In one of my overeating support groups this week, we were discussing the notion of “living in this moment.” So often, when we aren’t satisified with our bodies, we put our lives on hold. We tell ourselves that we’re not applying for that new position, going back to school, volunteering, beginning dating, visiting the doctor or taking that new exercise class because we need to lose some weight first. The fantasy is that when we lose the weight, we will feel much better about ourselves and feel motivated to move forward. And it’s true, we do feel an increase in self-esteem when we achieve, or partially achieve our goals, especially our weight loss goals. And with a nice boost to our self-esteem, we are more apt to be willing to make changes and take additional risks.
The problem with waiting until you lose the weight to get on with your life, however, is that in the meantime, you feel deprived of having your needs met. By not moving forward with your job ,career, additional schooling or volunteering, you might feel stagnant and you’re depriving yourself of more meaningful, purpose-filled days. By putting dating on hold, you’re depriving yourself of a potentionally nourishing love connection. Skipping doctor visits deprives you of the peace of mind that you’re healthy and catching any potential health threat early. Putting your life on hold fuels a sense of deprivation, which, in turn, fuels your overeating. This creates a viscious cycle of unmet needs, stagnation, frustration and the use of food for soothing, comfort and distraction.
Putting your life on hold may be a way to avoid the discomfort you associate with pushing forward. It’s easy to blame your weight and actually believe that it’s holding you back. Yet, the truth may be that you’re easily overwhelmed by life and have difficulty charting a course and sticking with it. Perhaps new, potential responsibilities scare you or you fear you won’t be up to the challenge. Maybe your shyness or introversion holds you back from moving forward socially. Losing weight will not change your ability to handle feeling overwhelmed, reduce shyness or make it any easier for you to follow through. Losing weight does not teach us new skills and we don’t have to be at our goal weight to learn self-care skills. Actually, the best time to learn these skills is before we lose the weight so that we will be well equipped to move forward with our lives and maintain our weight loss.
Putting your life on hold is also a way of saying “I don’t deserve to have joy, love, peace of mind…. in this moment; I have to wait until I’m thinner.” Do you truly believe that having extra weight on your body makes you unworthy of these things? Perhaps what you’re really saying is “I don’t believe anyone will love me, hire me, be nice to me… with this extra weight.” I don’t want to minimize the reality that we do live in a culture where there is weightism and that the rejection and shame we feel is real. But we must begin to address our own weightism and the ways in which we reject and shame ourselves and hold ourselves back because we are not at or near our ideal weight.
The kindness, love and acceptance you yearn for begins at home, today, with yourself. YOU must practice loving yourself, being kind to yourself and deeming yourself worthy, every day. Worthy and loveable just because you were born. Don’t put loving yourself “on hold.” No one else’s love nor any amount of food can fill up that empty space within. Only you can fill up that space by loving and accepting yourself today, as is, in this very moment. Then, another person’s love and support is a nourishing, gentle reminder of the love and support you already have within, rather than a form of rescue that keeps you dependent and unable to care for yourself.
No more self-abuse. You’re not bad or wrong or horribly flawed because you have extra weight on your body or because you have made mistakes in your life. Your overeating and extra weight have served a purpose. They have helped you survive life, in some way. When you are ready and well-equipped with adequate self-care skills, you will release the overeating and the excess weight will effortlessly fall away.
Here are a few steps you can practice today to take your life off “hold” and begin the process of moving forward:
1) Make a list of 5-10 things you have been putting off because of your weight. List #1 as the easiest thing to accomplish and #10 as the most uncomfortable.
2) Commit to address one of the easier items on the list this week. Write down what steps you need to take to accomplish this item.
4) When you have accomplished this item, PRAISE YOURSELF for your accomplishment. This is kind and loving behavior. DO NOT MINIMIZE what you have accomplished by dismissing it “as nothing” or insignificant or reminding yourself of how much else you have left to do. Stick with praising yourself. For example, if #1 on your list is to make a phone call and set up that doctor appointment, or call the library to find out about volunteer opportunities, pat yourself on the back when you have accomplished that task. Say to yourself “I’m proud of myself for getting that done.”
5) For any uncomfortable items on the list, break the task down into very do-able small steps. For example, if you’re thinking about going back to school for an advanced degree but always get overwelmed when you think about it, commit to spend 15-30 minutes sometime this week to go online and look at a few schools to see what attracts you. If you feel overwhelmed during this step, remind yourself that all you’re doing is looking. You’re not signing up yet. Try not to overwhelm yourself with thoughts of how much else you will have to do to make this happen. Don’t get ahead of yourself. One baby step at a time. That’s the way to push through the overwhelm. Even highly successful, accomplished people get overwhelmed at times.
6) Continue week by week revising your list and accomplishing baby steps. Even washing the dishes, mopping the kitchen floor or decluttering one drawer deserves praise. Don’t let a week pass without some forward movement followed by praise.
7) Take a daily inventory of what you’re proud of. Perhaps it’s that you got up 15 minutes earlier, spent some extra time with your dog when you were tired, or made that phone call that you’ve been putting off. Maybe it’s that you’re flossing your teeth more regularly. You’re building your self-love muscle.
8) And finally, replace any self-denigrating self-talk with self-loving or self-accepting self-talk. For example, replace “I’ll never find a love partner; men/women don’t want to be with overweight women” with “I can and will find a love partner; I don’t have to be at my ideal weight to be loved.” “Plenty of women with excess weight have love partners.” “The energy of loving myself is very attractive.”
There is no time like the present to get started. What are you weighting for?