Saturday, October 11, 2008

Meditate Your Way To A Healthy Body

I’m a realist. But in the last few years, I’ve become a “kinder, gentler” realist.

I used to beat the crap out of myself when I was obese. I lived on the negative end of life’s battery, spending all my positive energy on other people.

As many of you know, before I started this journey in January 2005, I took a long hard look at the way I treated myself physically and emotionally. As I wrote in a blog for CNN last January, “I had so many feelings floating around in my head when I weighed 300 pounds – inadequacy, anger, and overall helplessness. I vacillated for months between accepting my body as it was and choosing to lose weight. I journaled tough questions: How did I feel about my body. How much did I love myself? Was I worth changing for? It was difficult and often uncomfortable work, I won’t lie, but once I was honest with myself and became better acquainted with the emotions that bothered me most, I was ready to lose weight.”

The reason I know this last time is the last time I’ll lose weight, particularly more than 100 pounds, is because I know who I am now and am my own best friend. This was never the case in my previous attempts at weight loss.

The emotional journey I was on at the time of my weight loss journey got a little more focused when I was introduced to mindful meditation via Jon Kabat-Zinn. Then earlier this year, I took my practice even further after discovering Pema Chodron. I implement her teachings as a way to develop more compassion toward myself and others.

You might think that meditation and Buddhist teachings and Zen are all ethereal and maybe even mumbo-jumbo, but take it from me, a true realist, there is nothing more real and grounding than learning to love yourself.

I often get emails asking me to review books and other “diet” programs. Most of these requests end up in my junk mail, but a few books caught my attention and I thought I’d pass on the name of one of them today (the other will be in a future blog).

It is through my (still small) understanding of Buddhist teachings that I can recommend “Wake Up To Your Weight Loss” by Alyson Mead. Mead’s approach to weight loss combines writing and meditation to help readers cultivate loving kindness toward themselves and their bodies. I like how she sums up what meditation is: “The mistaken belief about meditation is that it is somehow magical, bestowing peace and light on whomever it touches. But meditation is simply a tool, to help you focus in on and, more importantly, learn to cope with the stuff your mind may fling at you.” And if your mind is anything like mine, what it flings is often a lot of s*it.

Along with writing and meditation, Mead offers helpful “off the mat” exercises to take into real-life situations throughout the day.

I truly believe that knowing ourselves, becoming our own best friend, being compassionate toward ourselves, is the real key to weight loss and maintenance. As Mead writes in chapter seven, “Losing weight is, in a sense, losing part of yourself. The closer you get to learning who you are on a very intimate level, the more power you will have when emotional issues arrive.”

“Wake Up To Your Weight Loss” is a good companion piece to diet and exercise. It’s better than pills and there are no side effects except feeling more at peace and at home in your own body.

And I didn’t get paid to say that :) I’m just keeping it real.

11 comments:

  1. This post was very helpful to me Lynn. Thank you.

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  2. Lynn - I wholeheartedly agree with the loving yourself thing.
    It really took me several years to come to peace with my body and what the reality of that body is. It made a huge difference in how I approach weight loss and maintenance now.

    Thanks for the book tip!

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  3. Just stumbled on this (in the middle of my own journey) - such great stuff in. I feel like I've spent a lot of years understand exactly what everyone else needs to feel good about their bodies except for me/mine.

    That all changed about a month or so ago, just an unexpected attitude shift, and I cannot tell you the difference it's made.

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  4. Eesh! Lesson: don't blog while distracted by 10 other things. Sorry for the typos, hopefully the message was still clear.

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  5. I really got a lot out of this post and it's so true about needing to learn kindness for yourself and to become your own best friend. I was questioning myself today about how much influence I let others have over me. How one word from someone can make me dwell on it all day. Why do I care so much what others think of me? Why can't I voice who I am and my opinions without feeling anxiety over someone saying something negative about what I've said? Why can't I be honest with the people closest to me? I know partly its because I can't stand confrontation. Typing that now I'm wondering if it's because I feel like as a fat person I'm not worthy of being as good as other people are hmmmm maybe that's it...

    Anyway, thanks so much for making me think. I'm so happy to have you writing again.

    Dawn

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  6. oooh very helpful!

    the older I get the more I need/believe in the power of our thoughts/meditation.

    my 20 yearoldself would laugh.

    Miz.

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  7. Keeping it real is the key. This was a very inspiring post Lynn thanks for sharing with us.

    Mara
    http://24stepstogo.blogspot.com/

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  8. I loved this posting - thank you for taking time out from your book to write it.

    I just happened to start yoga at the beginning of my weight loss (two years of loss, I am in my second year of maintenance, so this is year 4).

    In yoga I learned to quiet my mind and be in the moment.

    Until that time - I didn't even know my mind wasn't quiet.

    I ended up at yoga (sort of my accident) because it was a low impact way of starting to move my body, learning to exercise.

    It has done a LOT for my tone, flexibility, range of motion, balance, and strength -
    but what it has done
    for my peace of mind
    is much more.

    My maintenance/healthy lifestyle would not be the same without it. I am not fighting against myself. I am relaxed in my life.

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  9. I'm so glad this post was helpful to you guys and got you thinking.

    Vickie, thank you for posting your personal experience with yoga, too. It's one of those things I've wanted to try. I need to find someone who can help me develop a gentle yoga routine, keeping in mind my degenerative arthritis in my wrists, shoulders, knees and feet. No planks for me! LOL

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  10. Great timing for this blog subject. Let me start by saying that I'm a sugar addict and currently battling a binge eating disorder with the help of a supportive boyfriend, family and therapist.

    I read a good book by Eckhart Tolle, "A New Earth: Wakening to Your Life's Purpose." Definitely a first for me to read a spiritual book, but my therapist gave it to me to try. At any rate, he has a section on addiction and a tip to breathe three times deeply when you are experiencing an intense craving. Three times - in and out - focus on the breathing, focus on the NOW (current moment). And ask yourself, "Who is asking for this drink/drug/food? It's not me asking. It's the addiction talking."

    He also calls addictions negative "energy fields" running through our bodies, and sometimes the energy surfaces and we're challenged to push it back down again, but that they are always there. So, when cravings come about, we can remember that it's the energy field talking - we can "step outside" our own minds and realize WE are not the ones asking for the food/drink/drug.

    I thought it was helpful. So many times after a binge I often think what if I had just paused - paused longer - before diving into the food. How would my day have been different? Have been better?

    Now I'm going to start reading his first book, "The Power of Now" which was a NY Times best seller and better known than the second one, "A New Earth."

    On the subject of meditation, Eckhart does speak of really focusing on the "Now" during daily mundane tasks - laundry, work commute, grocery shopping, washing dishes, etc. Focus on the moment itself - your breathing, everything about what you're doing - your hands on the steering wheel, the smell of the laundry soap, etc.

    The author talks a lot about focusing on just this moment (the "now"). So many people are unhappy because of their past - someone wronged them, a situation or event didn't go as planned, etc. Or, they are anxious or stressed about the future - whether it be an hour from now or a year from now. We forget to focus on RIGHT NOW.

    Anyway, I recommend those two books for anyone with an open mind and who is intrigued by this post.

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  11. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/stations/SedonaTalkRadio/Planet-Earth/2008/07/28/Alyson-Mead-author-of-Wake-Up-to-Your-Weight-Loss

    Thank you Lynn, for your inspiration and encouragement, and your for-real writing!

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