April 2021: Body Love, Pt 2
I received some exciting news at the doctor’s office earlier this week: I lost 3.5 lbs! After four years of steadily gaining 10 lbs per year for no apparent reason, this was a huge relief. No thanks to the medical community, I might add. Out of desperation, I began looking into my health concerns on my own. I read books. I completed questionnaires. Following recommendations from my research, I began a new supplement regimen targeted at thyroid function and female hormones as well as using essential oils and aromatherapy. I tweaked my food intake. I listened to my body. Most importantly, I did (and continue to do) the difficult emotional work.
I haven’t done the math to figure out how long it would take me to lose 40+ pounds at the rate of ~2 lbs per month (if that still continues). I am not even focusing on weight loss per se. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too. As long as the weight gain stops. Because my 5’2” frame technically can’t handle this much “extra” me.
Fortunately, I am blessed with an hourglass figure plus the tendency to gain weight fairly proportionally all over my body. However, I have not always appreciated my curves. Especially in my younger, thinner years when my figure was disproportionately curvaceous in the caboose. I was teased about my big bum since junior high. I remember as a camp counsellor, campers commenting on my generous proportions in that one area. I grew up listening to my maternal aunts bemoan the state of their behinds and fluctuations in weight, size, and shape. I did not hear any positive messages about body image that I can recall.
I definitely felt defective.
I have hated my body—or at the very least questioned its abilities—my entire life. Even as a younger child I sensed I was different (eg. not wanting to exert myself physically) which turns out was likely the very early stages of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—not to mention my mental health issues that have always been there: unnamed, unacknowledged. It has been a long, tiresome, arduous journey to reclaim my unwanted bits and bobs. With my mental health finally stabilized, it was evidently time to work on body issues—both internal and external.
I remember my last significant weight loss like it was yesterday—even thought it was nearly ten years ago. At the time I assumed it was due to the grief work prompted by the death of a beloved pet, Gracie. In retrospect, it was due to Leaky Gut Syndrome (stomach not absorbing nutrients properly) which required going on a strict “diet” regimen for two years (and then slowly reintroducing foods to determine what was safe to eat). My first dramatic weight gain got blamed on a new anti-anxiety med. Changes were made, lost half the weight gained, which seemed to be my body’s new normal. Just as I was coming to terms with this version of my body, the gradual weight gain began much to my chagrin and bewilderment. What was my body dong to me? Why did it hate me so much?
On the latest leg of my body acceptance journey, I have been reading books by Geneen Roth. I highly recommend anything written by her if you struggle with any sort of compulsive behaviour. In particular, her workbook, “Why Weight?” is very perceptive and asks the tough questions with compassion. One of which is to ask your fat what it’s doing for you. For me, the answer was surprising. My extra weight responded with “we’re here for you.” Without my extreme weight changes, I would never have faced the internalized deprivation and shame messages (which surface whether we are over or under weight). I have weight/body image issues regardless of the numbers on a scale or clothing size. Looking at photos taken during my intense grief work (aka weight loss period), I recall I still hated my body shape, particularly my derriere. It didn’t help I felt unseen by my then husband. I remember vowing I would never gain weight again, discarded all my “fat” clothes (of a certain size), only to gain back all that weight and much more. I hated my body for betraying me.
Yet my weight is here for me in that if I had stayed “thin,” me, myself, & I would have continued betraying my body by shaming it every day (and several times a day). My body does know what is best for me, if only I stop to listen and respect what I hear. Just like my essential or True Self, my body longs to be loved. We have been to hell and back emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. The least I can do is appreciate how it keeps working for me—day in and day out, through good times and bad. My body loves me unconditionally. It moves, breathes, circulates blood, and heals itself (albeit slowly) regardless of how much I disrespect it.
So instead of yet another rant (and believe me, I have a few held in reserve 🙂 ), I decided to share a bit of my body love journey—and all because I lost 3.5 lbs. There are so many contributing factors, I wouldn’t know where to start; but I will make a list of resources I consulted. Key among them are the nuggets mined from Geneen Roth’s shared experiences. I will try to summarize a few key points.
1) When we compulsively [insert behaviour here: eat, smoke, clean, organize, work, etc.], we are trying to nourish ourselves—to feed a hungry heart, not necessarily an empty tummy. We must slow down the compulsion to figure out what we are actually craving (eg. attention and affection) which food (or whatever) is not actually going to satisfy.
2) Awareness of the compulsive behaviour in the moment is the starting point—and being willing to try another way to satisfy the craving/care for self/feed the hungry heart/self-soothe.
3) Show the body (and your Self) some love—mindfully bathe/shower/apply lotion, repeat daily affirmation statements, seek out comforting touch, give yourself a hug, listen to music, create something meaningful, go for a walk, be in nature, get a massage, call a trusted friend, etc.
4) Explore the shame and/or deprivation messages and do something about them: keep, discard, modify.
5) Get to know your body inside and out! Don’t settle. Honour the trial and error method. Keep looking for solutions until you are satisfied.
May you experience an inner shift in your body love journey, however slight. It all counts. Never forget: you count and matter. Love and appreciate your Self, in some small way, today.
List of resources:
The Thyroid Solution by Ridha Arem, MD (2007).
The Supercharged Hormone Diet (2011) ORThe Hormone Diet (2010) by Natasha Turner, ND.
The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Sherry Torkos, BSc Phm (2013).
The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness, by Nerys Purchon & Lora Cantele (2014).
The Art of Dressing Curves: The Best-Kept Secrets of a Fashion Stylist by Susan Moses (2016).
Feeding the Hungry Heart: The Experience of Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth (1982/1993).
Breaking Free from Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth (1984/2003).
Why Weight? A Workbook for Ending Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth (1989).
The Self-Acceptance Project: How to Be Kind and Compassionate Toward Yourself in Any Situation, by Various Authors, Tami Simon, editor (2016)