Like many in our society, I have spent much of my life in a struggle with my body. Since childhood my body has been defined by many in our society as overweight/obese and therefore the prospect of losing weight on a diet occupied more mental space than I care to admit. In the first few decades of my life I spent innumerable hours obsessing about what I should or should not eat and daydreaming about how perfect life will be when I finally become ‘thin’.
Over the years, I have subjected my body to constant rejection and shame. It had been a very private battle running in the background of an otherwise fulfilling life. I tried and failed at countless diets and became very beaten up in the process.
In 2010, after decades of fighting my body, I realized that a diet could never have been the solution to my struggle. My struggle was far deeper than the physical level of my shape and size. I came to see how the true culprits of my problem were severe disconnection from my body, a disordered relationship with food and a hunger to experience peace and joy in the present moment.
For so much of my life I had been completely disconnected from my body’s cues related to hunger levels, the food on my fork and the bite in my mouth. I had also been largely out of touch with the emotions that were at the forefront of my chaotic eating choices. I had pitted my body as my number one adversary rather than seeing it as my Beloved . I believed that manipulating it’s size would be the key to my happiness rather than realizing that love and acceptance would be the key to freeing myself from the bondage of conditional happiness related to its size.
It took a powerful shift in paradigm to begin to see this clearly. I was on vacation with my family in Hawaii, I perceived my body to be uncomfortably large at the time and I was extremely self-conscious. Much of the trip was spent feeling bad about myself, distracted by body shame and body comparisons. One day I was on my own and noticed another mother on the beach; she was running with her young son chasing a soccer ball and seemed so present, so full of joy and so free in her body. Her image made a big impression on me. It wasn’t the size of her body that I was envying but rather the freedom with which she was moving from within it. I didn’t want to raise my kids living at a distance from my own body and my life. I longed for the freedom and energy I saw in her, even if it was from within a much larger body.
On that same trip, I read an article in Oprah’s magazine which featured Geneen Roth’s work and opened my eyes to a new possibility; the prospect of a relationship with food and my body that didn’t include dieting, obsession or shame. At the same time I was diving in to the work of Eckhart Tolle and the concept of present moment awareness. These two concepts began to come together for me. I began to explore a new path, one that required being awake to what was really going on in my relationship with my body, that challenged me to look at the emotional and spiritual hungers in my relationship with food. This approach offered acceptance, kindness and compassion and didn’t involve dieting; this was a radical shift for me.
Being deeply curious about what was unfolding within me I set out to formalize my research through my Masters in Psychotherapy and Spirituality thesis. I embarked on a formal study exploring how the ‘practice of presence’ heals food and body issues. I developed a program for myself that included regular meditation, mindfulness, mindful eating, yoga, art, discussion etc.
Through integrating these practices and teachings in my own life I slowly began to transform the way I viewed my body and food. I learned how to actually BE in my body, began to embrace the body I had for so long detested and this resulted in an authentic motivation to nurture my body and shift my behaviors with food and increase my willingness to play and move in my body . I then could see that my struggle with my body and food were going to become powerful teachers in my life, offering me a doorway to living with more connection and vitality.
The results I was noticing in my relationship with my body began to spill into other areas of my life. I began to practice mindfulness in all aspects of my life; not only in my relationship with food but also while doing the dishes, cutting vegetables, walking up and down stairs, playing with my kids etc. The result was shocking and beautiful. Such simplicity opened the door to instantaneous connection.
My research was not only fascinating academically but transformational for me personally and are the underpinnings of the work that I now teach hundreds of women: The Deeper Cravings Path™. My relationship with my body and with food are completely different today than they were For most of my life. I no longer am at battle with my body. I have fully embraced it and have lost the obsession with losing weight. Bringing mindfulness to more of my eating and moving experiences has resulted in more regularly choosing foods that are better for my body, typically chosing smaller portions, overeating less often, enjoying food more than at any time in the past and looking forward to the experience of “exercise” as a joyful celebration of my body.
My body did experience a substantial physical change as a result of the transformation in my beliefs about my body but this was not as a result of an intention for or obsession with weight loss. Rather, my body was freed to move towards it’s own natural and aligned physical state. I believe this was due to the kindness and love I was able to feel towards it as much as because of the health behaviors I more readily integrated into my life. For each person and each body ones own ‘natural and aligned physical state’ is different and it could’ve easily been the case that my body weight stayed the same or even increased. That was not for me to determine, rather I had to let go and trust in my body’s wisdom. What was important to my improved quality of life was the experience of freedom, acceptance and joy in my body and not the changed shape of my body.
I am convinced that presence holds an important part of the answer to the problem many of us in this culture have with embracing our bodies. I hope that my story can offer a window into one experience of the power of presence and this could open the door for you to consider exploring a new way of being with your body.
Marianne Williamson calls overeating “an act of spiritual starvation”. I now know that by keeping my relationship with food chaotic and distorted, I had been dimming the light of my spirit. This new-found acceptance of my body and appreciation for the now through practicing mindfulness and mindful and intuitive relationship with food feels like finding a buried treasure. It was there all along but hidden beneath years of faulty thinking.
Every time that I step into my being, awaken to my body, and experience life in the present moment it feels like a direct and powerful connection to the whole universe. It is in those moments that it feels like a veil has been lifted. The world feels clearer. It is these moments of tremendous peace, beauty and healing that inspire me to do the work I am doing and support anyone who wants to join me on the Deeper Cravings journey.
In Peace and Kindness,