Monthly Archives: June 2011
While rummaging through some old files recently, I unearthed this piece I wrote during my sophomore year of college, before I’d discovered intuitive eating, joyful movement, or the concept of body love. I already realized how ridiculous the idea of gyms and losing weight to be happy is, but I wasn’t quite on board with the alternative yet. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
The gym can be such a sad place.
I think of the young blonde girl on the elliptical trainer next to me. She can’t be more than sixteen. The paperback mystery and bottled grapefruit juice in front of her, both unopened; 185 strides per minute. I consider the tiny Asian woman on the treadmill to my left; with her cheap Hello Kitty CD player. What in the world is she listening to? The skinny, ruddy-faced teenager grunting on the bench press; the old woman in the SpongeBob tee shirt; the heavy, miserable looking man on the stationary bike. Why are we all here? What are we after? We gather here in this long, unattractive room to walk, climb, pedal, row, to perform movements that are designed to mobilize us; to get us somewhere, but we remain stationary. We exert Herculean efforts, but we do not move an inch.
Like the condemned before a firing squad, the machines are lined up facing the large windows that overlook the pool: the ultimate test, the gauntlet. We judge them; we scrutinize them in cruel, merciless ways that most of us would never admit ourselves to being capable of. We think to ourselves, “This is why I am here.” To look like the tan, slender woman in the black string bikini or to avoid looking like the heavy, balding man with the bad skin and the hairy back. We are here to rid ourselves of our spare flesh, to banish certain parts of our bodies, as if every problem we have ever faced is stored there; as if losing our saddlebags will rid us of our insecurities. Shedding our love handles will dissolve our grief and fear of failure. We will be different, happier people when those last fifteen pounds have disappeared. We will be beautiful and therefore powerful.
There is also the prospect of what is to be gained by losing. The harder your stomach, the more lovable you will be. The firmer your thighs, the more popular you will be. You will no longer feel helpless. Every harsh word, every classmate that ever called you “fatty” or “slowpoke” will not matter anymore. Every cruel word will be erased from your memory, and those that mocked you will be silenced. Everything depends on the state of the body.
So here we gather in this long, unattractive room to walk, climb, pedal, row, and remain completely stationary. Long sessions on metal machines, devices that may appear to be terrifying devices of torture to someone who had never seen them before, to someone who had never experienced thoughts like these.
To be accepted. To become someone you feel comfortable with. To redo, to reshape an identity, to understand yourself, to become someone worth understanding. Is this what is important?
Let’s start off with this pearl of wisdom:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson (emphasis my own)
I think one of the saddest things in the world is to see potential go to waste. We all have missions in life, gifts we have to offer the world, but many of us shrink back instead of rising to the calling.
Well, we’re scared. Scared that we won’t make it, that no one wants what we have to give, that we have nothing original to offer, or we’re just afraid of taking the risks that come with being great.
On the other hand, a lot of us are unconsciously terrified of actually succeeding. We’re afraid to be seen, or to have the openness required to become truly inspiring. We’re afraid that by breaking social norms or class restrictions that we’re “getting above ourselves”, somehow betraying our own.
In our society with it’s Puritanical ethics, we feel that acknowledging our gifts and potential, we’re being prideful or that by taking the time to develop those gifts, we’re being selfish. We’re making others uncomfortable. We feel that by stepping into our greatness, we are somehow wrong.
No wonder we’re so terrified of our own light.
And it’s totally ok to be afraid. Give your big scary monster a hug and tell him this:
- It is my responsibility as a human being to share my light with the world.
- Taking the time and space to develop my gifts and realize my purpose isn’t selfish. Not reaching out to those who need me, hiding my gifts, not leaving my handprint on this world…now that would be selfish.
- Pride and confidence in my abilities are not the same thing.
- Everyone has a purpose, and so do I.
- I can succeed. I will succeed.
So I thought I’d kick off the Big Scary Monster series with some tips on how to actually make friends with our big scary fears. Embracing our fear can seem like a weird thing to do, because aren’t fears something to be conquered?
