Thursday Truth- Self Acceptance

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“Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.”

–Pema Chodron

Kwan-Yin, the bodisattva of compassion

Kwan-Yin, the bodisattva of compassion

It seems like every other Facebook status I read is about someone’s fad diet or insane exercise regimen.  Paleo diets where all you eat is bacon fried bacon.  Crossfit exercise sessions where you do sit ups until you vomit.  So many people seem desperate to shed pounds and are willing to do anything to meet their weight loss goal.

I can’t help but wonder, why?  Are we giving too much weight to weight-loss?  Is it really about health and fitness or some bizarre obsessive compulsion?

I realize I am over-simplifying both Paleo and Crossfit, and if you are participants in either of these and take offense to my scrutiny, I apologize.  If you are happy, I am happy.  But, damn!  I am sick of hearing about  shake diets, juice fasts, cleanses, epic bowel movements, and the like.

Since I gave birth to Emily, I have been working away quietly on my weight loss.

I am proud to say I lost 15 pounds in the past five months doing nothing other than eating mindfully and trying to stay moderately active.

Dairy, carbs, and the occasional greasy fry are still things I enjoy in moderation.

Sure, I am still probably 30 pounds overweight by conventional standards, but I am strong, healthy, and my vitals are beyond reproach.  More importantly, I am more at peace with myself where I am right now in this  moment than I ever have been in my life.

I could easily slip into berating myself for not being “swim-suit ready” or having a six pack.  But when I really think about it, these are not even close to being my goals or priorities right now.

It is not something about which I talk frequently, but when I was in my teens and twenties, I struggled with highly disordered eating.  I would starve myself for months and drop down on the scale to the point where my hip bones were jabbing anyone who dared to hug me.  I never binged, but was no stranger to purging.  I was emaciated, but I felt fat.  And because I felt fat (for some supposedly deep-seated-subconscious reason) I was not happy.

Diet and dance consumed my life.  I did not talk about it.  I lived quietly on a handful of animal crackers or half an apple.  Then one day, I just got bored of being that way, and I changed.  I got married and I had kids.  I gained weight.

Those last two paragraphs are the story of two decades of eating disorder in a nutshell.  There is a lot more to the story, with which I will not bore you (weird body fur anyone?).

I did not shed my food/body image neurosis easily.  I am sad to say for a while, I actually regretted giving birth to my son because of the havock it caused my body, and the profound sense of loss I experienced of my pre-pregnancy shape.  That was a painful time.

Pregnancy and parenthood made me work harder on myself than anything else in my life.  When I say working on myself, I mean my whole self– body, mind, spirit.  I have worked to become more calm and centered.  I have prayed to become more sane so that I might help others become more sane in this troubled world of ours.  Not that I was ever insane.  But there was a horrible unhappiness that came with my inability to accept myself.

I am not a perfect wife, mom, or person.   That is okay.

Pema Chodron talks often about accepting our own neuroses, being mindful and accepting of our own flaws and foibles so that we can be accepting of others.

In her book, Start Where You Are:  A Guide to Compassionate Living, Chodron says, “Although it is embarrassing and painful, it is very healing to stop hiding from yourself.  It is healing to know all the ways that you’re sneaky, all the ways that you hide out, all the ways that you shut down, deny, close off, criticize people, all your weird little ways.  You can know all of that with some sense of humor and kindness. . .  Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.”

Kwan Yin with a baby

Kwan Yin with a baby

It makes me really sad that it took me so long to love myself for who and what I am in this moment, rather than who or what I would like to be in some future moment.  My mom used to tell me I should enjoy my body while it was young and lean, but I never did.  Now, I am aging.  It is much harder to lose weight.  My back hurts if I wear any shoe other than a clog.  My memory is impaired from lack of sleep.  My plate is so full that I get stressed and I  lose my temper with my husband and children in ugly ways that mortify me from time to time.

But it’s all good, and getting better and better all the time through the practice of mindful awareness and self acceptance.

All I can do is be here now, with myself.  The fact that my self is 15 pounds lighter is nice, but it is not everything.

The fact that I can be here with my self and not compulsively need to starve, eat bacon, do Crossfit, Zumba, Shakeology, or be the Biggest Loser-  THAT is everything.

14 responses »

  1. “All I can do is be here now, with myself.” Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Dogen: “No being has ever failed to reach his [or her] full completion.”

    You’re right. It is everything. Be well~

  2. It’s wonderful that you are recovered, Charlotte! I had my own bout with body fur in my early 20s. I’m kind of focused on weight loss now as a hobby. Hopefully it won’t progress, but I am breastfeeding so I listen to my body when it’s hungry. Peace.

    • I blame breastfeeding for one reason why I haven’t lost weight faster. My body tends to hold on to my fat stores while breastfeeding instead of burning them up. Lucky me. Plus for like the first year I had to eat like a maniac to keep up my supply! And then being so constantly fatigued from sleep deprivtion makes me want to eat constantly too… oi vey! Now that I am getting a little more rest, and baby is older and nursing less, it is a bit easier to eat more mindfully. It’s all good!

  3. Mindful living becomes a rather enjoyable process ultimately, and it takes practice, howeever, that’s all we have to do, actually, to make any progress we wish to make. Nice article and nice blog you have. Warm Wishes, Tasha

    • You know, as I am working more on my “practice” such as it is, I find myself opening up more to others as well, even strangers. I’ll see strangers and just feel random bouts of compassion wash over me. It is kind of cool. Be well!

  4. Thank you for sharing your personal experience. Woman’s bodies are beautiful and amazing. I just wish we all could see and feel our own inner beauty. I , myself had severely unhealthy eating disorder- like behavior for years. It so unfortunate and sad that I am not a minority in this experience. Thankfully I am healthy and strong now. My most important role is being a positive role model for my little girl. I get frustrated when society assumes that people with this disorder/behavior believe it is just to look good or model-like, when it is SO much deeper than that!
    We have way too much in common my friend! Peace and hugs!

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