Find My Purpose? Ugh! I Just Want to Find My Feet!

I’ll never forget an interview with Jillian Michaels (of Biggest Loser fame). When asked why she became a personal trainer, she answered (I’m paraphrasing here): I noticed that overweight people were shut off from many areas of their lives. I want to help them live life fully, and weight loss is one doorway to that.

That’s bang-on with my experience. Losing almost 100 pounds has blown my doors way open. However, they weren’t the double-doors of Destiny guarded by a Butler of Truth wearing white gloves and checking for dust. No, I’ve come through a wormhole of sorts, squeezing through and going where I hadn’t planned. Sure, I wanted to lose 100 pounds, but I had no idea that I’d have to root out the cause of those pounds. Jillian Michaels would probably say, “Of course!” Actually, she’s witnessed enough psychological breakthroughs to know it’s always about more than the weight. For me, those added pounds were tangled up in finding my purpose.

I’ve been searching for purpose most of my life. There are worse things to go OCD over — and everyone wants to be special — but I needed a purpose to feel my specialness. I created tons of pressure for myself, and that’s where I got into trouble. I ate and ate just to relieve my burden, so it’s not hard to understand how something as promising as purpose can become a 100 pound problem.

There’s another problem, though (one uniquely tied to purpose). It’s a closed loop of sorts, setting purpose up as both my drug and my cure.  When food didn’t relieve the pressure, I’d get down and dirty with all my unanswered dreams, as if mud-wrestling with my angst would earn me a victory, and the prize was my purpose. Often, nothing gelled, so I became even more desperate. How convenient, then, when a new prospect supplied fresh desire (“Ooh, shiny!”) The cycle rebooted. I was an addict addicted to rehab.

I’ll admit, this routine became a delicious distraction. It’s more fun to dream than to actually do the work of making those dreams come true. Plus, I wasn’t alone. Most everyone wants to align their work with their passion, and many people think they need to find their purpose before they can be happy.   We get lots of help forming that idea. Experts admonish us to follow our passion, but here’s the rub: they’re usually already passionate about something, and they’re usually talking to people just like them. To be clear, I see nothing wrong with setting goals or achieving dreams, but words like “passion,” “parachutes,” and “out-of-the-box” have become as sour as summer bed sheets to me. These are things that come after, not the things themselves. (Full disclosure: my first email address started with “outta_d_box.”)

What do I mean by “after?” After the wormhole. After the work. Unfortunately, I’ve not found any easy way around either. The only way I’ve found is through. Purpose hasn’t validated my life. It came already embedded, and I was always in it.   It took going through the wormhole to see that. Even when I’ve tapped out, I was still just recouping on the couch – living off a trickle-charge of hope – until I could get up and go again (“What’s next, Kemo-Slobby?”)

My cycle of escalating desperation came to a head in 2006. I got off the couch (Actually, the couch was more like a cliff, and I jumped off.) I quit my full-time job with benefits to make myself “available.” I wanted my willingness to attract fate to my feet, where she would scoop me up in her arms and let me ride that stallion of destiny across the sand dunes of life. Well, the last day of work, I remember thinking, “I don’t care. Even if I go down in a ball of fire, I’m doing this.” Six months later, I smelled like smoke. I hadn’t found anything. Nothing found me. Instead, I grew angry. That’s when I made fiery speeches to the Heavens. They went something like…

“This sucks!”

Silence

“No, seriously, this is not what I meant.”

Stillness

“Whatever.”

Time

“Great. What am I supposed to do now?”

More time

Fine. I quit.”

“We’re going inside.”

Uh, yeah, I think you misunderstood me. I’m going out, not in.”

“We’re going inside.”

“Inside? Heck no! I’ve seen the inside. I’ve had enough of what’s on the inside.”

Silence

Eight years later, inside is exactly where I’ve been. I sank into that place — reluctantly, furiously, and bitching the whole way – at least until I started to see real answers there.  (Learn from my mistakes in my weight loss eGuide, “I Want My Outside to Match My Inside.”)  For sure, the idea of going inside is scary – no one wants more pain – but what I discovered is that all my avoidance was more painful than actually sinking into the hurt. And there was hurt, lots of it. Once I looked at what was there, though, it was a relief. Plus, the hurt did not stay. It didn’t go away, either. Rather, it decayed on a curve. In its wake, healing happened. I relearned that I could affect my world. I owned my pain, and I was doing something about it. I became the healer of my own wound. That was more satisfying than any purpose I could have claimed.

