The Mighty Mentor

Mary refuses to wear one hat. Over her successful career she’s been a facilitator, trainer, mentor, strategic communications consultant and stage actor. She’s a great mentor because she’s kind and full of compassion. She’s a great strategic consultant because she’s smart. She’s a great actor because she’s wise and gets life. For 30 years she was the ultimate actress covering up her eating disorder. It started at 17 and she’s been clean for five years. In recovery, Mary had two goals: stop binging and purging and be in a loving relationship. She’s done both and that is astounding.
We have met a few times and make terrible jokes about bulimia – laughing over our worst potential occupations (pastry chefs, butchers, ballerinas). We can’t shock each other. Instead of doing the usual FABIK interview we’re trying out something different. We’ve bastardised Proust’s questions and Mary was the first to give them a go.
Here she is.

1. What is your idea of happiness?

Being at peace with myself. I also have a range of simple things that mean happiness to me; drinking great coffee, stroking a cat, watching a beautiful sunset, listening to birdsong, being with the one I love.

2. What is your greatest fear?

Living the unloved life.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Not doing what they say they’re going to.

4. Which living person do you most admire?

My father.

5. What is your greatest extravagance?

Fine things – champagne, nice clothes, quality furniture.

6. What is your current state of mind?


7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Being nice! Sometimes it’s powerful to say what you really feel.

8. On what occasion do you lie?

Very tempting to lie and say I never do! However I will tell a “little white lie” (is there such a thing?) when I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Prior to my recovery I was a skilled liar when it came to my food and why I did or didn’t want to eat.

9. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

Always hated the shape of my face.

10. What do you most like about your appearance?

Great eyebrows and lovely smile.

11. What is the quality you most like in a man?


12. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Kindness. Yeeks! I can’t believe how I’ve just answered those last two questions.

13. How is your relationship with your body?

Much better than it used to be but I can be tough on it. Still struggle at times looking at myself naked.

14. How is your relationship with food?

Overall very healthy, especially given my background.

15. What makes you feel safe?

Being in control of things.

16. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Really really and yeah yeah yeah.

17. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My husband.

18. When and where were you happiest?

My wedding day – I married later in life and it was a fabulous day!

19. What triggered your eating disorder?

Feeling very lost in my final year at school. I put on a stone the first week back. There had been issues prior to that once I discovered dieting when I was 14.

20. Do you think of yourself as disordered now?

No – but I feel you only learn to manage your eating disorder, it’s always lurking in the background in some form or other.

21. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d like to be braver and take more risks.

22. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Stop the disparity between rich and poor – there’s plenty to go round, why can’t we share it?

23. Which talent would you most like to have?

To be a great cook and love cooking.

24. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My recovery.

25. What is kindness to you?

Unconditional giving and loving.

26. What advice would you give your younger self?

Believe in and love yourself.

27. What was your lowest depth of misery?

In the midst of my recovery where I felt it was one step forward and ten back. I wondered if I’d ever have a life. It was hard!

28. What do you most value in your friends?

Their belief in me and never ending support and understanding.

29. What do your friends value in you?

My compassion and always there to listen.

30. What was the best advice you had in recovery?

Feel the feelings! Hated it at the time but it’s so true.

31. What’s your greatest trick for staying well/healing?

I don’t deprive myself and I never go hungry. I eat for energy, and exercise regularly but not excessively. Discovered qigong and it changed my life. I also discuss it when I’m having food problems. Regular journaling.

32. Can feminism and eating disorders be in a Venn diagram?

Mmm – this is an interesting one. Logically they can but my intuitive side wants to keep them apart and I have no idea why.

33. What is freedom to you?

Wow – so many things! It was a key driver in my recovery and I made many lists about it. Freedom means being free from constraints, inhibitions, expectations, fears. Free to be different, stand out, to fly! To love and be loved in return. Free to open my mind so that I’m open to limitless possibilities, to be real, to surrender myself.

34. What is your motto?

During recovery it was “Open your heart and let fate dance right in”. Post recovery it’s “Carpe Diem – seize the day!”


Want more? Check out this story on Adios Barbie about the new barbie. And while you’re there, you can read a story from FABIK founder Barfbag, aka Angela.

And, our friends Kendra and Liberty over at The True You project are hosting free talks/chats about food and body image this entire month. Go see them. Even if you don’t want to chat, have a read about what they’re up to. True warriors.