Heal Thyself

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I have been battling my weight for more than ten years. Until I got married at 30 I never had a weight issue and could eat and drink whatever I liked without consequences. I married someone who had his own weight problems. Suddenly food took on more importance as I was eating more regularly, eating out more consistently, and hitting the drive-thru more frequently. Marriage was also a huge adjustment for me and I battled with depression off-and-on. By the time I reached my late 30’s I was 100 lbs heavier than I had been on my wedding day–and no, I can’t blame any pregnancies.

I had an “aha” moment a little over a month ago. I was going into the local YWCA for a massage. (I have a membership to the club, but I don’t use it for anything but the pool and the massage therapists.) My physically fit massage therapist came out to greet me and I followed him down the wide hallway past gyms, racquetball courts, and Zumba classes. We weaved our way around ellipticals and treadmills. I kept my eyes on my feet trying to look small despite the fact that I am almost 6 feet tall, 255 lbs, and wearing baggy clothes that only accentuated my size. I imagined everyone looking at me and judging me. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

As I lay on the massage table I thought, If I could just lose the weight I would be happy.” Then it occurred to me that this had been my mantra my entire life. My weight was just one more reason to hate myself–as I had done since primer school. The first thing I hated about myself was my red hair. Then it was because I was too tall. My eyes were too far apart. My mouth was too wide. I had bad acne. I had bad acne scars. My hair was frizzy. I had no personal style. My teeth weren’t white enough. I had an awful personality. I was too fat.

I asked myself what I would do if I lost the weight. Would things really be better? Or would I just find something else to beat myself over? Is it possible the problem isn’t my diet, but me? Why should I take care of myself when I find myself so undeserving? I didn’t have any motivation to improve my physical appearance because I believed it a hopeless endeavor. I had reached a point where I realized that I was my own worst enemy.

As I drove away from the “Y” that day, I squinted into the summer sun and stuck my right index finger into my mouth to chew on the already non-existent fingernail. I asked myself, “What can I do to make myself feel more attractive?” I replaced my right hand on the steering wheel and looked at the fingernails. I had chewed on my fingernails since I had stopped sucking on them at age 8. I had learned about Oral Fixations thanks to my college psych class, but was it possible my ferocious attacks on my digits had a deeper meaning? Wasn’t I literally trying to devour myself–chewing the fingernails down until they bled and hurt? (It’s probably a good thing I am not flexible enough to get my foot up to my mouth…at least not literally.)

I resigned, right then and there, to see if I could stop my habit of feeding on myself. I wanted to determine if that wasn’t somehow contributing to my tendency toward self-annihilation. I have attempted to quit in the past, but it was always very hard and I eventually caved.

This time was different, however. Once I made the decision, I didn’t even have the urge to chew my fingernails. I went out and bought a manicure kit and some black fingernail polish. The black polish appeals to my latent Goth personality. I love it! I have started wearing jewelry more often and it makes me feel a little more feminine.

I have also started a regimen of positive affirmations. I have a wooden rosary (no, I’m not Catholic) and I use it for  affirmations on a daily basis. I have also started meditating again.

My peace of mind is improving. I know exercise would help enormously with improved self-confidence, endorphins, and increased energy. I determine every day to do some exercise and always find reasons not to. So, I am still working on that one.

My husband and I have stopped eating out all the time and we avoid the drive-thru. We are endeavoring to eat better food from better places.

So far I have lost 6 lbs. It is slow progress, but I believe that life-long changes must come gradually or we just return to our old habits.

I wonder how many of us battle with weight, addictions, relationships, or depression because of deep-seated self-hatred? Is that self-hatred brought on by the Western world’s definition of beauty or masculinity? There could be any number of reasons a person may consider themselves unlovable or unattractive. But instead of focusing on what we need to do to change the way we look, we should focus on changing the way we feel:

  1. Look in a mirror and look past the usual flaws you focus on. See the beauty. Look into your eyes and see your incredible soul.
  2. Don’t allow a negative criticism to cross your lips. Everything you say about yourself must be said with admiration and gratitude.
  3. While you’re practicing the art of not criticizing yourself, maybe extend it to others. If you are in the habit of saying negative things about others it creates a dark energy that will only drag you down.
  4. Practice gratitude for your life, body, family, and wealth of knowledge and experience you have gained. You’ve come a long way, Baby!
  5. Stop living in the past and remembering only the parts that include you as being young and/or thin. You had problems then too. Being thin/young doesn’t solve everything.
  6. Stop imagining the future as a time where you will be thinner, healthier, more confident, and more successful. If you push those goals into a nebulous future, that is where they will always remain. Make those goals part of your present, and the future will take care of itself.
  7. Be present! Stop regretting the past and dreading the future. Be completely immersed in every moment. See the wonders of the world around you and bask in the excitement of every minute we are alive and breathing. Live in the present and, trust me, the gratitude will overflow!
  8. Don’t meditate to lose weight (I’ve tried that, it doesn’t work). Meditate for your own mental health. Meditate because you know that anxiety and stress only contribute to weight gain. Meditate because a healthy mind will inspire you to develop a healthy body.
  9. I’m not telling you to keep a food diary. Pour out your thoughts, fears, dreams, ambitions, and disappointments. Download all the mental gobbledygook onto paper so you don’t have to carry it around with you.
  10. Finally, be consistent. I have ADD when it comes to personal improvement. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished I had stuck to something a year later when I have gained 20 more pounds. You will have bad days. You will cheat. Just make sure you keep getting back on that horse. You won’t regret trying, but you will regret not trying.

 

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