Is searching for purpose a worthwhile endeavor, then? I still say “yes,” but if I skip over the obvious, then the search can be more of a hindrance than a help. On this side of the wormhole, more than having a purpose, I practice purpose. I plan. I do. I dream and make goals. I still want my life to have meaning, but how can it not? That’s what I ask now, and that’s the difference. My core desire remains active, but I’m not driven by it. This is a good thing. I am happier.

I don’t have to be all fixed up to practice purpose, either. My wound is still healing from the inside out, so I walk through life with a limp. However, I’m slower to judge and quicker to listen.  Otherwise, I’d probably become like those experts, only more annoying (“Hold my green tea and watch this.”)

I recently discovered the German poet Rilke. He described what I’m trying to explain when he wrote:

“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees…This is what the things can teach us: to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.”

Being overweight is a symptom, but it’s so much more than that. Big bodies can become gateways to healing. Every wound is an invitation to live life large. The hurt won’t disappear, but it will transform into an entry point for joy. The tenderness left behind becomes a safe place. That kind of recovery is contagious. It seeps out the sides, and purpose can’t help but gush from it.

Take Home Tip

For sure, the idea of going inside is scary – no one wants more pain – but what I discovered is that all my avoidance was more painful than sinking into the hurt.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

100 Pounds weight loss eGuide, “I Want My Outside to Match My Inside.”)

The Myth of Finding Your Purpose, by Kris Carr

“Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God” translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

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7 Ways I Got My Body Back

January 2nd (and the Monday after New Year’s) are HUGE days for anyone wanting to lose weight.  I’m rebooting this post as a way to encourage anyone shooting out of the starting block today.

Seven years ago, I had a dream which I’ve never really been able to shake. I always wondered what it meant. I think I’ve finally figured it out. At the time, I was working with a therapist. I shared the dream’s details with her. I described the dug-out pit I occupied and how it resembled a sunken site of an old, archeological dig. We surmised why the pit’s fence – which ran along the top of the ground above me, at shoulder height – seemed more like a military perimeter. With its bulky timbers reinforced by steel rebar, I wasn’t going anywhere. Why did it need to be so strong? More intriguing, however, were the holes underneath the fence. Someone had dug out gaps underneath the fence. Just enough space for a torso appeared along the edges every ten feet. Why had no one filled them in? Had hope carved out each escape route, and I hadn’t bothered to replace it? Maybe there was no point, since a pair of army boots stood patrol on the other side of every hollow. Why the necessary precaution? Who was out there, standing in those boots, and why did I stand inside, alone? I felt trapped. My solace was the open, blue sky above me. Puffy, white clouds paraded over me. This brings me to my biggest question…

Why didn’t I just fly out?

All notions of “flying dreams” aside, this seems a legit question. I acted as if the sky was a roof. There wasn’t anything holding me back, except me. In thinking of the top seven lessons I’ve learned throughout my weight loss journey, that’s the clincher. I see this self-limiting pattern over and over. Each of these seven ideas healed some element of whatever, or whyever, I was my biggest obstacle.

