I’m not a compulsive over-eater when it comes to cooking savory food, so it doesn’t effect the majority of my work as a personal chef. My thing is sweets. One bite and the “off switch” just disappears.

Personal Chef Julie Anne Rhodes

Two days into reading A Course in Weight Loss, and I realized the obsession to overeat appeared to have been lifted. I made cupcakes with a visiting friend and her daughter, and ONE was enough!

Maisy and Jewels: one was enough

However, when I started procrastinating over the lessons, I did have a mini midnight binge. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that even though I got a head start on the rest of you, I am still struggling through the first two chapters. I vacillate between excitement (I do believe this is the missing link to a lifelong battle with my weight), and intense resistance. I have to remind myself there is no prize for being the first to finish the lessons – the prize is in finishing them, so I started taking an honest look at my fear based resistance.

I have trouble with terminology that has religious overtones; God, Divine Mind, Holy Spirit etc. It is not as if I haven’t already accepted a power greater than myself – I am over 12 years sober, but when I asked myself why I’m so resistant to mere words, I realized I’m still haunted by an incident that traumatized me as a child. My child’s mind was incapable of differentiating between religion and spirituality, so the two were still subconsciously interconnected. Even though I thought I’d long since moved on, I was still clinging onto the terror of religious persecution. A brick in the wall that needs to come down.


This is deep work! I’ve found that I need to read a little, set the book down and slowly digest the information, then go back to working on the lessons when I’m ready. The beauty of this book is that I feel like Marianne is gently leading me by the hand through self-discovery, and letting go of that which no longer serves me. Her guidance makes it feel safe enough to explore; but if I am going to authentically let myself go to these dark places, I can’t just rush through the process.
Have you ever remembered a classroom as being huge and frightening as a child, then returned as an adult, only to realize it is not as big as you remembered? The room is suddenly put into perspective, and there is no longer anything to be frightened of, so you can let that fear go, and move on. To me, that is what tearing the wall down, brick by brick is all about – letting go of the subconscious emotions and fears that keep me stuck in an emotional experience (that in turn triggers my self-destructive behavior). I need to acknowledge it exists, feel it, and move through it, to a place where my healthy self can exist without those extra ten to twenty pounds I put between me and the world.

Alana Stewart, Marianne Williamson, Cheryl Tiegs
A celebratory lunch: Alana, Marianne, and Cheryl


Since we will all be working at our own pace, I want you to feel free to leave comments, share ideas, or ask questions about whatever point you are at in the book. Share as much or as little as you are comfortable with. Marianne will hopefully check in when she can, but we can also help each other, so do chime into the discussion. I only ask that everyone please be respectful of each other’s feelings and point of view. This is an exercise in supporting each other through a spiritually cleansing process.
Obviously eating healthy, and getting exercise is an important factor too, so I’ll throw in a few yummy recipes for good measure, but I suspect making those healthy choices will come more naturally as we delve further into this journey together.
In the meantime, what, if any resistance or road blocks have you hit so far? How have you moved through them?


Roasted Butternut Squash & Pear Soup  

This is one of my favorite holiday first courses. This soup has great depth of flavor – making it a healthy, comforting, and elegant choice all rolled into one.

Servings: 8


  • 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and 1/2 inch dice
  • 3 carrots, peeled and 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 large leeks, sliced in half lengthwise, cleaned, and 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 Bosc pears, peeled and 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup Brandy
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper


1). Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2). In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash and carrots with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then turn out onto a sheet pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper to taste, and roast in the preheated oven for ten minutes.

3). In the same large bowl, toss the leeks and pears with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add to the sheet pan with the butternut squash and carrots, tossing everything gently, to brown evenly in a single layer, and roast for an additional 30 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender and golden brown, tossing everything again midway.

4). Remove the vegetables from the oven, and transfer to a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Use the white wine to deglaze the sheet pan, and add the juices to the vegetables. Add Brandy, broth, thyme, bay leaf, and ginger, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for one hour.

5). Remove thyme and bay leaf, then puree the soup with an immersion blender, or carefully in a blender in batches. Add white pepper, and season with salt to taste.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with crusty bread on the side, and garnish with reserved thyme, or with a dollop of crème fraiche if desired.

