"As opposed to everything promised by infomercials, real and lasting change requires a long journey."
I used to dread the New Year. It’s that time when so many of us go searching for answers to the dissatisfaction with our physical selves. The diet industry then comes crashing in, claiming to provide us with everything we need to acquire the bodies we’ve always wanted. The choices are vast; an entire smorgasbord, so to speak, of nutritional plans, cleanses, memberships, machines, books, subscriptions and dietary food products that all promise to be game-changers for the coming year. For many of the “new years” of my life, I would make the clichéd resolution to desperately pursue the size I’d always wanted to be. My calendar would be filled with gyms visits and dieting goals, and that same calendar would be peppered with “x’s” marking the days I failed to go to the gym or to maintain my diet. As the months would pass, I found I could no longer stand looking at this depressing visual reminder, so the calendar would be thrown out. Good riddance. Unfortunately, I was always on a collision course to yet another typical new year.
This story isn’t unique to me. It’s an old, common and collective tale that I hear among so many friends and clients. The theme of its narrative is, “I’m not enough,” and this sense of underlying lack is always out-pictured by the quest for a new and improved body. Sure, plenty of people may have several extra-unwanted pounds on their bodies, and it would feel great to lose them. However, what losing these extra pound fails to address is a very real sense of shame, guilt, and self-loathing buried under our resolutions. Losing weight doesn’t touch the deeper places of spiritual disconnectedness, loneliness and feeling overwhelmed. Let’s say that you lose the weight: now you’re facing the daily pressure of keeping it off. The truth is that much of our motivation to be thin is fueled by perfectionism rubbing against our own self-loathing.
As opposed to everything promised by infomercials, real and lasting change requires a long journey. It requires a willingness to examine the landscape of our deeper selves and what we really believe. Instead of just pouring better fuel into our bodies, are we willing to actually look under the hood of our soul?
Like so many, I too was addicted to the fast and easy. Unfortunately, there was no such thing. It took me nearly two decades of banging my head against the wall to finally realize that weight and lack of willpower were not my problems. As I was immersed in the study of Eating Psychology, I was introduced to an entirely new vantage point in approaching my own struggles with relating to food and my body.
I remember a mentor telling me that achieving a healthy body is actually found in the willingness to ask ourselves very inconvenient questions, rather than controlling the process. That was a big blow to my ego, which had always thrived on fixing, controlling and striving to overcome any obstacle, which stood between my goals and me. I was reminded of the words from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, “Don’t seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.” I was encouraged, rather, to “live the questions” so that the authentic answers might come to light. Then, perhaps I would be ready to act on them.
I became curious about what was fueling my unwanted behavior. And as I began detaching from these old patterns and methods in dieting, my life began to profoundly shift. The questions I started asking became prayers. I began letting go of control and relaxing into life. And, with the support of others, I was willing to sit in my uncomfortable feelings, as well as create space for forms of play and movement that were nurturing and fun, instead of forced and dreaded. The scale was thrown away, and I started eating intuitively. I gained skills in what CG Jung would call “the art of letting things happen.”
A small miracle was taking place in my life. My years of unrelenting misery around food began to subside, and I began dancing, creating and living in ways I had never allowed myself. The chemistry of my heart, soul and body was alchemizing into freedom. Did my weight change? Sure, but it unfolded at the same pace as my deeper journey. It was natural. Essentially, my soul was letting go of excess baggage, and the war between my body and food was ending.
And so, what I was taught was true. My journey to healing was long. Real and lasting change required much more of me. And, questions seemed to have been a driving force behind getting on the other side of my own suffering. If we are brave, if we are courageous enough to examine the landscapes of our deeper selves, we may just discover the root of our resistance, and perhaps find an expected healing that will remain with us our entire lives.