Michel Martin recently interviewed sociologist and author Bertice Berry on NPR’s “Tell Me More.” Berry lost 146 pounds in less than a year by focusing not so much on her weight but her health. I found myself often agreeing out loud as she talked about her “Year To Wellness” program. Four things in particular really hit home for me:
1. Which comes first? The healthy body or healthy mind?
Berry said she was concerned about her daughter’s weight and brought her to the pediatrician. “He said…if you start her on crazy diets and programs and this, that and the other, she’s going to start yo-yoing like we’ve all done. And you're going to destroy the part of her mind that is healthy about her self image. [He] said it’s a lot easier to heal the body when the mind is healthy. But if you destroy the mind, then the body is going to follow.
“And so once I started looking at it and realizing that everybody’s goal weight is exactly where they were when they first thought they were fat, you look back at those pictures and you go, well, why did I think I was fat?”
Amen! My “ideal” weight once I got out of high school was 150…EXACTLY what I weighed in high school the first time a doctor called me fat! And I spent the better part of 25 years trying to get back to and stay at 150, only to realize that until my mind was healthy, I could NEVER get back to and stay at 150.
2. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.
“I’ve come to see that those who care a lot, carry a lot. One day I had this crazy thing happen. And I think the universe speaks to us in all kinds of ways and we have to listen. And for me it was my sewage system kept backing up and then we found out after researching and digging and looking, the backflow valve on the system was not working. And so all the stuff from everybody else’s house was coming to my house.
“Immediately I looked at this and said, ‘You know, this is what I’m doing in my own life. I’m doing everything I can to be well, but I’m taking on the stress and the problems and the worries of everybody in my life.’ And the moment I saw that, I was able to start unpacking this need to help everybody else do all their stuff without taking care of myself.”
How many times have you put everyone else before you AND tried to lose weight at the same time? The most successful “losers” I know put their health and goals ahead of everyone else or can incorporate their health and goals into their daily interactions with family and friends.
“I tell people you have to spend three days, however you want to do it, journaling, talking to yourself in the mirror, but throughout your day, think about how you feel about yourself. At the end of the three days they call me and they say, ‘Oh my god, I didn't know the things that I was carrying and thinking about myself. I didn’t know the things that I tell myself on a daily basis.’”
Turning down the clutter in our heads and allowing our own voice to come through is NOT easy, but (as I’ve preached ad nauseum) it is crucial and, to me, the most important thing any of us can do to lose weight. It doesn’t matter what “diet” you follow, if you don’t know why you’re doing it or are doing it for any other reason or person than your own well being, then it ain’t gonna work.
4. Get rid of toxic people.
“People only know how to push your buttons because they’re the ones who put them there. [Once] we start removing those buttons, they have nothing to push. And so you start to remove the toxic people (from your life).”
This one can be difficult if not impossible, particularly if the toxicity comes from family members. However, how we allow them to affect us is completely within our control. I found that by spending more time with supportive people helped me see how I was allowing myself to be manipulated and mistreated by those who would have me fail. Toxic people are not toxic because of you or me. They are toxic because of themselves and some pain and suffering and lack in their own life. That took me a long time to learn.
Right now, Berry’s “Year To Wellness” is a workshop, but I hope she will write about it soon, too. To read the full transcript of the interview, click here.