  1. Food can transform from currency into contentment. For most of my life, I’ve used food as currency. Food to feel my value. Food to reward my effort. Food to stand in for any desire I could not fill. The problem with this strategy is that I never experienced fullness. By using food as currency, I limited the amount of joy and contentment I could feel because food can only do so much. In addiction terms, I could only get as high as my next hit. I couldn’t stop this limiting cycle until I felt my intrinsic worth. I needed to connect with that unearned merit which abides at depths universal to us all. A Biblical poet put it best: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” (Isaiah 55) When I experienced my natural worth — which I cannot earn or have enough of anything to pay it back with — that’s when food transformed from currency to contentment.
  2. I do not have to lose 100 pounds before I feel better. When I first decided to lose 100 pounds in 1 year, I thought I wouldn’t be happy until I dropped all that weight. In reality, I felt better after shedding just 15 pounds. I can remember having more energy, feeling less pain, and sleeping better within weeks. The 100 pound goal gave me enough hope to launch my journey, but it didn’t have to power me all the way. In fact, the inherent restriction of my goal, as it was defined by a total number of pounds within a given time frame, became a burden. That expectation felt heavier than the extra pounds I was carrying. In order to continue, without the heavy restriction, I had to trade big expectations for tiny victories. It’s those everyday wins which took me the rest of the way, bringing the finish line to me.
  3. “Set Point Theory” isn’t as sexy, but it makes more sense. “100 Pounds in 1 Year” sure rolls off the tongue, but without the pressure of numbers, I made space to learn an amazing lesson, called “Set Point Theory.” Basically, it’s what keeps lost pounds from never coming back. Researchers have found that a slow burn — no more than 5% of total body weight every three months – keeps weight loss below our starvation radar. If I lose weight any faster, then I could be wasting my time and shooting my future self in the foot. According to Set Point Theory, in order to lose 100 pounds in 1 year, I would have had to start out weighing over 500 pounds. Indeed, that’s exactly where some folks start. For others, however, patient, compassionate weight loss and a return trip to the calculator and will avoid return trips to the diet isle.
  4. Weight loss is not a straight line but a meandering path through the woods. If I zoom out on my journey, taking a Google Maps view, I see lots of pitfalls and rabbit trails along the way. At first, I hated these obstacles because they slowed down my weight loss. But the hurdles just kept coming. They didn’t slow down until I slowed down. Turns out, I needed the hidden meaning in every detour. I learned to sink into the sand because there was probably something in there for me. If I tried to skip over it, I usually came back to it, anyway. I could only go as fast as my heart and mind could handle. Ironically, once I geared down to soul speed, I found oodles of freedom to play and experiment. Pit stops became hidden treasures and weight loss an adventure in living. My self-limiting insistence on a linear, start-to-finish highway to happiness seems silly and unrealistic to me now.
  5. Relationship brings results. So often, I’ve turned to tips and strategies for results, but copying other people’s fitness success works more like trying to push a button from behind by yanking on the circuitry. Tactics like counting calories, logging hours of exercise, or tracking total steps, these aren’t what cause fitness. They’re what comes after; after the choice to just show up, after frustrating days of missed workouts, and after the next day when I decide to pick up where I left off. All of these moments create a relationship, which is what really brings results. By sticking only to what worked for other people, I actually limited my options. When I drilled down to healing my relationship with myself, that’s when the power kicked in. I found out that I could trust my gut to lead me to my next, best step. Granted, it didn’t feel great all the time. I had walked around like a floating head for years; I was that disconnected to my body. It was scary to reconnect with my heart and mind through my body, even painful at times. But by staying authentic, no matter the circumstance, no effort was wasted.
  6. Get thinner but never stop getting thicker. I want to get thick, in my soul I mean. I want to slather on layers of life. I got into this journey by opening up to desire. I don’t want to stop now. I want to stay engaged with the juiciness of the Big Wow that infiltrates every part of every day. I think back to my days of eating drive-thru in my car on my lunch hour. I remember how utterly bored I felt with my life. To me, becoming thinner has happened more out of a sense of fullness, rather than depriving myself of joy (with food or otherwise.) By feeding awe and curiosity, I continue to uncover reasons to keep making healthy choices.
  7. I decided that I Already Have My Body Back. After losing 62 of my 100 pounds, I came to a crossroads. You may remember a recent blog when I slammed the proverbial table and declared, “I want my body back, dammit!” You know what came up after that release of pent-up angst? A quiet voice humbly whispered, Why not just decide to have it, then? This challenged me. What do you mean? I retorted. I can’t JUST DECIDE.   Turns out, I can. There’s this tune from The Antlers, called “Palace” (totally the sound track to my journey.) One phrase slays me: “…the day we wake inside the secret place that everyone can see.” That’s what this is. It’s inhabiting the beauty I’ve kept hidden from myself but which everyone around me has always seen. It’s the decision to fly out of the pit. This is possible because getting down to my real self wasn’t like peeling layers of rotten flesh from an onion. Not at all. It felt more like connecting with the orb inside. I kept nurturing myself. The onion grew bigger, got brighter, until its paper skin could no longer hold the glowing bulk and had to break off and fly away to make room for more. Granted, I couldn’t have gotten here before now. I needed more than a nice idea to try on. I needed to experience my body in healthy ways. I needed to trade out old clothes for new. I needed to climb mountains. I needed to see muscles flexing in the mirror. Now, though, I am ready to be who I’ve always been.

