Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Weight Loss- A Mind/Body Perspective Part 1

Are you struggling with your body perception? Do you want to lose some weight, either for health or vanity reasons? Do you wish you looked better in a swimsuit or in your clothes? Do you constantly compare your body to others? I do! I continue, even through all of my healthy eating and nutrition knowledge, not to mention my spiritual growth journey, to struggle with my body image and weight. So much so that I almost let my short trip to Austin, TX be ruined because I looked in the hotel mirror and decided that my stomach was "fat" and "how could I let myself not look like a perfectly toned supermodel, especially when I am in the nutrition and wellness business?!!" Well. That was the last straw (hopefully). After 2 days of body hating and wishing that my shoulders were smaller like all of the other girls in the yoga class I took and for a flat, completely toned stomach like the girls in the bikini bar ad (that was next to my hotel, I might add), I had had enough. Why do I equate my weight with my self worth and happiness? Why do I feel shame when I think my body isn't "perfect?" Why do I think I am not worthy of love if I don't look like a model, am as smart as the President, as funny as Ellen Degeneres and as cool as ??... Well, you get the idea. If you ever have any of these feelings, read on. I am right here along with you, and this blog post is as much for me as it is for you! It's long, I warn you, but keep reading if you can. Together we can find a way out of this negative body image cycle, and into the freedom of love, compassion, and life.

Let's look at weight and body image from a deeper level and discuss some concepts and issues and how we can shift our thinking into a more holistic and enlightened point of view. Ready? Here is a look into a more mind/body approach to weight loss, one topic at a time:

Myth 1) Weight gain or issues = BAD

If you are anything like me, you view excess weight (and even more so, PERCEIVED excess weight) as a problem. It's bad, it's disgusting, it's an issue. We want to remove it, burn it, attack it, and kick its ass. Then, and only then, can we get on with our lives. The problem is that this is a very negative and shallow (not as in superficial, but as in only looking at it from one angle) way of looking at weight and body image. Issues around weight are actually no more than your body getting your attention; an entryway into showing you something that you need, whether it be compassion, self love, a less stressed lifestyle, or a better relationship with food (which can lead you into more self growth!). If you are looking at your current body weight as something that you need to fix, or change, or something that you despise, the weight isn't the actual issue. It is your reaction to the issue that can lead you to healing and growth. Looking for the larger meaning to your weight issues can bring you deeper into yourself and offer you the most beautiful journey into healing; following this journey can lead us to far more gifts than just getting rid of some fat cells.

Myth 2) Weight loss is as simple as calories in, calories out.

Weight loss, unlike most doctors, nutritionists and personal trainers tell us, is about a lot more than just calories in, calories out. Notice how those types of weight loss programs rarely work, and if they do, they fail to continue to work. That is because it's just not that simple! The human body, as we are finally starting to learn and apply to all forms of medicine and healing, is much more complex than just the physical parts. We now know that thoughts and other things that we can't physically identify have a huge impact on our bodies. So many factors, including lifestyle, health, environment and inner factors, not to mention the differences between each individual, effect metabolism and how our bodies burn fat.

Stress and anxiety, two non tangible items, can greatly effect our bodies ability to metabolize food and run efficiently. So can negative thoughts, which cause a physiological stress response. Self judgements and thoughts such as "I'm not good enough," "Once I lose 10 more pounds, I can really start my life," "Life is hard and cruel," and "I'm all alone in this world" negatively effect the body's ability to function. Negative thoughts act as a stressor and actually cause levels of cortisol and insulin (hormones released when stressed) to rise. Continuous raised levels of stress hormones causes the body to perform much less efficiently, and at a lower performance level. SO, and here's the real kicker, any weight loss strategy that creates stress, is not fun, is depriving, or you have to push yourself to do, is ultimately causing you more stress!!! Yes, you might lost some weight because of a drastic diet change, but in the long run, it's just putting more emotional stress on you.

