Archive for the ‘affirmations/in-CAN-tations’ Category

Treating your body as an equal

I was listening to an audio recording with wellness coach Jena LaFlamme, who posited, among other things, that in order for you to be successful in your weight release efforts, you have to learn to “treat your body as an equal.”

While I was still trying to figure out what that even meant, she went onto to point out we tend to blame our body for it’s failure to comply with the mind’s demands (i.e., to be thinner, to be healthier, to be stronger). That we try to force our body to do what we want it to do. That we, all to often, feel betrayed for our body for failing to meet our expectations.

Although I had been listening all along, when she used that word – the ugly b-word – I sat up and took notice.

How many times have I used that word in the last six months?

More importantly, how often have I said out loud (or thought without speaking, but that my body could hear nonetheless) that I just couldn’t trust my body.

Isn’t it funny that when my body is doing what I want it to do, I take full credit, but when it’s not (or rather, when I’m not) I blame my body. It only makes me feel marginally better that that’s the way it tends to go for most people. That is, we, as humans, tend to take all the credit for the successes and shirk all of the responsibility (that we can) for the failures.

I hadn’t realized however – that is, until I heard this recording – that I did the same with my body.

My willpower got the credit. My body, as if it weren’t actually a part of me, got the blame.

Pretty interesting, huh?

Pretty sad.

So, in the interest of facilitating my weight loss efforts and minimizing my tendency towards negative self-talk I am willing to accept the fact that there is two of us: the brain (which houses the willpower) and the body.

And I am also willing to entertain the notion that we need a relationship intervention.

And that means that I – that is, my brain, my willpower, my conscious thought (or whatever you want to call it) – is going to have to learn to treat my body as an equal. And that means that I am going to have to start listening to, start trusting, and stop betraying her.

I know that earlier in this post I said that I often felt betrayed by my body. So, if my body is the betrayer, then why would I have to work on not betraying her?

Well, when I started thinking of my body as an equal – even preliminarily – I realized that I (i.e., my mind) has been a worse friend to my body than my body has ever been to me. I’m the one that made the decisions to eat junk, to drink alcohol, to exercise to the point of injury (or not at all), to deprive us of sleep, etc. You name it – with the exception of a few truly dangerous and disgusting habits – I’ve done it.

And what has she done? Well, she’s got me where I want to go and she’s – thankfully – stored fat to protect me from all of the stress of my bad decision making. (For those of you who have been following my efforts at weight release, you probably realize how hard it was for me to actually put that last sentence into writing!)

So, in the interest of creating a true relationship with my body, who is my equal as opposed to being my possession that I can neglect, abuse, or blame at will, I will do my level best to listen, trust, honor, safeguard, nurture, and love.

One of the quickest and most effective ways to create lasting change in your life is through the use of positive affirmations – affirmations are statements that are positive, have an emotional intensity, and are written in the present tense. I will say these these – both morning and night – until, eventually, they’ll be true:

  • I listen to my body
  • I trust my body
  • I honor my body
  • I safeguard my body
  • I nurture my body
  • I love my body

So, people are begining to ask…

How did I do it?

This is actually a long story and I’ve been trying to figure out how to parse it. I could just give you diet plan (that is, what and how much I ate), but it’s the same one that I have been following for the last two years, more or less. I could also just give you the bit of free advice that was given to me. But if I did that, I’m afraid that you wouldn’t get the full impact of the change.

Essentially, there have been a lot of psychological changes that I have undergone in the last month that have been highly related to my identity.

Again, as someone who is immersed in the study of social psychology, I knew that one of the strongest drives or desires that people have is be consistent. This is what’s going on when people regain their weight, when lottery winners are broke two years later, or why people end up in the same types of abusive relationships over and over. They see themselves as fat, they see themselves as poor, or they see themselves as someone who is deserving of abuse. There is a whole theoretical perspective that is based on the idea that individuals create events to confirm their realities. I have contributed to this literature (which is sort of sad if you think about the fact that it took me this long to apply it to my own life)!

It is true that it’s been a long time since I’ve viewed myself as fat. But I did see myself as someone who struggled with their weight–someone who happened to be a size 12 on most days and a size 10 on good days. And as long as I saw myself this way, I created events to confirm that identity, or that view of myself.

So before anything changed about my weight, I created a new identity. More importantly, before anything would change, I had to create a new identity!

Although I knew, academically, about the construction and the power of possible selves (and even their relationship to weight!), I had never thought about using those seemingly dry social psychological concepts as a means to bootstrap change. Those days are over!

I essentially used an exercise that was presented by author and coach, Loren Slocum. Loren essentially had us write down several positive adjectives and nouns related to several domains of our lives the way we wanted them to be. Not how they actually were, but how we envisioned them! That’s very important.

So, for instance, she had us write down a list of nouns and adjectives associated with our fitness identity and them put them together in a possible identity. Although I had a page, I eventually decided on “lean, strong, sexy, minx.” And everyday, I looked at that sentence and repeated it several times: I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx. I also varied my intonation: I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx; I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx; I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx; I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx; I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx; I am a lean, strong, sexy, minx!

Now, did I feel like a lean, strong, sexy minx when I started? Not really. Actually, I think it’s fair to say absolutely not! But now, not only do I see myself as a lean, strong, sexy, minx, I also see myself as a lean, strong, sexy, six! You may think it’s silly, but this is my story and it worked for me!

If, by chance, you do decide to come up with your own fitness identity, I would love to hear it! Or, if you have a better strategy to motivate positive identity shifts, bring them on!

p.s. I have more to say about people who ask you how you did something only tell interrupt you to tell you why it’s not going to work, but I’ll save that for another day! 🙂