A little backstory: I was an actress, long, longlong ago. I constantly battled with bad body image – I got to the point where I would allow myself a little milk in my breakfast of coffee, because that was the protein for the day…
I never ever got thin; this is not a story of anorexia…it’s a story of wasting time and energy with self-hatred and REALLY bad self-talk.
I got in a car accident. I stopped acting. I was in a toxic relationship. With these factors at play, I gained 30lbs. for the first time in my life, I was not muscular or fit…and for the first time since I was 10 years old, I felt really good in my body.
…what? Yeah. I know. crazy. As soon as the toxic partner left my life, I began to cook simple meals of salmon, kale, rice. I began to make smoothies. I bought a juicer and learned about juicing. I began to simply nourish myself as a way to heal the broken emotions. I was still 30lbs heavier than my usual weight, but I felt absolutely incredible. I felt beautiful, sensual, accepting of myself.
I began to box, which made me stronger and healed me emotionally and physically. I lost 30lbs (or some weeks, 25.) my former “thin” clothes are baggy. I am strong, which feels good.
I was asked to act again, and this time I agreed without even thinking twice about it – for sentimental reasons. It’s a show which is not a big deal in the world of performing, but it’s an awesome project and it was a big deal to me, because I’d been talking to the producer for about seven years, and it’s a return to something I said I would never do again. It turned out to be an extremely beautiful experience. Acting. I had forgotten why I loved it so much all those years. I felt very much in my power and whole, doing something that makes me come alive, and working with incredible people.
And here’s the thing…with the acting, the body-hating has come rushing back, like an old, familiar, dysfunctional relative that I just can’t shake.
I am the same measurements as Jennifer Lawrence, whom I read is “obese” by Hollywood standards. This has made me spin out quite a bit. “Obese.”
I notice the softness of my belly when I sit up in bed, and I think, “that’s going to go.” I see photos of myself from the shoot, and I think “wow, I look fat. If I’m going to continue, I need to lose 15-20lbs.” I notice my arms when they aren’t boxing, and I think “Body, we are going to be eradicating this excess gunk.” I look at myself in the mirror at boxing class, and I think, “I am the biggest girl in here.”
These thoughts are as bad for me as a huge serving of McDonald’s.
My self-talk has become militant, grim, almost violent. This is SUCH a huge change…when I look back at my year of healing from The Most Unbelievably Awful Relationship, the energy I had back then was allowing. nurturing. forgiving. calm. serene.
So the Inner Health Coach has to step up now and coach herself…and because I want to help my clients, I’m doing this publicly.
First of all, let’s talk about Obesity. It dismays me to see an actress like Jennifer Lawrence called “Obese.” There are comments by people who say she’s “fatter,” or the supporters who seem to think they’re being very generous, saying “she’s just a little soft and feminine, that’s all.” When I look at her, I see a person who is in a very healthy place and shape for her own body. Different bodies are going to have different versions of “healthy,” and it can be a heck of a lot of work to maintain the fighting-fit, very trim version that Ms. Lawrence has, that is still somehow considered “obese” in Hollyweird.
So what concerns me is this: when I have a client who is struggling with weight gain, or wants to make a big change and is carrying around a lot of excess; when that client is needing to start small (thus building sustainable change by creating good habits!), how do they continue if they are bombarded with this crap about a very fit person being “obese”?
One of the reasons people need health coaches is that what can happen in the beginning (and sometimes creeps back in from time to time, though it gets easier to work through it) is hopelessness and giving up. Our mind “gremlins” (the harmful “voices” or self-talk) want us to stay where we are. There is a big part of us that resists change, even if that change is a huge improvement to our lives. So the self-sabotage begins.
A person may get up to go for their 15-minute walk, and say to themselves, “I just feel so tired. The weight isn’t coming off. This is useless.” …and BAM, they sit on the couch, grab the chips, and push down the feelings of hopelessness with food. They give up.
This cycle takes time to break – a little change, and sticking with it every day until it becomes a habit. That creates the positive momentum. The cycle is a powerful gravitational force, and The ONLY way to beat it is with self-talk, with affirmations.
Because before we feed our bodies, we need to feed our minds.
Every time I pick up on a flaw and say “THAT is going to go,” I am keeping myself stuck in a place of victimhood and health-lessness. I feel the energy drain, and I feel the dragging sadness set in. Without the energy, how can I prepare healthy meals? How can I exercise?
So the shift that needs to happen is this. First, a big shift in self-talk.
Notice the harmful thought, “My belly is too soft.” “I am fat.” and tell yourself, “You know what, that thought isn’t helping me.”
Then feed your body and mind a good thought to counteract it. “I am strong.” “I feel good after that workout.” Don’t use negating words or try to do something like “I am not fat,” because the focus in that statement is still on the harmful word “fat,” and you’ll just get into a pointless argument with your gremlin. Use positive language that builds. Focus on the things that feel deeply true; the things you feel grateful for.
Gratitude is a HUGE antidote to toxic self-talk poison. “I am grateful to you, body, for getting through that workout. I am grateful you are strong.”
or even start very small: “I am grateful to be able to walk.” I had a therapist tell me once to start really REALLY small…to go for a walk and start with my feet. “thanks, feet, for carrying me.”
Seriously- how much do we take for granted? Our feet…The ability to breathe…
Then it’s time to begin again, to revise the vision.
