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.