Making space along the way
I want you to close your eyes for a minute and tune in to your body. If you are already on a weight loss journey…think about what you are doing – all of the actions you are taking and not taking, what you want, where you are headed…and notice how you feel. Open or tight? Or maybe you are thinking about getting started or telling yourself you need to – notice how you feel when you do? Open or tight?
For the majority of you my guess is there was a tightness or a tension that showed up in your body. I am talking about those of you who approach this process with a sense of bracing yourself for the misery, steeling yourself to the difficulty that lies ahead, standing firm, holding tight to your rules, no exceptions, rigidity, all or nothing, white knuckling.
For many of us, that is what we do. We start a plan or program and we hold on tight. Sheer determination driving us at a punishing pace. We tense up. We fight. We battle. We push. We are unforgiving and intolerant of ourselves. We end up at some point a tiny tightly wound ball of deprivation that has to unleash somehow. Sometimes it looks like a weekend all you can eat…sometimes it’s just a meal of whatever you haven’t been allowing yourself. And often it is us calling it quits before we get to where we want to go.
So I want to offer you a counterintuitive solution…to make space along the way. We are going to talk about making space, opening up and relaxing to aid your weight loss rather than tightening up, buckling down, and stressing. So here are the five things to make space for:
1. Make space for it to be messy.
We come into this with dreams and expectations that it will go smoothly. That we have found the perfect plan or program and therefore it’s going to go perfectly. But has that ever happened before? I don’t know where we got this idea of perfection because I have never seen any version of it with myself or any of my clients. I know why we dreamed it up though. Because if we have a perfect journey, without hiccups, we won’t have to feel as much discomfort and that is our brain’s primary purpose. To avoid discomfort.
But it won’t ever go smoothly. There is no perfect plan or a perfect execution of that plan. Your toddler brain will have tantrums. Daily at least. Maybe multiple times a day. As you shift from food as your escape hatch from emotions, to learning to let the emotions come up and be felt and experienced, it will be messy. As you learn to plan and make decisions with your adult brain about how to take care of you and what to eat…it will feel hard.
You will feel like eating all of the things in large quantities, even though you know that doesn’t align with your goals and isn’t driven by love-and want to beat yourself up about it heavily. Your weight loss will not be on the timeline you want it to be. You will not wake up tomorrow and be at your goal weight with a life full of sunshine and rainbows. It will go slow, and then speed up, and then stop and then go and then slow…it will be messy.
Once upon a time when I had little kids, and we lived in a little house, our family room was also the toy room. It was where we lived, played, gathered, watched tv, took naps and ate half the time. And it was ALWAYS messy. I mean I had created an organizational system where I had bins with handmade labels and pictures so my kids who were too little to read could put things where they were supposed to go.
But my kids didn’t want the toys to be put away in my neat and tidy little bins. They wanted them out, all over the floor, mixed together, on the couch, in a pile, paused in action so they could run outside and play and come back to exactly what they were playing before. So the perfection of neat and tidy bins was a fantasy, not a reality. Sure we put away the toys at the end of the day many days. And my brain that wanted order somewhere in my life smiled. But the rest of the days, we went to bed having played hard and left the mess…and my heart smiled.
The point is, the messy means we are living. Perfectly orderly playrooms are not places where kids actually play and have fun and learn and experiment. We want to be able to have the space to experiment and live and learn on our journey. We want to make space for the mess, knowing that it means we are DOING IT.
2. Make space for who you are right now.
I was just thinking as I was driving today about all the things I am. And I had this revolutionary train of thought. For so much of my life, I wanted to be different than I was-more sweet, bubbly, positive, or gentle. I wanted other people to describe me as someone who was nice and loves everyone. A person that no one would ever have an unkind thing to say about. I didn’t want to be loud, feisty, opinionated and skeptical. And today I realized that I have grown to want all those things about me rather than rejecting them.
Nothing against those of you who are sweet and bubbly and positive and gentle…I am not. I want my loud opinions…everyone knows where I stand. I want my feistiness-I don’t put up with crap…and I defend people I love and causes I care about fiercely. I want my skepticism…it drives me to really seek to understand and make wise decisions. It’s so refreshing to be in a place where I accept who I am, where I want to be who I am rather than wishing I was someone different.
We are always running away from ourselves in so many ways. We deny our current body-I hear my clients say things like “this is not what I’m supposed to look like” or even more painful than denial, we hate our current bodies for their shape and size. We don’t acknowledge who we are NOW because we are focused instead on who we once were or on who we want to be in the future. We are unwilling to be realistic about what we are currently capable of and why, and instead we have impossible expectations of what we should be able to do.
How could you make more space for who you are now? Accept what your current body is, what you are currently capable of, your characteristics and tendencies, the past that created you of the present. Wanting to be who you are now will not keep you from evolving. It is how you begin to engender the love fuel to power your journey.
3. Make space for skill building
Weight loss is not a you can or you can’t kinda thing. It’s a bunch of new skills we need to practice and improve at. Often we look at it as something we should just know how to do and do. We leave no space for practice and then end up quitting when we think we can’t do it well or right or at all.
We want to make space to practice some of these new skills like recognizing hunger and satiety, pausing when the desire to eat past hunger or eat off plan comes, riding the waves of discomfort, saying no to yourself, seeing the strengths not just the weaknesses, forgiveness, forward focus…and remind ourselves that we are practicing. We are repeating until we improve our proficiency. Perfection is not the goal. Improvement is. And that takes practice and time.
4. Make space for feelings
This is a GIANT piece of the pie chart of your weight loss journey. I have a client who is right in the middle of this process-she is letting go of using food as the tool to mask her painful feelings. And in the absence of food there are just…feelings. She is feeling all of the emotions come up that she has kept at bay with food. There are tears, and pain…but as she feels…she processes and releases that pain that has emerged. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. But it is necessary in order for us to learn how to navigate emotions without hiding them under a pile of food. A huge part of changing our eating and taking care of ourselves differently is making space for navigating our feelings.
One of my favorite concepts from a book I love called the Untethered Soul is the idea of relaxing behind an uncomfortable emotion. The language of relaxing behind it…I think because it is literally the opposite of what we normally want to do in the face of uncomfortable emotions, just intrigued me so much when I read it. And so I had to try it. When I feel an uncomfortable emotion and want to escape it and I tell myself to relax behind it instead…it reminds me to slow down, to zoom in to the feeling-look at it in front of me, experience it-and I don’t run.
5. Make space for taking care of you in your life
If figuring this out is always on the back burner and always usurped in priority by other things, you won’t make any headway toward your goals. Other things will keep butting in line in front of it. This process requires time and energy…those 2 things don’t just randomly happen…we have to make time and invest energy. I hear my clients all the time explaining away their ability to take action for themselves in this area because of the things that came up or are happening in their lives. But a magical window of time and an energy potion are not going to all of the sudden appear. We have to make time and invest the energy that is required to take care of ourselves.
So try something new. Try setting other things aside. Put them on the back burner instead. And put you up front. Learning how to take care of you in mind and body is what will lay the foundation to opening up your life to all the things. It is a small sacrifice now for a great reward in the future. You won’t just all of the sudden feel the burst of desire that will get you going. You have to create it and fan the flames, knowing you are building something great.
So make space for it to be messy, make space for who you are right now, make space for skill building, make space for your feelings, make space for taking care of you. If you don’t there won’t be any and you and the future that you want to create will get crowded out by everything else.
Best news friends…applications are open for my next Love First Weight Loss group-where we dive deep into how to make space for all of this with help and support and lots of time to practice. I’d love for you to join us! See you soon!