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  • November 16, 2010
    10:38 am

    Good for you Julie Anne! I applaude your determination. Meanwhile, your soup looks fantastic and I'll be giving that a go for sure.cupcake

  • November 16, 2010
    5:30 pm

    I just finished the exercise for the second lesson yesterday, which I found profoundly deep and moving and insightful. MW says at one point in lesson 2 that our not-thin selves are just parts of us that are trying to get our attention. That hit home HUGELY for me. Giving that aspect of myself the freedom and the opportunity to voice its thoughts and feelings was really amazing and powerful.And yes, Jewels, I, too, am finding that I need to read a chapter, process a lot, and then go back a few days later and work on it some more. But that's normal for deep work. You do a little at a time. And you absolutely should NOT beat yourself up for taking your time. Not only is there no prize, if you rush through it you won't get the full benefit of working through the book slowly, of uncovering and dealing and letting go of all the tiny fears and negativity that cause your self-destructive eating.So, nobody rush. We aren't in a race. Emotional work is personal and you are free to move at your own speed.Off to read Lesson 3,India

  • November 16, 2010
    5:58 pm

    Hope you like it Cupcake – one of my favorites!Thanks India, already feeling supported, and so happy you are making such remarkable strides.I have my first question for Marianne – I'm learning so much about myself, but also that I'm still carrying baggage I thought I released years ago, and wasn't consciously aware still bothered me. How do you know for sure when those fears are gone for good?

  • November 16, 2010
    6:07 pm

    I am a believer in God, am Christian and too when I was young had fear of my then forced religion, I now am non-denominational Christian and refuse to be classified as anything but… I am surprised at how simple words helped me to change (not trying to force religion on you, just saying what I dealt with). I also am now (thanx to you) able to say that even though I may be on the thinner side, I always obsess at having to keep my weight at no more than 130, I freak out and don't know why if it gets higher and have struggled (not in last few yrs) in periods of my life w/ bulimia and crash diets. I think I need to read this book for myself on how to help me, aside from my daughter I had told you about. Phew, thanks for letting me release this……..

  • November 16, 2010
    7:25 pm

    a mini midnight bingemy greatest enemy 🙁

  • November 16, 2010
    7:39 pm

    As an agnostic, I'm not really sure there IS a God. But that's not what irks me about the spiritual moments in the book. I don't like being told I'm not in control. I don't like being told I'm powerless and that only someone else (in this case God) can heal me.Pretty much thinking I'm in charge of all that.But I'm flexible. I can compromise, because I can admit that while I've definitely been in charge of seeking it out and doing the work, healing has always been a mystery and a miracle. It comes from elsewhere, maybe that elsewhere is deep inside of my own psyche, maybe it is a spiritual force — I don't know. What I know is that I know very little and control even less about HOW all this deep work affects me and the mechanisms through which it heals me.So, I'll be in charge of the What. I don't know who handles How, but I'll not argue with MW if she says it's God.India

  • November 16, 2010
    11:49 pm

    Your so brave Carly. Maybe leading by example will help your daughter too.Yes Derek – I don't feel like eating while I'm cooking all day long, so I end up ravenously hungry late at night – bad habit!Another thing I notice when I am not in resistance – I don't binge eat at all – I recognize when I'm hungry and eat then (rather than waiting until I am starving), plus I eat until I am satiated, not stuffed. Reconnecting to source seems to reconnect all the signal wiring as well. Glad you got past the control thing India – by the time I made it to AA I was already on my knees, so I was happy to surrender – with this, I'm not as desperate, so I've decided that I am surrendering my scales and any funky diet ideas – just consciously choosing healthy food at least 90% of the time, and seeing where the process takes me naturally. If I want a cupcake occasionally, I will have one, and trust my faith will keep me from having more than one.

  • November 17, 2010
    9:35 am

    I just received my copy, so I should be able to get started reading. It's interesting to read all of your comments as to how you are finding it. I suspect I'll also be in the camp of being a slow reader, digesting little bits at a time. But as long as it works and I can see results, that's all that matters for me. :)~April

