I hate losing things. I create such a ruckus when I can’t find my keys, or a piece off of a toy or my other mitten or whatever. I pretty much can’t focus on anything else until the lost is found. I notice there is a parting of the seas by my husband and children when I am in the throes of looking for something. My daughter has even caught on how important it is to find lost things because she’ll often come to me holding something she has found with a gleam in her eye and excitement in her voice as though she has discovered the cure for cancer. But really all that has happened is that she found Barbie’s other red shoe. The world doesn’t really shift over that does it?
So today I watched a DVD called ‘Inner Weigh’ about dieting and weight loss. I’m circling the idea of losing a few pounds, you see. I’ve been doing this most of my life with no great success. This time, however, in April I’ll be headed up Algonquin Peak with some friends in the Adirondack mountains and I would like to carry a few less pounds up with me if possible. “Inner Weigh’ is a compilation of weight loss coaches and spiritual advisors talking about how one has to love and accept oneself first before the body and spirit will cooperate and find a healthy weight. It is a very intuitive little package of information that I enjoyed very much and found refreshing against the long lists of deprivation and discipline that most weight loss programs focus on. It basically disproves all of the ideas that we have in our heads about losing weight as a way to become happy. Being thinner does not bring happiness, people have attested to this time and time again. Instead, acceptance and love lead us into a happier state of being which in turn inspires us to take better care of our bodies. Go figure.
Jesus went to those in need, those that are sick, unwashed, unfed and loved them. We could all probably use a little of that in our lives. Learning how to put our love in the dark corners so that we can make positive changes in the world. We need to look at the parts of ourselves that we feel could not be loved and accept exactly those parts. That’s what being the light of the world is about, no?
The bit in the DVD that blew me away the farthest was the discussion of human nature and how it relates to losing weight. For example, we always want what we can’t have. That is, we will eventually binge on the very things we restrict. Anyone who has ever eaten every last cookie in the cookie jar after a day of going without knows what I am talking about.
Our human nature also wants us to find what we have lost. I so related to this, I did. I was ready to stand up and applaud the television from my perch on the couch like those crazy hockey fans you see watching their favourite team score. Yay! I’ve found someone else who knows how frustrating it is to lose things. And I swear I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t expect what they were going to say next. Like a slap in the face that I was nowhere near ready for they just went ahead and said it: we always try to find the things that we lose...including lost pounds. Perhaps this is why such a very high percentage of people gain back the weight that they lost (and often some bonus pounds for good luck). We go looking for the pounds that we lost like someone running late looks for their car keys.
I suppose it is true that nature abhors a vacuum.
I do believe that if you remove something important from your life, you inevitably leave a space behind where it once was. A depression of sorts remains. Then you have a small window where you get to choose what you fill that space with. If you do not set an intention there, perhaps the default is to fill it with what went missing in the first place. You put the weight back on. You let your abusive boyfriend back into your life. You decide to ignore your passion and go back to your job.
So apparently by this theory, I’ve been guarding my extra weight like a crocodile in a mote. In my life, I don’t often lose track of things knowing how upset it makes me. I have systems that allow me to keep tabs on things I don’t want to lose. I make good use of Velcro and clips and ties so that I can attach things to me (or my children) easily. I just never imagined such a system would be in place for my extra body fat. That it might be possible that I hang on to it intentionally (or worse, go and find it when it gets lost).
So I suppose the challenge is to discover something better to take its place. Maybe let in a little more love. How often have I asked for love and then pushed it away? Maybe gratitude. Acceptance. Generousity. A lot less attachment and more letting go. A lot less hoarding and more sharing and giving.
Isn’t it ironic? In those early years you essentially lose yourself to do your job as a new mother. Yet, the scales tell you that you’ve gained quite a bit of yourself to make it happen. So while losing our centre, struggling to find free time to exercise and a mindful moment to make a proper meal for ourselves, we gain pounds we don’t want. But after a few weeks, months or years, something finally rears its head up in you again. A part of you remembers what it is like to feel sexy, to be a real person worth paying attention to, and musters up just enough self worth to try to shed those extra pounds. But this becomes yet another way of quite literally ‘losing part of your self’. And you unconsciously fight again to get it back.
There is something about loving the whole living thing that seems to be important here. You can't just like the pieces you want to like. Jesus looked at broken people all of the time, seeing only a whole needing love. I see examples every day of others giving care and kindness to those who need it. Loving and showing compassion for that which appears unlovable.
Geneen Roth touches on this in her book ‘Women, Food and God’. She equates compulsive eating with emotional and spiritual deprivation and the need to find acceptance for the whole person that you are before you can find a lasting healthy state for your body. There is no question that we live in a time where pursuing spiritual guidance is becoming a fringe lifestyle and no longer the norm in families and communities. We also live at a time in the western world where the number of obese people is rising alarmingly every day. Though we seem to take in and take on more than ever before, we clearly are not nourishing ourselves with the right kind of stuff.
Here comes the tricky part. Once I see the whole, I have to find a way to let part of myself be lost and not panic. And trust that I have the strength to fill the void with something safe and good. Or at least allow myself to be guided by something bigger than me (including perhaps literally, my larger self!) as I replace unhealthy habits with more joyful, fulfilling ones.
Perhaps Barbie’s red shoe will return from underneath the couch as a sparkling glass slipper? And that might just be something that does shift the world, if only just a little. If nothing else, my loss will help me on my climb to what I consider to be a view of heaven. Will it be because of a lower number on a scale? Nope. I think it will be because I saw something in me worthy of attention - and that's a view worth climbing for.