Myth 3) Moving away from weight gain and issues is the goal.

This goes along with the issue of stress and its effect on the body and metabolism. Doing any weight loss process that is inherently negative, ie restricting diets, low pleasure diets (have you ever been excited to eat a rice cake??), excess exercise, negative reinforcement to lose the weight, is really just causing more stress to the body. My brilliant life coach always says that it's the energy that we do things on that matters the most, not what we do: moving AWAY from weight gain and feeling fat is a negative vibration, yet moving towards feeling healthier, freer, lighter and more vibrant is very positive. Do you see the difference? Moving away from your real or perceived excess weight also is really you saying "the way I am right now is bad." (see Myth #1). You are judging where you are as wrong, and most likely others as well; we are taught as a society that any body that isn't like a photo-shopped model's body isn't quite as attractive. So if you are judging yourself, chances are that you are judging other people as well. (Which is just something to look at for more growth). In other words, losing weight isn't about running from the weight and losing the "enemy," it is about loving your body and coming into who you are authentically; lightening up on an emotional level, not only on a physical level.

Myth 4) The only reason we want to lose weight is to fit better into our clothes.

While this is certainly one aspect of weight loss, most people, including myself, think that if I lose weight, my life will get better. I want more confidence, more beauty, more love, more fun; I want to feel lighter and freer, etc. Well, I will tell myself this, and you: weight has nothing to do with those things. It seems like it does, but truly it doesn't. Really what I think most of us are saying is that we want to be more involved in life, we want to live more fully. Somehow, we think that weight loss is a doorway into this. But I don't think this is true! We can get to the state that we want to be in without losing the weight, and losing the weight is usually a lovely addition to being in that state. Or, when we are happier, we wont feel the need to lose weight because it wont be what we are focused on! Either way, it is a win win situation.

Myth 5) We can love ourselves fully once we lose the weight; then life will be great.

Going along with Myth 4, a common thought is that "if only I were a little slimmer, I would absolutely think I was beautiful and worthy of having a full life." But until we get into the present moment, and really sink into it and accept it, how are we going to get into future moments? If we can't truly accept and appreciate what we have now, we are always going to strive for "better." How many people do you know who are, in your eyes, slim and beautiful, and actually prize their bodies and themselves? I don't know many people like that- and I think it's because there is always something better, something more, and something more beautiful that we can strive to achieve. All of this really means that we are throwing away the present and the life in each moment. We aren't letting ourselves truly live because we think there is something wrong with us. Well, I challenge myself and you to start loving and accepting what we have NOW. Love what is and embrace who we are RIGHT NOW. We are beautiful, worthy, deserving whole creatures RIGHT NOW. I might not have the body I want or be at the weight I would like to be, but that is OK, because I am a lovable being. I have compassion and love for myself in this moment.

Ok, I'm going to leave you with that thought. Stay tuned for Part 2, and let me know if you have found any of this to be interesting! :)


  1. Self image and love has always been a big issue for me. Weight is not any more but I am not anywhere near the light free self you have described.Thank you for this post :)

  2. This is such a good post!

    And at the end of the day, it's only numbers.

  3. U spoke my thoughts out loud and clear long as I can remember I've always been postponing living my life fully,thinking tat let me have this then Ill live it the way I want and now I realise how wrong Ive been. I have great frens who have tried telling me otherwise but I didnt or couldnt listen to them. But now atlast they r some developments taking place in my life and with ur valuable words,I should be able to enforce my urge to carpe diem or seize the moments with a stronger heart. Thank u so much..and thanks a lot Indu for sharing this with me :):):)

  4. Thank you so much. I'm really glad that this could resonate with others, and not just myself! Indu, I hear you regarding the self love and acceptance and I acknowledge you for the progress you have made! Just keep taking it day by day, along with me, and it will get easier.

    Kungi, it sounds like you are well on your way to living in the moment and embracing yourself, and I support you.

    Thank you all for reading.