“It’s not your job to love me, it’s mine”. ~Byron Katie
Learning to love self, all of self, every corner and crevice, every movement and feeling, the whole gamut of who we are. This is not easy work yet, to me, is absolutely essential in order to heal. We must find the love for ourselves even in midst of our dysfunctional ways of eating and relating to our bodies. We must find the love of ourselves as we embrace our addictions and the ways in which we have chosen to cope with our lives. This is truly the only way that we can ever heal, by embracing these patterns in ourselves and loving ourselves so deeply despite them.
Feeling the love in our imperfections. The love and acceptance for ourselves. No matter what. How we treat ourselves is a model as to how we want others to treat us. How on earth can we expect others to love us in our entirety if we don’t love ourselves in our entirety??
Sure, it’s “easy” to love ourselves when we are feeling good, healthy, happy, whole, and vibrant. Self-love and acceptance are much more conducive to times of ease and success in our lives. But how about during the times when you are feeling down and out, “fat” and unlovable, have eaten foods that perhaps are not the best for your body, have the urge to purge in some way, those times when you would prefer to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head rather than face the public eye…??
Cultivating loving compassionate acceptance of ourselves during these times is the most powerful way to truly soothe your soul and heal from the inside out.
It is about telling a new story – dismantling the old ones and creating a new, life-serving one.
The opportunity lies here in re-patterning our biographies and making new choices in our lives. Our cells are literally able to reorganize and regenerate. In doing so, our ingrained ways of relating to ourselves, and the world around us, can shift.
So many of us attach stories to how we function in the world and especially to how we engage with ourselves around our ability to nourish our bodies, hearts, and souls.
These stories become our imprint for living and unless we make a choice to look at them honestly and choose to run a different script, we will inevitably stay stuck in whatever story line has dominance. As a woman with a lifetime of eating disorders and dysfunctional ways of relating to my body and to myself, I know this one well. I have been in active recovery now for 20 years and am highly aware of the stories that have been attached to my actions and the steps that I needed to take in order to set a different course for myself. It has not been easy, nor was it an overnight process. I am living proof that it is possible with commitment, perseverance, and an unwavering foundation of love and compassion directed towards self. I am not saying that I have attained “perfection” in my relationship to myself and my recovery process. It is just that, a process, and I feel as though I have reached a state of perspective. I feel removed from the darkness and fog and am seeing clearly the entirety of the cycle.
It is through my own experiences and unfolding over these decades that I write with the intention of sharing my learning and hopefully my words will inspire others on their healing paths.
I have spent the past few years really looking at what “post behavior” looks like and how to “recover” if, perhaps, you fall down the rabbit hole of dysfunctional eating and/or exercise patterns, and the subsequent trap of self-loathing and negative self-talk. I spent years upon years solidly swaying from one extreme to the other, never utilizing the golden times after engaging in the behaviors as an opportunity to tap into deeper bodily wisdom and the medicine that resides in those in between states. I just kept swinging from one end of the pendulum to the next, usually spending a little time, (or sometimes A LOT of time) in the hole of self-loathing and punishment which would inevitably keep the cycle flowing without interruption. As this way of living is so all-consuming, I do not have much memory of those precious times in between, yet in recent years I have found the strength for the pause, the rest, the recalibration, and the result has been a complete re-creation and healing of a very dysfunctional way of living, being, and engaging with myself.
*I offer you some of the most important pieces I have learned during these liminal times. I can absolutely guarantee that if you choose to hit the pause button on your stories and actions and utilize the wisdom these times have to offer, you will transform your life and your way of being in your body.
~If you are able to find some presence while eating that forbidden food or in midst of a binge… Bring your WHOLE self to the moment and find GRATITUDE. Offer up a huge heartfelt thanks for the food you are (actually very blessed) to eat. Yes, even that bag of chips or 2nd bowl of ice cream! Finding gratitude for anything shifts everything.
