Karen is a blogger whom I feel Ive known forever. I felt as though we already knew each other (blogging & tweeting) & then we finally met in person at Fitbloggin last spring. This guest post is by-request and I can think of no one wiser or more insightful to have one of the last MizFit posts of 2010. Please to enjoy…
First Comes Love
Yeah, I know it sounds woo woo, but in the healthy body business, I believe love MUST come first. It’s why I started my blog two years ago. It was almost like an experiment. I wanted to see if I could love myself to thinness. Or something like that.
There are theories that suggest it’s possible. The paradoxical theory of change http://www.gestalt.org/arnie.htm states: “change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is — to be fully invested in his current positions. By rejecting the role of change agent, we make meaningful and orderly change possible.”
And Carl Jung stated: “We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”
My experience has shown this to be true. And it led me down a very unexpected path.
If you know me well, you know that I’ve spent the past two years in the quest to figure out just what the hell is wrong with me – why couldn’t I just lose the damn weight already? When I first started Before & After: A Real Life Story it was called Why Weight: One Woman’s Journey From Struggle To Acceptance and it was about wanting to lose weight and stop hating my body, in that order.
Mostly I looked inside at emotional issues and in doing so, discovered a lot more than I bargained for. But mostly what I discovered is that at root of all healing is love. Love – not “stop hating” – has to come first.
This is kind of a long story, so bear with me.
Let’s start with this premise:
What if being sick makes you fat and not the other way around? And what it the reason you “eat too much” or “can’t control yourself” or “feel hungry all the time” has nothing to do (at least not directly) with emotions and is not a character flaw (like so many of us were brought up to believe)? Or what if the reason you can’t lose weight and keep it off without a struggle has to do with a physical imbalance?
Ten+ years ago:
- I weighed ~225 pounds.
- I didn’t exercise (or if I did, it was sporadic).
- I was a binge eater.
- I walked around with a cloud of self-doubt over my head.
- I was on a statin medication to control my cholesterol.
- I was on birth control pills and had been for 15 years.
- I “wanted to lose weight” and had “tried” many times, but it “didn’t work.”
Five years ago:
- In an effort to once again “try to lose weight” I started a relatively new type of therapy called Emotional Freedom Technique. It was through EFT that I realized that I had been walking around full of self-loathing and with any self-confidence or self-acceptance.
- Seemingly, the stars aligned and through EFT I found myself wanting to do the “right” things for myself, health-wise.
- I started exercising.
- I counted calories and tracked the ratios of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
- I lost 55 pounds over the course of 18 months.
- It was one of the happiest times of my life!
- I was a weight loss success story!
- I remained on the statin medication, because even though I had lost weight and was exercising regularly, my cholesterol went back up when I tried weaning myself from the medication.
- I remained on birth control pills, even though my husband had a vasectomy, because it was “easier” and because my doctor didn’t see any reason to stop.
- I’d had my gallbladder out.
- Even though I was “happy,” I was also disappointed and ashamed because, even though I had lost 55 pounds, I hadn’t reached my “goal weight” (which would have required losing 76 pounds).
- I didn’t trust myself around food.
Two years ago:
- I’d regained half the weight I had lost.
- I was once again full of shame.
- I was still on birth control pills.
- I was still on the statin medication.
- My body hurt.
- I found it hard to exercise, but pushed myself anyway because I had to somehow control the weight.
- I found myself “white-knuckling” it around food.
- It seemed that I was hungry all the time.
- Being hungry made me feel guilty, resentful and angry.
- I was tired of trying so damned hard!
- I started blogging.
One year ago:
- I had been practicing self-acceptance again (and realizing that it is indeed “practice” – not something you get once and forget about).
- I decided to see a naturopathic physician in my area. I thought she might help me lose weight.
- Really? I thought there might be a magic pill!
- She recommended stopping the birth control pills, which I did right away.
- She wanted to get me off the statin medication, but recommended waiting to address other issues first.
- The other issues included Lyme disease, Epstein Barr virus, hormone imbalance, thyroid imbalance, adrenal imbalance, and deficiency in certain vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
- She told me that no, I was not just a lazy slob who couldn’t control herself and had no willpower.
