Think about your last meal. Were you actually there? Were you at the table, tasting your food, smelling its aroma, feeling its texture as you chewed and swallowed? Or were you in your mind, mentally lining up the next thing on your to-do list, composing […]
Tag: weight loss
No matter where you go, there you are. And no matter how you feel about your body, your weight or the size of your thighs, it’s still you. Hating yourself into being different never works. How does self-love relate to food and eating? In every […]
What’s real story behind chronically weighing, calorie counting and dieting? In Journalism 101, we learned the importance of the Five Ws (and one H) in gathering information. Answering the Ws (and H)—who, what, where, when, why (and how)—is considered essential in understanding the full story. What would happen if you applied them to your weight loss goals? Some Ws (and an H) to consider:
1. Who is it that wants to lose weight? Who is the “you” that’s dieting? Another way to ask this is, who are you, inside your body? The bottom line is, your body is a place for your soul to live. That’s it. Should it be comfortable, healthy, happy? Absolutely. But losing 10 pounds is not the call of your soul. It’s the call of your ego.
I once knew a woman who could light up a room just by walking through the door. Her eyes literally sparkled. When I spoke to her, her attention was so fully and completely on me, that it was as if no one had ever spoken before. I knew she would remember every word I said–and she did. She was so vibrant, deep, warm, compassionate, that it was a very long time before I noticed she was what some people might call “heavy.” Actually, I don’t think she ever noticed she was what some people would call heavy.
Likewise, I knew a woman who was wildly self-assured, sexy, vibrant, alive. She was in her mid 40s, tall, big boned; she weighed close to 185 pounds, and she literally turned heads walking down the street. Her secret: Inside, she loved herself, she was healthy and she felt good. That was enough for her. She knew who she really was, and that her body was comfortable, well-nourished–even if it wasn’t petite.
2. What would happen if you never lost weight? We set so many conditions on our love for ourselves. Unconsciously (or not) one of those conditions may be our weight. “I’ll feel better about myself when I’ve lost 20 pounds,” or “If I can just get rid of this last 5 pounds, I’ll be able to get on with my life.” As far as you know, this is the only life you have, and it’s happening right now. What would happen if you lived it right now, as you are, weighing what you do and wearing the size you wear? Can you love yourself anyway? Pause here, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and ask yourself that question. See what comes up. If the answer is “no,” it may be that learning how to love yourself is a bigger priority than losing 20 pounds.
3. Where do you want to be in ten years? Answer that question, and you’ll have a better sense of your reason for being here. Write down where you’ll be in terms of physical health, family, relationship, spiritual practices, career, home, travel–whatever comes up for you. Chances are really good that “I’ll be X pounds lighter” will come up on your list. That’s okay. Just recognize all the other things that are on your “where I’ll be” list.
How much time, mental energy and passion are you devoting to those aspects of your life, compared to counting calories and obeying the bathroom scale? Maybe you can see where weight loss falls on your list of dreams, goals and visions, and maybe you can assign it a different priority. Losing weight is not your life’s work. Your life’s work is to love, to serve, to be honest, to develop personal integrity, to be kind, to raise healthy children, to grow spiritually, to adore yourself. Which is not to say you can’t choose to shed some excess baggage. You’ll just do it with a sense of perspective.
4. When will it be okay? I once worked with a man who slaved tirelessly to lose 15 pounds. He exercised obsessively, starved himself, became a fanatic about supplements, drank diet soft drinks and coffee throughout the day to blunt his appetite, even took up smoking to blunt his appetite. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But here’s what’s really crazy: once he lost 15 pounds, he wanted to lose another 5. (I should pause here to tell you that the term “crazy” was his, not mine). He felt that being 5 pounds under his goal gave him a buffer, in case he gained a few pounds back.
I realized then that, no matter how much weight he lost, he wasn’t going to be satisfied. It would never be okay, because it wasn’t about his weight, or his body. It was about his sense of self; he was depressed and dissatisfied with his life, and no amount of weight loss was ever going to make that okay.
When will it be okay for you? Ask yourself that question, then listen softly and quietly for the answer. It might surprise you.
5. Why do you want to lose weight? Ask yourself with gut-level honesty: why do you want to lose weight? Is it because the doctor told you your weight was harming your health, or because that little red two-piece swimsuit went on sale at Neiman Marcus? Is it for your wife, your health, your ego, your high school reunion, your best friend’s wedding? Is it because you’ve decided the ten extra pounds around your middle no longer serves you, or because you still want to fit into the size 4 jeans you wore in your senior year of high school? Once you’re honest with yourself, you can decide just how important it is to you to lose weight and where it fits in the grand scheme of your life.
6. How will shedding pounds serve the world? We’ve already touched on how it will serve you. Now, take it to a deeper level: how will losing weight make a difference in the world around you? Perhaps being lighter and slimmer will boost your health, and make you feel more confident, inspired, energetic and passionate; in turn, that will positively affect your children, your mate, your co-workers. There’s no right answer here; it’s just about being aware and exploring possibilities, and perhaps understanding how your own personal goals fit into the grand scheme of life.
