When someone who read your book at age 19 writes to you at age 40

In Conscious Consumer, Mind/Body/Spirit, Q&A by Robyn Landis0 Comments

I will try to introduce this dialogue as briefly as possible.

I wrote this book BodyFueling in the 1990s. It came out in 1994, sold over 150,000 copies published by Warner Books, was reprinted in five countries.  Not millions of copies or a New York Times bestseller, but it made many regional bestseller lists and got some great reviews from major magazines and newspapers. Pretty good for a 25-year-old first-time author without an agent.

I was quite young and so was the Internet, and there were no social platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and blogs (yes, I’m that old!)—and I could not envision the kind of  path for myself a an author that I would undoubtedly have seen today. I also had many interests and passions, though health and fitness remained among them. So after writing a second book (on herbal medicine) and teaching my workshop for a while longer, I went on to do other things. I became an award-winning performing songwriter, a marketing-communications specialist, and an amateur athlete, as well as a freelance health and environmental writer.

Along the way, I lived and learned a lot. Everything I had written about in BodyFueling continued to evolve, for me personally and in the collective knowledge, and served as the underpinning of a passionate and energetic life. In an ever-deepening way, I continued to live as I taught then and as I teach now: that nourishing our bodies is a way to fuel our lives, and to liberate us to fully live our highest purpose. I have been fortunate—in a world where this is as rare as the dodo—to have a relationship to food, fitness and self-care that is joyful, easeful, clear, and powerful. For about 25 years.

A couple of years ago I looked around and said to myself, “This is still a huge issue for almost everyone, in many of the ways I wrote about and taught back then. Even though the space is exploding with books and programs and memes and philosophies and gurus and advice, for many people it never gets better or clearer, and in many ways it’s gotten worse. I have something valuable to share, especially from this place of maturity and experience. I am proof that a life of healthy, savvy, inspired self-care can be happily achieved by ‘regular people.” I am proof that it can be sustained for decades, through 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. I knew then and know ever better now the things that make the difference. I am more than ever a writer, speaker and communicator. I must share this.”

So I commenced to poke my head back into the fray—now a much larger, more inundated and tumultuous scene—and explore how to sincerely and effectively offer my brand of health-fitness-selfcare inspiration and education, for those who might benefit.

I started writing, blogging, teaching, coaching, and working on my third book (tentatively titled NOURISHED: Radical Self-Care and a Sustainable Life—Made Joyful, Easy, Smart and Delicious (Field Notes from a Fit and Fearless Quarter-Century). And posting photos and slowly re-establishing my tribe.

As I said on Instagram a couple months ago, “I am the grandmother of Bodyfueling.”  It felt funny, but good, to admit I am the grandmother of a movement. I came out about my age and stopped letting people think I was still in my 30s. Because as much of an ego kick as that was, I realized I could have a much bigger impact if people knew how fully I was exemplifying what I so want to convey: our power and potential to age naturally, beautifully and joyfully.

Meanwhile, I also got hooked up with the Title 9 catalog as one of their reader models.  That was just pure fun. (Okay, I admit—besides loving the clothes and the adventure, I thought it might make for a good story—although I think the whole thing is a good story). Like, “Look, I became at fitness model at 50! It’s never too late!”

Last month, one of the pictures of me a in a dress ended up as the “book opener” (inside front cover) of the Title 9 catalog.

What I didn’t know was going to happen then was that a woman named Hilary Detwiller, who read my book when she was 19 (and is now 40) would recognize me, look me up, and contact me. I used to receive letters from readers of BodyFueling quite often, but it has been over 20 years, after all; it’s been quite a while since I heard from anyone reading it.

I almost literally grew up as the author of BodyFueling. About a decade behind me, Hilary grew up as a reader of it. A few weeks ago, we connected. Not only did I get to witness to my very bones what an impact I have had—but Hilary had a profound impact on me and what I am doing now. In my own honest and vulnerable response to her, I think you’ll see why.

