Right now I am enjoying my last few hours in Las Vegas and then we’ll be on our way back to Boston (well, provided we don’t run into any crazy weather-related delays). I can’t wait to update you all about this trip, but in the meantime I have one more guest post for you from a blogger who participated in my Healthy Holiday Challenge this year. With my recent post on becoming more body-oriented in my counseling work and personal life, I really loved what she has been learning about being mindful of her own body and needs. Enjoy!
Hi, I’m Kelsa from Kelsa On The Run. I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, and what I’m going to share with you today is purely from my personal experience and my personal opinion. But it is something I wholeheartedly believe. Becki invited me to do a guest post on her blog and I was/am ecstatic! She is such a great writer, and such a great person, so this is really an honor. I took part in the Healthy Holiday Challenge Becki recently held. This was the first time I took part in a challenge hosted by a blogger. It was a great experience! If you get the chance to do something similar I highly suggest it. It was great to connect with people over a common goal, and the accountability was a good thing for me.
My weight fluctuated during the challenge, and ultimately I was one pound lighter at the end of the challenge than at the beginning. I have to admit that at first I was disappointed by my minuscule weight loss. I felt like I had worked so hard and deprived myself of so much, and therefore the number on the scale should have been much lower than it was. When I was honest with myself, however, I had to admit that I hadn’t worked as hard or deprived myself of as much as I would like to believe. My results were relative to my effort, and I really couldn’t ask for any more of my body than that. I realized that I can look at how “little” I lost, or look at the fact that I lost weight rather than gained weight. During the holiday season, full of stress and food and more food, not gaining weight is a big deal. So I decided to take the positive view of things and rather than give up, keep going. That decision has launched me into a whole new world of discovery.
One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t make yourself lose weight. Sure, you can manipulate your calories and add in more exercise, but ultimately your body decides. Now that thought can be very depressing, or it can be very freeing. I personally have found peace in this new way of thinking. It’s been amazing to realize how remarkable my body is. If you sit for a minute and really think about all the things your body does, many of them without you consciously telling it to, it will blow your mind. As amazing as our bodies are, though, we so often treat them as if they are just plain dumb. We try to control our bodies, we try to force healthy food on them. Don’t get me wrong, healthy food is a very good thing, but I believe when you force it on your body it’s self defeating.
Our bodies know what they are doing. We have built in alarms that tell us when we’re hungry and when we’ve had enough to eat. When we need a certain nutrient, our bodies are drawn towards foods that will provide it. Our bodies give us with a rush of endorphins as a reward for exercising, and they provide us with pain as a warning that something is wrong. Our bodies know what we need, the key is listening to what they have to say.
In our culture, with fast food, refined sugars, preservatives, and over sized portions; it has become harder to hear what our bodies our saying. Dieting, binge eating, eating disorders, and even our wide variety of food choices don’t help the matter either. We listen to the clamor of everything outside of us, all the while our bodies are dying to be heard (in some cases, literally). I believe if we can learn to listen to our bodies, weight loss and health will flow naturally. It still won’t be easy much of the time, but it is certainly easier than trying to force our bodies into health.
Learning to listen to your body is not an easy process. You have to not eat until you feel that uncomfortable feeling of hunger. You also have to learn a new way of eating. You have to slow down and savor your food, erase distractions while you are eating, and generally feel like a terrible person for shutting people out while you focus on your food. It has been an interesting process for me. I’ve felt a little awkward at times and have wondered if people are judging the way I eat. It has been good for me though. I feel so much more in tune with my body, I have more energy, and I feel better in general.
I’m learning that if I’m listening to my body, I can’t worry about what other people think of me or say to me. Just like our culture of food obsession, other people are clamoring outside of me with all the “rules” to eating. But the clamoring is fading, and my body is becoming easier to hear. I’ve thrown out the “rules” to eating, and the freedom is amazing. I no longer spend a large portion of my day thinking about food. Less and less am I thinking about the “time” to eat. If I am truly hungry and my body wants a certain food I usually eat it. I do realize, however, that in most cases it’s a certain nutrient my body needs rather than a particular food. Often I choose a healthier option that will provide the same nutrient. But sometimes I eat the particular food I’m craving, and as long as I’m truly hungry there’s no need for guilt.
I’ve dealt with fears through this whole process:
“What if I don’t eat enough and become anorexic?”
“What if I lose weight too quickly and my body goes into starvation mode?”
“What if I don’t get all the nutrients I need, and in the proper ratio?”
“What if I eat when I’m not truly hungry?”
“What if I can’t tell that I’m satisfied and I eat too much?”
Anytime you are doing something good for yourself there will be those voices of fear. I keep claiming truth though. I keep reminding myself that I can trust my body. I will mess up at times, but as long as I keep working to listen to my body always, and as long as I keep fighting the urges to eat when I’m not truly hungry, I’ll be okay. I don’t have to be able to say that I’m working hard and depriving myself, but just that I’m loving my body and listening to it.
I’m losing weight, which is great. But I’m also learning to be good to my body, and that is the best part. I know if I’m good to my body, it will be good to me. This is the only body I get, and I want it to feel good and work properly. I want to enjoy food, and to eat good clean foods because I love my body, not because I’m trying to manipulate it.
In Captivating, one of my favorite books, John and Stasi Eldredge say this: “So the choice a woman makes is not to conjure beauty, but to let her defenses down. To choose to set aside her normal means of survival and just let her heart show up. Beauty comes with it.”
What is your normal means of survival? Is it emotional eating, dieting, an eating disorder? Any of these things are an attempt at control of your body, to conjure beauty, and a way to hide and feel safe. So I encourage you to ask yourself what it is you’re hiding behind. Show your body some love and set whatever it is aside. As you allow your body the freedom to speak to you, you will find beauty and peace. After all, that’s what healthy living is all about.