A new favorite show
I have recently been watching this show called Alone. Oh my goodness it’s crazy. People sign up to go live alone in the woods for an undetermined amount of time. They are dropped off in the middle of the mountain wilderness and the goal is to be the last person standing. They have a satellite phone so they can “tap out” at any point and they do periodic medical checks throughout the process. But if they are the last one left they win $500,000. A life changing amount of money.
This show is so interesting to me for so many reasons. When you are all alone outside and can only focus on your basic survival…it’s really interesting to see what matters. They are eating what they can hunt for, not for its taste but for its nutritional value. They rarely talk about whether or not it tastes good. The only time you hear them talking about how good food is when they haven’t eaten any protein for days.
To me this is evidence that we don’t need to expect that we will get to a place where we do not experience food pleasure at all in order to lose weight. I mean, we don’t want to get our only pleasure from food, we want to diversify our pleasure. Our bodies were designed to be satisfied by eating…even with sugar, the original or primitive mechanism in our brains that gets intense pleasure from sweet foods is there because in our hunter gatherer days-the sweetness was a signal that this food had high energy yields, and was important. So when our brains eat a bite of cake, our body thinks it is a really important food.
Numbers on a scale
It is also fascinating in the show how losing weight is their nemesis out in the wild. As the contestants struggle to find food and continue to expend lots of energy, they lose weight. If they lose too much weight, their health becomes an issue and they aren’t allowed to stay for medical reasons.
They are nervous to get on the scale and see how much weight they have lost. They want to see those numbers stay the same or go down in tiny increments. If in a week they have only lost .2lbs…they are overjoyed.
This is just a reminder to all of you that the numbers on the scale…only hold the meaning we give them. I have clients who get on the scale and see only a .2 loss in a week and they are so disappointed and frustrated. Because they see that .2 loss and interpret it differently than the contestants on Alone. They attribute a different meaning to the number.
I think it’s good to remember to look at our obstacles and stretch your mind to think of it from some different perspectives. When we have some wiggle room around our beliefs that are keeping us stuck-we see things from some different viewpoints…we have more space to be able to choose how we feel and show up in the face of those obstacles.
There was this one scene in this season that really hit home to me in my life and its particular landscape right now and so I wanted to share it with you just in case you may be needing the same reminder.
Mix of pleasure and pain
One of the contestants decided after really struggling to catch fish from the shore, that he was going to build a boat so that he could go offshore and catch bigger fish. He tested the boat and then he paddled out into the middle of the bay and was able to catch a fish. He was so happy. It was even sunny enough that he decided to go for a swim once he got back to shore. He stripped down and dived off of a log that was jutting out in the water like a diving board.
You can tell he is just having the best day. Spirits so high…so much hope for the possibilities of the future…feeling some confidence that he might win, super proud that he had built a boat. And then as he pulls himself from the water, he notices something just down the beach…he turns the camera in that direction and just down the beach, close enough that you can see the details and color of its fur…is a huge grizzly bear.
And it just hit me. This is life. This is actually how life works. We have beautiful moments sprinkled in with challenging ones. We think that we are supposed to live a life bathed in sunlight, carefree, focused on the positive, heart full of hope. Not sure why we think this. I don’t know a human on earth who has lived that kind of life.
Everyone has a mixed life of pleasure and pain. It’s not useful to compare our pleasure and pain to other people’s. Pain and pleasure are relative. The most painful thing you have experienced is the most painful thing you have experienced. Period. The thing that I think is useful to notice is that pain and pleasure exist for everyone.
I feel like I have been living the idiom, “when it rains it pours” for like 4 years now. It’s just been a torrential downpour in parts of my life. There is a reason that is a saying that everyone knows…because it happens that way so often. It happening…is not the real problem though.
The problem is that we think it shouldn’t happen that way. Not sure how we think it should happen. Maybe one challenge at a time with a bunch of space in the middle filled with peace? I think that is how my brain keeps telling me it should be going. One challenge…then things go well for a while, and then another challenge…but I can handle it so much better because I had a break from challenges where things just went well and worked out.
