For whatever reason, we tend to reject our bodies. Maybe the media got into our heads when we were starting to be conscious of our bodies. Maybe this rejection was modeled by our parents or role models. Whatever the origin, because of this many of us have engaged in unhealthy and possibly dangerous methods to reach our “ideal” body. Even when we do reach our goals this way, it’s never as satisfying or as long lasting as we had imagined it to be. This is because a healthy body is the product of a healthy, loving mindset, real nutritious food and drink, and some physical activity. And that isn’t some “live, laugh love” bedroom wall quote or #quotephase under a yoga pants wearing, pumpkin spice latte picture. I know this from living in my own personal hell and battling my mind with this every day. I had my own personal war with disordered eating, crash diets and “cleanses,” diet pills, obsessive calorie control and working out, and an extremely unkind and critical self-view. Anything that declared it could make me lose weight “fast and easy,” I was putting in my body or trying it. This obsession began at the age of 9 years old when I started counting my calories and telling myself I was too fat.
First thing’s first…a 9 year old doesn’t know to count calories. It’s a learned behavior. We don’t know anything is “wrong” with us or our bodies until someone tells us so. I absorbed this view primarily from the women that raised me that were extremely self-critical and self-deprecating about their bodies. Finally it got to the point that, though I didn’t know exactly how I would heal these body image wounds and despite being told by these women that I would always struggle with my weight, I knew I didn’t have to be destined to live out the wounds of the women before me. I just didn’t know how to get there.
After ballooning to over 220 pounds in one severe depression, I began to get really concerned for my long term health emotionally and physically. So, after almost 15 obsessed years fueled by the people around me and the media I was buying into, I stopped focusing on the weight. I stopped weighing myself. I stopped counting calories in and calories out. I committed to working on loving myself and just trusted that if I felt better on the inside, everything would fall into place on the outside. I conceded that even if it didn’t fall into place on the outside the way I had always idealized, at least I’d be healthy and happy emotionally and that felt like a win.
So for those of you seeing yourself in my story, I have some words of wisdom learned over many years on the weight/body image issue battle field:
First, there’s no magic pill. There’s no magic pill or diet or workout. There’s no light switch that will make you fit or thin or better or enough. There’s no shortcut. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you. Let’s have a moment of silence while you mourn this belief. … I know. I couldn’t believe it either. Or I didn’t want to. But this belief kept me in the cycle of thin-fat-thin-fat-thinner-fatter etc. Despite what the advertisements and magazines say…there’s no shortcut. They’re playing on our insecurities and need for instant gratification to make money. It isn’t about our well-being or us achieving our dreams. I’m sorry they’ve been so deceiving. Those poop faces!
Second, an unhealthy weight (underweight or overweight) is usually linked to an emotional issue. Food is emotional. Think about it. How did you learn to celebrate holidays and birthdays? With special meals and desserts. What did you do sitting at the dinner table while your parents fought? You kept eating trying to make everything normal. What do you reach for when you’re stressed or hurting? Your favorite comfort food, usually sugars or carbs. Why do certain meals taste like certain memories? Food is emotionally charged. What do you want to do after a long day? Eat in front of the TV and veg out or numb. Food is a much more socially acceptable numbing substance than drinking, drugs, or sex.
In Heal Your Life, Louise Hay links the emotional source of being overweight to a need for protection or feeling unsafe. We use the extra weight to “protect us.” Even if it doesn’t serve our overall optimal health or goals, the weight does serve some beneficial purpose, otherwise we wouldn’t keep it on our bodies. The purpose may be something that even seems counterintuitive. For example, keeping the weight on to keep from getting attention from the opposite sex even though there is a part of you that does want a relationship. But the weight is serving the need to protect from too much attention, even if that’s not what you want long term, it may be what you need emotionally right now. It’s important to address this emotional root for a weight issue or an unhealthy relationship with food. Without addressing this emotional wound, it’s going to be very difficult to make progress sustainable because this emotional wound will continue to pop up and sabotage. As many of us have already experienced.
Eating (or not eating), especially to numb, doesn’t make the emotions inside you go away, it just stuff them down. Eating or not eating is not a healthy way to process emotions or stress. It’s a way to bury it. Journaling/writing, art, or meditating are some examples of healthy coping mechanisms. Once you replace eating or not eating with a healthy coping mechanism to process and relieve your emotions, it’s much easier to engage in loving actions towards your own body.
Contact me for a phone sessions to help get to the root of their body image issues and emotional blocks. I’ll be posting about self-love for the month of February so check back for more tools for greater self-love.