  • November 17, 2010
    10:23 am

    I read the first lesson, thought about it and read it again, taking time to think about it in context with my life. I'll admit that I'm not comfortable with "religion", but do feel that there is some Higher Power that hears our prayers and tries to guide us to the right answer. Notice I said tries to guide us because ultimately we are responsible for our own decisions. My weight has been an issue since I was 7 years old, I'm now 54. That's a long time. People have always felt that they had the right to comment on my weight, whether it was a sister, my step mother, my father, teachers, colleagues and so on. In the late 80's, in a last ditch effort to try to find a husband, I lost over 100 lb, got to a nice size and never met anyone because I still had the bricks around me. When my father died, my life shattered and I gained back the 100 pounds plus. Fast forward 18 years and I was that much older and weighed 275 lb. At that point, I stopped weighing myself, I didn't want to know. I was in a job that I loved, but the stress was too much. My body started to change on its own. I guess the stress killed my appetite and my health got to the point where I was in so much pain from arthritis in my joints that I was losing consciousness at my desk. My doctor stepped in at that point and I went on sick leave which in turn became permanent. My weight kept dropping over the past two years and I now weigh 126.6 lb. The fact that I feel compelled to know my weight right to the decimal point tells me that I still have a lot of issues.I've gone through the first lesson two times. The first time, I cried, it was all too much. I went through it a second time and could see myself in pretty much every brick. I'm going to take a third hit on the lesson, writing down how the bricks apply to me and praying that the Higher Power and I can work together to tear down the wall that I built around me. While I thought it was protecting me, it really wasn't. It only helped me to hide from the truth – that my life was a mess.I'm committed to going through each lesson, processing the information and seeing how it applies to my life. I feel that I'm in good company. I'm getting to know the regular people who comment and I feel that you and I are very much alike Julie Anne. There has to be a reason that I found your blog. I think the Higher Power felt that I could learn a lot from you and I have. Not just in cooking, but in living a life that's true to yourself. Thank you for those life lessons!

  • November 17, 2010
    4:09 pm

    Thank you for taking your blog readers on this excellent Course journey – both with you, and within ourselves. It is truly "in-spirt" as it is both inspired and inspirational. You and Marianne Williamson and a dynamic team, and this new blog endeavor is THE best impact you can offer your community of readers. Thank you!

  • November 17, 2010
    5:05 pm

    If anyone in So Cal is interested Marianne is going to be at Barnes Noble signing her book on Thursday night in Santa Monica at the promenade /3rd st.I think it's at 7pm. I'm going to try and make it! Penelope

  • November 17, 2010
    6:08 pm

    Yay April! So glad your joining us! Ruthee – you have quite a story, much of which breaks my heart to hear because just the little I know of you through the blog – you are an amazing woman with so much love and beauty to offer the world. I hope this book gives us all some peace, once and for all, with the weight thing!Tree – what strikes me most, is how much silent pain we have all carried through the years over our weight. That is so sad, and why I'm so happy MW wrote this book. Please know that I am just taking this journey with you all – I'm not on a higher spiritual plane – MW would say we are ALL just beginning.Penelope – you beat me to it! Yes, she does, and I'm going to try to be there (since I'm not exactly breezing through this process), but I have a client that day, so it will be tight. if any of you do go – please share anything you learned.

  • November 17, 2010
    9:53 pm

    I have had this book for over a week now and I am still working the first lesson. Every time I read through the "bricks", I get lost in a memory that is brought about by the words. Most of them painful. I am a compulsive over-eater! There I said it. That is the first time I have ever said that out loud. Some people use alcohol or drugs to mask their pain, I use food. Let me preface this by saying that I am not looking for sympathy. I have had plenty of sympathy over the years from my family and it has done me no good. I am simply sharing my story with all of you. I hope what I am about to say does not offend anyone and if it does then I sincerely apologize. I was raped by a grown man when I was 7 years old. That trauma completely put my young life on a different course, one that I am hoping to change now. I was a very active little tomboy before that incident. I played every sport imaginable, climbed trees and was thin. Then "it" happened and I started to hide in the house and sneak leftovers from dinner after I had already eaten a full meal. Sure my Mom took me to mandatory social workers and therapists for help, but this broken child just couldn't understand what they wanted me to. I spent the rest of my adolescence gaining weight and being teased by, what seemed like, everyone at school. I used music to escape the everyday. I NEVER went anywhere without my yellow, waterproof Sony Walkman. As long as I had my headphones on I couldn't hear all of the horrible things the kids used to say to me about my weight. I spent nearly two decades in therapy trying to undo the damage done to no avail. That one incident has affected every relationship I have ever had. Which is why, I suspect, that none of them have been successful. When I started to read Marianne's book the whole idea of the bricks reminded me of something that my favorite(yes I had a favorite -LOL),therapist once said to me. She once told me that I keep the extra weight on my body for protection. Kind of like the brick wall that Marianne talks about. Anyhow, I have rambled on enough, but I do want all of you to know that I enjoy reading all of your comments not just Julie Anne's. I am extremely excited to work through all of the lesson's in this book and finally rid myself of the "protection" I have felt that I have needed for all of these years. Cheers,Dawn

  • November 17, 2010
    10:05 pm

    Hi Dawn – maybe you don't want or need our sympathy, but I have to send you a cyber hug for being so brave in sharing your story. I want this to be a safe place to find support and love. I agree 100% with your favorite therapist. I know I started overeating when I was at my most vulnerable too, and it is just reactive behavior now that needs the cycle to be broken. More than anything I want this to be the journey that frees us all from that cushion we put between ourselves and the world.

