Weight Management: Who is that Stranger in the Mirror?

Copyright 2010: artist@omtiddleyompom.com
Copyright 2010: artist@omtiddleyompom.com

Do you have an image of yourself...

that you carry around in your mind which does not physically match who you are on the outside?

Do you imagine an ideal body, one you would like to have or one maybe, due to criticism and/or pressure from others that you think you should have?

Is your weight a prominent focus of your life, leaving you constantly caught in that cycle between dieting and over-indulgence?

Does it seem like every time you get close to achieving your goals that something sabotages your efforts?

A "yes" answer to any of the above question may indicate that there is a battle going on! There could be a raging internal conflict between what you think you want, what you are telling your body and what your body is telling you.

Maybe you blame yourself, attributing your failure to meet your goals as a sign of weakness.

Maybe this has become more about others who are close to you. Do they put too much pressure on you to lose weight? Or, worse, when you have success, do they find it difficult to accept the transformation you seek for yourself and seem to set up situations to sabotage your efforts? 

It was many years ago that the struggle with my weight was a major focal point in my life. During this time, I became a gimmick junkie. Hot new fads were always emerging which promised quick and painless weight loss. These included theme diets, meal replacements in the form of convenience snack bars or beverages, injections, appetite control pills and even exercise machines that do the work for you. There were also the countless weight loss support groups which seemed to pop up everywhere. I tried just about everything that was on offer.

While I believe it is possible that one decision and one experience can possibly and permanently change a person’s life and outlook forever, I think it is rare. For most people, lasting change must happen slowly – in gradual stages. In most cases, it takes a series of decisions, events or experiences to lead to a result. Each ‘pivotal moment’ successively builds upon the other and reinforces the lesson from the preceding experience until the lesson becomes assimilated into the person’s subconscious thoughts and drives their actions.

The problem with dieting is that it relies on overcoming 'weakness' and building 'willpower' to define success. In this case, I believe the ‘weakness’ is a loss of a vision for something better. It is certainly not inherent in any particular food. Over-indulgence is a decision that is prompted by a great number of factors, most of them emotional and subconscious, but very powerful. Breaking a diet means there is something else going on at a much deeper level.

Copyright 2010: artist@omtiddleyompom.com
Copyright 2010: artist@omtiddleyompom.com

Weight management has very little to do with food itself.

The difference between successful and unsuccessful weight management is the motivation and driving force behind it.

If you believe that being overweight is the sole cause (rather than a symptom) of not being happy with who you are, chances are, dieting will never help you to deal with the root cause of the problem. In fact, it has great potential to only make it worse because of the misdirected focus.

If you turn it around so that your objective is to cultivate self-acceptance while changing your lifestyle to be healthier, the weight can then manage itself.

There needs to be a meeting or integration between the body and the soul to work together as a team.

For this purpose, the term ‘soul’ is meant to refer to everything about you that is not physical. This means the synthesis of your energy, your life force, your personality, emotions and thoughts. ‘Soul’ used in this context is not referring to a specific religion or spiritual affiliation.

To be successful at any endeavor, you must be able to answer five questions:

What you are pursuing?
Why you are pursuing it?
How do you define your starting point?
How do you define your end goal?
How will you measure your success?

If the answers to these questions are all around food restrictions, what the scale says or what size you wear, it is very likely asking for failure before you even start.

To integrate the body and soul means calling a truce and ceasing the internal conflict. This means doing whatever you can do to create harmony between the image of yourself in your mind and the physical expression of who you are to the outside world. This means feeling completely at home within yourself, feeling comfortable and totally accepting your body as an extension of the whole you.

There are two options to begin the path towards Body-Soul Integration.

Option 1: Take external measures to change your body to fit – as closely as possible – your mental image of what you would like to or think you should be – diets, exercise, etc.

Option 2: Modify the image of your ideal self in your mind to include the person you are at this very minute. As both a physical and spiritual being, you are a person on a quest towards self-understanding. Mentally embrace your physical self as part of the spiritual and unique person you are. Recognize that any unhappiness, discomfort or dissatisfaction you feel with your body is an alert that the connection between body and soul is missing and needs to be restored.

Even if you are successful at it in the short term, Option 1 is usually only a temporary fix and does not address the real issues underlying your unhappiness with yourself.

Before elaborating more on Option 2, first, here is an inventory to find out where you are in your body-soul integration. Just answer honestly and with your first gut response to the questions. Unless you want to, there is no need to write them down.

1. Have you been what you consider to be overweight for what you consider to be too long of a period of your life?

2. Is there a significant person in your life who is pressuring you to lose weight – to the point where you aren’t sure whether your desire to lose weight is for yourself or for that person?

3. Are you always trying new weight loss schemes and diets but don’t seem to be able to lose weight or to sustain weight loss for any length of time?

