Charlene’s Story: Success – Moment by Moment

“I’ve loved food from a young age! My mother was a fabulous Southern cook and growing up, I spent countless wonderful hours in the kitchen with her learning how to cook. My memories of my early experiences with food are very happy ones. And I was so healthy! Honestly, I never had a problem with food until I started dieting in my early twenties. The media was telling me that I should be thinner and that it was cool to be on a diet.” Looking back, Charlene realizes that there was nothing wrong with her body at the time but convinced that being beautiful meant looking like the models in advertisements, she fell into the trap of trying one diet after another, over and over, year after year-feeling more deprived, and gaining more weight with each cycle.

Ron and me -Charlene RayburnFood was love

“I also began a pattern of emotional eating. Food was love. I was eating when I wasn’t hungry to comfort myself. And I became attached to the feeling of security that fullness provided.” She became weary of the process but just didn’t know what else to do. “I kept trying but I believed that there was something wrong with me because even though I was successful in other areas of my life, I couldn’t successfully stay on a diet. I was totally exhausted by it all. It’s easy to see the pattern now in hindsight but I was totally blind to it at the time, as so many people are.”

“I was introduced to mindfulness and meditation 30 years ago. I took to it easily but for some reason, I hadn’t been able to apply it to my eating. I did a search for mindful eating and found Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. I couldn’t put it down! I felt so understood.  It felt like Michelle was standing right beside me.

“My background in mindfulness was fertile ground and I was ready. Of course I had difficulty trusting myself at the beginning. I had swung back and forth between dieting and overeating for so long that I was afraid that I would lose control. But I learned that when I was ‘allowed’ to eat what I love (including my mother’s recipes!) I actually didn’t want to eat all the time like I was afraid I would. I still eat for emotional reasons at times but not nearly as often.”


After practicing this approach for a year and a half, Charlene shares some of the other changes that have taken place.

  • Freedom!
  • Success always felt like it was in the distant future, something to constantly strive for. Now it is the moment-by-moment experience that matters.
  • When eating mindfully, listening to her body, and moving her body in a conscious, caring way, she is able to look in the mirror and appreciate the miraculous image no longer clouded by some external measure of success.
  • Her food preferences have changed. “I enjoy the adventure of trying and really tasting new things.”
  • She enjoys “a walk for a walk or a stretch as a stretch” instead of striving to reach some goal.
  • Now she notices her thoughts and likes having the door open to understanding in a whole new way. “I think completely differently than I once did.”
  • She truly appreciates the beauty and diversity of the world now. “When people complain about their weight, I can honestly say, ‘You are beautiful just the way you are.'”


“It was difficult to realize that I had been ‘brainwashed’ to believe that it was self-love to try so hard to fit into the world’s image of what success looks like. But now I can see that it is exactly the opposite; it is actually self-abuse. Even our health professionals are so focused on weight that they are missing the whole point. It is a mass illusion! This process led to a huge shift in my understanding of what true self-love is.”

Charlene says she didn’t realize how much she had been beating herself up. “I used to watch the Biggest Loser hoping to discover some sort of ‘magic switch.’ I knew their techniques were excessive, but I accepted it as necessary because I didn’t know a better way.” Now she sees it as abusive and damaging. “It is heart-breaking. Why do people allow themselves to be abused this way, as a sort of spectator sport? Even kind-hearted folks cheer them on because they just can’t see it for what it is.”

Workplace Wellness

Charlene is currently a manager for a major corporation and has a love for personal development and growth. She’s also worked as an employee engagement coach, and has coached leaders, groups and individuals internationally after pursuing training to become a personal and professional leadership coach. “I am still trying to navigate the corporate wellness  approach. I understand the good intentions of companies that are ‘fighting obesity,’ but I now know that there’s a better way.” She decided to become an Am I Hungry? Facilitator in order to promote awareness and help others along this journey.

“It is difficult for me to express how expansive and ‘kind’ this program is. All of the shame is gone. The compassion and self-love have changed the way I see everything. I am so grateful.” Charlene’s compassion and insight caught the attention of Am I Hungry? Founder Michelle May who invited her to become a regular blogger for Am I

Charlene adds, “I know that being able to ‘eat what you love, and love what you eat’ seems too good to be true and that people are scared to believe it. Everything around you tells you that your weight is the problem-not your relationship with food. It leads to so much self-blame. I want to give those who are still struggling with food issues a big hug, let them know that Am I Hungry? offers a much better way, and support them in their physical, emotional, and spiritual healing process.”

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