorado mountains. I like to enjoy it with juice running down my arms, cut up in oatmeal, diced over vanilla ice cream, or grilled on a salad.
In the fall, my favorite food is pumpkin cheesecake. I like to enjoy it slowly, uttering “oh my god” with each bite. With caramel. Always caramel.
In the winter, it’s butternut squash – I love it as a soup, or roasted with polenta and fried sage.
In the late spring, I love making a “garden succotash” of vegetables from the farmer’s market: corn, pattypan squash, and snow peas with fresh thyme and butter.
6. What inspires and renews your dedication to your process when you need it the most?
Working with teens. I’ve worked with hundreds of teenagers, training them to be body-positive advocates and leaders. When I feel disheartened, they infuse me with hope and remind me that it’s so important to be transparent. They also have a way of giving my words back to me when I most need to hear them.
7. Radical self-acceptance means…
….being my own best advocate and ally. And then from there, advocating for a world that celebrates the fact that people come in all shapes and sizes.
8. What books, music or websites inspire you right now?
I was named after the opera “Carmen”, and I have the opportunity to go see it in a few weeks, so I’m listening to it now and it makes me smile. I’m always inspired by anything written by Pema Chodron, as well as the poetry of Mary Oliver and David Whyte. I also feel wildly inspired by Curvy Yoga and The Body Is Not An Apology.
9. Favorite quote or poem?
“Here in this body are the sacred rivers: here are the sun and moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body.”
~ Sahara, ancient Tibetan poet