Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Body Language

(picture featured on Tube555.blogspot.com)

Is it hard for you to listen to your body's cues as to whether or not it's hungry, tired or sad? For a lot of people, it may seem as if all of those things get mushed together and acted out through food--the one great solution. It's easy to do.

But too often we're eating when our hunger is for something else: we need soul stimulation, a sense of purpose; or we're exhausted from doing too much for others; or we're sad or lonely and want to mask our feelings with the sense of doing something. Learning the subtle difference between our body's hunger and our emotional hunger or fatigue takes courage and focus. It's part of how we become better partners to our bodies in the here and now, no matter how long we've ignored them.

We can begin to do it, but first we need to be open to the idea that we may not always translate our bodies' cues accurately. One exercise in my forthcoming book is to breakdown the physical cues in your body you get for a number of different thing. How does your body tell you, for example:

1) When you're actually hungry. There's probably a growling feeling in your stomach, a sense of weakness. You might get a slight headache.

2) When you're sad. It may feel like a kind of hunger, but pay closer attention. Do you feel choked up around your throat? Is there a sense of heaviness or anger in your chest? How is your breathing? Is it okay to feel what you feel?

3) When you're tired. Again, you may want to move toward food, but ask yourself how tiredness actually distinguishes itself in your body. Is there a slight ache in your legs or arms, a feeling of being heavy behind your eyelids? Do things feel overwhelming or is it hard to focus? Maybe you need a nap instead of a drink or a candy bar.

4) When you want to move. Sometimes we eat when what our bodies really want is to move. Do your legs feel restless? Is there a sense of pent-up energy wanting to be released? When we don't feel good about our bodies, we're more likely to ignore this one because we don't feel comfortable exercising or acting on it. But the simplest of activities can address this set of physical cues: putting on music and dancing around the living room, going for a walk, even getting outside where your body may feel some more breathing room.

Spend some time noticing the cues your body is actually giving you and see what it might be like to decipher them more specifically. Create a list like the one above and actually check with it the next time you open the cupboard or the refrigerator, especially if it's at the end of a long day. Ask what your body is really wanting right now.

Sometimes it helps to also give yourself a hunger scale, noticing if your hunger is really as urgent as you think. If a 5 is ravenous and in desperate need of food and a 0 is not really hungry, where is your body's hunger level really? Sometimes when we have to measure it this specifically, we may find that our body isn't hungry at all and it's our mind or emotions that want the food.

Like any partnership that's gone astray, we need to begin to really hear each other, making an effort to understand each other's language and signals. When you begin to do this, you help your body better communicate with you. It can feel, almost instantly, your effort to listen and a softening of the relationship can begin--one that initiates greater heart, kindness and mindfulness.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Declare a Truce

George Harris sticks carnations in gun barrels during an antiwar demonstration at the Pentagon in 1967.
(photo by Bernie Boston, 1967)

The title of my forthcoming book (out to publishers now) is The Truce: 10 Weeks to End the Weight Loss War and Discover a Body You Love. Today I wonder, what would it take for you to call a cease fire on the negativity you might be hurling at your own body? What if, instead of judgments and criticism, you tried firing appreciation, gratitude, respect? (I get an image of those pointed guns with flowers being put in them from the sixties...)

Just for today, practice putting down your guns, the old war. Begin to pay attention to the constant dialogue that's going on below the din of your daily life. When does the criticism of your body begin? How much is it with you during the day?

As you practice turning the volume up on your thoughts, see if you can also place that flower in your arsenal. Even if you don't mean it yet, see if you can take whatever negative thought you're having and turn it around. Instead of, 'Yuck, you're too flabby,' see if you can say, 'I so appreciate everything you do for me; I know we're working together to get to our perfect weight.' Instead of saying, 'You're so gross,' see if you can say, 'You're amazing.' You might only mean it 30% of the time (maybe 20%, maybe 10%), but you also might just notice that if you say it enough you come to believe it.

Declaring a truce means that for the day--and I mean the whole day--you don't let yourself do the usual barrage of analysis and criticism. You acknowledge, appreciate. You choose to see the glass as half full. Just today you choose love.

Hard as it may be, I want you to give yourself this experience because I want you to see how you feel at the end of it--and, especially, how your body feels. What's different when you have practiced seeing, feeling, appreciating it instead of rejecting and chastising it? Do you have more energy, vitality, a sense of ease? What's different about any relationship when we lay down our arms and become more willing, more open to see another's possibility?

If the difference is significant, make a note of it and consider whether you'd be willing to start an ongoing truce, one you'll negotiate through dialogue, listening and honesty with each other. What if you could end the war and experience a different kind of peace, a lasting kind of partnership? Would you do it?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Final Myths to Let Go Of

Finally--the last two 'myths' about having a good body relationship. Here are two more to let go of as you give yourself permission to create a great connection with your body now, regardless of your weight. See if these make sense to you, and that let yourself release what's no longer working for you. One thing you do have is the power to create your own state of mind!

MYTH #4: No one else loves me, why should I love myself or my body?
Why not? If you’ve been treated poorly in the past or told you and your body weren’t enough, that cycle needs to stop somewhere. Why not with you, and why not right now?

You may have bought into the belief that you won’t be enough until you please someone else’s version of you. You may even have taken on those beliefs so deeply that they’ve now become your own. Maybe you’ve tried your whole life to accomplish what you think will make someone else happy with you. And you can spend your whole life continuing to do that.

When you decide to be loving to yourself and your body, simply because you know it’s a better way of being in your life, you take back your power. It’s like you’re saying that you’re sick of waiting until ‘some day’ to give yourself what can belong to you now. You’re debunking the myth that there’s some other version of how you’re supposed to be that would allow you to deserve love.