Remember, fear is how our minds protect us from things that could potentially hurt us. What would happen if we weren’t afraid of anything? We wouldn’t last long, that’s for sure. We’d all be jumping off cliffs and quitting our day jobs before we even have a business plan or a book proposal.
On the other hands, my favorite quote about fear says it all:
“Fear is just excitement with the brakes on.” –Jessica Mullen
We feel fear when we’re about to do something amazing, but potentially unsafe, stepping into the unknown. Whether we’re launching a new business, sending our creations into the world to be looked at, trying a new dance class or just learning to feel our emotions without eating them, we feel fear because we’re moving into an unknown space, and our Big Scary Monster is there to protect us.
Here’s a few tips for giving that monster a big hug and then passing through him:
- Recognize your monster: Understand that he’s only there to take care of you. Thank him for doing so and move on.
- Ask him what he’s protecting you from: Vulnerability, rejection, physical injury, uncomfortable emotions. What are you really afraid of? Of marketing your jewelry line, or of opening yourself to rejection?
- Develop a solid base of self-love: Though this can take years, I find that it’s the best cushion for taking a big leap. If you fail, do something stupid, totally screw up, you still love yourself and know of your own worth, whether your book gets published or not, whether you stuff down your emotions with a package of Oreos or not. Give yourself a hug and know you’re ok.
- Baby steps: Instead of showing your monster who’s boss and launching a massive marketing campaign for your knitwear line in one day, take baby steps. Create a blog or webpage. Set up a Twitter or Facebook account. Get on Etsy. No need to do all that in one day and then travel the country promoting yourself, just stretch a little here and there until the previously unknown becomes familiar territory.
We all have big, scary monsters inside of us, or at least that’s how we feel while we’re experiencing them. These monsters are our fears.
I’ve been writing about fear a lot lately (because I’ve been encountering it a lot, good sign) so I decided to start a series called My Big, Scary Monster and I’d like to invite you to join as well! Write about your fears in the comments, write a post about your Big Scary Monster on your own blog and link back to me. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to email me a post and I can post it on Handprint Soul.
I won’t have a set schedule for this series, I’ll just let your entries trickle in and I’ll write about my own monsters as I encounter them.
The goal of this series is to talk about and face our Big Scary Monsters and ultimately make friends with them, because monsters need friends too.
I don’t believe that fears are things to be avoided, squashed down, ignored, or even conquered. Our minds are designed to protect us and fear is one of the tools it uses to do that. Fear prevents us from stepping into the unknown and being vulnerable. If you feel fear, GOOD! That means you have a fully-functional brain that is serving you well. These are friendly monsters that are just trying to take care of you.
Sometimes, fear can hold us back from what we need to do, and this is when we need to pass through our fears, just like passing through a metal detector in an airport, or through beads hanging in a doorway. You don’t have to blow up the metal detector or tear down the beads, simply walk through them.
- Accept your fear
- Embrace your fear
- Understand your fear
- Pass through your fear
- Grow and be Great
So I’d like to invite you all to join me in the series to write about our Big Scary Monsters, and I’ll include all the posts, links and comments I receive in a round-up post at the end of the month, so this is also a good opportunity to promote your blog if you have one!
I got on a scale.
Now in the intuitive eating community, weighing is generally a no-no because it’s reinforces the dieting mindset. It encourages us focus on numbers instead of health and generally just causes us to take a very impersonal approach to our bodies with isn’t helpful to physical or emotional well-being.
I knew I’d gained some weight because some of my pants didn’t fit and well, I felt completely awful and uncomfortable, and I could see it too. My face had filled out, my hips were getting wider and for the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a belly, which makes me think that stress was a huge factor because I’m usually pretty pear-shaped and my stomach is the last place to carry extra weight.
I hadn’t weighed in awhile, but I found that I was avoiding the scale out of fear of that number rather than indifference, so I decided that I’d face it and love myself anyway.
I got on the scale at the doctor’s office. I saw the number. I didn’t panic at all. It was definitely higher than it was the last time I weighed; in fact, I’d gained thirty pounds since I got married three years ago, but I’m wasn’t upset at all. I was sad, not because I’d disappointed myself by having no willpower or for being weak. I knew I was in a rough place emotionally and that my body was suffering. The extra weight confirmed that I’d been using food to get through a hard time.
