It was a sweltering day. We were oozing from the humidity. I asked Betty to join me at the lake. She looked at me with a deflated air and said, "I don't go to the beach. Look at me. I'm not comfortable in a bathing suit." I was astonished and deeply saddened. This young woman was in her thirties. Her preoccupation with body image was life limiting. She denied herself and her body the pleasure of cooling water on a roasting day. She denied herself the soft breeze off the lake against her face. I wanted to shout:
- Please stop postponing your engagement with life until you "lose ten pounds"!
- Please stop being manipulated by a vicious media that would have you make your primary identity the numbers on a scale!
- Please stop participating in a disempowering culture that would rather have you obsessing about your appearance than developing your talents and using them to make your community a happier, wiser and healthier place!
Please, do the following before you make "losing ten pounds" your main focus:
1. Reawaken your curiosity. Identify something you'd like to learn more about "just because you feel like it." If you've lost interest in life, that is a bigger "happiness" issue than your weight. Sign up for the mailing lists of all your local adult education centers and art centers to get some ideas. Go to the library or a local bookstore and roam around in a section you usually would not find yourself in. Ask yourself "what would I be doing with this body of mine if I lost ten pounds that I'm not doing now?" Make a list. Do something on that list now. Start right away.
2. Reawaken a connection to your body as a source of delight. Use your your five senses. Buy yourself some simple sensual pleasures.
- a single flower
- a bottle of aroma therapy oil or a scented candle
- some great bath salts
- a silky scarf or soft lap blanket
- a beautiful poster, card or piece of art to feast your eyes upon
3. Change your inner and outer dialog. Don't talk about weight and appearance...your own or anyone else's (except with a health care professional.) Stop talking about diets. Catch yourself being nasty to yourself inside your own head. This will be a challenging practice and will take a while to master. When others attempt to engage you in this sort of conversation change the subject. List five things you are very glad your body can still do for you, just as it is.
4. Use medicinal music. Make two music mixes, a happy song mix and a soothing music mix. Ask others what their favorite songs are. Your soothing music mix should be instrumentals, without words, to give the verbal part of your brain a rest. Feed your body with the mix it needs at any given time. Your nervous system and heart rate will entrain with the music, because that is one of the great things bodies do for us, no matter what we weigh.
5. Let your heart be your main ambassador, not your appearance. Connect with other people. Write thank you notes. Make a phone call. Join a book club. Take a class. Make some dinners, freeze them, and give them as gifts. Find a good therapist if you need one.
Then of course, go ahead and eat healthier and exercise more too.
But please, first: Stop postponing your life. Go in the water!
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What do you think? What would you add to this list?