It's summer time in the Norther Hemisphere. The days are longer, it's often warmer, and there is increased body-visibility and activities with other people. You may have noticed yourself comparing your body to those around you and thinking, "I want to look like that... Maybe that diet or exercise program will get me there..."
So much of the work I do with people around dieting and exercise is really about honoring our desire and managing strategies for getting what we want. We want to be healthy, we want to be loved, we want to be successful, we want to feel confident, we want to feel safe, we want to feel cared for, we want to feel competent, we want more ease, etc etc.
It's fair to say these are universal human desires and there is no shame in having them. On the contrary, I'm always honored by the vulnerability of this work. The quality of the desire is not the issue, it's the how-we-try-to-get-there that I want to critique and offer something different.
What's the strategy many people turn toward in order to achieve these things? Controlling the body. How do we do that? Through food and exercise.
The strategy that many people don't turn toward is asking for what we want directly. In my experience, there are three main blocks to this strategy:
Asking directly for what we want requires us to acknowledge its absence
Asking directly for what we want requires us to feel worthy of the wanting
Asking directly for what we want requires us to trust who we're asking
When people consider these blocks, suddenly controlling the body through food and exercise feels a lot easier. And if that works for you; go for it. That said, if "controlling the body" means making it smaller, that strategy doesn't work in the long-run for 95% of people who try it. Not only that, but that act of losing and gaining weight often leads to the very same health outcomes, both physical and mental, that this strategy tries to solve.
The TLDR for getting what you want that addresses the blocks above:
Grow your capacity to feel difficult feelings like grief and disappointment
Get curious about your beliefs regarding worthiness and how they were shaped
Increase your tolerance for risk-taking as your gut becomes your new compass
Of course this gets complicated quickly. The world treats us differently depending on the identities we hold and that difference matters. A person who holds multiple privileged identities often has an easier time asking directly for what they want because of the factors stated above. That said, our thoughts also matter.
So next time you find yourself thinking, "How can I make my body look this way?" Take a moment to ask yourself these 5 questions:
What do I hope to feel or experience as a result of that change?
Do I feel worthy of those experiences now? If not, who is worthy of those experiences? How did I learn this?
Imagine you're in a world where you were allowed to have that experience just as you are:
How would you stand or sit? How would you walk?
How would you greet someone? What would you assume about them?
What would you say to yourself? How does that feel in your body?
Take a moment to imagine those things and let it sink in. If there is a voice that objects to this exercise, thank it for its concerns and invite it to step aside for now.
Ask yourself, "What is 1 thing I can do today/tomorrow/this week to affirm that I don't need to change myself to have this experience or feeling?
Please consider sharing your experience int he comments or in an email letting me know your thoughts. Want more direct support around this? Book a consultation, I would love to support you!