Take Home Tip

 

Why not just fly out?

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

For more in-depth, down-and-dirty-details of how I learned these lessons, check out the 100 Pounds eGuides

Listen to “Palace” by The Antlers

7WaysIGotMyBodyBackVisionBoard100Poundsin1Year

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What Flips that Switch Inside?

Lately, when sharing my story, the same question keeps popping up:  What does it take to get unstuck and make the healthy choices we already know to make?  It’s as if there’s this mysterious black box  that we cannot see into, but which holds the key to flipping whatever switch inside, so we can make the choices we want to make — but for some reason — haven ‘t.  I cannot know what will flip the switch for you, but I can suggest one way to feel for it.  I call it “Micro-Meditation.”  I started this practice as a way to calm my monkey mind.  To my surprise, it also helped me make better decisions, including the ones about what to eat and how to move.

I started inside my car, waiting for traffic.  I focused on where I placed my hands on the steering wheel, which finger reached for the stereo, or how I slid my sunglasses around my face.  Then, while getting out of the car, how I grabbed my purse strap before wrapping it around my shoulder.  How I leaned into the door to unlock the car.  Which foot hit the ground first and how my balance changed as I closed the door.  You see what I mean?  It sounds too simple to make a difference (Typing this paragraph took more effort than the actual doing of it.)  However, if I wasn’t practicing micro-meditation, I would be busy worrying, planning, or just being numb.  There’s lots to gain and nothing to lose.

Soon after starting this practice, my insides started to change.  It’s hard to describe, but it was that same feeling when every light turns green, you take curves with the perfect balance of speed and torque, and seas of traffic part with mere intention.  In one word:  flow.

I’ve since fallen in love with “Micro-Mediation” (when I remember to do it).  It works instantly at any moment without extra equipment.  It takes nothing from my day and, in fact, saves time because I make better decisions with more clarity.  When it’s time to choose a meal or workout, the switch almost flips itself.

 

Use Micro-Meditations to Keep Calm and Improve Decision Making from 100 Pounds in 1 Year

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The Christmas Hangover

a tired, Christmas pooch

I’m rebooting a past holiday post, as its a great reminder for when this time of year gets overwhelming. Its easy to eat and eat out of sheer exhaustion, so I hope this helps.  Enjoy!

Flashback to the Thanksgiving before committed to losing 100 pounds in 1 year.  This was an unusual time of insight for me.  Not only was I ready to get gutsy and make some major life changes (read more at Eat to Thrive), but I could see myself from outside myself.  Such eye-openers are a gift because they don’t happen all the time, but, when they do come, I try to sit up and take notice.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I snuggled into the corner of the couch with a cool, ceramic bowl of cereal cradled in my hands.  This wasn’t just any cereal bowl.  It was the biggest bowl I could find; large enough to hold leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving dinner.   As I balanced the heavy bowl in my left hand — making sure no milk spilled over the edge — I held an extra-large spoon in my right.  I dunked that spoon three inches deep into the cereal, lifted out a heap of granola and rice flakes, stretched my mouth wide, and shoveled it in.  I plunged again.  And again.  And again.  I snarfed that bowlful in minutes, stuffing mouthfuls as fast as I could chew and swallow.

As I tipped the bowl to my lips to sip the last puddle of sweet milk, I saw my reflection; not in the bottom of the bowl, but inside my mind.  I saw myself, and I was sad.  I wanted that cereal to make me feel better.  I set the bowl down and, not for the first time, felt a familiar bloated feeling expand my stomach into a cereal baby.  I tried to get still.  I asked myself, Why am I so sad?  Once I made space to ask the question, the answer was right there.  Everyone at work – plus most of my family — had the week off, but I was still working every day.  I wanted time off, too.  What about me?

