I ended up on a diet – again. And I really didn’t want to tell you. But maybe not for the reasons you’d think.
(Well, probably for some of the reasons you’d think.)
Reasons You Might Think
You’re right if you think I might find it embarrassing to admit that, despite my body-love-espousing, I somehow fell for the old count-calories-and-be-healthy line.
And you’re right if you think I might feel a little (read: major) shame about people thinking I’m a fraud.
And you’re also right if you think I wondered what the hell I’m doing writing this blog in the first place.
Reasons You Might Not Think
But what you might not think is that, while I wrote at least four different versions of this post, each more scathing and self-deprecating than the last, I finally decided to go easy on myself.
Yeah, I used my own intention for the year – on myself. I softened. And dang if it didn’t work. Because here’s the truth: I’m actually a little (read: a lot) proud of what happened.
Not to worry: I’m gonna fill you in.
The Back Story
I started working with a life coach in the middle of 2011. I was stuck in a lot of fear at the time – about whether or not I was doing what I really wanted and needed with my life and because I was watching my young father get sicker and sicker. Because it’s what I do, I made these things about my body. These fears and my body weren’t correlated at all except in my sad heart that really wanted to do something, anything, to make these situations better — even if that was in no way possible via my body. I felt desperate and helpless.
At the time, I was under a considerable amount of stress, so I was worried about my health — both justifiably so in some ways and not so in others. So when my life coach suggested counting calories for me, as a way to address my health concerns (not to be on a diet – of course!), I agreed.
When I feel helpless, I control my food. Or, rather, I binge and then control my food. The situations I feel helpless about have nada to do with food, but food is for sure my displacement. “If I can’t cure my dad of cancer, I can sure as hell at least calorie-count and exercise myself into oblivion.” Although that thought process wasn’t quite that overt in the moment, it may as well have been.
So when the opportunity presented itself to distract myself by dieting, yeah; I took it. I knew in my gut that it wasn’t right for me, but my mind wasn’t havin’ it. I was so eager to escape being present in my body that I was grateful for the chance to obsess about my body. This is totally not a new pattern for me, so I can’t say I find it too surprising – or even really that disappointing – that I leaned on it again. It’s kinda been my go-to for, oh, the past 25 years.
The Beauty of It All
Here’s the truly amazing thing about all of this – when I brought it to consciousness, it made my trust in my body better. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but hang with me a sec. Before I even started the diet, I knew deep down that it wasn’t what I needed. But I wasn’t yet ready to figure out what I really needed — the space and time to process my sadness and loss. Fortunately, though, that voice didn’t ever go away completely. In fact, it kept getting louder (which was, to be honest, pretty obnoxious at times).
And finally, I paused. I set the fear aside, and I listened.
I talked with a few trusted friends. I fired my coach. I put my scale away. I practiced yoga with a journal next to me, writing down what was coming up. And I returned more fully to the process in which I was very much still engaged – feeling my feelings. And finding what it means to me to listen to and love my body.
Seeing my soft underbelly didn’t make me hide in shame this time. Or binge. Or redouble my efforts with a new diet. Instead, it made me a little bit delighted.
Because (a) I was able to see it and (b) I was able to receive it with gentleness and find a way forward.
Maybe You Can Relate
I believe that this process, this back-and-forth, this feeling of “failure” when we don’t “get it right?” I think this is the whole thing. This is our work in the world – to keep showing up, even when it sucks. Even when we’re afraid everyone will mock us. Even when it takes us way longer to “get it” than we’d like to admit. And even when we don’t want to look at it ourselves — at all.
As we do, I believe this is where our transformation lies. Learning to love your body isn’t about reaching a destination where you never feel bad about yourself. Sometimes (AKA almost all the time for me), it’s not even about your physical body at all but rather all the other things you’d prefer not to look at so you obsess about your body instead. And it’s definitely not about being “perfect.” Or never “messing up.”
In fact, I believe that loving your body means helping to rid yourself of the (probably many different) idea(s) that it’s possible to “mess up” on this at all.
That’s why, when the tone of this post got a little too MTV-True-Life, I rewrote it. Because this isn’t a confession. It’s a revelation – of my vulnerability.
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
So this is me, in darkness and light. Continuing to learn what loving my body, and myself, means for me, moment-to-moment.