Image from the Dove Real Beauty Campaign.
I received an email today from Anna at Curvy Yoga. Note that I am not name-dropping, I’m an anonymous recipient of her newsletter list. Anyway, she just put out a new little seven-minute video that addresses this question: Can You Accept Your Body & Want To Lose Weight?
Because this is right up my (dorky) alley, I clicked right away!… and ultimately, was disappointed to find that Anna (smart woman) tells us to figure it out for ourselves. I was really hoping for a quick-fix, but when I reflected, the answer was clear to me. If I love myself completely- I mean, if I really practice what I preach and say, there is nothing wrong with me, there is nothing lacking… then what hypocrisy it is to add on, silently, “but I still want to lose X pounds?”
In the past few years I’ve been working with a new method for my body image issues. I don’t diet anymore. I’ve stopped counting calories. I’ve stopped obsessively using website food calculators to see if I can “afford” to have one more bag of Smart Food cheese popcorn.
Instead, I’ve been working with Geneen Roth‘s 7 Eating Guidelines, which are:
- Eat when you are hungry.
- Eat sitting down in a calm environment.
- Eat without distractions.
- Eat what your body wants.
- Eat until you are satisfied.
- Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
- Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.
If I manage to really follow these, then I end up eating pretty well anyway- there’s just less room for overindulgence.
There’s a counterpart to the eating, though, which is the physical activity component of weight loss: exercise. I came to exercise (including my first brush with yoga) as a transaction to counteract overindulgence. You know how this goes. I ate too much, now I have to go to the gym. Or, yogi(ni)s, Appetizer AND dessert? Hot yoga tomorrow.
This, friends, is a form of abuse. Not just physical- overindulge and then tear your body up physically- but mental as well. I ate too much, now I have to be punished. Consider the language around the whole process. “I was good last night, I don’t have to go to the gym.” “I’m being bad today, I ordered a margarita.” Good and bad? Calories have nothing to do with morality!
So I decided I was done with the diet, done with the binge-and-gym cycle, done with even weighing myself. I had been working with these concepts for a few months and was feeling pretty good about the process, when a guy I don’t know very well made a passing comment. “JEEZ,” he said. “You look GREAT! You have lost so much weight!”
This had two effects. First, it set off a trigger for me. Hey, that voice in my head said, you HAVE lost weight. You should lose more! Crazy but true: I made instant plans to resubscribe to my food diary website and amp up my exercise routine. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and I realized I was dealing with ego. Powerful habits (or samskara, if we’re being yogic).
The second effect was less habitual, and, I think, more interesting. I realized that, although his intentions were probably kind, this man was sending me a message that there had been something wrong with me before- that I needed to lose weight in order to deserve praise. And then I recalled every time I ever said a similar thing to a friend. Ugh. Never again.
So, friends, this is my (renewed) promise to you: I will not comment on your weight gain, or your weight loss. I will not talk about how yoga can help you lose weight, either through increased mindfulness or physical challenges. I am striving to remember not to (even jokingly) make comments about “Buns of Steel” in Utkatasana pose. I will not treat your practice as an anecdote to your big holiday dinner.
Instead, I will do everything I can to remind you that you are lovable, worthy of praise, all-around awesome. That you deserve your own love. That EVERYONE- models, and skinny yoga teachers, and that gorgeous girl on the mat next to you that you’ve been hating for the last hour- is feeling insecure. You think she’s perfect, but she wants bigger boobs, or a rounder butt, or whatever. Isn’t it ridiculous? Isn’t it sad? Enough already. Let’s stop obsessing over the flesh containers we’re wearing and see if we think and talk about something more interesting.
If this topic interests you and you’d like to read more, please check out Eat The Damn Cake. She’s brilliant and hilarious.