Grateful for My Body, Fat and All

This month is going to be less about a physical task or exercise to do. Instead it is about how we think about our bodies and our physical abilities, following on the mindset exercise above.

This is going to be hard for a lot of us because we are going to look at, and be grateful for, what our bodies CAN do—as opposed to focusing on what we can’t do. And in an even bigger leap, in Part 2, we are going to learn to be grateful for the fat on our bodies, and YES, there is a lot of gratitude to be found whether you know that at this moment or not.

Part 1:

How many things do we say we can’t do because our bodies are not in the condition that we would prefer them to be? It may be an outdoor activity…with winter approaching thoughts may turn to ice skating or skiing. Do you tell yourself you can’t do these things because of your weight? Are you afraid you will fall and injure yourself? Is it that you don’t have any appropriate clothing because you have “outgrown” them? Whatever the reason, if we dwell on what we cannot do we will just make ourselves miserable. We won’t suddenly weigh less, be less injury prone, or find clothes that fit in our closets.

So we are going to look at what we are able to do, right now, today, at our current weight and condition. This list then translates into what we are grateful for about our bodies…again, today, right now.

Each person will come up with different things they can do and what they are grateful for. It isn’t important what is on your list compared to anyone else’s list. It IS important that you create a list based on your abilities starting NOW. As your health and strength improve you can always modify this list. Keep in mind that being grateful for something now does not preclude an even better experience in the future. (Do you remember how excited you were about your first car or apartment? That didn’t stop you from getting a upgrading to a different automobile or home when you needs and resources changed, did it?)

Because of habit it is often that we first notice what we cannot do, so we are going to take advantage of that habit. Rather than dwelling on the inability, turn it around and ask yourself, “what CAN I do?”

For example I have somehow managed to injure my shoulder, which gives me limited mobility and strength. When I notice that I can’t reach above my shoulder I tell myself that I can lift things straight up and down; I can’t do a regular push up, but I can do isometric exercises to maintain muscle strength.

When I weighed over 300 pounds I couldn’t exercise to music or my “bounce and shake” routine while standing. I could however move my body while sitting on the edge of my bed or couch. Some days my back hurt badly enough that I had to move while lying down.

Once you figure out what you CAN do, practice being grateful for that ability. I’m so grateful that my shoulder injury is temporary and that I have any mobility. I’m also grateful that the rest of my body is healthy, so I can walk and enjoy nature. I’m grateful for the progress I have made so far, that my body knows how to heal itself, that my strength and health are good and getting better every day.

Placing my focus on what I can do and being grateful for that keeps me out of “victim mentality.” Whether your limitation is due to illness, injury or obesity, it is important to keep our attitude up and in a position of personal power. This self-empowerment will propel us towards health and weight loss much more quickly and permanently than feeling sorry for ourselves will. And our lives will be more fun, too!

When I was in so much pain that I couldn’t move much I was grateful for the moving I could do. After all, there are people who are quadriplegics and amputees in the world who can’t move at all. And by moving my body I gained physical strength. With more strength I had less pain. With less pain I could stretch more and gain more flexibility. Every time I could walk or bend over farther it was a victory to be grateful for! Soon I was grateful for the fat I dropped; with each pound shed it was easier to breathe and to move. I became even more grateful as I was able to venture on walking paths and explore new areas. I was aware that I was moving faster and going farther…all while feeling less fatigue. I am so grateful for the experience of enjoying moving my body and the fresh air and the beautiful vistas and wildlife I get to see.

But it didn’t start with fast walks on dirt paths! It started with a walk to the mail box and shaking my arms and legs around a lot! I am so grateful for the knowledge that I didn’t have to be an athlete then, and I don’t have to be an athlete now, to be healthy and active. I am grateful for learning that it truly starts with one step at a time!

Write down your first steps and what you are grateful for. Then watch as your ability and your gratitude increases!

Part 2:

Many women will find this may be the hardest part of this month’s work. And many will want to skip over it.

Please, please, please, do this part…it is an incredibly powerful tool for losing weight.

I have found this to be an essential part to weight loss success—including being able to keep the weight off permanently after you drop it. Look, it is not my goal to lose a bunch of weight only to find it again 6 months down the road. No, it is my goal to drop it off a cliff, never to be seen again! OK, some pounds may come back once in a while, but they will also go once in a while.

I don’t care if I weigh a specific number of pounds, nor do I get all wigged out if I fluctuate a little bit. What I DO care about is being healthy and being relatively stable in my weight so my clothes are comfortable and I don’t have wonder what size I am every day! Considering I used to be able to gain or lose 20 pounds in a weekend (although the gaining always seemed more permanent than the losing ever did) this was a big goal for me.