With the naturopath’s help, along with that of a hormone specialist, I started healing. For the first time…ever? I know what a balanced body feels like! I understand that my body/mind/spirit is a holistic system, not a mass of individual symptoms that need to be masked or suppressed.
And so today:
- I am 48 years old.
- Although I am not focused on “losing weight” I am.
- I have lost six inches from my waist in the past year and my body is more toned.
- I exercise less than I used to and my body doesn’t hurt nearly as much.
- I eat what I want and I want what I eat (but understand that what I want to eat has changed).
- That said, no food is “off limits” and eating sugar/carbs does not “set me off.”
- I take a few supplements, but no prescriptions (except bioidentical progesterone cream and a temporary natural thyroid medication).
- I am more content and confident.
- I trust myself and my body to let me know when I am hungry and when I am satisfied.
- I do not binge.
- I am not hungry all the time.
- I am not guilty, resentful or angry.
- I am love.
At the basis of this balance and healing is the naturopathic approach, which takes into account “mind” and “spirit,” in addition to “body.” The main difference between it and traditional medicine is a willingness to seek out and address root causes, not just symptoms. It’s about getting a body to work as optimally as possible and to look at the reasons why it isn’t. It’s about coming from a place of love and acceptance, not fear or blame.
I’ll give you one example as to how and why my being sick caused me to gain weight, or at the very least, made it difficult for me to lose weight:
Although I had myriad issues, let’s look at the Lyme disease (which I am guessing I had for years and which was hiding in my body). My naturopath told me that Lyme neurotoxins block cell receptor sites, so metabolic processes do not work optimally. Hormones (including thyroid), which also help control metabolic processes, can also be affected by Lyme disease.
My thyroid was slightly “off” but still “in range,” my adrenal system was “labored,” and my stomach was not absorbing necessary vitamins and nutrients. And although it wasn’t obvious to me at the time, I didn’t feel good.
I didn’t notice “not feeling good” right away. There’s obvious “not feeling good” like having a bad stomachache or sore throat, and there’s subtle “not feeling good” (for example, being slightly tired, having achy joints, or being prone to headaches). It was only when Dr. Groves spent two hours with me and specifically asked about…everything…that I realized, “hey, maybe I don’t feel good.”
I had chalked it up to being old and fat…mostly fat. It was a character flaw.
And so what about emotional eating, bingeing, and cravings? How can that be connected? Because my body wasn’t able to get the nutrients it needed and I wasn’t feeling well in that subtle-yet-acceptable way, I turned to food – especially carbohydrates, which release endorphins (natural tranquilizers) – in order to feel better. That’s the coping mechanism I developed as a child. And so one cookie, one small dish of ice cream, one serving of potato chips was never enough…and I was hungry all the time. I felt out of control and pathetic. I was stressed and desperate.
And so the cycle continued.
Although the treatments were unconventional and slower than the traditional approaches, and even though I felt worse before I felt better, I can only come to one conclusion: a holistic approach – which combined my own willingness to accept myself right where I was, naturopathic medicine, and traditional medicine – brought my body into balance.
And as a result, I started losing weight without struggling, without having to “control” myself, without having to count calories, without having lists of “good” and “bad” foods, and without having to exercise to excess. I enjoy all kinds of food. I find pleasure in eating, not guilt. I am relaxed around food. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?
There’s a whole lot more I could say, but I think you get the general idea.
If you’ve been “struggling” for years, can’t lose weight – or keep it off – easily and without excessive exercise, chances are something is out of balance. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all “do this, count that” solution. There is, however, the ability to trust in oneself, and it comes from practicing self-acceptance. It most certainly is a process and it’s so much more gratifying and satisfying than coming from a place of fear and self-loathing. I understand that fear-based motivation works initially, but it’s not sustainable or healthy in the long run.
Commit to the process of emotional, physical, and spiritual balance and healing. Commit to love, acceptance, enjoyment, pleasure, relaxation, and trust.
If you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am not a doctor, but I can point you in the right direction.