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Taming the Mind, Part IV

How Does Your Weight Serve You?

This is the next step in our “Taming the Mind” blog series. If you are ready to make a significant change in your lifestyle pertaining to health, you are going to undergo more than the positive effects of that transition. You will need to learn new skills for living, and will have to leave behind some well-worn beliefs about who you are, to which you may be more attached than you think.

If you are overweight, that may be part of your identity. Your size might be part of your emotional armor – you are bigger and tougher (or funnier!) than other people. Abandoning that persona to discover who you are on the inside when you are not using your outside to protect yourself is a vulnerable and delicate process.

Think about it – before you get defensive. How does your weight serve you?

Positive change can be just as overwhelming as negative change.

This is called eustress. As you begin the process of transformation, you need to be prepared to handle a powerful transition. You may feel that your identity is changing or that people treat you differently, and it’s not always positive.

But reassure yourself now – everything is completely fine. You are OK. The act of anticipating change is enough to handle it. Prepare to feel some feelings and to face who you are as a person, as your outer identity and priorities change.

The bottom line is that you get something out of whatever your current weight or level of health is. You wouldn’t make the lifestyle choices that you do unless you get some kind of payoff from them.

Think about it again. Don’t get defensive. How does your weight serve you?

This is perhaps the easiest part of the process to be in denial about. You may want to put down this book in indignation, and say, “How dare you? I have tried to lose weight so many times. There is nothing that I want more than to be healthy and happy!” You would be justified in your anger, because I’m sure that on a conscious level, you want nothing more than to change your life. But can you admit to yourself that you get something out of being overweight or underweight?

You would not be unhealthy/overweight/underweight (or replace those terms with a word that works for you), unless there is some aspect of it that serves you on an important, fundamental level. You are reaping positive benefits in your life because of your current level of health or fitness.

This is not so that you can be negative and beat yourself up. This is so that you can exercise some self-compassion for your behavior – you are not being self-destructive.

You are feeding some part of yourself that needs love!

The key is to know how to love yourself without self-harming food behaviors.

Again, I will use the example of when I was binge-eating during my first year of full-time work. I had a long, excruciating commute and my job was stressful. Yet I was shocked that I was eating fast food out of control. I was ashamed.

However, years later, I look back on that experience and understand how difficult it would have been to sustain healthy food behaviors under that level of stress. I have more self-compassion for my past self, and therefore my current self.

My overeating served me because it relieved stress. If I had not quit my job and relocated, I would have had to take a look at the unreasonable quality of my working lifestyle, and that would have been an uncomfortable process.

Believe me, your overeating or compulsive behaviors are serving you somehow. What are they distracting you from? What persona do they help you create?

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