Let Your Healthy Self Emerge
Recently a client mentioned that she had started a diet to lose a substantial amount of weight. She was dedicated to keeping of the weight for good this time.
Like this client, for many years I struggled with weight. I “yo-yoed” between the “fat clothes” and “skinny clothes” in my closet. When I lost weight, I kept the “fat clothes” just in case I ever needed them later.
After a huge weight gain in college (mostly from eating too many midnight snacks at Jack in the Box), by my mid-20s I finally committed to taking the extra weight off. I attended Weight Watch meetings with weekly weigh-ins and I religiously followed the food regime. Week by week the pounds melted away and eventually I felt comfortable again in my own skin!
This time when I hit my goal weight, I vowed to remain there. I continued to eat healthy food after I left Weight Watchers. I gave away all my “fat clothes.” I began to run. First, I did 10K races and then a marathon (see the photo above). For several years I felt great and kept the weight off.
Then I stopped running but I kept eating the same amount of carbs that I had when I was training for the marathon. One day I realized how tight my clothes felt. I was angry at myself for letting my weight creep back up. I had to admit that my poor eating and subsequent weight gain had both been unconscious. I then doubled down on my commitment to be more vigilant and not let it happen again.
For many years after that I did remain vigilant and I kept the weight off. Then I broke my foot. I was on crutches for 13 weeks followed by physical therapy. I had to use a cane for several more months until my leg was strong enough to walk normally again. It was only after full recovery that I realized my attention had been so focused on rehabilitation, that I had again lost focus about my weight. I just didn’t have the bandwidth to think about it. Uggh! This vigilance business was exhausting! I just wanted to keep the weight off without having to constantly focus on it.
It was about six months later that I noticed I had developed a sensitivity to wheat, which caused me to have muscle pain and a feeling of brittleness in my bones. A friend recommended The Zone Diet by Barry Sears that had changed his life. Many of his long-term physical symptoms just went away when he started eating differently. He also quit needing massages to reduce his stress.
I decided to give this new way of eating a try to see if it would reduce my symptoms. I learned it was a way of eating that reduced inflammation wherever it settles into our system. Like an internal investigator, I asked my body how it felt when I ate certain foods. My body communicated very clearly about what it wanted and didn’t want. The more I listened to my body, the clearer its messages became.
From this deep listening, I began to distinguish between the “voices” of my Emotional Self and my body. My Emotional Self’s voice was a “desperation voice,” which sounded to me more like a crack addict who wanted a fix. By contrast, my body’s voice was a “whisper of true needs,” which had a ring of truth from the very core of my being. Understanding this distinction was a huge breakthrough!
As I listened more to my body than my Emotional Self for what to put in my mouth, the physical symptoms from the wheat sensitivity just naturally went away. But, so did the weight I had gained since I broke my foot. What surprised me most was that I didn’t have to be vigilant about my weight. The extra pounds simply fell away as I continued to let my Healthy Self emerge!
It has been over 12 years since I began letting my Healthy Self guide me in determining what to eat to feel my best. Since then the weight has never returned! Now, when my Emotional Self wants something (like coffee yogurt, my favorite), I ask my body, “Will you still feel healthy if I eat this?” If the answer is NO, I don’t eat it. I let my Emotional Self know that it can ask again at another time and we’ll find out if that’s OK for the body.
My Emotional Self no longer feels deprived because it is included in my internal communication. It knows there will be other times when the body says yes to a request. When my body agrees that I can eat coffee yogurt, I savor every bite without a single ounce of guilt!
Through continual internal dialogue, my Emotional Self has matured. It knows it is not being ignored. It is an active participant in the conversation, so it doesn’t need to rebel or act out by eating unhealthy food to get my attention.
Now when clients tell me they want to lose weight, I encourage them to instead consult their Healthy Self. They don’t need to check the scale constantly for their weight loss progress. They don’t need an external “accountability buddy” for outside validation about whether they are being “good” dieters. They already have their own built-in accountability buddy to help guide them toward optimal health.
Cultivating this internal relationship can change everything! Once we release our Healthy Self from the prison we’ve imposed on it, our attention can shift from acting like a vigilant guard to becoming a loving partner to our whole Self. It is this level of self-love that allows our Healthy Self to do what it is designed to do, which is to provide us with the energy and aliveness we need to live life to its fullest.
It doesn’t mean that we always have perfect health. What it does mean is that we have a healthy sense of ourselves to help guide us in any given circumstance. The taste of any sweet we put in our mouth pales in comparison to savoring this exquisite sweetness within the very core of who we are.