That day, I wrote myself a reminder for next year:  It read:  “Ask for Thanksgiving week off (Remember cereal snarfing last year?)”

That act – of noticing my pain and finding a way to change things – sparked a new holiday tradition for me.  Now, before the holidays get too hectic, I take time to reflect on how I want the season to look.  This is a new skill for me.  I always thought I had to endure the holidays, like I had no say in how they played out.  I braced for the stress:  running extra errands, scrunching parties into schedules, stretching the Christmas budget, and — worst of all — muddling through the hollow letdown of the day-after-Christmas Hangover (Not necessarily alcohol-induced, more like “expectation induced.”)  It never occurred to me that I have a choice in how the holidays roll.  Turns out, I do.  It just takes a few, simple questions, thoughtfully answered in a quiet space before all the holly and jolly begin.

To that end, I’d like to share with you my simple reflection routine for the holidays.  I use the following questions to frame my intentions.  Things don’t always go as planned, but that’s o.k.  Knowing my intentions lowers stress.  Feeling centered matters most.  That way, when surprises pop up, I don’t create a story in my head that I’m helpless or pushed; I just adapt to find another way towards my intentions.  O.K.  Here’s my holiday reflection routine, plus my intentions from this year…

In Early November:

  • What tradition(s) do I look forward to?  What tradition(s) would I like to let go of?
    • I like gathering around the table, full of family, goodies, and random chatter.  I’d like to let go of the pressure to find that perfect present, and just enjoy my time with each person.
  • How do I want to feel during the holidays?  What activities fuel this feeling?  What activities take from it?
    • I want to feel relaxed.  I’m going to hang some extra twinkle lights in my home, so things feel cheery as the nights get darker earlier.  I’d like to ditch trying to make it to every community Christmas event, and just focus on one favorite — maybe the showing of White Christmas at a local art house theater (Where we come dressed up, sounds like fun.)
  • Gift buying – how do I want to feel, standing in line at the store or clicking through the Check Out online?
    • I want to be happy enough to give the cashier a smile and complement him/her.  I want to not feel burdened by money, so I will make some homemade gifts this year (go to Christmas Treats that Won’t Make Me Fat? for hubby’s Cranberry Walnut Bread recipe.)  I want to feel smart and efficient by being picky about online shopping, so I will do some research before rushing over to Ebay.
  • Gift giving – after all the presents have been unwrapped, and all the “thank you’s” said, what thoughts do I want running through my mind?
    • I want to still have something to look forward to.  I hate feeling bloated in my body and my mind.  Maybe go showshoeing or sledding that evening?

After Christmas

(The day after Christmas is a juicy time for reflection, since that hangover feeling still stings strong.)

  • What did I like best about this year’s holiday season?  How can I do that again next year?
    • Last year, I sure enjoyed connecting with my brother who visited from Chicago.  Next year, if he can’t make it, maybe I could skype him or play some online game with him.  Or maybe we could levy a bet on a Steeler’s game.  I’d love to visit him in Chicago someday.
  • If I were Santa Claus, what would I do on the day after Christmas, after delivering billions of presents all around the world in 24 hours?  Can I make time/space to do that for me now?
    • I would get a haircut and schedule a deep, soothing massage.

Feel free to change up these questions and make them work for you.  Also, be sure to print out your answers and keep them in a safe place for next year’s reflection.

Before I finish, you may wonder, How does all this relate to losing weight?  First, consider the fact that stress (especially six weeks of it during the shortest days of the year) almost guarantees weight gain (read more at Chronic Stress and Weight Gain).  Also, planning ahead can mitigate some of my mindless munching because I’m more present, more centered.  There’s nothing like a party platter to shortcut my best intentions, especially when I didn’t have time to eat dinner because I had to stop at the post office to mail gifts.  Lastly, there’s a happy spillover effect from creating intentions and watching how they change my reactions to circumstances.  Intentions are like built-in homing beacons.  They become reference points to help me track where I’m at on my mental map.  Experiencing that level of control – even the extent to which I let myself get out-of-control – can fuel my self-esteem and store up some seriously good ju-ju for the coming year.