And yet here we are. It doesn’t work like that.
It is interesting that we don’t have a saying for the opposite phenomenon…like where a bunch of good things happen all at once or one after the other. I think that is best explained by Kacey Musgraves song Rainbow…one of my favorites and one of the songs that gets stuck in my head for days on end.
When it rains, it pours
But you didn’t even notice it ain’t rainin’ anymore
It’s hard to breathe when all you know is
The struggle of stayin’ above the risin’ water line
Well, the sky has finally opened
The rain and wind stopped blowin’
But you’re stuck out in the same ol’ storm again
You hold tight to your umbrella
Well, darlin’, I’m just tryin’ to tell ya
That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head
If you could see what I see, you’d be blinded by the colors
Yellow, red, and orange, and green, and at least a million others
So tie up the bow, take off your coat, and take a look around
Everything is alright now.
We are so focused on protecting ourselves from the inevitable storm, we don’t even notice when the sky opens and it isn’t raining anymore. We have our umbrellas up, our eyes down just bracing for the next thing.
There is no saying for the other parts of life where the sky is clear and there’s a rainbow hanging over our heads because we are attuned to anticipate danger and it shuts us off from noticing the sunshine moments.
When it rains it pours
My life has not been a total disaster for 4 years straight every moment of every day in every way. The challenges I face have been punctuated by lots of goodness. In fact if I were to sit and calculate and balance it out…I bet the peaceful moments where all is relatively well far outweigh the rest. But my brain is really good at protecting my vulnerable parts. If I am on guard, I feel protected. If I open up to seeing the good and relaxing into the peaceful moments, who knows what treachery I am inviting in.
Over and over I see examples of the human spirit triumphing over struggle. People in really tough circumstances, noticing the good in their lives. People stretching to see the possibilities in the midst of their challenges. People pausing to appreciate what they have even as they survey what they’ve lost. That takes so much courage.
If you are feeling like “when it rains it pours” describes your life in this season too-let’s both try being brave and taking a look around at what else is happening. Not to feel better about the bad or pretend it’s not happening, but just to be willing to see our full human lives, rain, rainbows and all.
I hear this so often from my clients and I see that the “when it rains it pours” seasons of our lives can adversely impact our weight loss efforts. First of all, many of us eat in response to discomfort anyway…and when we add on the “it’s not fair” and “it shouldn’t be this way” to the equation, it usually compounds our response of eating all the things.
This is where the importance of riding the waves of discomfort becomes so apparent. When it is pouring challenges and discomfort, being able to get present with the emotions you are feeling in the moment and feel when you want to run away from feeling. This is the difficult but brave response that allows the emotion to move through us instead of getting buried under a pile of food to just rear its head louder later.
Any time we can feel instead of eat, we are shortening the processing time and making it possible to eventually see that the sky is open and there’s a rainbow hanging over our head.
Getting present and opening up to emotions in the moment begins with acknowledging they are happening, naming them, noting where and how they are showing up in your body and then reminding yourself that this is just an experience in your body that will last about 90 seconds and that feeling it, is ok.
I like to put my hands on my heart, close my eyes, and imagine the emotion as a ball of energy in my body that I can breathe space around. I practice taking deep breaths and imagining I am opening up space, expanding the space around the emotion. I have some phrases I love that bring me to that peaceful presence like “relax behind it”, “I’m opening up to this _(feeling)__”, this is what I am feeling right now_____(feeling)” “I am here feeling _____(feeling)” Try it!
Learning how to navigate uncomfortable emotions is a key part of weight loss. Because anytime we are eating outside of physical hunger, our eating is being driven by a desire to either escape or create an emotion-this is where the majority of our overeating troubles are found. So weight loss and emotional skill building are inextricably connected.
This is why we spend a whole month in LOVE FIRST on emotions and emotional skills. This is the real hard work of weight loss. If you want some help to build your emotional skills-come join us!