4. Do you ever wish you could wake up in the morning and instantly have a new, slimmer body?

5. Do you ever feel like your wardrobe reflects a compromise in your clothing choices? Do you feel that there are other styles you would choose if they came in your size?

6. Do you ever parallel being overweight with weak character, laziness, lack of discipline, low self-esteem/respect or other negative personality traits?

7. Do you ever tell yourself or others that you either hate being overweight or that you hate yourself because of your body?

If you answered ‘yes’ to at least one of the questions above, it might indicate a disconnection between your body and soul - where your mind is in a daily battle of acceptance of your physical self and fighting against the body that you are living in.

Once a fat identity begins to settle in, it can become your most prominent internal definition of who you are. It certainly did with me. In my mind, I was an overweight person first. Everything else such as my other attributes: hobbies, interests, personality traits were second.

My fat identity was reinforced by the fact that when I did have marginal success in losing weight, the weirdest thing happened. It caused me to freak out. It felt weird and scary. But, people’s reactions to me indicated they were also freaked out by seeing me slimmer.

Other people, kids and adults, used to tell me that I was fat and that I needed to lose weight. Ironically, the same people who told me I was fat and needed to lose weight would ask me the oddest questions whenever I showed signs of slimming. “Are you okay? You aren’t sick, are you?” It was like they had to continue making my image and my body a negative focal point.

It is true that if you are not used to being slim, weight loss feels strange. Although it is a good feeling, it feels awkward to have a slimmer waistline, to feel smaller and have lighter steps, to have clothes – that were once tight – to be loose-fitting.

Diets and weight loss programs were thrown at me from all directions but not one of them made it clear how dramatic that physical change can be and what to expect with the success of those programs. Maybe it was because no one expected the diets or programs to really be successful on a long-term basis. Being on a diet was like being on self-perpetuating psychological treadmill, as if the act of dieting was itself the goal because of the fat identity.

Dieting itself has become a sort of ‘religion’ for those who are overweight. It is like an unwritten law that you must be on a diet because others say you must. But, you must not be successful with it though.

In those days, when I developed this fat identity, my focus was always on two main factors: food and willpower. I became simultaneously obsessed with and fearful of food and how it makes you fat. I hated my body and myself because of my lack of willpower over this thing that seemed to dictate who I am. My focus on these two basics blinded me to the whole constellation of the other genuine factors contributing to the conflict between who I was and who I wanted to be.

Throughout my teens and my early twenties, I thought the answer to my ‘weight problem’ was dieting. Yet, I found diets impossible and the whole process felt like this mystical nightmare that was really out of my control. But then, I began to look at the other factors. That was when my relationship with my body changed forever.

The solution was in that second option for managing the body-soul disconnection.

Option 2: Modify the image of your ideal self in your mind to include the person you are at this very minute. As both a physical and spiritual being, you are a person on a quest towards self-understanding. Mentally embrace your physical self as part of the spiritual and unique person you are. Recognize that any unhappiness, discomfort or dissatisfaction you feel with your body is an alert that the connection between body and soul is missing and needs to be restored.

With Option 2, you can have immediate results. Once you modify the image of your ideal self to include who you are right now, you have won the battle.

How do you do this? Let’s go back to that inventory.

1. Have you been what you consider to be overweight for what you consider to be too long of a period of your life?

If this is the case, this may be how you are comfortable. That doesn’t mean that you are happy with it – but comfortable. Comfortable means that it feels like you. This is important because losing weight will make you no longer feel like you. All of our movements and interactions in everyday life: the way we walk, how our arms swing at our sides, the way we sit in a chair, how we point our toes, all of this spatial knowledge is subconscious and driven by our body shape dynamics. We are not usually aware of how much these factors contribute to our concepts of ourselves until they change. We have a strong tendency to always return to the familiar or status quo. Working with self-hypnosis and/or a kinesiologist may be useful for internalizing the transition to a slim identity.

2. Is there a significant person in your life who is pressuring you to lose weight – to the point where you aren’t sure whether your desire to lose weight is for yourself or for that person?

If you aren’t absolutely certain that your desire to lose weight is coming only from you rather than someone else imposing this desire onto you, then any efforts you make will feel like a sacrifice with not much reward for you personally. This pressure can come from all kinds of motivations including vanity, such as a spouse who wants you to look good so they look good. Or, it can be based on altruism and wanting you to not put your health at risk.

The pressure can be verbal or nonverbal. It can be expressed in an attitude or saying things indirectly.

Whoever this person is, speak to them. If you feel, for whatever reason, that you cannot actually speak to them about this, imagine a discussion with that person in your mind where you ask them for their help in accepting yourself as you are and to stop making you feel that you need to change.

Ask for their help in seeing all the positive qualities you have instead of pointing out what, in their opinion, needs to be changed.

Tell them that we all judge ourselves enough without having others judge us. They need to spend less time in judgment of you and to invest more time in managing their own lives.