~Self-care is the key to healing. If you find yourself feeling guilty about the greasy burger and fries you ate or the 3rd helping of Thai food, or whatever your M.O. is….DO NOT PUNISH YOURSELF. This is the time to treat yourself like a queen. This is not the time for deprivation or punishment. Rather tend to yourself with honor – eat what your beautiful body is asking for – move it with joy and reverence – spend extra time meditating and praying – increase your intake of herbs and supplements. Whatever feels really good to your body and soul…DO IT. By not choosing to punish, berate, or hate on your body there is an opportunity for your entire relationship to your intake and your bodies ability to digest, to shift. I promise you.
~Along the same lines, but it is just so important so I reiterate here: The key to breaking the cycle is to love yourself up – especially during those times when you feel un-loveable. NO PUNISHMENT! POUR ON THE SELF-LOVE!
~After “indulgence”, EAT REAL FOOD and don’t punish yourself by deprivation. It is a SET UP for failure. The absolute best thing that you could ever do for your body, yourself, your LIFE…is to EAT. Eat lots of greens, quinoa, fruit, protein…nourish yourself, hold yourself, and, for fucks sake, DO NOT HARM YOURSELF. Do not punish, berate, loathe, hate on, pinch, nip, tuck. The greatest act of self-love during these distressing times – is to eat real food and nourish yourself, your body, and your LIFE. This was revolutionary for me! One version of a dysfunction pattern that I engaged in was to starve myself if I overate at a previous meal or had a nighttime (or daytime!!) emotional eating attack. It never occurred to me to actually feed myself after that. When I started utilizing that time to prepare and cook nourishing foods for myself and eat them, everything changed. Now I will create some delicious comfort foods on the flip side of the dysfunction. I will bake healthy and yummy muffins and cookies, bake sweet potato fries, make homemade salad dressings to spice up the mundane, peruse recipes and cook something new and delicious, and take the time to create a lovely meal and mealtime for myself. I will prepare my food, organize it on my plate, set a place for myself at the table with a placemat and cloth napkin, light a candle and find the gratitude for the nourishment and for myself for the level of care I am providing. I have found that by becoming active in the kitchen, I am declaring self-love and my whole being responds.
~Listening to sacred chants and other uplifting music in my home as well as through headphones during a walk has been incredibly healing. Getting outside in some fresh air can offer a clear perspective! Add in beautiful chanting and song plugged into your system and there is the opportunity to shift your brain, body, and entire being.
~Be amongst the people! Get out of your house and place yourself around others. Engage with them quietly. Smile at strangers. Make eye contact. Receive reflection that you are actually OK. You are NOT crazy. You are NOT a dysfunctional alien. Despite what you may have just done to yourself and your body, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU! This one was huge for me many years ago when I was in the throes of the dysfunction. I happened to live right in downtown Boulder and, when possible, I would just take walks into town alone and just be around others. It helped me to see that I was not actually alone and that I was a part of something much bigger than the ridiculous amount of food I had just consumed.
~The final point that I want to make here is how essential it is to be able to truly sit and breathe with yourself when that is the last thing in the entire world that you want to do. Finding the courage and strength to choose to breathe deeply into your full belly and just allow it to be, expanding with the fullness, sitting with the uncomfortableness and not trying to get rid of yourself….IS HUGE and NOTHING SHORT OF MIRACULOUS! Here is where meditation has been transformative for me in my process and I know is crucial for women with similar biographies to mine. We cannot keep running from ourselves, especially during the times when we want to flee. Making the choice to sit put, send loving breath deep into your belly and heart, and holding yourself in that space of angst, is incredibly powerful and inevitably healing. Other ways of staying present in the breath and in your body is to get on the floor and roll around doing very gentle stretches and twists. I also will mindfully take a stroll (not a power hike or walk!!) and will put my hands on my hips and belly so that I can feel my foundation. The comfort of giving myself connection to my physical form has rippling effects to support healing and an overall deeper sense of embodiment.
Take charge of your body and your life.
Bring mindfulness and a ton of compassionate and loving kindness to your entire being ~ even those shadow sides and less-than-fabulous habits and behaviors ~ and you create the potential to shift, heal, rise up, and unearth your powerful life force.
Making the choice to approach who we are with loving and compassionate acceptance is not easy work, yet is critically important to our healing and to embodying who we are and our brutally imperfect lives.