I won’t try to paraphrase what she said at all; I think the exchange speaks for itself better.  I was moved to tears by it. Gratefully, she’s given me wholehearted permission to share it in full, and this exchange is completely unedited. It’s obviously much more than (and longer than) just a “testimonial.”

I think you’ll understand why I feel like her words speak more clearly than almost anything I could say. And why I feel more determined than ever to use my voice—even amid the cacophony of diet authors, gurus and Instagram stars. And why I now feel clearer than ever about what unique note I can hit.  My deepest thanks to Hilary for her generosity and heartfelt articulation of these important things.


Dear Robyn,

I just had to reach out to tell you that in 1995, at the age of 19, I stumbled upon my mom’s copy of Bodyfueling and absolutely devoured it. What you wrote made so much sense to me, especially after years of struggling with body image and my weight. Reading a book that actually encouraged me to eat was nothing short of groundbreaking to me, and your words completely changed my life.

That may sound like hyperbole, but I was a kid that was put on Jenny Craig and then later, Weight Watchers, and spent much of my adolescence starving myself. I had developed such a conflicted and strained relationship with food and eating. Which is why Bodyfueling was such a wonderful breath of fresh air.

Later, when I heard that you had written another book, Herbal Defense, I bought it immediately and read that one cover to cover, too. That was my first introduction to Ayurveda and now, almost 20 years later, I can tell you that it was the catalyst that opened a whole new world to me. I became so interested in herbs and Ayurveda, I even took some courses with an eye to eventually becoming an Ayurvedic practitioner.

Years and years have passed since I read your books. Over all that time, I’ve bought them and re-bought them and kept giving my copies away to friends more times than I can count. Nearly two decades have passed, and nutritional philosophies have changed so many times, but I always keep coming back to the wisdom I’ve gleaned from your books, all these years later. It still makes so much sense to me, because the core message is so simple: Eat real food. Eat enough. Be kind to your body.

Now. Flash forward to yesterday, when I picked up the mail and found a Title Nine catalog in my mailbox. I casually glanced through it when I saw a very familiar face. When I realized it was you, I did a Google search to see what you’re up to these days, and that’s when I found your new website. And your Instagram account, too! If you happened to have heard a squeal of delight all the way from Seattle, that was just little ol’ me. I’m so thrilled and excited to have found you after all these years, you have no idea! And when I read that you’re planning to write another book, please know that I’ll be first in line to buy my copy! I seriously cannot wait.

You are still such an inspiration to me, even now (especially now!) that I’m almost 40, married with two kids, and realizing that I need to take better care of myself now that I’m getting older. These last few years have been busy and I’ve neglected my health more than I ever have. I feel like I’m at a crossroads these days: I can sit idle and let the sands of time and the stresses of everyday life grind me down, or I can choose to be my own best advocate and live the life that I want; with joy, boundless energy and glowing health.

To be honest, these last several months I’ve found my motivation waning. But after finding you last night, I gave my head a shake and remembered what kind of life I truly want. So thank you for that, and for ALL the inspiration you’ve unknowingly given me over the years. I am truly grateful.

So happy to have found you. And thanks for reading this too-long, rambling email. I’m just such a huge fan of your work, and I felt compelled to reach out to let you know how much it’s meant to me. Thank you.

Warmly,
Hilary Detwiller


Dear Hilary,

I am speechless. I cannot tell you what an uplift it was to get your mail on a Monday morning. What a generous and completely lovely acknowledgement.  What an incredible story—from age 19 to 40! And the herbal stuff too! It brought tears to my eyes and gave me goosebumps.

I wrote those books such a long time ago, and although for quite some while afterward I would receive letters like this, that has waned over the many years, and I’ve often wondered how much impact those books really had or still have. There were a couple hundred thousand in print, so I know they went far, but enough time went by that I wondered where the readers are now, and how many of them might still be touched. It is such a gift to hear from someone who was, and is, still affected by it all.

