Have you ever tried to lose weight, I mean REALLY tried, and "that" number just wouldn’t budge? It seemed as if you were doing everything right, but your body just wasn’t on board with your efforts. The truth is, there are most likely limitless reasons why our bodies hold on to excess weight, even when we are ready to get on with it.
I know, this isn’t really a topic that I talk about: weight, food, exercise… the typical “health” conversations. I wanted to bring it up, because I want to share a different perspective as to why we often struggle with our weight… since most women do.
To start on this journey of excess weight, I always start the conversation by asking this question: “What do you think this excess weight is here to tell you?”
Yep. It isn’t a simple question.
One might even ask, why would or should my weight be telling me anything!?
I firmly believe that our bodies speak to us through symptoms. Maybe those symptoms are acne, insomnia or a few extra pounds. We often spend so much time in our minds and not enough time in our bodies. We sit at desks, stare at screens, and are so mentally engage in life that we don’t notice the home we embody. Yes, our body is our home. Eventually our bodies try to get our attention. At first gently, and if there is no response, then forcefully, as our bodies desperately call for our awareness, our love, and our care.
So if our bodies are holding on to extra weight, what could our bodies possibly be telling us?
The first thing that comes to mind is stress. Yes, stress can come from a career, family, financial insecurity, university studies, family illness or aging, and so on. The reason stress is such an important factor in our health is that we are not wired to be under stress all the time. Biologically we are designed to only be under short bursts of stress (think running away from an animal that wants to make you it’s dinner). Our bodies are these amazing machines that release hormones that allow for more oxygen to reach our blood, and for our blood to pump faster, so that our legs can move quicker. Like a sprint, stress is suppose to be short lived.
Since we usually aren’t running from predators these days, abbreviated stress might be slamming on your brakes when a cat darts in front of you car. Unfortunately, these days our stress doesn’t come in small packages… instead it is low level stress that’s always there.
When our bodies are constantly under stress, and therefore always in a low level stress response, meaning we function with our sympathetic nervous system always running. Which actually is like telling our bodies we are running from the predator day after day, month after month. This is the fight, flight or freeze response. When our sympathetic nervous system is running it is producing and releasing cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Little burst now and then is how the body is built to work, too much too often and the system starts to go haywire.
So when we are in the stress response our bodies stop digesting and start running. Cortisol not only shunts energy to the muscles and the lungs, it diverts it from the digestive system. Once we are in stress mode the body isn’t interested in proper food assimilation and elimination, that body just wants to live! So it takes what it can and stores it as fat.
Not only that, but the longer our bodies are under stress the greater the affect this has on the overall body. If the body is pumping out cortisol constantly that affects the adrenals, which effects the HPA axis part of the brain, which then takes it's toll on the thyroid.
Yes intricate. Intelligent. Connected. Magnificent. That is what our bodies, our homes are. This fascinating system prefers balance.
So how are we under a constant order of stress? Well, let’s consider all the little things that can add up to one stressful life. Not giving your wellbeing top priority, (meaning, you take care of everyone and everything else FIRST), poor sleep hygiene, lack of pleasure, letting our emotions go undigested, having a confusing relationship with money, food, religion, people, family, self…just to name a few.
It’s as if we are breathing stress rather than breathing oxygen these days. It is everywhere!
Excess weight is protection. Think of animals, they put on excess weight during the winter to protect themselves from the elements and the limitations. Often times we put on excess weight to protect ourselves from the world. Studies have shown that the correlation between sexual abuse or childhood trauma and obesity is staggering. Weight becomes a way to protect the sweet tender soul inside the body from the abusive, cruel and unpredictability of the outside world. Food becomes a comfort, and it results in a sense of protection. Most of this isn’t conscious, it is subconscious, and it totally makes sense!
That old weight is a friend. Well, kinda. You know, it’s the scape goat for all of life’s problems. The reason you didn’t get an A on the exam, why your don’t have a boyfriend, why that person cut you off in traffic, why your parents have marital problems, why you didn’t get that raise, or why your bank account never seems to grow. Gotta problem? It’s my fat’s fault. In other words, if you lost your scape goat, you would (gulp) have to take up the accountability in your life.
Excess weight is excess energy. Really. On a simple level calories are energy, and fat is stored or potential energy. So that excess weight is energy waiting to happen. Where in your life needs more energy? Where does that potential need to be directed? Chances are there is an area in your life that could use a lot more attention. Maybe it spending more time creatively expressing yourself. Maybe it is finally learning how to edit your photographs, or learning to speak Italian. Maybe it is finding a way to be of service to others. This could be working in a soup kitchen or building new hiking trails. Career is a big place where we get stuck. When we have an area in our life this is amiss, or stagnant that can be reflected in our physical state as well. So... that potential energy is asking to be poured into something new. Is there something or somewhere in calling you forward to explore, shift, evolve?
So if excess weight draws our attention to our body, maybe our bodies needs more attention. Loving attention that is. Some people spend the majority of the day in their minds and not in their bodies. Planning, problem solving, analyzing, and obsessing. So much time spend in the head! Time to get out of the head and land in the body. How do you embody? When do you feel alive in your body? Breathing, moving, playing, smelling, touching, listening… Get in your body. Move it, shake it, dance it, jump it, pedal it, whatever gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing. Take a walk outdoors in the rain. Rub some essential oils in the palm of your hands and deeply inhale. Play tag with your five year old. Basically, act like a kid :-)
Next on the list of reason why weight seems to stick around, self-love and acceptance. Your body is your home (as I mentioned earlier). Our bodies are lovable right now, as they are. Twenty pounds heavier, twenty pounds lighter. Your body is the vehicle that allows you to be having the epic life experience right now! Imagine if you told your dog that you will only love it when it stops shedding, or you will only love and accept your child when they are 5’7” tall.
Why is it that we think we can put an ultimatum on ourselves? We will only love and accept ourselves when I loose this excess weight. I will finally learn to tap dance when I can look good in leggings. I will start to date again when I am at an attractive weight.
Why is it that we think the only way deserve life is when we shift something about how we are?
What is wrong with us?!
Yet, it isn't our fault. It was taught to us. Generation after generation that is what our culture has led us to believe. We are unlovable and undeserving if we don't have the right body. I heard it put this way, women are sex objects and men are success objects. Neither gender has it easy.
Reality check, life is NOW! Not when you loose 30 pounds. If you can’t see your goodness underneath a few extra pounds, I promise you that you won’t find it when you are lighter. Your awesomeness is not going to suddenly be unveiled once the weight is gone.
Your attractiveness is your spirit, it isn't your body. It shows in how you carry your body, and it also shows in how you speak to and care for your body. Your purpose, your gift, your vibrance is who you are underneath the clothes, the skin, the fat, the blood, the guts and the bones.
Close your eyes. Take a few minutes to breathe. Let life in. It's here with you right now. It always has been. It's waiting for you. It has always loved you. That's what it is trying to say.
Are you ready to love it back?
I say it's worth a solid try.
As always, more love.