Just in time for all of the holiday parties…
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.
Why not just fly out?
For more in-depth, down-and-dirty-details of how I learned these lessons, check out the 100 Pounds eGuides
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:
(The day after Christmas is a juicy time for reflection, since that hangover feeling still stings strong.)
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.
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.
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.
I’ve discovered why I eat, which has changed how I eat, which has transformed what I eat.
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My first yoga teacher had a license plate that read Ahimsa. Ahimsa is a sanskrit word that means, non-violence. This is the story of my journey to learning the true meaning of Ahimsa and finding peace with my body, mind and spirit.
I had a less than ideal childhood: I felt unloved, unworthy, and abandoned. I became an overweight child, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I was teased and bullied because of my size and I felt completely alone and powerless. As I got older, I tried to find ways to control my life any way that I could. My primary outlets for this became diet and exercise. I’d successfully lose weight, but then I’d gain it all back, a cycle that only contributed to my feelings of self-hate.
I had always been interested in yoga, but didn’t think that I could actually do it, until a personal trainer at the gym recommended that give it a try. One day, I finally did. The teacher was kind and supportive and I felt challenged. I was hooked and knew I wanted to learn more.
Soon into my yoga journey, I realized that for the 90 minutes I was in class, I could let go of control, negative thoughts, and feelings of self-hate. However, as I went deeper into yoga, there was a part of me that wanted to be like the other yogis: thin and able to do poses such as upward facing bow pose and handstand. I thought if I looked a certain way and could do advanced asanas that I would finally find confidence and happiness. I became desperate to lose weight; I just knew that everything I had ever wanted would be mine if I could just achieve a smaller body. I drastically cut my calorie intake and started spending upwards of three hours at the gym every day doing cardio and yoga.
And I saw results! I dropped over 100 pounds in less than nine months. However, I was still beating myself up, physically and mentally. My self-talk was negative, and on top of that, I was over-exercising, pushing my body beyond its limits. And ironically, despite the increased activity level and the weight loss, I didn’t feel better about myself because I weighed less; I was still in pain physically and mentally. I had developed persistent knee pain and after several weeks, it hadn’t gone away. I had a series of X-rays and an MRI, which showed I had a torn meniscus and osteoarthritis.
Arthritis at 38, that was difficult to accept! I had to change everything; I could no longer sustain the activity level that I’d been doing.
All of these realizations led to a downward spiral into despair. I gained a few pounds and knew I needed to do something about it, but I couldn’t exercise the way I had grown accustomed to. I felt like I had my life torn away from me, I couldn’t even walk without being in pain, which meant that the aerobic exercise I had been doing was out of question. As a person who has dealt with compulsive eating, body image issues, and depression, it is a real challenge to pull out of that darkness. I gained 20 pounds, 20 became 40, and then 60 pounds. The realization that I might not get back to where I began become a real possibility. I wanted to treat myself with love and compassion, but how could I? I was unworthy at the very level of being able to take care of myself. I had failed.
My knee injury became a defining moment in my life. Isn’t it interesting how injuries become our teachers? I had to give up my strong practice in lieu of a gentle and restorative practice, had to do physical therapy. I went to a counselor and started working on my issues with compulsive eating, self-hate, and body image. I began to meditate seriously and found joy in kirtan (call and response singing). With all of this intensive internal work, my life started to shift and I started listening, I learned to connect with compassion and make peace with my body and mind. I had to find out what worked for me and I had to learn that could not let others determine what I should or should do in my practice.
I decided that I wanted to live and not hide; I wanted to live an empowered life and not see myself as a victim. Between yoga, meditation, therapy, and, surprisingly a knee injury, I learned to make peace with my body, mind, and spirit.
To say that yoga changed my life is an understatement. No one told me I couldn’t practice or teach yoga, and along the way I discovered the true meaning of Ahimsa.
Cami Cote is a yogini, a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance, and a kirtan wallah living in Missoula, Montana. She currently lives with hypothyroidism and arthritis, but doesn’t let those obstacles get in the way of her yoga practice or living life to the fullest. “I want to share my story to inspire people, to raise awareness of the fact that there are full figured yogis in the world despite what you see in the average yoga class, that we are strong, capable and able to practice. Anyone that has the desire to practice yoga should get out there and try it. The yogic path takes dedication, hard work and above all self-love.” If you want to know more or connect with Cami, visit her www.rivercityyoga.net