Setting out on a journey of learning, discovery, or change isn’t always what we think it will be and it doesn’t always look or feel like we thought it would. The process of change isn’t always pretty. It can be hard, messy and not much fun. But on the other side, someone altogether new waits for us to inhabit her.
I’ve been thinking about butterflies and the butterfly effect. It turns out the butterfly effect is less about the transformation of caterpillars to butterflies, and more about the compound effect.
From caterpillar to butterfly
A caterpillar transforming into a butterfly is an interesting process. It is ugly and utterly amazing.
There are so many parallels in the journey a caterpillar takes as it becomes a butterfly to our weight loss experience. There is a lot of eating involved, hormones, discomfort, and ultimately, freedom at the end of it.
Let’s talk a little about science. Caterpillars eat and eat compulsively. They can’t stop. I bet if we could ask them they would say it feels like it’s out of their control — just like you sometimes feel, right?
The juvenile hormone suppresses the caterpillar’s transformation process in order to allow the caterpillar to keep eating, stockpiling the raw materials that will later be used to build the butterfly during metamorphosis.
This is similar to how humans stockpile fuel for later, right? Our own hormone, insulin, suppresses our body’s fat burning so that stockpiling can continue.
Once the caterpillar has eaten and grown enough, and is safely inside of that chrysalis, the juvenile hormone steps out of the way to allow the metamorphosis to commence.
In comes the caspases, the enzymes that dissolve the caterpillar. You read that right, it actually dissolves the muscles and the other organs into kind of like a “protein soup” that can then be used to build the butterfly.
The caterpillar dissolves into “mush.” I assume that is a pretty uncomfortable situation for the caterpillar.
Then come the imaginal discs, which each contain a genetic recipe for a different part of the butterfly, like the legs, wings, and eyes — kind of like our stem cells. Don’t you love that they are called imaginal discs? I believe our imaginations are so crucial to the weight loss process.
What is metamorphosis?
There are two different definitions of metamorphosis that I discovered.
The first is the definition that applies to butterflies and other insects: “Metamorphosis is the process of transformation from an immature form into an adult form in two or more distinct stages.”
I love that this definition uses the words “immature form” to an “adult form.” Weight loss is just a shift in the control from our toddler brains to our adult brains. You know that weight loss is just us shifting the control from our toddler brains to our adult brains right?
The other definition is: “A change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one by natural or supernatural means.”
Changing the nature of a person into a completely different one by supernatural means. Yep. That is my brand of weight loss. Changing your nature, supernaturally.
Why is change so painful?
It often feels difficult to plan our food in advance and follow that plan, even when we don’t want to. It can feel terrible to experience anxiety and not eat in response. Listening to our bodies and keeping our commitments to ourselves can be hard. When we do these things we are turning into “mush” so that we can rebuild ourselves with our imaginal discs.
The “mush” is necessary. This is the stuff your future self is made of.
Sometimes in the process of change, things seem like they get worse before they get better. When my clients realize that their own thinking is what is creating their feelings and driving their eating, they feel overwhelmed rather than free.
They focus on the life that they think is waiting for them when the scale finally says the right number and as they experience the discomfort of change along the way, they think something has gone wrong.
I had a client who had spent much of her life obsessing over food. She wanted nothing more than to stop this chatter and feel some freedom and space open up in her brain. She also wanted to lose weight, but the food chatter was disruptive, disheartening and felt impossible to change.
Changing this pattern for her felt like turning to “mush” in order to rebuild. It felt like it got worse before it got better because it meant letting go of all of those rules and restrictions and learning to listen to her body rather than outside measurements. That felt terrible.
But, as she learned to slowly let go and turn inward, she learned she had immense inner wisdom and strength. By letting go of what she believed was control, she was finally able to find peace AND lose weight.
Destruction helps achieve real change
It’s hard to describe what real weight loss, achieved by changing your brain, looks like. I feel like the dissolving into “mush” is a pretty good depiction.
This quote by Cynthia Occelli about the magic of nature also describes it really well:
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
That’s kind of what this sort of weight loss looks like: destruction of who you have been, of the way you have spoken to yourself, the way you have treated yourself and the habits you have created that don’t serve you.
And then the metamorphosis looks like the creation of a body you love, of a self-concept that is fueled by gratitude and compassion, of a life that reflects your regard for yourself.
From mush to a butterfly. From seed to a tree. From disempowered to free.
Reflecting on your metamorphosis
So I want you to think about the discomfort of your change.
- Make a list or write a story of what feels uncomfortable right now.
- What destruction are you experiencing on your journey?
- What feels so terrible it has you thinking something may have gone wrong?
Then, let’s activate your imagination here:
- What do you think this current destruction is creating?
- What do you imagine might come from this discomfort?
- What beauty might you build from this “mush”?
This kind of thought work is the key to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.