From the Archives. . .Striking a Balance (6/22/12)

My weight loss journey is indistinguishable for me from my mental evolution. I prepared myself for all the physical changes I experienced with very difficult emotional work.The physical changes as well as the aging process continued to inform my emotional evolution. At times the changes and the work was very slow and methodical. Other times the changes I made seemed to be second nature and felt effortless.

Striking Balance and Redefining Success

To figure out what success meant to me was difficult. I am an over achiever with a mean perfectionist streak. Sometimes it served me well. Other times it kept me locked and paralysed.I had to find and re-calibrate my own internal sensor and reset my expectations for success. I have had to learn what was reasonable and redefine my expectations. Success was achieved sometimes just by trying. I had to allow myself setbacks and discovered that I found value in faltering. Success WAS NOT the opposite of failure. Success was sometimes just an acceptance of myself and where I had landed in that very moment. Whatever I was thinking and feeling, acknowledging it and accepting it.

I understood what the “red zone” felt like when I was completely exhausted and burn out, ready to cry and collapse. But had no idea what the build- up before crashing that looked like. I was totally tuned out to the warning signs. Over a full year I worked on an actual scale to identify what happened before a crash. What were warning signs and how to intervene before I crashed.

I also looked at my self-care. How hard I was on myself. Pushing and pushing past pain, mental and physical discomfort ignoring my own body symptoms to my own detriment.

I don’t think I was ever completely self-loathing I could only seem to focus on feeling good about myself if someone else confirmed it. I defined a lot my success in my achievements and meeting authority standards. So much of my identity was defined by how I looked. My own self-esteem and confidence wavered so I was always looking for outside reinforcements to bolster me and feed me at low points. I needed and craved confirmation. Was I ok? Did I do a good job?

I asked myself: Was I eating Good or bad food?, Was I a Success or a failure?

I discovered that I had developed a lot of black or white thinking. It was 100% or nothing. This was not helping me or offering me many choices in my life.

After I elected to have Gastric Bypass Surgery as a tool to help me loose significant weight, at the 6 month post GBS mark I hit a plateau. My weight loss stalled. This is when my practice of peaceful observance and self compassion became so important.

Every morning I would repeat to myself out loud a little mantra of “If I never lose anymore weight, I am will be fine with where I am.” Most of the time I found that peaceful and soothing. Other times I found resistance. My little rebel / harsh critic inside would be saying, “Fuck no, I want the weight loss. You can do better.” I needed to make friends with voice and let her know there is a better way to define success than weight loss numbers. She came around to my point of view. Sometimes we agree to disagree.

Perfect or a Loser

On a very regular basis, I would push myself beyond any reasonable limits (worked too much, ate too much, didn’t sleep enough or slept too much). I was completely out of balance. Not in touch with my feelings, I was walking around appearing calm on the outside but I was drowning on the inside. I was drowning in a big pile of sad stories, worries, fears, anger, rejection and resentment about my life. I worked for horrible people who fed those negative feelings. When I reflect back on it I think I picked harsh bosses because they were familiar to me. They were outward manifestations of my own self-loathing. They confirmed bad things about myself. They ended up teaching me how to speak up for myself and question authority, especially when they try to diminish your value.

Letting others define me was such a dangerous and unfulfilling game. Even those friends or family members with the best intentions still mostly see the outside or the qualities they value most. Only you have the complete picture or you.

People remember how you make them feel about themselves (happy, sad, intimidated, angry, peaceful, or loved). Those impressions are only pieces of your soul and sometimes they are only the pieces you choose to reveal in that moment. It is like trying to put a puzzle together doing only the corners but leaving the middle.

End the war – recognize your choices

Gastric Bypass surgery was a choice. It was my choice because after all the nutritionists, programs, diets, doctors, trainers and pills I realized I needed to work on my emotional issues. Through working on and addressing my emotional issues I realized I could ask for help. Seeing Gastric Bypass surgery as a choice I found a weight loss tool that is extremely concrete and puts me in touch with my body in way I never had before. It started the ongoing dialogue between head, heart, and stomach. It allowed me to ask for and accept help from selective friends and family. It also helped me recognized what kind of support system I would need to achieve and maintain my success. I saw the whole process as an investment in me.

I am not an island – asking for help

There is no one who knows me better than myself. If I can’t see my own value how can anyone else? I used to get caught up in this “which comes first the chicken or the egg” kind of rationale with my self-esteem and it was a slippery slope. I used the same excuses about whether I would exercise or bargain with myself about obsessively overeating. “I’ll start on Monday” usually seemed like a good response. “I’ll feel good about myself when someone else confirms it.”

Dive right in to sending love to the most unlovable parts. When I think about how hard I was on myself (and still am from time to time) now what I do is focus immediately on the body part or thought that is crying the loudest. The cranky one calling for my attention. I start with a recognition that something is bothering me and sit quietly even for a few seconds or a minute and focus my attention. I listen and try to patient and kind. I close my eyes and breath in and out fully for a few breaths. Then I send the healing breath to whatever needs my attention. I let all the tension and soreness get released on the exhale. I notice the physical sensations and any emotions that come up for me. Acknowledging and breathing for me usually does the trick. Ignoring and pushing past the feelings does not work. In the past I would have walked around like an angry pirate in search of a parrot rather than acknowledge that my body needed rest or treatment. Or I would go to a Dr. or other practitioner so they could “fix me”.

Resistance is futile.

No matter how hard I pushed forward and tried to ignore problems or pain there I still was. And that is a good thing. The more I resisted my own feelings, pain or frustration, or any difficult or upsetting emotions the more time I spent submerged in it. The less I ignored my own fear of failure or rejection the more I realized I could tolerate those feelings and pretty much any situation that comes my way. It took practice. A slow realization that the fear of those feelings overwhelming me was much worse than learning to express, examine and actually feel them.

I am wise, I am capable, I know when to ask for help, I understand my own strengths and quirks, and I value myself for the being and not always the doing. I am more important to this world just in this moment for being who I am not because of what I can do, will do or what my dress-size is , how much cash is in my wallet, or what you can measure my IQ as.

From the center of my core, I do like me. I believe you do too.