  • November 18, 2010
    12:14 am

    Julie Anne, thanks for sharing this journey. I got my book last week and have worked through the first four chapters. The first chapter reminded me of inventory work I've done in AA and Al-Anon. The list of bricks and writing about each one helps me be really specific about what's still bothering me and standing between me and God. So, even though I've done lots of step work over the past 20 years, I still found lots to write about. You mentioned having a question for Marianne…if you still have lots of issues even after you think you've worked them through, how do you know when you've really let go of fear? I could identify with that, since I still have so much to write about.What I think is, it's like a spiral. We go deeper in understanding ourselves and God as we mature. We get to look at ourselves at new levels as we are able to do that. Personally, I'm glad that it takes some time to come to grips with some of my issues, because I don't think I could have handled some of this work at earlier points in my life. I had enough going on, doing the work I was capable of then. The second chapter was a huge eye-opener for me and I am very grateful for the concept of Thin Me and Not Thin Me. I used to get so mad at myself when I made mistakes. I would think, how could someone who is so capable in some areas be so screwed up in others? Now I realize that parts of me are further progressed than others. I also realized, after writing the letters between my two parts, that Thin Me sometimes abdicates being responsible and healthy and turns vital tasks, such as bill-paying, over to Not Thin Me! This is not a good idea! So in the past few days, Thin Me has been keeping an eye on the books and other important tasks and now has a heightened sense of well-being because Thin Me knows she's responsible, healthy, balanced, all that good stuff. Thin Me no longer has to worry that Not Thin Me is going to screw things up. Thin Me can relax and be happier.And Not Thin Me is free to putter around with things that won't get us into too much trouble, such as playing the occasional video game. Not Thin Me is really glad to have Thin Me off her back, too. Not Thin Me used to tell Thin Me, "Chill out, have a donut" when things got stressy. There doesn't seem to be a need to do that now.I am having to adapt Chapter 3 to my circumstances. I'm downsizing my possessions so Thin Me (who I learned in Chapter 4 is actually the real me!) can fulfill her lifelong dream of being a full-time RVer. So my altar will have to be a special little box, I think. I'm excited about who I am going to become through this journey. I guess I was ready for the next turn of the spiral.

  • November 18, 2010
    1:24 am

    Food for me is the fuel for life. I could never understand why some people skip meals or don't like certain foods, even though they may never have tried it. I on the other hand love it. I will try anything. Luckily I have never had a huge problem with my weight but I have been known in the past to put on a little here and there, especially after giving birth to my now almost 2year old daughter. Reading this blog with comments from those in cyberland who have opened up with their weight issues is indeed courageous.I stand and applaude you all and look forward to reading your progress through Marianne's book. Great work Jewels!Aussie Mum

  • November 18, 2010
    2:34 am

    Soaring Sun – your wisdom and insight is so greatly appreciated, and what a beautiful explanation to my question. I LOVE that your alter has to be adapted to fit your new lifestyle. This a major break through, and one I'm going to spend tonight contemplating further." I also realized, after writing the letters between my two parts, that Thin Me sometimes abdicates being responsible and healthy and turns vital tasks, such as bill-paying, over to Not Thin Me! This is not a good idea! "Thanks Aussie Mum, but all I've done is a little sharing and opening up the conversation – the real work is what we achieve through sharing each others thoughts and insights. So grateful for all of you!

  • November 18, 2010
    5:22 pm

    @ Dawn, you will make it, someone very close and dear to me went through the same thing by a very, very close family member from the time she was 6 months old for the next 6 yrs w/out anybody doing anythig (the state, etc even though her mother had proof). She has learned to live with this awfullness and is a huge part of productive society (not saying you aren't). But she is doing very well in spite of all the bad. The funny thing about this? She is like 5'9 and 140 lbs and a firefighter at a very young age. I wish you the best and commend you for sharing what has happened, this is a HUGE step.

