Honour thy Father and thy Mother. That’s how the biblical 5th Commandment goes, if grade-school memory serves. But what about honouring thyself? In all the do’s and dont’s we learned as children, rarely is the issue of honouring one’s self raised.
What a horrible, glaring hole in the process of growth and self-realization we all go through on our way to adulthood.
How many of us grow up trying to conform to social ideals that, if we stop and do some soul searching, don’t actually mean anything to us personally? How many women (men too, but it seems so much more prevalent in women) grow to be good codependent people, taking care of everyone else and constantly putting ourselves last on our own lists? Not only that, but actually denying ourselves our own needs and trading them for the fulfillment of the needs of others? Learning distrust – of those around us, but even more damaging…of ourselves. And when we can’t trust ourselves, we rely on the opinions of others to tell us what we should be, or think, or do. And then we start conforming to social ideals that, if we were able to stop and trust ourselves, we would see so clearly, don’t fit us personally in any way, shape or form.
Oh, it’s a vicious cycle. The veritable hamster wheel of self-love/hate.
For so many of us, it is clearly manifested in body acceptance issues. We know that in North America, obesity has reached epidemic proportions. And we are not alone. The UK is pretty close on our heels. And the list goes on. Is it the sudden explosion over the last 50 years in fast food? Is it the freezer aisle and cookie shelves at the local supermarket that are to blame? They certainly do feed the problem (pun totally intended, by the way). But do they cause the problem?
Or does the causation lie in the fact that we don’t trust ourselves, and so we allow People magazine and Us Weekly et. al to show us what we should be? I know, blaming the media is getting to be an old line of defense. And here’s the thing. I don’t really think it’s the media’s fault, any more than it’s the fault of McDonald’s or Burger King. I think they’re unfortunate contributors, but I don’t think they’re at fault.
I think that the culpatory issue is our learned distrust of ourselves, and by extension, our bodies.
Because, make no mistake, we are not our bodies. I will say it again: WE ARE NOT OUR BODIES. Our bodies are merely the “house” we’ve chosen, on some level, at some point in the process, to live in this time around. (And if you don’t share my belief that it really is “this time around” and we’ll be having another kick at the ol’ can in a few years or so, just skim that sentiment, focus on the idea of our body merely being a house, and move on.) Now, everyone treats their house differently. Some people take loving care of their house, decorating with joy, sweeping and dusting with abandon (well, abandon might be overdoing it…does anyone really dust with abandon, I ask you?), powerwashing the driveway, and re-roofing (albeit grudgingly) every 20 years or so. Other people may have a little more trouble keeping their house in presentable fashion, perhaps “allowing” their collections to transform into hoarding, thereby distancing themselves from those around them. (A&E has recently brought this issue into view for the masses with their show Hoarders.)
Fundamentally it all comes down to the same thing. Trust. Wait, did you hear me? TRUST. Self-trust. Trusting those with whom you surround yourself. And deciding who you would like in your life, to whom you want to give the gift of trust, requires TRUSTING YOURSELF. Trust, trust, trust. It all comes down to trust.
The equation goes something like this:1. Look at your house / Feel in your body 2. Asses what needs to be done / Feel your level of physical and emotional hungers 3. Trust yourself, your instincts, and your hungers. 4. Do your house work or repairs / Feed yourself with what your body is asking for.
Now, to clarify, feeding yourself with what your body is asking for is much more complicated than it may seem at first glance. It takes some pretty big commitment balls on your part. Because it is anything but easy. Sure, at first it’s a piece of cake. Literally. Or maybe it’s ice cream – for me it’s been a LOT of ice cream. At first it’ll be all the things you try and deny yourself all the time. And that’s OK. It’s really, really OK. But here comes the trust part…
1. You have to listen to your body, and trust it when it says it’s had enough. And enough might be a new concept – and that’s OK. It won’t happen on the first try. It might not happen on the 10th or 20th try. But if you start listening to your body, you’ll eventually start to know when you’ve had enough. And when that happens – usually for me it’s mid-bite – you have to trust yourself enough to stop. You have to trust that whatever you’re eating will be available to you when you want more. If you can truly trust in that, you won’t have to eat it all right now. Why make yourself feel sick and uncomfortable eating tons of something after you feel full, that you can have again when you are actually hungry for it? When that feeling hits, that “I’ve had enough for now” feeling, the fork goes down, the plate gets pushed away, the refrigerator door gets closed, or the last bite in your hand gets tossed in the trash. Enough. Enough for now.