Shelby writes sassy, inspiring stories of weight loss.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  

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Dear Phat Girl: 3 Ideas+1 Big Ass Principle to Prevent Overeating During the Holidays

Dear Phat GirlDear Phat Girl,

The Holidays are just around the corner, and I’m already cringing at all the food and sugar and drinks there will be. I want to enjoy the season, but I’ve got a history of overeating. I’ve tried all the advice you read in magazines like counting calories, eating off smaller plates, and having a salad before a party. Thing is, I’m smarter than the plates or the calories, and I know how to bend the rules. Isn’t there something else I can try that will work better – preferably with alcohol? Thanks for your advice.

 Sincerely,

 Stuffing the Stuffing in Newport, CT

 Dear Stuffing the Stuffing,

I’m reading your email and doing a halleluah jig! I love it when all of our best efforts have failed us. Why? Because these sorts of letdowns reveal how bankrupt most quick tips are of any real power. That realization is the beginning of change. Truth is, the end of one experiment is often the beginning of a new route not thought of before. It’s through repeated trial and error that I’ve discovered the kind of success that trumps the tricks and leads to lasting results. In this regard, there are no failures. We’re all just learning as we go, peeling the layers away and (sometimes) crying over our onion. Sounds like you’re ready to go deeper and make a hearty, life-stew out of those onions.

Before I reveal the recipe, though, I’m glad you mentioned the Big Three tips for portion control that have been chewed-to-death. You’re right. We are smarter. (Really? Who knew? WE DID!) The truth is, when I want more food, I’ll find a way to get it. Counting calories? Heck, I’ll just do two work outs – tomorrow. Smaller plate? No worries, I just go for seconds. Become Vegetarian before the Christmas Party? Hah! There’s plenty of room in my gullet for red wine and a lick off the ol’ cheese ball. Like I said, we’re smarter than any diet rules.

That’s why I’m working on a new eGuide called, “Ditch the Diet.” Without diet rules, I’m left to my own wanderings and designs. I have to learn to follow my gut instincts. So far, my gut hasn’t failed. It’s not that I’ve totally surrendered and become a fudge whore. Rather, I’ve discovered why I eat, which has changed how I eat, which has transformed what I eat. I want the same for you, so let me start you off with three ways to trust your own gut and bypass the overeating drama throughout the Holidays and beyond.

  1. Make friends with food. The Holidays are about celebration, and when we go to work in the dark and get home in the dark, we need a reason to celebrate. When I realized most of my Holiday snarfing was out of this simple – yet critical – need, then I embraced the buffet.
    Practical Idea: Give yourself permission to celebrate with food. See the spread as a gift rather than a burden. Then rejoice with a few of your favorites. Relish them. Let them sing Christmas carols to you as all that merriment melts on your tongue and drizzles all the way down.
  1. Less is more. When I feel deprived, I eat more. When I feel content, I eat less. Contentment, however, comes in many packages. Self-care is one form. When I discovered my tendency to put myself last in the storm of holiday busy-ness, I started tracking my contentment level. Turns out, a lot of my overeating stemmed from a latent sense of neglect. I literally came to the table starving for attention. As I learned to cull the herd of holiday to-do’s, I made space to do something special for me each day, however small. My contentment level rose and my overeating lessened.
    Practical Idea: Brainstorm tiny things that bring you joy and unwrap these moments like a petite present to yourself each day. You’ll be less inclined to stuff the stuffing because you’re already full on the inside.
  1. Give Baby Jesus a break and stop demonizing your food. When I label a food “bad,” I judge myself a “failure” when I eat it. Feeling weak or lazy is the quickest path to giving up, which means I’m primed for a gorge session. I can reroute this whole vicious cycle by ending the good/bad labelling of food and asking instead, “How will this bite make me feel?” At the very least, this makes me more honest with myself. At best, I create just enough space inside to make an intentional choice and accept the consequences.
    Practical Idea: Next time you’re holding a paper plate of goodies, examine each one and imagine how it will make you feel. The next step will be entirely, deliciously yours.

