First, a flashback (skip to 1:08ish for the title reference, please!):
Second, here goes…
This week’s been filled with fun and plenty of things to keep me busy, but I’ve been having a hella time sleeping. Last night, after lying in bed for about an hour, I said to hell with tossing and turning and got up and wrapped up the Christmas presents under my new tree. Is it strange to wrap gifts at 2am? In November?
While I wrapped, I listened to a podcast where Geneen Roth was talking about one of her books—“Women, Food, and God”—which really changed the way I looked at my eating issues back when I was first introduced to her work. Geneen writes in a way that takes the words out of my mouth but also has a knack for getting at something deeper. I’d go so far as to say she awakens consciousness to things I might never have considered on my own or perhaps just puts down on paper the things that many of us are awesome at avoiding.
At any rate, I’m feeling absolutely inspired by her and the book, which I paged through today for old time’s sake. One of the dog-eared pages I came to talked about the concept of living “as if” and I really think, given my posts yesterday, that it applies. Though her reference to “The Voice” might not make full sense, think of it as the beliefs and chatter in your mind about yourself (your inner critic) and reflect on this:
“I tell those who haven’t experienced themselves without The Voice that they need to live as if. Live as if they are worth their own time. Live as if they deserve to take care of their bodies. Live as if the possibilities they long for actually exist. Living as if creates a bridge to a new way of living. It allows you to see that something else is possible. That you really can walk, talk, and eat as if you deserve to be here.”
I think what she suggests here is extremely powerful.
If you’re like me, that’s a refreshing idea. If you’re convinced that you’re overweight and the itty bitty shitty committee that sometimes shows up in your thoughts drives your actions, you’re in a tough spot.
If you’re like me, you realize that that belief is absolutely misguided. Maybe you even know where the voice came from—for me, I can remember a painful time when someone who I love called me “fat and lazy”—and you’re actively trying to flip the switch to a more positive frequency.
But maybe like me, that’s tough. Seeing yourself in new light—as awesome at your core and inherently healthy—can take time. I know that in some areas of my life, I’ve certainly been able to flip that switch. Take, for instance, relationships. It’s easy for me to recognize that I deserve to be surrounded by amazing people who make me feel good and to spend less time with people who bring me down. Done and done. It’s not so easy to convince myself that, in the case of my body, my default is fit.
While it’s tough, it’s not impossible. And it’s happening, albeit slowly. I can catch myself heading into a negative headspace. I can recognize my thoughts for what they are. And while building self-esteem takes effort, the work is rewarding in and of itself. Who wouldn’t want to feel healthier and happier? I’d suppose that if you’re reading a blog called Happy is the New Healthy, you’d be all over that!
So how about we do a little reflecting on hypothetical situation: What if you were always going to have this body—at this weight, with those thighs, and that jean size?
- How would you eat?
- How would you talk to yourself?
- How would you exercise?
- What would you stop doing?
- What would you start doing?
- What would you do more of?
- Less of?
- What would you wear?
- What would shopping be like?
- What would your pantry look like?
- Where would you spend your money?
My guess is that, particularly if you’ve been dieting or “holding yourself back” you might start with an answer like “I’d eat cake all the time!” Sure, permission to eat freely might sound like permission to binge. But at the end of the day, weight or no weight, bingeing sucks. You’d start to eat the things that genuinely move your body towards health—knowing that food either makes you healthier or makes you sicker. Perhaps the talk of thunder thighs or pudge would change into appreciation of your curves or muscular build or at least into acceptance. Maybe you’d hop off the elliptical and lace up your hiking boots to move your body in a way that you’d love. Maybe you’d stop bingeing, restricting, talking about dieting with your friends, or comparing yourself to other people. Maybe you’d start taking care of your body (check-ups, adjustments, hygiene, etc.), getting more sleep, or going on dates. Perhaps you’d wear clothes that fit you and that flatter you—not baggy duds to hide yourself or things that are too tight and make you a cranky sausage. Would you dread shopping or would you find stores that sell things that you could swear were made just for you? Maybe you’d keep foods you’re certain you could never have around for fear of demolishing them in your kitchen. Maybe you’d stop buying magazines offering how to lose the last 10lbs, diet supplements that promise to be the missing answer in your weight issues.
Maybe you’d start to live a whole different life.
If those questions shook you up, I encourage you to start doing some of the things that I listed (or if you thought of something that you’d do if your weight didn’t matter)—maybe not the cake one. The things that you’d do for the sake of being healthy and happy—the stuff I listed as the answers—are the things that I absolutely must do if I want to be healthy and happy. Anything else is trivial. What would happen if you asked yourself the first question as it applies to the things you do daily?
At the end of the day, whether you’re 20lbs overweight, underweight, or exactly where you think you belong, you’re not healthy if you don’t take care of yourself. Regardless of what your body looks like or weighs, you’re wonderful. You deserve everything good and lovely in the world. Using food to make yourself miserable—fat, skinny, obsessive, etc.—distorts that. It gives you a problem, something you can wave in your face as proof that you’re not so amazing.
But you are amazing.
Whether or not you have weight to lose or gain, giving up the idea that that weight is a problem is a big deal. It offers you the chance to make a radical shift to how you approach yourself and your day to day actions. It takes you from a living against—problem-focused—approach and creates the space for you to instead live for.
Rather than an excuse to be fat and lazy and all things people like to assume not being attached to your weight mean, letting go puts the focus back on our actions. It gives you the right to do what’s healthy for healthy’s sake. Sometimes our weight can distort things. Consider the skinny fat person who eats like crap and never moves. With weight as a distorting lens to judge whether or not they’re healthy, they’re winning. Without it, they’re shit out of luck.
Weight is just an outcome—and as the skinny fat example suggests, it’s just a part of the picture. It’d take a certain kind of person to suggest that appearance trumps everything else and I’d like to punch that kind of person squarely between the eyes.
Lose the lens. Take some responsibility for taking care of yourself and be proud of the fact that you’re doing it.
All of this is asking you to take a step. To start to live for being healthy and happy and fit and strong rather than to live against being fat, sad, out of shape, or weak. Instead of avoiding the things that you think will bring you down, go after the things that will lift you up. Instead of avoiding whatever it is you’re scared of in life, create what you want.
Are you ready to live “as if?”
Finally, some more cheese…