It’s time to “call you on your sh*t!” This past weekend, I went to visit my aunt and uncle in St. Louis, my hometown. What I initially was sure would be a light and fun weekend filled with sight-seeing and laugh-induced soreness in the ab region, quickly and beautifully morphed into a mini retreat.
My aunt and uncle are the family members who, no matter how far away they live or how long it is in between chats, will always be dear. Whenever we get together, it’s as if we are picking up right where we left off. In the past few years, during one of those long “between chats” segments of our relationship, my aunt and uncle went under a turbulent time in their lives. They found they weren’t as happy as they could be in this short life. Their relationship, although seemingly typical to themselves and the outside world, was nowhere near its potential.
My new-age, yet trendy aunt started spending time with a life coach, and my uncle went through some counseling of his own. My aunt explained to me that she spent the larger part of her first session pointing out all the things that my uncle did that drove her bananas. Her therapist asked her if she was done, to which my aunt responded through clenched teeth, “Yes.” The therapist then asked my aunt to start listing the ways in which my uncle loved her. She found a long list that had been overshadowed with the frustration of focusing on the ways in which he annoyed her. As in every relationship, life is going to have those times when it will be easier to focus on the negative and to whine about how one has been shortchanged by the world and its inhabitants. The real challenge, and one well worth the discipline, is finding those ways the world tells you it loves you on a daily basis.
So often, we experience the “binocular effect” where we look through the wrong end of the binoculars, and everything seems so far away, so unreachable. We then turn inward and focus on a sort of self-preservation that actually destroys the most important joy of being on earth: our relationships with people, places, and things. I had fallen out of love with the world. I had amassed a towering heap of resentment for my own existence. Why did I have to be in this awful world where nuclear meltdowns threaten huge, thriving populations? Why did I have to be part of a world where children can’t be children anymore? Why do I have to be part of this world where my favorite comfort, my drug of choice- food- is also what seems to keep me from a Beyoncé body?
I went on vacation thinking I would get away with avoiding the way I was feeling. We get away to get away from ourselves in a lot of ways. It wasn’t going to happen on this trip to “The Lou.” There was no emotional privacy, but I mean that in the most constructive way. The theme of the trip was summed up as “Calling you on your sh*t.” My aunt and uncle have learned a way to know a person in a short amount of time, to label them, to know what plagues them. Somehow, as sneaky spies, they manage to do this in a supportive and beautifully blunt way. It hurt. When someone tells you the truth, it usually does.
Don’t misunderstand. These people are wonderful, interesting, funny, giving, and driven, but… they won’t hesitate to call you on your sh*t. My aunt found yet another way to pair her generosity with honesty when she handed me the book, “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth. She said, “I bought this book for myself; then, I started reading it, and I realized it’s not for me. I think it’s for you.” Sure enough, I started to read the book, and it pegged me perfectly.
I’ve always had issues with weight loss. Meaning… I’ve always wanted to lose weight, but it’s only happened once in my life. I was in college, living on my own, and enjoying the camaraderie of my fellow advertising majors. One day, I looked down at my plate and realized that I never really thought about what I was eating. My father, who used to be a chef, taught me tons about cooking. I had learned a great deal about nutrition on my own, but I never managed to put my skills and knowledge into action. The day I realized that there will always be more food available and that I don’t have to clean my plate, was the start of something beyond my understanding until now.
Roth’s book explains that it’s never really about the food. I thought I had some kind of issue because I had always been a little pudgy, and I grew up in a family of eaters. Was I destined to be a little “fluffy” forever? Once I read this book, I realized that the weight I lost in college- about thirty pounds- was so easy to lose because I didn’t try. I just listened to my body. I was also the happiest I had ever been.
Since college, I’ve gained a great deal of weight. Then again, I have been through a lot: a marriage, my father’s stroke, a divorce, a string of boyfriends who were nowhere near a good fit, and moving back in with my mother. Oh- and let us not forget the ever-popular recession. I graduated college into a job market that didn’t want me. All of these forces against me took me far from my body in a sense. I stopped thinking about what I was eating. Sure, I could spout of how to fix your problems with nutrition, but I never really looked at myself. I was scared. It was easier just to self-medicate with savory pasta dishes, gooey chocolate cupcakes, and deliciously fizzy sodas. All the time, the pounds crept up to keep me company.
Here begins my experiment. I’m going to try to recreate the college weight loss phenomenon I had created at beautiful Ball State University. This is going to be a long process. I think my boyfriend might have more trouble with it than me. He’s going to be waiting for me to jump on the fitness train with him, but I’ve already explained to him that it’s not about dieting. Diets always fail. It’s about listening to my body, giving myself the love I deserve, and gradually losing the weight without trying because I’m finally giving myself the attention I deserve. It’s time to savor that cupcake. It’s time for me to love my food and love myself. I challenge you to try this. Taste your food and ask your tummy if it’s satisfied yet. Spend a day avoiding getting full. You’ll notice that you feel lighter and brighter. You deserve it.
Be good to yourself.