How many times have you criticized yourself in the last 24 hours? Stop for a minute and think about it. If you’re having any doubts that you’ve been anything but complimentary, think back to when you got dressed this morning. What exactly did you say […]
I’ve been reading the work of Marion Woodman, an author and Jungian analyst who’s well known for her writings on addiction and eating disorders. In much of her work, she talks about how literal the body is in its signals; in a recent interview she […]
I have a yoga mat made by a company called “holding.” It’s short for “holding the edge”– a phrase that describes a key concept in yoga. When we arrive at a difficult posture, one that causes discomfort, we stop carefully and notice it. We don’t react by flinching or jerking back, but we don’t shove forward either. We bring awareness to the physical (and mental, and emotional) sensations we’re experiencing in that posture. If there is physical pain, we carefully back out of the posture. Otherwise, we relax into it.
It’s also called “riding the edge” in surfing and some other sports, or “dancing on the edge,” which accurately portrays the practice of moving forward and back along the rim of discomfort. And there is great wisdom at the edge. It teaches us not only what we’re capable of physically, but also what our patterns of reactions are, mentally and emotionally.
In the face of discomfort, what arises? Fear, anger, judgment? And what’s our natural tendency–to ignore the sensations and shove blindly forward, thus risking pain and injury? Or do we run away from the difficulty, missing an opportunity to grow and advance?
This concept of holding the edge–neither forcing through nor shrinking back–applies to most other areas of our lives. Relationships are best served if we show up fully and completely, not holding back but not forcing what can’t be forced. Successful careers are built on the concept of giving it your all, while not shoving forward into uncontrollable circumstances. And it applies to our food lives.
If you struggle with mindless, emotional or stress-based eating, holding the edge will serve you well. Let’s imagine a scenario, one that happened to one of my clients who wrestled mightily with mindless eating. She worked as a house-sitter for a battery of wealthy clients who regularly traveled to exotic locales. Her regular dietary habits were stellar, but when she was staying at a client’s house, the gloves came off.
Around sundown, she would start to get uncomfortable–bored, lonely, out of sorts; sometimes, she found herself inexplicably stricken with grief. By 9 p.m., she would find herself alone in an unfamiliar house, standing at her client’s kitchen counter, elbow-deep in a bag of chips. And she couldn’t stop, until she had devoured most of the chips, cookies, cartons of ice cream in the pantry and freezer. Afterward, she felt shame, disgust, powerlessness. It was exactly the same pattern as an addiction.
Was it because she felt lonely and vulnerable in an unfamiliar home? Was she grieving her modest life in comparison with the spectacular lives of her clients? Was it just the novelty of a pantry filled with forbidden foods? Doesn’t matter. What’s important is that somewhere along the line, she checked out. Emotional discomfort arose, and she yanked back from that edge.
What does holding the edge look like in this instance? The urge to eat arises. You stop, and just notice the sensation. Eating some chips, cookies or ice cream will create a pleasing cascade of happy brain chemicals that will relieve the sensation for a bit. But you don’t do it. Instead, you stay there at the edge of discomfort. It gets stronger, worse, even painful. Maybe you get mad. Maybe you sob. Either way, you stay with it, noticing what arises without reacting to it. Something lies just beyond the craving. Something is there at the edge, some great wisdom and the potential for mental, emotional and spiritual growth.
As it turns out, she did all of the above. One night, alone at the home of a family who was taking some fabulous, pricey vacation, and overcome by the desire to eat, she held her edge. She grieved for being alone, unmarried and childless, for living in a modest home, for being heavier than she wanted to be, for her heartbreaking childhood, for feeling helpless and vulnerable, for the sheer passage of time. She went into the expansive yard, lay facedown under the stars, and pounded on the manicured lawn with both fists. She sobbed for the better part of an hour. At the end of it, she felt renewed, and honest, with a deeper clarity toward her life.
That’s the power and wisdom any of us can find at the edge. The process may look something like this:
1. When a craving strikes, and your first impulse is to head to the kitchen, stop. Do nothing. Close your eyes and breathe, deeply in, deeply out, 50 times. Feel the cells of your body softening and relaxing. Sometimes, this is enough.
2. What’s the level of your discomfort? If 1 is barely noticeable and 10 is unbearable, is it a 2 or an 8? Having a somewhat objective measure puts your feelings into perspective. If your discomfort meter reads “3,” perhaps you can allow it to be there; it may subside after a few minutes.
3. If your discomfort is substantial, find a quiet place and space to let the feelings come up. If you’re in a work situation–a meeting, a cubicle–change your surroundings. Go for a walk, find an empty conference room, take a bathroom break and go sit in your car.
4. Sit there with your feelings. Imagine having them in for a visit and a cup of tea. Let them talk, and listen attentively, as you would to a trusted friend.
5. Allow some space for whatever arises. It’s not necessary to label or judge it. Just let it be there. Envision being in a difficult yoga posture, or catching a tricky wave in surfing. See what happens when you find your edge and take it for a ride.
In what areas of your life do you experience the edge of discomfort? And how do you hold the edge? Think about it, and add your comments here ~