  • November 18, 2010
    8:04 pm

    Hi, everyone. Thanks to all of you — and specifically Julie Anne — for reading the book and giving it a chance to work! Regarding the spiritual aspects of the course, I am referring to what in Alcoholics Anonymous is referred to as "God as you understand Him." It's not a force that is outside you, but it IS something that lies beyond our normal thought system. A miracle comes from "a thought system beyond your own." (A COURSE IN MIRACLES). Also, regarding letting go fear, we've all had experiences where we thought we had gotten over some chronic neurotic pattern, and then it ultimately reared its ugly head once more. So healing is a process. Sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back; but we do go forward and we do improve. That's why the course is a process you relax into more than some kind of goal you're rushing to try to obtain. It is a journey of the spirit, not just a journey of the body. And one affects the other in miraculous ways.Thanks, Marianne Williamson

  • November 18, 2010
    10:23 pm

    My therapist used to say 'It feels worse than it actually is, try and remember that and take some comfort in it"

  • November 18, 2010
    10:31 pm

    @Dawn –I'm in much the same boat. I've been in therapy for 20 years, too and have done a lot of different kinds of work to overcome what happened to me. And luckily, I can say now that I'm largely beyond it. There are still some lingering issues (my weight being the key one) and yes, I can still be triggered, but I have healed most of the ways being abused has affected me. Much love to you as you work through your experience!I think my weight was more than just protection though. I think the reason(s) I'm overweight are multifaceted — in part it was protection, in part it was needing a place to hide, in part it was needing to be big enough to get attention, in part it was needing to be big enough to carry all the pain I had.So, there's a lot going on here and as I read through Marianne's book and do the exercises, subtle shifts are occurring. I've learned a lot so far and I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.India

  • November 20, 2010
    2:02 am

    Yet again, great insight India – "I think my weight was more than just protection though. I think the reason(s) I'm overweight are multifaceted — in part it was protection, in part it was needing a place to hide, in part it was needing to be big enough to get attention, in part it was needing to be big enough to carry all the pain I had."Thank you Marianne for the book, and all your support. Your message, no matter what aspect of life it is applied to, is such a powerful one. For those of you who don't know – I knew Marianne for just a few short weeks when I found out I had to have heart surgery, and she showed up for me in ways I would never expect from people I'd known a lifetime – I learn to be kinder to others (and myself) through your example my friend.

  • November 22, 2010
    5:35 pm

    I have read the first two chapters and I am finding myself resisting filling out the "bricks". Pretty scary stuff hidden in that wall. I can definitely see how healing will come from the exercise and by asking for God's help. I need to lose quite a bit, and I realize now that those bricks have been weighing me down for much too long. Marianne's book is a journey that I am ready to slowly and deeply approach.

  • November 22, 2010
    9:29 pm

    Okay so just a random post about tonight's dinner. Mom is making her famous scratch baked ziti and I have to say that I am rendered powerless when she makes this dish! Her being the jolly, "wanting to feed the entire world", Italian woman that she is, she is constantly urging me and everyone else at the dinner table to "eat, eat, come on mangia." I will be chanting this mantra all evening: "I only need and/or want a small portion of baked ziti!" LOL I can do it! Right? Sorry if this post is slightly off topic but I just had to share it with all of you!

  • November 22, 2010
    9:48 pm

    Hey D – this is exactly what we are here for – support! You are not the only one with an Italian mother telling you to mangia! Most mothers do it in every language (myself included until recently), because it is part of our wanting to nourish our loved ones. Lovingly ask you mother to support you in your quest to lose weight, reassuring her you are doing it in the healthiest possible way FOR your health, and trust that the course is working for you. I'm finding that most of the time I am stopping at one reasonable serving, but sometimes not. When I don't, I try to be kind to "not thin me", and not beat her up like I used to. I realize while I am doing the work – I have not necessarily let go of all my bricks yet – it is a process that takes time, but it is helping. More often than not I am stopping as soon as I am satiated (rather than stuffed full) now.

  • December 1, 2010
    3:29 pm

    Julie Anne, thank you so much for creating the space and opportunity for this discussion! I haven't started the book yet but I'm more excited than ever after reading your posts and thoughts, and those of your readers. So many things here got me feeling choked up. There is so much healing to be done, but I have faith that it is ours for the taking if we only learn how to seek it out and access it!