 You may notice a common theme in these ideas. They all create connection. In fact, they’re less about food and more about you reconnecting with you. Carrying too much weight can, over time, cause you to disconnect from your body and your heart. It’s no wonder, then, that when they need attention, they’ll use food to get it. The good news: your rich relationship with food can be your best teacher. This year, sideline the snappy tips — which only serve to keep you disconnected, anyway – and ask more of your food than the same old “should I/shouldn’t I” scuffle. Let food serve as your guru, your mentor, your minister. When the new year arrives, you will have gained so much more than the ten pounds everyone else did while staying in the struggle.

Take Home Tip

I’ve discovered why I eat, which has changed how I eat, which has transformed what I eat.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

More ways to make friends with food inside the 100 Pounds eGuide, “Eat to Thrive”

Comments or questions for Phat Girl?  Remember: every comment you enter below automatically submits your name for the monthly drawing of a FREE eGuide.

Yo, Phat Girl, I Gots Ta Ask..

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Sneak Peek Chapter: “3 Ways to Get Small or Go Big”

Midnight Facebook Entries,  100 Pounds in 1 YearNo one joined me at the bar that night, but I still had the time of my life.  It was spontaneous.  It was infused with inspiration.  My covert rescue of neglected road-side rhubarb, plus my midnight trip to town for some funk band assisted writing, was decidedly not boring.  This is important for me because a hefty portion of my extra pounds originated from boredom.  I don’t mean the, there’s nothing to do kind of boredom.  I mean, there is nothing to look forward to boredom, a deeper pall.  This numbness greeted me when I woke up each morning and robbed me of my joy.  With those kind of days, it’s no wonder I resorted to using food to feel.  No meal could feed this craving, though.  I craved that geyser of vitality which gushes through the dusty build-up from everyday life and exclaims, “I am alive!”

Whenever I sense numbing boredom, I now understand that I have a choice.  I can get small or go big.  Personally, I’m a fan of going big.  Mostly because I like the thrill of it, but also because I’ve discovered how going big can eclipse gnarly problems and even heal the roots that feed them.

Going big, however, is not always my first instinct.  I usually attempt getting small first.  How does that look?  Well, it’s not so much about how things appear on the outside as the feeling on the inside.  In fact, two different people could be doing the exact, same thing, and one would be getting small while the other is going big.  The difference is in how they feel while they’re doing it.

Getting small feels like:

  • Settling
  • Amputating
  • Shrinking
  • Anything with the word “should” before it
  • Half-nourished while half-starved, like eating a picture of a salad and being bummed I’m not satisfied

Going big feels like:

  • Expanding
  • Stretching
  • Inspiring
  • Heart fluttering
  • Totally full, with lots of room for more

Given a choice to get small or go big, here are three ways I have encountered that decision in my life:

Open Up to Desire

If I want to learn, heal, or do anything worth doing, all need do only one thing:  surrender to desire.  I’m a big believer that wanting something is enough to propel me forward.  I don’t always have to go mining for childhood trauma, emotional scars, or ugly trolls guarding my bridge to sanity.

Desire is enough.  To understand why, all I need to do is realize the hefty effort I put towards conveniently distracting myself from desire every day.  It’s much easier to be too busy.  Throughout my 100 pounds journey, I’ve learned how staying in that desirous space brings plenty of opportunity for profound work.

Desire, being a deep calling within our hearts, naturally asks us to decide whether we are going to get small or go big.  For example, I want to lose 100 pounds.  That sounds pretty big, a large number anyway.  I can get small, though, even with such a large number as my goal.  I can choose diets that promise to work by making certain foods my enemy, thereby amputating the part of me that loves to sink my teeth into a cream cheese danish once in a while.  I could force myself to workout until it hurts, pushing my body until I shrink in dread at the thought of another torture session.

In contrast, I also have the choice to go big with my weight loss.  One way I did this was to release myself of any and all food rules.  I aborted the “eat this”/“don’t eat that” mentality.  At first, I didn’t like my idea. It felt too risky. I had used food rules to feel like I was at least trying.  What would I do now? My desire was bigger than my worry, though, and I surrendered to each and every craving. This was very scary.  And thrilling.  My heart fluttered as I tasted food without guilt.  I felt physically full. No more deprivation. Not that small, festering kind of wanting. Just big desire and big satisfaction.

