Saturday, January 2, 2010

Connecting With Me

I woke up this morning .2 lbs heavier than I was yesterday, now this is fanaticism to the enth degree, I know, and I also know that one’s weight normally fluctuates slightly from day to day. But I’ve been working so hard at being “good” and I wanted the daily reward of seeing the numbers going down. I know that it is one of the cardinal rules of dieting: Do not weigh oneself on a daily basis – for this very reason; but the first two days of my “being good” I was rewarded with seeing the numbers go down, and I wanted further reward. No such luck today. Now you would think that a sane person would be able to see that 2/10 of a pound as completely insignificant, but a small part of me began to panic. And that is that part of me that fears any weight gain is just going to continue and continue until I blow up into a balloon and, presumably, explode.
That, I believe, is due to my basic lack of trust in myself. I was taught, not only that I was unacceptable over-weight, but also that I was weak-willed if I couldn’t “stick” to a diet. So the assault on my self-esteem was really an assault on my self-image, as well, for I began to think of myself as a failure, weak-willed, and incapable of changing my own behavior.
The problem is, nobody told me that it wasn’t about will power at all; it wasn’t about liking sweets too much, or about wanting whatever I wanted, when I wanted it, but something much deeper. No one told me that my use of food to comfort myself was, not just greed, or gluttony, but rather, in a way, a healthy gesture, for I was trying to manage a chronic depression. At thirteen, when the pressure really got steep for me to lose weight (the on-set of my adolescence must have set off alarms in my mother’s head that I would never find a husband) I had no idea that the reason I overate was because I was suffering, and I was trying to make myself feel better.
It would be many years later before I would begin to understand the connection between my emotions and my weight, and even then, of course, this knowledge was not a panacea. I still had to struggle against the knee-jerk reflex to put food in my mouth every time I felt sad or angry or upset.
The problem of course, is not the feeling of these emotions – it’s the fact that I don’t want to feel these emotions; I do everything in my power to avoid feeling these feelings, for there was once a time in my life, no doubt, that the feeling of these emotions was more terrifying than I could handle, so naturally, I learned that it was better to pretend that I didn’t feel that way; and so, I had to begin to find ways to numb myself: food was an obvious choice.
In fact, allowing myself to feel the feelings is always freeing, always ultimately, uplifting and best of all, it emancipates me from the desire to put unneeded food in my mouth.
So, as a recovering adult, I have made it my life’s work to find ways to connect with me: to check in with myself on a daily, or even hourly basis; to stop and take a few deep breaths, and ask myself how I am feeling. If I’m agitated, but I don’t really know why, journaling has proved to be an invaluable tool. I am often amazed at how productive writing is for me. I can sit down in front of a blank page, highly upset, but not really sure why, and then I begin to write, and two or three pages later, I’ve worked it out, and feel better for having done that.
Another major way for me to connect with what’s really going on with me is to get out into nature. By being surrounded with the natural world, I am immediately comforted, things fall into perspective, and my daily worries seem less troublesome.
Another thing that’s really a significant factor in how well I can manage to stay in touch with my true feelings is my creative expression. When I take time to do work that I love, I feel fulfilled, and the desire to eat unnecessary food completely disappears.
Of course, using my body in a healthy way is also highly beneficial: my favorite forms of exercise are walking and yoga. I notice a significant difference in how I feel, if I commit regular time to these practices.
These are all important tools, but I think the thing that has been the most significant for me, has been meditation. The amount of time I give to myself in this quiet state is directly related to the level of serenity and self love that I am experiencing at any given time. When I am rushing, and caught up in the busyness of the world, I lose my sense of centeredness, and with that, goes all that I have been working toward; soon I am using food in an unhealthy way, which only deepens the disconnection between my inner spirit, and me and the downward spiral begins.
As I write these tools out, it is reassuring to remind myself that I really do know how to comfort myself without hurting myself, I really do have a lot of wisdom and knowledge that can help me be the healthiest person that I can be. For I deserve that. And the more I practice these self-loving acts, the more I lose all desire to do anything to myself that I know, ultimately, only harms me. It’s all in the balance, and the remembering, the daily steps of practice, to reinforce all of the wisdom that we all hold inside of ourselves, if only we allow ourselves to get quiet enough to hear it!

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