I have obviously believed in my work enough to return to it, as you can see.  I made the decisions to put aside music and other writing work, because I feel I still have a contribution to make and people still need me. And because I have such joy and ease with all this still that I want to share it with people, because so many still don’t.

I know that from this age and place I have more to give, but the journey to return to it has not always been easy. Sometimes I have doubts in this new era with SO many more authors and programs and courses out there, such a glutted marketed and new media environment, so many young Instagram stars. Though I’m committed to it, at times I do wonder whether I should bother. Do people still really want to hear what I have to say? Your email tells me: YES.

I have been doing a lot in the last year or two to redevelop and re-instigate BodyFueling from a whole new platform. And a lot of nice things have definitely happened, too. And then… a letter like yours is incredible fuel for this chapter of the journey. Almost like a sign. 🙂

I wonder if you would mind if I shared it on my website.  I don’t need to use your full name or real name at all if you don’t want.  But really…what you said is like everything I want to tell people. All the better coming from someone else!

I am indeed writing a new book and planning to create more resources as well. A summit, a course, a Ted talk! Eventually a membership program. 🙂

Please stay in touch.  Enjoy the blog, feel free to follow me on Twitter (that’s where I curate all the good stuff I read). And if you would like coaching, or want to refer me for that, I do that: http://robynlandis.net/get-coached-get-fueled/.

Warmly,
Robyn


Hello Robyn!

First of all, OF COURSE you can use my letter in whatever capacity you want. And feel free to use my name too! I’d be honored.

Second, I’d just like to respond to your point here:

Sometimes I have doubts in this new era with SO many more authors and programs and courses out there, such a glutted marketed and new media environment, so many young Instagram stars. Though I’m committed to it, at times I wonder whether I should bother. Do people still really want to hear what I have to say?

That’s the thing, really—there truly is a glut of information, programs, diets, courses, etc. out there today… BUT! That’s the very reason why your voice is so different. Bodyfueling is none of those things; it’s not a program or a diet. It’s not even shiny new information, really. It’s a different way of thinking altogether. And that’s why yours is such a special and unique unicorn of a message.

And also, you have a way of telling the story that is so incredibly inspiring. If you can believe it, I still have several passages from the book – word for word – swimming around in my brain to this day. THAT’S what an impression they made on me.

As you’ve said below, you do have a contribution to make – and a very valuable one at that. People do still need you! The current philosophies (the macro ratios, mostly) may have changed over the years, but the dogmatic good/bad theories surrounding the philosophies are still alive and well. There is still so much confusion and shame surrounding every morsel of food, it’s exhausting.

There’s never been a message quite like yours since you wrote your books. There’s something different in the way you write… it’s clear that you walk the walk, and that you come from a place of true contentment and peace. What a gift! You’ve never pushed strict rules to follow or guidelines to adhere to. There were no expectations of perfection. While all the current information out there really revolves around the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”… yours is a message that is so much bigger than that; your message is about fueling our precious bodies with delicious, real food. With love and care. Living our lives in alignment with what makes us feel our best, inside and out. That’s why I loved Bodyfueling back then and why it still means so much to me today.

If this will help reinforce you to keep going…I will just tell you that growing up in the household I grew up in, and the fact that I had exposure to all those diets and thinking, the fact is I am as healthy as I am is totally based on the fact that I read Bodyfueling. By all accounts I should be a chronic dieter and have loads of body issues.

You’ve kept me 20 years now from falling into the diet trap. You truly made a lasting impression. It was such a formative experience for me. I read a ton of books on diet and nutrition. And out of all the hundreds of books I read, yours is the only one that I really feel like spoke the truth, all this time. The message behind BodyFueling is such a rare insightful gift and I just think the world does need more of that.

Would love to stay in touch. And I’d love to find out more about coaching! I think I could really use that right now!

Thank you so much for your kind response, it made me smile ear to ear.

Have a great week!

-Hilary

Leave a Comment