Such joy with food delivered me to the other side of my eating struggles. I started to consider how food could help me heal, how it could be my friend.  Could I actually break the curse that had been my rancid relationship with food for most of my life?  I dared to find out.  In this situation, going big helped me expand beyond the tug-o-war and begin to heal from the inside out.

When I released food rules, I discovered one clue that shows me whether I’ve chosen to get small or go big is pretty simple and easy to uncover:  talk back.  When I get small, I have thoughts like, I should… I’m such a… I’ll never…

Going big still produces talk back, but of a different nature.  Often, I’ve thought, This is either crazy or brilliant!  In those moments, I like to talk back to my talk back and say, Yeah, well, that’s what they said about Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lennon, so I guess I’m in good company.

Be Vulnerable

Another get small/go big decision moment comes when I face vulnerability.  I’m not talking the shallow, self-effacing digs that we use to fish for social acceptance.  Jesus wasn’t like, “Dude, I’m totally stressing over these bunions on my feet from all this walking.”  Anyone who makes a difference in anything always encounters deep vulnerability, that tender moment between rejection and flight.

As Brene Brown, leading researcher into vulnerability and shame, explains, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of change.”  Of course, anyone who’s ever wanted to lose a significant amount of weight – including me – is all about change. I want it off and I want it now! After three rounds of dieting, melting off payback pounds, then gaining it all back, I can see how I always stopped short before hitting that layer of vulnerability.

Of course, I put that layer off as long as possible.  Like Brene Brown, I fear rejection.  I know she knows how I feel.  In her interview with On Being’s Krista Tippett, Brene said (paraphrasing here) “I was afraid of the intense criticism in our world today, so I had engineered my life to stay small.”  She got away with it, too.  That is, until her groundbreaking TED talk that surpassed ten million views.  When her talk went viral, Brene could have chosen to get small.  She could have listened to the talk back (You can’t just do that.) and back-peddled on all she had shared.  She could have accepted all the Fortune 100 company requests for executive training which came with one condition (“We would love to have you speak!  Could you just do one thing?  Could you not mention vulnerability or shame?”)

Going big rarely happens without encountering shame or vulnerability.  The good news is, rejection rarely happens, too.  The good news: my imagined fears are much worse than any actual blow back I’ve encountered.  I am my own, worst critic.  The take-home message is this:

Be Compassionate

Which brings me to a question:  When I confront my shame of being overweight, what I’ve done to my body, or how I became so apathetic about life, then what do I do?  This is another get small or go big moment.

My first instinct tends towards getting small.  I squeeze my life into a tight structure of unyielding routine. I toughen up. I stuff my shame down with discipline, like trying to fit a fluffy sleeping bag into the nylon stuff sack it came in (How did the manufacture get it in there?!)  Truth be told, I’ve rarely been able to maintain strict discipline over the long haul.  Eventually, my edges spill out.  When I pop from the pressure, I go ballistic and pack on those payback pounds.  This is why mere discipline often fails and compassion is so important. Compassion can head off a reactionary binge. Of course, the last thing I want to do is give up control by getting all soft and understanding, but that’s exactly what I need.

Mine is a common reaction, according to Dr. Kristen Neff, Associate Professor of Human Development at The University of Texas at Austin.  She explains, “I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent.  They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line.  Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”

I may betray my best efforts by poo-pooing compassion.

So what would going big look like, after surrendering to my desires and risking vulnerability which brings me face to face with shame?  Going big oozes compassion.  It honors all the habits I developed to ward off disappointment, whether I numbed myself with food or avoided activities which reminded me of my body.  Instead, compassion thanks those habits for keeping me alive.  It acknowledges my need for them.

Thank you, midnight pizza run, for getting me through my divorce.

Thank you, broken-down couch, for giving me a safe place to cry.

Then, compassion moves on.  In doing so, it validates my desire for more (which has really been my only desire, all along).  Compassion surveys my heart and says, “Yeah, we can do something with this.”  In the end, I see that I’ve always had what it takes.

I am the space big enough to nurture the biggest of going bigs.

Take Home Tip

Desire is enough.  To understand why, all I need to do is realize the hefty effort I put towards conveniently distracting myself from desire every day.

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October 24, 2014 · 4:09 pm