Finally, and most importantly, there is a fundamental truth in this kind of criticism and attempt at control. If you can absorb and accept this, it will change your life forever. Here it is:

The comments made and pressure others put on you to lose weight have nothing to do with you.

People project their own insecurity onto others. They are telling you that you need to change because you represent some kind of fear and obsession they may have themselves around their image or around their health. Once you can accept this fact on an emotional level, it can be very liberating. The pressure from others will no longer have an effect on you.

No matter what, the source of the motivation has to be internal, coming from you, in order for it to be a powerful enough driver to change behavior on a permanent basis.

3. Are you always trying new weight loss schemes and diets but don’t seem to be able to lose weight or to sustain weight loss for any length of time?

If you are always trying new weight loss schemes and diets but don’t seem to be able to lose weight or to sustain weight loss for any length of time, the answer is simple. Stop dieting and try communicating with your body instead. After living a lifestyle that has led to being overweight, your body has taken your lead and come to expect a certain amount of calories and types of foods that may not be serving you or your body very well.

Let your body take the lead and let it teach you what it wants.

Tell your body that you want to be healthy. Tell your body that you want to be the right weight and shape for you and ask your body what it needs. Very rarely will your body answer that it needs a high concentration of refined carbohydrates and fatty foods. Ask your body for help in teaching your mind to love the types of foods and in the right quantities that are going to serve you as a whole person. Give your body time to teach you this. This will not happen overnight.

4. Do you ever wish you could wake up in the morning and instantly have a new, slimmer body?

This is the voice of non-acceptance and frustration. Such a dramatic instant change would not be as welcome as you might think, especially as it takes time to get used to a slimmer body. When you find yourself having these thoughts, replace them with words of affirmation that you accept yourself the way you are and any changes that happen will come naturally and in a healthy way so that you can adjust to them properly.

5. Do you ever feel like your wardrobe reflects a compromise in your clothing choices? Do you feel that there are other styles you would choose if they came in your size?

When you are overweight, it can often feel like your style is defined by what is available rather than what you want. I spent too many years with a “someday” wardrobe in my head. This is the wardrobe I would have when I had the body that I wanted instead of the one I actually had. This is a very self-defeating way of thinking and behavior. We cannot live by simply putting our lives on hold for “someday”. We have to enjoy life today. So, it is important to aim to wear clothes that you feel comfortable in and are flattering for where you are right now. Trying to wear clothes that are too small or a style that doesn’t suit your body will just add to your frustration. Use your clothing to emphasize the positive and camouflage the rest.

6. Do you ever parallel being overweight with weak character, laziness, lack of discipline, low self-esteem/respect or other negative personality traits?

Being overweight comes from learned behaviors and deeply embedded thought patterns, not character flaws. It may happen that an overweight person has low self-esteem and low self-respect. It is usually due to external or internal accusations (of being lazy, lacking self-control or discipline) which cause the self-esteem to suffer. Focusing on the positive and doing things to help build self-esteem is one way to help counteract those negative messages. Understanding how learned behaviors drive responses, rather than lumping these into character flaws, helps to create that connection between the body and soul to build a stronger and much more cooperative relationship.

7. Do you ever tell yourself or others that you either hate being overweight or that you hate yourself because of your body?

Be careful what you allow yourself to say and what thoughts you are perpetuating. Even saying to anyone, including you, that you hate yourself because of your body shape is one way to ensure a disconnection between the body and the soul. Think kindly and speak lovingly to yourself. When you find yourself feeling anything remotely like hatred toward yourself or your body, try to identify where those emotions are truly directed. Chances are, it is the feeling of being powerless and out of control. It could be the self-victimization of not feeling as good as you want to and not having an image that you desire. Acknowledge the true object of your hate feelings and then let them go.

With loving words, let your body be your teacher. Let it tell you what it needs and ask it to help you to be happy being you.

More by this Author


Comments 4 comments

ramkkasturi profile image

ramkkasturi 6 years ago from India

I must say that this is a very interesting and new perspective worth pursuing. I am one of the victims of this weight matter and seem to gain by simply eating air. Thank you for this infomation I admit I need more mental commitment atleast towards exercise.

ramkkasturi


M Selvey, MSc profile image

M Selvey, MSc 6 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Thank you for stopping by and for your comment, ramkkasturi. It is partly down to commitment but more down to visualization and believing in what you want to achieve - like so many things.

Best wishes,

Margit


fucsia profile image

fucsia 6 years ago

Congratulations for your hubs, very stimulating... I agree with everything you have written. I am interested in diets and I support that the first, perhaps unique, big step to do is with ourselves, deeply and without telling to themselves unnecessary lies. Thanks for the interesting reading!


M Selvey, MSc profile image

M Selvey, MSc 6 years ago from United Kingdom Author

fucsia, yes, I agree that it is "unnecessary lies" that perpetrate the beliefs that sometimes hold people back. Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. Thank you also for being a follower - I am also now following you :-)

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working