I’ve had such a blast in the last few weeks getting the word out about my new program, The Multi-Passion Mama Productivity System. One of the things I hear most from busy moms — heck, almost all women — is that they often look outside themselves for validation. Are the kids healthy and happy? Will the house ever be clean and organized? Is there enough money in the bank account? If anything outside of themselves is not going well, they become stressed and unhappy. They feel they can't be happy or feel worthy except under certain conditions. Here’s the thing: women are incredibly strong creatures, and they often use their strengths and talents to exert control over undesirable conditions.
This can be effective, but there’s an easier way: We can choose to feel happy, successful, and worthy of love no matter what the external conditions. I learned this when I confronted a 15-year struggle with my weight (that’s a picture of me 25 pounds heavier than I am now—and still happy).
Geneen Roth’s book Women, Food and God is currently a best-seller garnering raves from everyone from Oprah to one of my favorite Multi-Passion Mamas, Mindy Tsonas. I was deeply moved by a blog post Mindy wrote about the book.
In the comments I wrote about my own struggle with food and weight. Later I sent one of my clients (who was also reading Roth’s book) to read Mindy’s blog. She couldn’t believe that I once weighed 25 pounds more than I do today.
I told her it’s funny — I don’t think of myself as a person with food or weight struggles anymore and I have to be reminded that I once was after reading something like Mindy’s post — where the raw feelings someone else is able to articulate call up memories from almost 20 years ago.
By the time I got to college I had been watching and burning calories since I was 10 years old, and I was exhausted. Luckily I went to a very progressive college, one which had set up an “ExCo” — short for “Experimental College” — where students got to teach their own classes on a diverse range of topics. You could take courses on everything from Sex 101 to Advanced Klingon. As a freshman I immediately signed up for the course Women and Body Image. After I took it for a semester, I taught it for my remaining years in college.
The class reading list included books by Kim Chernin (The Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness and The Hungry Self: Women, Eating and Identity), Susan Kano (Making Peace with Food), and, of course, more from Geneen Roth (When Food is Love and Feeding the Hungry Heart), and I devoured them.
They are still on my bookshelf now over 20 years later. I’ve tossed out hundreds of books over the years, but they will always have a treasured spot on my shelves, honored like friends who helped shine a light on my path and who helped me to heal.
They taught me that when all personal motives for losing weight are stripped away (the desire to be attractive, to be loved, to be successful) what unites the women who seek to reduce their weight is the fact that they’re looking for an answer to life’s problems in the control of their bodies and appetites. In other words, these women, having discovered that they couldn’t control the world around them, chose to exert a destructive control over themselves. When I made that connection, that was it for me. I decided I was no longer going to allow this specious, almost superstitious reasoning, to determine how I felt about myself.
Again, with the help of those books and the women in my class, I decided I would trust myself to eat when I was hungry and stop when I no longer received pleasure from the food. I still didn’t trust myself to exercise just for the joy of moving my body (and I didn’t appreciate the mood-elevating benefits of exercise yet), so for years I only took meditative walks. And I gained and maintained 25 “extra” pounds.
As a result I learned to love myself in spite of my weight, and I consider that one of the greatest achievements of my twenties. And then I met the love of my life — now my husband — and when he loved me back, even though I didn’t fit into a model’s size, I knew he was a keeper.
Shortly after my husband and I married we acquired a puppy, a very high-spirited Golden Retriever, and I learned that if she was going to be happy she would need to run at least once day. So I started to run with her. I’m still not sure if it was her enthusiasm for the activity -- or if it was because I, like my retriever (and Bruce Springsteen), was born to run, but I loved it from the first time we set out on a trail. And while I had exercised — sometimes to excess — throughout my teens, and always with the aim to lose weight, this time I never thought of running as a means to burn calories.
I’m not sure if it was the running or the fact that I loved myself and my life so much that I no longer turned to food to fill feelings of emptiness or “not-enough-ness.” But it was then, in my early thirties, that I lost those 25 extra pounds. I’ve never gained them back.
Now in my early forties, I no longer run long distances (because there are other things I want to do more with my time), but I still do 20 minutes of heart-raising cardio every day. I do this because I feel so much better when I do. In much the same way, I eat when I’m hungry and with pleasure.
I believe eating is a metaphor for the way we live. Obsessing over our food and focusing on our weight keeps us from finding the joy that is available to us right here and now. On the other hand, though, the same behaviors that help us to release stressful thoughts and bad feelings — those essential skills of staying present, valuing ourselves, tuning in to our bodies and emotions, asking for what we need, and keeping ourselves open to receiving what we need — enable us to live full and happy lives. And when we’re full, we’re not hungry for empty calories.
What about you, Pinkies? Have you struggled with body image and weight loss? What has worked for you? What hasn't? How do you connect wth the joy that is right here, right now, even when you're not your "ideal" weight?
No longer weighting,
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