I have to say it was truly astonishing to me when I started to recognize this feeling. It was even more astounding when I started to act on it. When I went through my injury, years of medication that made me kinda check out, and weight gain, I stopped acting on, then recognizing that point of Enough. It’s hard to do when you’re totally checked out. It requires being present. That’s a really, really important element. Presence. It’s hard to recognize that point of Enough when you’re driving in your car, hell bent for election to nowhere, hiding from the world, scarfing down three burgers in a row, desperate that no one see you while in the act. At that point you’re not even really tasting your food. You’re certainly not present with your body. You have to slow yourself down enough to be really present with what you’re eating. (And you have to trust yourself enough to be willing to eat whatever you’re going to eat, in front of God and everyone. But more on that later.) Taste your food. What do you like about this taste or texture? How does it feel in your mouth, your stomach, your body? Be. Present.
2. You have to trust that eventually you’ll stop having a Blizzard 6 meals a day. You might decide to throw a pizza in there for good measure one day. Then at a friend’s BBQ, you might decide that a piece of BBQ’d chicken and corn on the cob would really hit the spot. The point is, eventually you will have had Enough of Blizzards, or cake, or Skittles, or whatever it may be for you. And your body will tell you – as long as you’re listening – that it would like some other, healthier things too. All of this is a precursor for the biggest leap of faith (BIG, BIG TRUST REQUIRED HERE!)…to start with, you will probably gain weight. Right then and there, lots of people may run screaming from their computers. I know – it’s terrifying for those of us who are, once again, 10 or 50 or 100 or 300 lbs over our natural body weight. But it’s part of the process of learning to trust your body. Eventually, when your body learns to trust you (how’s that for a switcheroo?), learns to trust that you will give it what it’s asking for, it will start asking for things that nurture it: proteins, vegetables, grains…the good stuff. It may well still ask for ice cream and chocolate, but you will also be really good at knowing when you’ve had Enough, and magically, things will all fall into proportion. And that’s when you’ll start heading towards your natural body weight. Keep up the trust (why wouldn’t you, really?) and you will reach and maintain your natural body weight.
I was there a couple of years ago, pre-injury. I got there without trying – which is to say, I got there without so much as a single brainwave devoted to “dieting.” I was doing a whole lot of work on my trust issues, and working my ass off on Enough. And I got there, kind of without noticing. Except one day everybody at work started commenting on how much weight I’d lost, and how did I do it, and I’d better order new uniform pants because it looked like I was wearing a soggy diaper in those ones. And I felt great. Not because I’d lost weight (OK, sort of because I’d lost weight), not because I’d had the willpower to stick to the newest diet fad (stupid, stupid, stupid….was that too harsh?), and not because my pants looked like a toddler’s (yeah, really not because of that one.) I felt great because I trusted myself, and I listened to my body, and I recognized and acted on Enough. That was years in the making.
And now I’m struggling, fighting the good fight, to do all those things all over again. And it’s one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Or should I say one food in front of the other? But I’m so committed to trusting myself again, honouring myself again…I’ve had a taste of what it feels like to sit comfortably in that place in my body, in my soul, I want it so badly I can taste it. (What is it with the bad puns? Seriously?) So I’m doing the work, day in and day out. I’m in the phase where I’m probably going to gain weight. Thankfully, on the advice from my stellar therapist, years ago I threw my scale away. So all I have to gauge it is the way my clothes fit. And that’s gauge enough for me. This is the hard phase. This is when it’s MOST difficult to trust in myself and my body. But bloody hell am I going to try. Try to honour myself, because that’s what God, Goddess, or whatever you may call that higher power, intended for me. Hell, that’s what I intended for me. I want to honour myself. And that one starts with trust.
So here goes…..