Monday, April 6, 2009

The Battle of the Scale

Here is a classic example of how we give away our power. I'm listening to my body, exercising regularly, feeling great, alive and energized. I then go to a doctor's appointment, step on the scale--I haven't stepped on a scale in atleast six months--and the nurse adjusts, adjusts, adjusts. The number in front of me, finally, is eight pounds higher than it was the last time. Eight pounds.

For days, I can't stop thinking about those eight pounds. I wonder what I did wrong, what I'm doing wrong, how I could have been so wrong. I basically do a complete head trip on myself and my body, completely abandoning this wonderful relationship I had going on. In the end, the power of that number takes over.

How many times does this happen to us, on so many levels in our lives? The external measurement and its adequacy or inadequacy completely decimates any personal process or progress we were making. As the panic increased, I made all kinds of decisions about what kind of person I was, about my body, about my choices. Despite the fact that I was feeling healthy and happy before this happened, I allowed myself to be changed completely by a number.

It was a real wakeup call for me of what an ongoing journey it is to stay in touch with our bodies and our relationship to them without being distracted away by our judgments, the external picture, or the number on a scale. To honor our relationships and how it feels to be in our bodies FIRST is radical behavior. It's countercultural.

When I do weightloss workshops using the principles of BodyReunion work, this is just the kind of relationship we're invoking. Rather than focusing on how much you weigh or what things look like on the outside, you're asked to deeply examine how you feel in your body, the kinds of messages you send it, and what kind of relationship it feels like to you: a lover, a child, a friend? Or someone who's betrayed you? As we begin to repair the ways that we are with our bodies, we repair--on the deepest and most lasting level--our habits, our choices. We begin to participate in a relationship with our bodies that helps us make kinder, healthier choices on into the future.

So imagine my humility, knowing all this, to be thrown by a number on a scale. I realize the power of all that old thinking and judgment, that would have me abandon my body, criticize it, want it to be different and not trust it to show me what it wants and needs. The way that number caught my breath and shot me into that cycle of self-flagellation is amazing to me. If I'm doing it, with all my years of looking at that stuff, I'm sure we all do. How do we stop?

It's important to stop, because that cycle of self-judgment just takes us further out of our power and our choice. It makes us feel like we've done something wrong and can't be trusted. I found myself wanting to eat more, be less in touch with myself. I felt like a child who had been yelled at but hadn't done anything wrong: ashamed, confused, acting out. I recognize that every time this happens, I can make a different choice. I want to find a way to do that especially now, so that I can share it with other people. Here are some thoughts about breaking the cycle:

1)Ask yourself what's really important. Remember that what you most want is a peaceful and kind relationship with your body. No matter what it looks like right now, or what the number is on the scale, you can trust that this peace is both what you want in the moment and what you will want in the end.

2)Dialogue with your body. Check in with your body and ask it--rather than relying on the scale like a fortune teller to give you your answer--if it feels okay right now, if it needs anything from you. Does it feel like you're eating too much, ignoring it, not listening? Pay attention to what you hear.

3)Be willing to trust what you hear. It may feel like a leap of faith, but the information you get is the information you need. Trust that if your body is at peace, it's okay to be exactly where you are. If your body does have something to say about your relationship, then listen to that. Maybe you've stopped paying as much attention to when it's full. Maybe you've been pushing it too hard to exercise when it's tired. Trust that you'll keep listening and asking, and as long as you do that you are doing the best you can to take care of your body now and in the future. Make the adjustments you need to make as you listen.

4)Reconnect. Apologize to yourself and your body for getting scared. Be transparent about what triggers you, and how easy it is to get worried about a number as a sign of your progress. Say what you need to say to reestablish the relationship and choose it above the number.

5) Let go of the fear. Ask yourself what it would take to let go of the fear of that external evaluation and choose a loving relationship instead. Know that this takes work and courage. Know that you can do it.

You are the only one who has the ultimate power around your body relationship: how you respond to it, how you feel in it, what you're doing with it. Don't let a number take you off course. Don't let someone or something else tell you whether your body is okay.

Take a deep breath (I'm taking one now). How many times has this happened? How can you use this process to assure yourself that it doesn't need to happen again?
As I write these words, I feel and know this experience so intimately. We never stop learning the power of returning to and choosing ourselves.