It’s incredible; a few years ago, gaining that much weight was one of the worst things that could have happened to me, but it was no big deal. I know that the state of my body is a result of the state of my emotions, so if my body isn’t happy, my emotions need work. Once I’m emotionally well, my body will follow.
After that doctor visit, I didn’t start a diet. I didn’t go to my stash of workouts I’d been tearing out of Fitness magazine (which I finally threw away the other day after ten years of collecting them), and I didn’t set down any rules for myself in hopes of losing the weight. Instead, I decided to take care of myself emotionally and trust my body to adjust itself.
So that’s what I’ve been doing, just working on my emotions because I know that’s what works for me. In my life, happy=healthy. I once lost 55 pounds over a couple years before I’d even heard of intuitive eating because I was just happy, so food didn’t seem that important. For the first time in years, I’ve felt that happy again. Just for a few months so far, but I haven’t lost that feeling of peace and love that I did on that dumb little scale at the doctor’s office.
I eat junk food sometimes. I still overeat sometimes, but I don’t beat myself up. Actually, I barely think about it at all and I’ve finally gotten to the point where one episode of overeating, one big dinner doesn’t throw me off listening to my hunger cues. I can actually let myself get hungry now. I feel hungry at least once a day and usually two or three times, which is a miracle because before I might have felt hungry once every couple of weeks. I go for at least one walk every day because I love it.
Though I’m sure to get some comments about how I’m still stuck in the dieting mindset, I weighed again yesterday, once again to acknowledge my unconditional love for myself. That number happened to be17 pounds less that the number I saw at the doctor’s office in March, that didn’t surprise me. My body may choose to release more weight, but I finally feel that I’m at a place that I could call my “happy weight”, because I feel completely comfortable and free in my body. The other day, I went to a water park in my brand new turquoise tankini and coral toenail polish, and I didn’t feel one bit self-conscious. I even felt beautiful and carefree, which is the feeling I always wanted in my dieting days, and I had no idea what I weighed. For the first time in my life, the scale isn’t my enemy, or even my friend. It’s just gives me a trivial number.
Freedom feels amazing.
Note: I’m really sorry if this post is triggering to anyone; I am just being honest about my own experience. Weighing is not the best thing for everyone, and happy weights are completely unique to each individual.
Lots of love!
Happy Father’s Day! Last month, I thanked my mom for all her awesomeness, but now it’s time to thank my equally incredible Dad.
1-Thank you Dad for working so hard to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly, while still finding time to take me fishing.
2-Thank you for always making the best spaghetti, burgers, salsa, and steaks I’ve ever had.
3-Thank you for growing the most amazing vegetables and letting me raid your garden and chicken coop every time I visit.
4- Thank you for endowing me with your blue eyes, artistic talent and off-kilter sense of humor.
5-Thank you for teaching to love Jim Henson, The Three Stooges, Benny Hill, and The Beatles.
6-Thank you for teaching me to work hard, be respectful and pick my battles, and that a sense of humor is one the greatest coping tools a person can have.
7-Thank you for faithfully reading every blog post I’ve ever written, liking nearly every Facebook update, and believing in me even when I don’t.
8-Thank you for saying I’m still your little girl even though I’m well into my 20’s.
9-Thank you for making me laugh all the time and for getting my weird brand up humor. ‘Cause it’s just like yours.
10-Thank you for trying to teach me to drive a stick shift. Sorry it didn’t work 🙂
11-Thank you for striking the perfect balance between protecting me and letting me grow.
12-Thank you for going with us to Disney World and stuff like that, even though you’d rather be fishing.
13-Thank you for being my best friend. I know I’ve said that Mom and Sam are my best friends, but you’re my best friend too, because you’re my dad.
I love you Daddy!
Skydiving? Freestyle rock climbing? Saving a baby from a burning building?
Joining the military to defend our country? Quitting a stable job to stay at home with your kids?
Giving unrealistic expectations and social norms the middle finger and living your own life?