If I look too far ahead and create goals like “I need to lose 20 lbs and be thinner,” I will look at the gap between where I am and where I want to be, and I’ll just feel overwhelmed.
So what I do is shift the thinking. The goal is now “Today, I will drink more water, do my best in boxing class, and make some healthy meals.” I will plan the meals- miso soup, kale stir fry, isagenix shake… I have a few standbys I have learned how to make quickly, so I never get into that I-don’t-know-what-to-eat,-I-guess-I’ll-just-grab-processed-food rut.
THEN, (and here’s the huge thing that this entire article is about)
I learn once again to love myself as I am, in this moment, right NOW.
That’s the thing that concerns me about all this Hollyweird stuff people are reading. If we are comparing ourselves to someone else and reading criticisms given to that person and taking those criticisms, multiplying them by whatever our differences might be and then applying them to our own bodies,
how can we love ourselves as we are?
Sustainable, long-term change begins with acceptance right NOW.
I have experienced this firsthand, and know it to be so so so deeply true. If I could only tell ONE thing to everyone in this world who feels they want to work their way to a more healthy body, mind, and spirit, I would say just this one thing —
First, love yourself as you are right now.
Because what happens then is that the Grim, battling, self-hating, rigid, angry determination to CHANGE goes away.
What comes in its place is peace, allowing, the feeling that you CAN, patience, and steady perseverance.
What comes in when you take deep breaths and love yourself as you are right NOW, is that the body feels safe, no longer chastised, and it’s more ready to listen.
It’s more able to release the unwanted weight when it is being treated with kindness.
This is the foundation for lasting, sustainable, non-painful, joyful change.
It takes a lot of work to love ourselves as we are right NOW and to silence the self-hating thoughts; if those thoughts have become deeply ingrained habits, carving new thought pathways will be like trying to get the deer to walk along a different track so your grass can grow back…it might feel impossible.
Just breathe deeply, and take it slow. Take it with a sense of humor and self-love. Approach it with a sense of adventure. This can actually be fun!
Think some good and loving thoughts; wake up in the morning and think of three things you are grateful for, create an affirmation for the morning or the whole day, and watch as the self-hating thoughts dwindle and eventually grow silent.
And then, do what needs to be done to feel good TODAY. learn to massage kale, and make a stir fry. Tell yourself when you prepare it and when you eat it, that you are feeding yourself nutrients because you are worth it!
Will I continue to act? I do not know. But I do know that whatever work I do, I want to have a solid foundation of self-confidence and I want to celebrate my life! Let’s do this!
4 thoughts on “On “Fatness” (and the Words We are Feeding Ourselves)”
What an inspiration you are!
Rivkah! Something you said really rang true for me. You said ‘The goal is now “Today, I will drink more water, do my best in boxing class, and make some healthy meals.” ‘ That is how I addressed things. I cannot “diet.” Tried and tried to “eat right” eat the fad things that people recommended, all of that. No help. Weight went up and down like a rollercoaster. Sometimes 20-30 pounds one direction or the other. Back in December 2013 I weighed 305 lbs and had a 42 inch waist. Felt absolutely miserable. I sat myself down and had a heart to heart talk. Had to shed some tears and kick myself in the teeth a few times during that convo, let me tell you! Decided to change not what I eat, but HOW I eat. Smaller portions, pushing away from the table sooner, stopping at 3 pieces of pizza, not the whole pie. That sort of thing. Began to gradually lose pounds. Started feeling good enough to start exercising. I now ( Aug 12, 2014) weigh 225 lbs and have a 36 inch waist. Woohoo! I figure about 10-20 lbs more and I will try and level out my weight loss and concentrate on building up more wind, and muscle tone. My point is: If I can do this, anyone can! Just make small, incremental changes, and sooner or later, you will notice a permanent, dramatic change. Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to share my personal triumphs with you. Your post is very inspirational, and I want you to enjoy continued success! BTW that part you acted for? INCREDIBLE! That was among the most powerful performances I have ever witnessed! Can’t wait til it “hits the air!”
Kent! never apologize for “long posts”- what you have to say here is so beautiful & important!
GOOD for you for taking care of yourself in this way – as soon as we learn that we deserve that kindness, everything sort of falls into place, doesn’t it.
not that it’s “solved” Forever- I think it’s an ongoing thing, and like with everything else we have harder times & better times–ebb and flow–but hopefully the “ebb” time is shorter lived, the more we build up the muscles of recognizing harmful self talk & patterns.
every time I hit a harder time with this or have times of lazy self-care & bad eating, I beat myself up a little because this was supposed to be “fixed”! !! but I finally realized it’s going to come up ALWAYS- but recognizing it faster & not beating myself up has helped me get back into a more positive way of being –so much faster!
and thank you so much for your words re: Mind-Sifter —- that was one of the most fun shoots I’ve ever had — have NEVER worked with such a dedicated group of people. sooooo grateful to have had that experience. I hope there are many more shoots with you guys ❤
A beautiful post, cous. I’ll never forget the first time I heard a man in the LA industry casually refer to an actress as “TV-ugly”. And you’re so right about the horrible, violent self-talk. I’m trying really hard to be okay with middle age and a very different body, but it’s so easy to give up — almost as a passive aggressive gesture of contempt towards my own (heavy) self.
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