This is Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown, episode 13.
Welcome to Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you’re a successful woman who is ready to stop struggling with your weight, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn everything you need to know to lose weight for the last time in bitesize pieces. Here’s your host, certified life and weight coach Natalie Brown.
Hello everybody. Every single body. Perfect intro to this episode as we are going to spend some time in our bodies today. You may be thinking, “I am always in my body,” but I think you might be surprised at how often we focus on the neck up and totally ignore what’s going on neck down in terms of our experience of emotions.
Today, I’m going to teach you a couple of exercises as well as a four-step process I love from ACT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It’s called expansion and it will really help you connect to the sensation of emotions in your body.
If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode, episode 12, I encourage you to do that as it sort of sets the stage for this concept of making friends with our feelings. Our default reaction to our unpleasant emotions is to contract, to tighten up and fight or hide.
When unpleasant emotions come knocking, we see them as monsters that we need to keep out, and so we resist and we fight and we push against them. We overeat and overdrink and all sorts of other things in order to muffle the sound of the knocking.
Expansion is that counterintuitive solution that has you open the door, lean in, and listen to what the emotions have to offer. And you’ll find as you practice it, the unpleasant emotions will leave peacefully once you hear/feel them out.
Before we dive into the four-step expansion process, I’m going to give you a couple of exercises you can try to help you drop out of your head and into your body. The first step of expansion is to observe your body. So if you’re totally up in your head, it will be difficult.
If you happen to be driving, walking, or running, or otherwise unable to close your eyes, just come back to this when you can. It doesn’t take long but it requires some quiet focus with eyes closed. Feel free of course to pause at any point to complete the exercises and then come back for more.
The intention of this first exercise is to bring you out of your head and your thoughts and into the present moment and your senses. So first, I want you to look around and notice five things you can see in your current environment. Look for small details. Things that maybe you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking intently.
Look at textures, colors, all sorts of details. Now I want you to close your eyes and notice five things you can hear. Then notice with your eyes closed five things you can feel on the surface of your body. The chair under your legs, the cuffs of your shirt on your wrists, your hair touching your neck. Things like that.
Any time you’re feeling overrun by thoughts, especially worry thoughts about the future, regret thoughts about the past, take a beat and come back to the present with this exercise.
Another exercise you can do to get you present and in your body is to stop, close your eyes, and take 10 deep focused breaths. Your intention is to focus solely on the physical sensations and experience of each breath. Inhale slowly until your lungs are at full capacity, and then exhale until they are fully depleted of air.
While you do this, concentrate on what the air feels like as it moves in and out of your nose. As it moves into your lungs and expands your ribcage and your stomach and back out of your lungs again. Notice the rise and fall of your shoulders and your chest, what it feels like to hold the air for a second and slowly release it. Any detail about the physical experience that you can tune into.
Your brain will get busy offering you lots of thoughts and chatter that will distract your focus and that’s okay. Just keep coming back to your breathing and your body. Both of those exercises are awesome ways to get you ready for practicing the expansion process.
It’s four simple steps that will help you accept and feel your feelings. Our attempts to barricade the proverbial door against our unpleasant emotions with food or Netflix or shopping cause us so much unnecessary suffering and collateral damage in our lives.
We mistakenly think if we accept and allow our unpleasant emotions, they will overrun our lives. But the opposite is true. As we increase our ability to accept and allow our unpleasant emotions, we decrease the intensity and duration of the unpleasant emotions, and we increase the frequency and duration of our pleasant emotions.
As Brené Brown says, “When we numb the dark, we numb the light.” So if we open up to the dark, we also open up to more light in our lives. The purpose of expansion is to experience the emotions directly, as they actually are showing up in our bodies.
Our brains interpret, anticipate, and dramatize our feelings. It over-exaggerates the pain we might experience, and in doing so, often adds insult to injury. The physical experience of our emotions is typically much different than what our brain would have us believe it will be.
When you notice you’re experiencing an unpleasant emotion, practice this process of expansion. I encourage you though to start small here. Start with a small worry you have. A bit of overwhelm, some minor disappointment. This is a new skill. Allowing emotions instead of fighting them and new skills take time and patience.
Step one is to observe the sensation. Scan your body from head to toe and notice the uncomfortable sensations you feel. Pick one you want to focus your attention on. Maybe it’s a heaviness in your chest or a churning stomach or a tightness in your throat.
Observe the sensation like a scientist. Super objectively. Ask these questions and any more you can think of to really get a clear picture of it. How big is it? Is it still or is it moving? Is it fast or slow? If it had a color, what color would it be? What texture is it? Bumpy, smooth, slimy, fluffy, spiky? Is it on the surface or deep inside your body? Is it heavy or light? What temperature is it? Really get to know that sensation. Get a clear picture of it.
Step two is to breathe. Breathe deeply and slowly and imagine your breath going in and around the sensation. Deep breathing lowers the tension in your body and it allows you to center and to focus.
Step three is to create space around the sensation. This is where we imagine ourselves expanding to accommodate the feeling. Instead of tension, tightening pressure, we want to imagine opening, loosening, making room.
Step four is to allow the sensation to be there. You probably don’t like this feeling and you want it to go away. You may feel your brain telling you to fight against it or to try to get rid of it. That’s okay. This is when I say gently to my brain, “Let it be.”
Keep breathing, keep focusing. Keep telling your brain to let it be. It may take a few seconds or a few minutes, but you will eventually feel the struggle with this sensation release and then if needed, you can move onto another sensation you also may be having related to this emotion.
My experience is almost always that when I take time to expand and allow the emotion, the emotion dissipates within minutes. That doesn’t mean I never feel it again. It just means that for now, I have processed the emotion and the struggle is gone.
The feelings may come knocking again, but I know that instead of seeing them as enemies and fighting them and barricading the door with food to avoid them, I can choose to regard them as friends with an important message for me. Open the door, let them in, and listen to what they have to say.
If you find this exercise helpful and you want more information on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, my favorite book about this is The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris if you want to check it out. So good.
Okay loves, another week, another gift card to give away. The winner of the $100 Amazon gift card this week is Dominique. The title of her review is “Fresh and meaningful,” and this is what she had to say about the podcast.
“I am so giddy about this podcast. Natalie lights the way on the road to weight loss in a fresh and meaningful way, and I am so here for it.” I am pretty giddy about the podcast myself, Dominique. I’m so, so glad you are too. Thank you for your review. I’m so glad you’re here.
Okay everybody, best Mother’s Day gift you gave those important mamas in your life last week. And if you are a mama, I hope you had a beautiful celebration of being a mother.
Let’s keep spreading the goodness. Share the podcast with someone who you love who could use some light on their road to weight loss as Dominique so beautifully put it. I’ll see you soon. Bye everybody.
Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you want to learn more about how to lose weight for the last time, come on over to itbeginswithathought.com. We’ll see you here next week.