Traveling back from North Dakota this past weekend I picked up a copy of “The Atlantic” at the airport because of the cover article called “Fat Nation: It’s Worse Than You Think. How to Beat Obesity” and the picture of an overweight Statue of Liberty. The article is by Marc Ambinder and is an intelligent piece that I highly recommend reading. It provides an interesting historical overview of the different sides of the issues, problems, and proposed solutions to the alarming rates of obesity in our country. There is no quick fix. The issues are very complex and multi-faceted. It appears obvious that this epidemic will not reverse without involvement and change on many levels from the personal to the corporate and probably with governmental regulation. You can find the article online athttp://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/05/obesity/8017.
As I sat and reflected on my feelings after reading the article and feeling the enormity of this issue and the pain and suffering that it causes so many people, what I decided I would write about this week was the importance of “starting where you are.” What I mean by that is, wherever you are and whatever shape (literally and figuratively) you find yourself in, the most important thing that you could do is recognize (as one of my mentor’s often says) that, as long as you’re breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you. While certainly there is a stigma around obesity, being overweight is just one thing that we beat ourselves up about. We all have an “inner critic” that spends much of the day criticizing ourselves about one thing or another. If you haven’t done much mindfulness practice (something that helps you notice these types of things), you may not have even recognized it. While this inner critic may be trying to direct you to “be a better person” it is often not until we come face to face with ourselves and accept ourselves just as we are that we have the ability to make the changes that we want to make. Starting where you are means loving yourself enough to pay attention with respect and kindness to your desires and loves and passions and giving yourself permission to engage in a life that will be fulfilling and meaningful. How does this relate to mindful eating? obesity? When we take care of ourselves with love, we will be much more likely to treat our bodies with respect. It will become a priority. And, we might be too busy engaging in activities that we enjoy that we won’t overeat.
For more tips that relate to this topic, you might check out the new book “50 ways to soothe yourself without food” by Susan Albers, Psy.D. More than a simple read, she provides meaningful suggestions for shifting from food as a means of coping to coping with more skillful strategies. One way she suggests “setting the inner critic straight” is to take time to consciously bring compassion to ourselves and direct statements to ourselves such as “may I be at peace with myself, may I know joy with myself and eating, may I feel love for myself and my body, and may I find peace and calmness within myself, instead of seeking it in food.” Breathe that in for a moment and see how it feels. It may not rest very easily on your heart and mind at first, but over time you might begin to notice that it actually feels good to be your own best friend.