It’s been a couple weeks now since I’ve decided to get back on track with my weight loss, and while I’ve been on this exciting downturn (as of Thursday morning, I’m about a half pound from 45 lbs. lost), I’ve had excellent help, thanks to some books I’ve been reading about meditation and making the break from old habits.
Last year, I decided to focus on examining the connections I’ve made between emotions and eating, and though I have identified triggers, I hadn’t identified ways to start behaving differently. But the books, by Pema Chodron, focus on meditation and have given me strategies to add to the prayer, journaling and general self-examination I’ve been employing.
I have encountered meditation in the past, and the impression I got was that you drop everything, get seated, stay still, and somehow you get to some relaxed state that allows you to leave your worries behind. But what I’ve read this year is a bit more pragmatic. Chodron says to just try to be in the present–not in your thoughts, and not in pursuit of some magical state. She acknowledges that you can’t really turn off your thoughts, and if any thoughts waft on by, acknowledge them, explore them as needed, and then let them go, returning back to a focus on the present.
A lightbulb went off in my head to hear that I am not my thoughts, and my thoughts don’t have to stick around me forever. Up until now, I have been held hostage by my thoughts, with food as a nice diversion from the negativity I subject myself to. But a central thread in Chodron’s work is that we should have compassion for ourselves–during meditation, in trying to stay the course, but also in general when it comes to our feelings and ourselves.
Looking back over my life, I can say that I haven’t really addressed myself with compassion. I’ve written about my struggles with perfectionism; compassion was never part of my path to being perfect. Although I celebrated my weight loss victories, compassion wasn’t present when I slipped. Pity for myself and frustration with myself took its place, and it had the power to send me into a tailspin for weeks.
Compassion wasn’t there when I wanted to explore being more comfortable socially. In fact, I’ve been wishing I could be someone else, someone more dynamic, more outgoing. I obsessed over my weaknesses and didn’t show myself compassion by focusing on my strengths instead. And because I was low on compassion for myself, it’s not a leap to say that I’ve been low on compassion for others, the compassion that would have encouraged me to focus on people’s capacity for good, rather than fear the worst of them.
I’ve gotten to a point where I can’t beat myself up anymore for not being extroverted. I’ve gotten to a point where compassion with myself is the one thing I haven’t tried to come to terms with who I am. Compassion would mean telling myself it’s OK when something doesn’t go perfectly, because I’m not perfect. Compassion would mean I don’t attack myself when I’m not being courageous, but rather I stop and try to understand what caused me to stop in my tracks and then seek the courage and comfort I need from God.
I’m mentioning all this about compassion because I encourage you to examine your own life and consider how compassionate you have been to yourself. Has your negativity toward yourself roared loudly in your ears when you’ve overeaten at a meal, or gained weight during the week? Have you been beating yourself up over life’s struggles, with food as the ringside coach that gives you a quick pep talk before you go back to fighting the good fight of your life? With tenderness and compassion toward ourselves, it’s easier to determine which strategies will heal our hurts and allay our fears with the most respect, so we no longer need food to be a force that motivates us to keep going when we know we are facing challenges that typically knock us down. Adding love for yourself to your arsenal of weight loss strategies just might become the most powerful tool you have.