About a year ago, I gave birth to Bastian, one of the most wonderful, delicious human beings on the face of the earth. I had a glorious pregnancy with Bee (as we call him). My skin glowed, my hair had an unusual luster. I wasn’t as tired as I had been with Gabriel, and I happily worked right up until the day I gave birth to him. All was right with the world. And, let me tell y’all, all was right with Bojangles too. Because man, was I a hungry woman.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have traded my appetite for that of my friends who spent every morning of their pregnancies shaking hands with Mr. Toilet. But, I probably would like to go back, tap myself on the shoulder and advise some moderation in the milkshake and 24-hour drive through Mexican nacho platter departments. Now, due to some particularly unfortunate combination of pregnancy munchies and thyroid disease I still have about 50 pounds left to lose of baby weight. Yep, I’m not even kidding. Me–the yoga buff and Zumba freak. Me, the girl who went dancing at least 3 out of every 7 nights in graduate school. I have gotten myself in a pickle, and now I get to see how it has felt for all the clients I have helped lose weight over the years. It feels…well, let’s just say that in my clinical opinion, it sucks.
However, as I have gotten back on the road to wellness, I have found that many of my loved ones find my dedication to my healthy habits pretty irritating. It’s not that they wish me ill. Everyone I can think of wants me to feel better and reach my goals. Rather, it’s that they would like me to take a mini vacation from eating “boring” stuff whenever I am with them. I hear a lot of this kind of thing:
“It’s Friday, can’t you have just one martini? I’ll feel weird drinking alone.”
“We’re on vacation. Are you going to tell me that you’re not eating any dairy or gluten when you should just be relaxing? Where’s the fun in that?”
“Seriously, it’s one meal. Do you have to be so rigid at every meal?”
Now, a lot of this stuff sounds harsh in isolation from the rest of the conversation. Really, none of it was offered in the sense of anything but conspiratorial merry-making. But, if you’re making an effort to change in a direction that requires discipline and behaving a bit differently from everyone else, I bet you’ve heard this too. In the past, when working with clients on losing weight, I totally misunderstood the social aspects of being on a diet. I thought it was mostly having the willpower to get past the food triggers. Nope, it’s that plus something else–managing the guilt, awkwardness and general feelings of difference when sticking to your plan in public. It’s not only managing your own feelings about eating and food, but also negotiating everyone else’s feelings about eating and food as well. Complicated! So, what should you and I do about this particular issue?
1) Emphasize Health: I have found that my loved ones respond better to addition than subtraction. That is, rather than talking about it as a diet in which I am bemoaning things I can’t have, I talk about it as an adventure in taking care of myself. It has taken me awhile to figure out what that roadmap looks like. I tell my friends that I don’t feel deprived, but energized by making good choices. I know that sounds cheesy as all right now, but words have the power of creation. Honor yourself by speaking about your life in terms of fulfillment and health.
2) Get good backup: Your loved ones may argue with you. But, they are less likely to argue with your doctor. It’s worth it to have someone on your side to check in with and guide you. Ask your doctor to schedule regular appointments to track your progress and keep you motivated. There are clinicians from a variety of fields that can serve in this capacity. I use a holistic doc skilled in acupuncture and nutritional coaching to keep me on track. I often mention what we talk about to my friends and keep her in the loop about how I feel about my weight loss.
3) Own your Health: At the end of the day, losing weight is harder for folks who find having good boundaries to be a challenge. This is true for a number of reasons. Our families of origin or other life experiences can lead us to believe that we have to make others happy before ourselves. Eating is a sacred act–one that embodies nurturance and care. When you get too good at taking care of others and lose track of taking care of yourself in a meaningful way, food can be a great partner. In what ways has food become a stand in for other things like love, sex and hope?
I am looking at this journey from both sides now. I would be honored to walk with you as you move ahead too.
Your Partner in Healing,
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