Is Your Self-Care Sabotaging Your Weight-Loss?
Exercise. Avoiding sugar. Green smoothies. These are brilliant weight-loss tools. However, just like exhaustion and high cholesterol tend to be symptoms and not a diagnosis, consistently making sound nutritional choices and moving your body are “symptoms” of self-care.
When working with my clients, the self-care basics of bio-individuality nutrition, exercise and manicures and massages helps to re-organize depleted energy, frustration and weight-gain. They start to feel better, lose a couple of pounds and then BAM, life happens. A party or a depressing day results in the infamous getting “off-track.” No smoothies, no gym, and no resisting the cookies.
Logically, you know weight-loss occurs when staying “on-track” consistently. But, emotions trump dieting rules. That is until you shift from organization to renovation mode. Renovating your life for weight-loss means restructuring weight and food from ruling your self-worth. To accomplish this, you must move into deeper, more strategically designed self-care.
While each of my clients lives are unique, there are three main self-care themes that I consistently see in them and others who have successfully lost weight and not lived in fear of food or gaining it back. We are a small 5% minority so I suggest taking great notes.
The first theme of deep self-care is to reframing your weight not as a problem but as a doorway into a lighter, better designed life. I’ve never met a client with a self-diagnosed food problem who has a food problem. When I first started working with Sarah*, her entire body was in pain, she could barely stay awake at a teaching job she loved and she wanted to lose 30 pounds. After changing her diet, her pain and bloating disappeared while her energy and clarity increased. I asked, “What does your weight-loss goal want from you?” She knew she had to start focusing on her self but wasn’t sure how. But this curiosity helped curb the 30 years of wicked self-judgment of her weight. Most importantly, it also provided space for the deepest form of self-care: self-compassion. Not to mention she received some brilliant answers.
The second theme of deep self-care is space. Answers, cooking and the energy to exercise don’t happen if your schedule is full. To create space, you must create boundaries around your time. For Sarah, this meant leaving school two days a week when school was out (she previously stayed to do extra work) and opting not to lead a big school project in 2012. We also worked on taking a personal day once a month. At home, she started asking for support from her daughter and husband in cooking and grocery shopping. And with her extended family, she stopped being the go-to problem solver. Her sugar cravings plummeted and her free time and energy increased. Sarah was then able to go to the dance classes she enjoyed and even clean up a room in her home to start being creative and crafty again. By researching her “shoulds” versus “wants” in her life, it became clear her body was matching a life weighed down with obligations. There were still “off-track” meals, but Sarah quickly found herself back to her basic self-care routine (she was craving the freshness of green smoothies to match her more airy life).
Now all of this didn’t happen for Sarah over night. Simplifying life is a complex process. Underlying energy and time leaks is the third theme of deep self-care: knowing you are enough. Most women who overeat have a Vitamin D (as in Deservability) deficiency. We all want to be recognized, loved and accepted. It’s in our biology, down to the oxytocin that relaxes us and releases when we connect and bond with others.
However, when you overextend yourself by working extra hours and thinking you are only worthy of attention and acceptance by being an over-the-top, back-bending friend, Mom, or daughter, cookies and ice-cream become your favorite people to hang with. They ask nothing more of you. Being a people pleasing version of yourself leaves you bloated with resentment and will eat at you forever (like toxic mold), putting weight back on as protection against a world where your true self feels vulnerable.
While Sarah has lost seven pounds (and counting) in three months and no longer lets her weight or food rule her life (she isn’t even swept up in the New Year’s dieting frenzy with all the women at work), most importantly she is gaining a deep self-respect and love by trusting that her 8-4 teaching skills are enough, and that a great mother shares one of the most powerful lessons with her daughters: You deserve time and space for yourself. Her self-care foundation is being renovated with material that can withstand any weathering, including other’s judgments.
Feeling like you are enough is a process. It’s something I practice even after losing 30 pounds myself. Starting to experiment with being enough in one area of your life will have a ripple effect throughout all parts of your life. My favorite way for clients to practice feeling like enough is trying to buy less stuff. When you go on a retreat, to visit relatives or even out to dinner, practice leaving the bells and whistles that distract from the real you at home.
Remember your process informs your destination. With deep self-care engrained into your weight-loss goal, you’ll arrive at the wardrobe you’ve been dreaming of with a unique radiance that only you, as the designer of your life, could have tailor-made.
Ali Shapiro is a 20-year cancer survivor, regular NBC Philadelphia contributor and works with individuals and groups to show them how to simplify their relationship to food by simplifying their diet and life.
Photo credit: Teresa Robinson