Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom before we can start climbing to the top. For anyone struggling with a disease of some kind or some other medical disorder, the struggle to escape from its grasp is very real. Once we fall into that trap, it is very hard, nearly impossible, to get out of it. The struggle for escape can take a long time and there will be the occasional setback. The relapse. The detour. But getting out of its grasp and breaking free from something such as alcoholism, drug addiction and even an eating disorder is possible. It can happen, if someone is strong enough and smart enough to avoid falling back into that old pattern. For author Shannon Kopp, it is an eating disorder – specifically, bulimia – that she was held captive by for a very long time. After coping with the disappointment of a father she lost to alcoholism, she yearns to be loved, accepted, admired and beautified by everyone, so she begins hating her body, calling it “imperfect” and “fat” and “ugly.” She literally starts on a path of self-destruction the very first time she puts her fingers down her mouth to empty herself of the food she’d just eaten. And no matter how her body changes in a way she herself feels is “acceptable” because it’s so thin, she still feels that emptiness again and again. She thinks giving in to her negative thoughts and believing the self-abusing lies about herself will fill her up again and save her, but just as with her stomach after her latest purge, she is still empty on the inside. It takes a very long time for her to learn that loving yourself is the best way to cure that emptiness, but it’s a very long, hard road to travel to get there.
Shannon shares her story in her memoir, Pound for Pound. In her book, she talks about the breaking point that threw her into the arms of an eating disorder and how she struggled to come to terms with it. She shares her long-term obsession with food and how the constant need to throw up what she just ate seemed to take over her life. She was literally a prisoner to her eating disorder, using any and every excuse to eat, puke and eat, puke again. Because she doesn’t have to work or she doesn’t have a job to go to every morning, Shannon filled her days with volunteering at a local animal shelter. It is there she sees with her own eyes the unfortunate truth of so many animal shelters across the country: Adoptable, lovable and huggable dogs and cats are euthanized so every day. These animals are sometimes put down because of “space issues.” Many shelters just don’t have enough room for all the animals that need a home or somewhere to live. It is her experiences that compels Shannon to take action and start rescuing dogs who would otherwise be put to death.
There are two sides of this book: Shannon’s story detailing her struggle and ultimate conquering of her eating disorder and how her experiences volunteering at an animal shelter introduced a new mission into her life: Saving dogs from certain death.
While I feel that Shannon was very brave to tell her story and share her struggles with the world, I couldn’t help but notice that this book brought to light a very real and very pervasive threat to young girls everywhere: Eating disorders are a very real problem. There is so much pressure among young girls to be thin. Her story reminds us of just how bad eating disorders are among teen girls. Even today, it's a terrible and pervasive epidemic among teen girls. These girls equate “thin” with “beautiful.” There are reminders everywhere of how they won’t be noticed or accepted unless they are a size 0 and have large boobs. It’s sad that so many girls are willing to starve themselves, hate their bodies and go to such painful and dangerous lengths just to be accepted by someone else. Girls and women must learn to love themselves and give themselves the body that THEY want, not what everybody else wants. Guys who only care about girls who are stick-thin and have the latest fashionable clothes are usually not worth the trouble. I hope that any young woman who reads this book and sees herself in it will be inspired by Shannon’s success in breaking free of all that and loving herself just the way she is.
I was also happy to learn about Project Unleashed. Because I heard about it from this book, I have spent some time learning more about it online.
Pound for Pound is an inspiring story of one woman’s struggle to break free of her eating disorder and save the dogs who gave her the love and acceptance she craved. Her story is a reminder that there are much more important issues we need to focus on, rather than hating ourselves or feeding into a low self-esteem, and that life has a funny way of showing us our calling and guiding us to the thing that ultimately matters. And also how we must take care of ourselves, and fix ourselves if we have to, because something much more bigger and much more important, such as saving the life of a defenseless animal, is waiting for us and needs us to be ready to take it on.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
Advice she gave to a dog that was scared to go on TV: "Sometimes the best things come from doing what scares you." Then she reflected on that situation. How the dog was too scared to walk down the hallway to go on TV. And she wrote, "[F]ear doesn't care about reasonability or rationality or even sanity. It cares about swallowing you whole."
On reflecting how a dog with a history of abuse is still able to act silly sometimes: "Who cares about a little nuttiness when we live with open hearts?"
"Some of us howl by writing a poem. Some of us howl by singing, or connecting with another on a deep level, or dancing, or praying. We do what confirms without words who we are, where we come from, what makes us unique."
Although negative, still a good quote, because it's so true:
"[P]lan all you want, but life can still implode."
"Sometimes, you have to learn a lesson more than once, and I had learned yet again that reaching out when you're struggling is courageous, not weak."
The brave, inspiring story of one woman's recovery from a debilitating eating disorder, and the remarkable shelter dogs who unexpectedly loved her back to life.
“The dogs don’t judge me or give me a motivational speech. They don’t rush me to heal or grow. They sit in my lap and lick my face and make me feel chosen. And sometimes, it hits me hard that I'm doing the exact thing I say I cannot do. Changing.”
Pound for Pound is an inspirational tale about one woman’s journey back to herself, and a heartfelt homage to the four-legged heroes who unexpectedly saved her life.
For seven years, Shannon Kopp battled the silent, horrific, and all-too-common disease of bulimia. Then, at twenty-four, she got a job working at the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, where in caring for shelter dogs, she found the inspiration to heal and the courage to forgive herself. With the help of some extraordinary homeless animals, Shannon realized that her suffering was the birthplace of something beautiful. Compassion.
Shannon’s poignant memoir is a story of hope, resilience, and the spiritual healing animals bring to our lives. Pound for Pound vividly reminds us that animals are more than just friends and companions—they can teach us how to savor the present moment and reclaim our joy. Rich with emotion and inspiration it is essential reading for animal lovers and everyone who has struggled to change.