What can I be grateful for when it comes to being fat? How did/does that fat serve me? How can I parlay that fat into something good now? How can I use it to be something better for my future?

Did I become fat simply because I didn’t know any better? Absolutely not. Even in high school I knew a lot about nutrition. I was more active and ate better than a lot of my thin friends. But I stayed fat because on some level being fat was serving me. I know that seems strange, but until we figure this out we cannot change it!

Of course fat taken beyond a certain level is not healthy and most of us do not find being fat to be attractive. In order to release the fat, we must acknowledge that it served us at one time. We must be grateful for its presence. We must let it know that we have other, healthier tools, to take its place now. When we do this we can let it go, once and for all.

So how does fat serve us? Why would we, perhaps completely subconsciously, want to be fat? Because as long as we do, we will struggle with our weight and diets.

This exercise requires some soul searching. I can toss out some ideas and how being fat served me or other people I know, but you will have to evaluate if these reasons seem like they fit your experience or not. There are no inherently “right” or “wrong” answers, but some reasons will definitely not resonate with you while others will. Take this time for yourself because if you have dieted off and on your entire life, whether to lose a lot of weight or the same 20 pounds over and over, there is something going on that you deserve to delve into. The ironic thing is that the reason may no longer have any validity to it—but if it worked for you in the past, your subconscious may still be using that device as a way to protect you. Delve into the reason so you can shelve it, forever!

Strength: being larger than other kids can be a sign of strength and power. If you are big and strong then you tend to not get picked on. Much of this strength may be an illusion and that illusion can lead to feeling fake. One of my good friends in high school was a “big guy” and like most guys his size he played football. But he didn’t like playing football; he just did it because it was expected of him because of his size. I was strong and that strength was admired and helped me make friends when we moved around. I mistakenly thought that in order to be strong I had to have some extra weight, until I met some incredibly slender women who could out muscle me!

Safety: this is one of the biggest reasons people gain weight. When we feel vulnerable we want to have a protective shield around us. Some people create a virtual shield by being funny or by being really smart. Others create a physical shield by becoming physically strong—either as a bully or to defend themselves. Others create a physical shield in the form of a layer of fat to insulate us from the rest of the world.

This safety shield allows us to have less attention, to be more invisible and to be less attractive sexually. This is a very common result for women who have been sexually abused—and current estimates are 1 out of every 3 American women have suffered some sort of sexual abuse. I’m not saying that because you have an issue with your weight you were abused, but you wouldn’t be the first person to try to protect herself that way. Even if you weren’t abused, there is a possibility that sex or intimate relationships or interacting with boys was frightening and overeating and gaining weight was one way to avoid it.

Invisibility: it is counter-intuitive but being fat tends to make us invisible. It is as if we go through life with a large percentage of the population not being able to see us. For people who are incredibly shy, this can be a relief. If we are not seen we don’t have to connect with others, build relationships and risk rejection.

Inability: some people want an excuse to not have to, or not be able to, do things. Being fat can be that excuse. After all, how can I be expected to run back and forth and do all these things if I can barely move?

Attention: while some people like the invisibility being fat provides, for others being fat is actually a way to get attention, usually from specific people. For example, if you don’t get a lot of attention from a parent until they notice you are gaining weight, it can be that being overweight feels like the only way to get the attention—and sometimes negative attention is better than no attention at—so you stay heavy.

You may be surprised at what you discover about yourself during this exercise. It is easy to with 20-20 hindsight think you were naïve or stupid for overeating for these reasons. It is important to remember that none of these reasons for being overweight are “bad” or “wrong”…and you weren’t either, nor were you naïve or stupid. In some way you were protecting or serving yourself in the only way you knew at the time—that is what the human mind does. By using a tool to survive you were being very human, and very smart indeed.

Once you have identified why (or possibly why) you have become overweight in the past, it is now time to express your gratitude. This is tough, but it is important to do this in front of a mirror.

With your new awareness of how your weight served you, look at your body and thank it for protecting you, giving you your identity, keeping you safe, bringing you the attention you craved, or keeping the attention you feared at bay. Over the course of this month, look at your wonderful body, especially the fat, and let it know that now you understand why it has been there. Let it know that while you appreciated its help in the past, you now have other tools to help you and that it is time for the fat to leave.

Repeat this exercise every day. Practice it so that you can actually look at the fat on your belly or the cellulite on your thighs without negativity. Learn to look at your body fat neutrally or with love…just as you do when you see it on a baby.

By giving the fat permission to leave and letting it know that you are aware of its role in your life and that you have ample tools to keep yourself safe you are communicating on a very deep level with your subconscious. Repeating the process is helpful in strengthening the message…essentially convincing your subconscious and the little kid inside who didn’t know any other way, that now, there truly is.

For some people, this process alone is enough to start the weight to fall off and stay off.

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