Updated: Jan 8
Freedom from Fat...and More
Most people, especially in the western world, struggle with these issues.
Pudgy. Husky. Fat. Obese.
Many of us have these labels burnt into us from others since our teens.
Guilt. Embarrassment. Shame. Failure.
And we deal with these emotions for decades if not all of our lives.
Like many of you, I've suffered this same journey.
I was told to clear my plate as a kid and was offered chocolate 5-ways during family TV time. Then I was dragged along to Weight Watchers as a young teen, with my parents offering themselves as a glimpse into my unhealthy, unchangeable adulthood.
Self-image due to weight was almost as traumatic as my self-image when my reserved, quiet childhood was deemed "not normal." This combination haunts me to this day.
As an adult, I tried Weight Watchers, Atkins, other fad diets, and tricks to motivate me and boost my willpower to choose good over bad, healthy over unhealthy, normal over not normal.
As a result, I lost 20-40 pounds more times than I can recall, only to gain it back and more every time. Finally, my body and mind became exhausted by my incessant failures.
The shame oozed into my whole life. My self-talk was ultra-negative. My confidence in all facets of my life was shattered.
Finally, a few years ago, drained, I reached out to a therapist to help me rid the word "failure" from my brain. My therapist calmed my mind, dispelled cultural norms around weight and common diet programs, and helped me find my true self. She guided me onto the road of repair - a road I've only recently realized was different from the one I'd initially sought.
My therapist was awesome - a great listener, inquisitor, and supporter. But she could not achieve my objectives alone.
That same month that I sat in her office for the first time, as my retirement approached, I began to rekindle my teenage passion for writing to cobble together my personal stories into a memoir. I began to realize a common lifelong thread of introversion which had also subjected me to the same emotions:
Guilt. Embarrassment. Shame. Failure.
As I put these stories together, I learned about introversion. At the same time, I was starting to change my relationship with food and diet, I began to realize my low-key, introspective nature was not a curse but a blessing. I discovered my own strengths and that my dreams were possible without being someone I was not.
Three years ago these two lines of self-discovery became intertwined in my psyche. My life was changing.
But this process did not leave me a svelte 160 pounds. What it did do is leave me with a lot more self-confidence. I was finding freedom from fat, not by being thin, but by learning about myself, discovering my strengths, respecting my choices, and finding a bit of freedom from societal norms.
Since that initial transformation in 2018, I've continued an introspective journey as an introvert advocate, an avid journaler, and a student of self-discovery. I've taken classes on Authenticity and Mindfulness and recently completed a provocative one-month journaling exercise by Mari McCarthy and CreateWriteNow.
All have combined to help me put my self over food. I still love carbs and chocolate, but I'm aiming to listen to my body (am I hungry? what does my body want?) and be more mindful of how my choices align with my body's needs. I journal about my plans for the day and practice self-compassion and Positive Self Talk in my reflective journals.
Focusing on the Right Prize
If my objective is weight loss, I've realized I cannot control my yo-yo journey of happiness and sadness which thoroughly depleted my energy. But if my objective is to flourish, then I need only be mindful and compassionate.
I like to be in control of my choices, so I try to pause and consider what my body is saying. If I do, then my body and mind are aligned. I remain in control, happy, and comfortable.
Even as I'm writing this post, I'm reminded of the pain of the diet culture. I had to put real pants on for the first time in weeks and the tightening grip they have on my waist tries to draw me back to guilt and shame. But then I'm reminded that path has never provided salvation. Indeed, if I do relax and practice self-compassion I become more mindful and when I'm more aware, I do tend to pause and consider my choices and how my body feels when I do this.
I started this journey to lose weight. Instead, I've found much more. I'm losing the demons inside my head. I'm putting the social stigmas of weight and introversion into their rightful place.
Without that weight literally dragging me down, I'm able to rise above, embrace my true self with confidence, and pursue my passions and dreams with a vigor I never thought possible.
If you too struggle - with weight or introversion or both - I urge you to find support (family, friends, therapist...) to help:
strip away social stigmas
learn truths about weight, diet culture, and introversion
discover your true strengths and champion who you are
find confidence through control of your choices with mindfulness and self-compassion.
I continue to learn. I still have cravings but my internal dialogue is supportive and encouraging, helping me to purge shame and failure from my life.
Thank you so much to my therapist and to Mari for both of their programs and care.
I wish you all luck on your own journey.
If you'd like to learn more about my journey, my lessons, and my recovery, check out the award-winning memoir, In Search of Courage: An Introvert's Story.
“I couldn’t stop reading to find out the next roadblock he faced along his journey and how he coped with it.”
-Mike Kowis, 4-time award-winning author
Courage is available in eBook for $2.99 or I'll send you a signed paperback copy for only $11.99!
Click on the cover to see more and order your copy today!
Guest Blogger: Daisy Simonis
5 Techniques to Connect with Anyone (without changing who you are)