Discussion Questions for Susan Burton: Bless This Body
1. Susan Burton, author of Empty, remembers waking up in college and always promising herself to “eat good.” What does “eating good” mean to you?
2.“I felt certain that what I had was a problem,” Susan reflects, “but I also felt even more isolated because I couldn’t find a narrative that described exactly what I did.” Have you ever known the pain of a problem with no name?
3. Even when “binge eating” became formalized as a diagnosis, Susan still struggled to use the phrase because it came with so much shame. What language has been a source of self-loathing or liberation for you?
4. In Empty, Susan wrote, “I never forgot about food in the way that you never forget anything you fear.” What do you fear like Susan fears food? What is it that you want to control so badly? What helps you to be okay with the uncertainty?
5. Susan never received direct criticism of her body growing up. But she did get a number of implicit messages from the women in her family that being thin mattered. What habits, objects, or sayings from your youth shaped you?
6. Of her teenage body, Susan says, “I didn’t hate my body, but it didn’t feel like mine.” When has your body felt most like you? When has your body felt most foreign? What do you notice about the comparison?
7. Kate says there needs to be a fuller picture of how we can nourish ourselves from within. What habits help you feed yourself from the inside out? What habits leave you feeling empty, stuffed, or out-of-whack?
8. “It felt to me like the only way that I could be a good parent, a good worker, a good spouse, a good friend,” Susan says, “was to be empty.” In other words, if she ate perfectly, she’d be perfectly available. How does the connection being perfect and being loved show up in your thinking and actions?
9. Less than two years ago, after doing some writing and therapy, Susan shared her lifelong secret with her husband. Until then, she says, she was too afraid of the shame but also too afraid of acknowledging the behavior hadn’t gone away. What gives you the courage to speak truthfully about your current condition?
10. Susan wishes she could be a more effective spokeswoman for her story. She may not be able to tell anyone what it’s like to be at the end of an eating disorder. But she can share what it’s like to live with more generosity and compassion. Where can you forgive yourself for not being further along in your story?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate & Susan’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?