Why do you have to keep waiting to be loving to yourself? Have you begun to get the feeling over time that maybe that day is never going to come? There’s nothing you should have to do to earn that feeling of peace or love inside. It’s given to all of us as a possibility, and something we can choose to create and cultivate. When you choose to create a better relationship with your body, you’re taking a powerful step of self-care, moving toward a way of being that will make you happier and healthier right now rather than waiting to prove to yourself that you deserve it. When you do that you are, of course, not just relating to your body differently; you’re giving yourself the possibility of being loved and accepted just for being who you are in every aspect of your life.

MYTH #5: If this doesn’t help me lose weight, it’s not worth it; that’s all I want.
You may have believed for a long time that losing weight is the one thing that will make you happy. Sometimes it’s more convenient to put all of our beliefs about our self-worth into one place; it’s less messy and less complicated. Of course, when you actually do lose the weight, everything else that you hoped would change as a result will still be there. There’s a good chance it won’t have miraculously changed just because you’re now a size 2.

That’s why it’s so important to think less about what you want to look like and more about how you want to feel. If you can find ways to cultivate how you want to feel, you get to keep the benefits forever. You’re feeling good is in your hands. What happens or doesn’t happen with your weight can never be the only thing that gives you your happiness.

It’s the same thing with any relationship. We can fight so hard for a goal we think we want: to be married, to have our partner say they love us. But if we don’t actually feel connected to them or feel good with them, the milestones have no meaning. We may fool ourselves into thinking they do, that we’ve arrived. But what we have on our hands is a hollow representation of what we want and not a living, breathing thing that we’re glad to be in every day.

If you make weight your only goal, you hold both your body and yourself hostage, as if you don’t exist and your relationship can’t exist until you’re thinner. It’s not fair to either of you. More importantly, it robs you of knowing that your happiness is so much more infinite than what size your waist is.
The irony is, that like so many things in life, when you let go of pursuing them so hard and concentrate on being who you want to be, miracles can begin to happen. By choosing to be in the kind of relationship you want instead of always focusing on the result, results have a chance to come to you without feeling like your life depends on them. When you know your worth is more than your weight you’ll be less attached to it as a representation of who you are, and more likely to be free of the negative cycles of guilt, blame and judgment that may have contributed to acting out with food or numbing out to yourself and your body’s needs. There is another way.

It can be scary to give up the external goal and just look at what’s here right now. But it’s also the only place change really happens: by facing what already is. What is it that you imagine being that perfect weight will somehow make you feel about yourself and your life? And if you can imagine it, why not try to create it in your relationship to your body right now?

You may understand all of this intellectually, and yet there still may be fears and blocks standing in the way of a more positive body relationship. When you try on a great relationship with your body, there might be voices that whisper to you things like, “You can’t have that…” or “The last time you felt good in your body look what happened…” or “You’re not allowed to feel good and not get shot down.” Whatever those voices are, now is the time to take a look at them and see if they might be willing to go away... See if you can stay with those voices until they grow silent; or silence them yourself by looking at how you no longer believe them or believe that they help you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Myths of the Good Body Relationship, Part Two (of Three!)

Okay, so I promised the final three myths or fears around having a good relationship with your body. But this next one is so juicy, that I think I'll finish with the final two next week. See if you can relate to this one and how it might be informing your own journey with your weight loss and self-esteem!

MYTH #3: I have to punish myself for my weight.

This is the greatest Catch-22 of them all. Don’t let yourself be happy until you’ve dropped the weight. Then guess what happens? That unhappiness creates more of the same, and makes it more likely that you’ll want to act out in unhealthy and unsupportive ways: by overeating, drinking, avoiding.

Happiness seems to create more happiness, while unhappiness creates more of the same. That’s why punishing yourself for your weight is never going to break the cycle. It’s only going to bring you more unhappiness.

You can go on doing this, but since you’re connected to your body for the rest of your life, sooner or later you might get sick of feeling like a martyr. It’s exhausting, and you’ll keep finding that it doesn’t get you to anything new. The more guilty and awful about yourself you feel, the more likely you are to keep recreating that state of being.

Books like The Secret have started to tell us how important our mindset is, that sometimes our thoughts can literally create our reality. I think it’s even more tangible than that. I think how we feel right now can create our reality. If you choose love and connection, you’re more likely to create a life that feels loving and connected. You have to feel what you want to feel in order to create more of the same in the future.

That’s the leap of faith here, and that’s why the tools in this book are so important. You can’t get to feeling good about your body by feeling bad about your body. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s hard for so many people to see.

When you stop punishing yourself and your body and start focusing on building a better relationship, you’re already giving yourself the tools to create something that feels better right now. That more connected, loving place is more likely to create more of the same. When that happens, you begin to break the cycle of negativity you were stuck in. Then you’re already creating the feeling of the reality you wanted: to feel good, to feel more energized, to feel more alive. The external changes become the icing on the cake, and much more possible.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking punishment is required for you to get where you want to go. Punishment will create more feelings of punishment. Forgiveness, listening and reconnecting will create a way of being with your body that change that cycle, which is really what you’ve wanted all along: to feel better!

You may need to ask yourself if you believe it’s okay for things to feel good and to be easier. Maybe you’ve gotten used to the feeling of punishment, to never feeling like enough, to having a reason—like your body weight—to minimize your goals or your dreams. As you forgive your body, you may also need to forgive yourself, and allow a way of being that is kinder and more loving into your life.