Bravery comes in different forms, but sometimes the scariest things in this world have nothing to do with physical danger.
Instead of fighting dragons, we might be standing up for ourselves and what we believe in, choosing to love ourselves the way we are, or deciding to live according to our own values despite society’s relentless messages that we are not good enough, that we always have to change, buy something, or do something to make us worthwhile.
I used to think I was a ‘fraidy cat because I’m afraid of doing anything that involves being towed behind a speedboat, or because I’ve crossed skydiving off my Handprint List, or because I dated some guys or had friends who were really bad for me because I didn’t think I could get anything better.
I feared rejection, failure and most of all, hurting other people’s feelings and being a “bad person”. Over the last few months though, I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to be willing to disappoint someone, or get rejected, or even piss someone off. Sometimes you have to just accept that some people will think badly of you, that you’re a wingnut or too outspoken or even selfish. While you don’t want everyone to think of you this way, do the right thing.
Leave. Or stay.
Do it. Or don’t.
Make a decision. Change your mind. Even if someone disapproves. You know what’s right. Do it.
Say no. Take time to think about it.
Listen to your body.
Wear the damn swimsuit.
I think one of our deepest fears is the disapproval of others, but this fear is rooted in the deepest fear of all: That without the approval of our peers, we are nothing. We are only worthwhile if everyone else things we are.
This is the biggest lie we tell ourselves. Deep in our hearts, in our very souls, we know who we are, what we were sent here to do and what is right for us. We might forget this sometimes, but we know our own worth. Living authentically means eliminating the sway of “What will everyone else think?” and accepting our own worth and uniqueness.
Accepting our worth takes courage. Living our purpose takes courage. We can never accomplish these things we feel we need to look, act, or be a certain way.
Be brave. Be yourself.
This post is part of Self-Discovery Word-by-Word. This month’s host is Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner at The Body and the Brood. The word for June 2011 is “Bravery”.
I’m a slow-learned sometimes, especially with intuitive eating. I first discovered IE in October 2008 and I’ve just recently gotten the hang of actually obeying my body’s signals more than 2 1/2 years later.
I knew the principles, I ate when I was hungry, but I struggled with actually letting myself get hungry and most of all, emotional eating. For a long time, I chose to focus on the emotional eating while refusing to deal with the underlying issues. I believed eating was the problem either because I had a physical addiction or because I was just hard-wired to eat when I felt bad. I never actually thought about why I felt bad. (By the way if you’re stuck in this place, that’s perfectly fine. It was a few years before I was ready to deal with the real issues. Don’t pressure yourself to jump into anything you’re not ready for.)
Recently, I left a situation that wasn’t working for me. My creativity wasn’t flowing and my depression and anxiety got out of control. Now that I’m in a better place (physically and emotionally) I discovered that I was ready to deal with my issues.
The amazing thing is, once that barrier of emotional eating started to disappear, I couldn’t believe how much more myself I felt. I could finally connect to my emotions and work through them. Emotions and creativity flowed through me, unhampered by my former tendency to block them out with food.
I rarely feel compelled to overeat and I usually don’t want to eat if I’m not hungry, but if I do (like when I know my blood sugar is low but my tummy’s not hungry) I eat. No biggie. I actually feel hunger at least once a day, which is a miracle because I used to go weeks without ever letting myself get hungry.
This is the other half of the gift of intuitive eating. On one side, IE frees us from food obsession, but on the other side, it allows us to replace that obsession with something incredible: our potential. Without those unhealthy thoughts and feelings towards foods, we free up so much mental energy and clear so many channels. We gain full access to our true desires, interests, and goals.
Here’s some questions to ponder:
- What could you accomplish with the time you spend thinking about food in an unhealthy way?
- What underlying potential could you have access to if you overcame emotional eating?
- How free could you be if you accepted your body rather than striving for an unrealistic ideal?
- How much more energy would you have if you learned to feed your body the healthy food it craves?
Intuitive eating takes a lot of work, time and emotional digging, but the rewards are innumerable, and I’m only in the beginning. Whether you are still in the preparation stages or if you’re well into your intuitive eating journey, remember why you’re doing this and what it will do for you.