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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Approaching Change With Kindness

I've been happy at 150 lb. I've been terrified at 150 lb. I've been happy at 127. I've been terrified at 127. I've gone into the hospital nine months pregnant at 154. I've lived unpregnant and happy at 154.

My size doesn't actually define my level of satisfaction.
But my state of mind most certainly does.
My size doesn't entirely determine how confident/comfortable/attractive I feel when choosing clothing. In the days when I was relatively thin but living in constant fear of fat, the "thinness factor" brought very limited amounts of happy into my life. Then there were times when I lived in a thin body without the battle- a relatively effortless way of enjoying food and life without fear or the pathology of an erratic bathroom scale. I enjoyed being thin at that time of life. Wearing clothing was easy and effortless, body parts didn't jiggle and sag so much, and bathing suits were a little less horrifying.

In the last ten years or so, I haven't exactly been that kind of thin. But I've also been pretty happy. I don't struggle pathologically with food or body image. I don't torture and torment myself with inhumane methods of weight reduction. I don't hate and shame myself endlessly. I do find myself often yearning for "thin" (the way I was) but I'm far enough along in my psychological development to know that if getting to thin costs me all my kindness and happiness, it's an exercise in futility. A ridiculous waste of time.

But as the years continue to speed by, I never stop desiring change. I'd like to be in better shape. I'd like to weigh less than I currently do. I know it won't be my magic bullet secret to eternal happiness, and I'm wary of causing myself stress or causing some form of self-hatred to flourish.

So, I wonder. Isn't it a good idea to pursue change with kindness? And is anyone interested in joining me? My intentions are to pursue change slowly, kindly, and with acute attention given to the thoughts and feelings that arise. There is no "winning" and no "losing". Only the possibility of making more peace with one's body; where it is headed; and how we are getting there.

My Kindness Approach looks a little like this:
  • exercise is good for your body, your brain, and your mental health. However. If you hate the gym, don't join one. Engage in something that brings you some kind of joy or pleasure. Think "sustainable".
  • Be mindful of what you put in your mouth. Eating is one of life's greatest pleasures, and we get to do it every day! Mindless eating is a coping mechanism that deserves your undivided attention. Geneen Roth recommends eating while sitting down in as pleasant a setting as possible, without noisey distractions (tv, etc). She recommends a whole lot of other things, and if you struggle with the mental issues of weight obsession, DO NOT PASS GO - get yourself her books. They are worth it.
  • Do not engage in dialogue about how much you suck; how much you hate any of your body parts; or how you have no willpower. That's not kind. Just pay attention, and see what your own body has to teach you.
  • Support one another with the understanding of the point above. I've hesitated to write about this because there's nothing more destructive than a bunch of women clucking and clacking about their levels of fatness. Seriously people. Use your energy for something more productive!!

There's more. But that's a start.

I'm thinking about blogging about this journey on a private blog page. It's really personal and makes me feel brutally vulnerable when I speak of my lifelong journey, making peace with this body I've been given. I'm happy to share, but not with; like.... the whole world. Or the guy next door. So, if this appeals to you, give me a clue. You can e-mail me (if you want to retain your privacy) at You can leave me a comment. You can send me a top secret message by courrier if you're so inclined.

Meanwhile, I'm going outside for a walk. It's incredibly gorgeous out, it's Sunday, and walks make me happy(er).

Be happy, life is short.


mmichele said...

I like the kindness approach and I would love to read more!

janice said...

The kindness approach is the best. I would love to read more.

It has taken 25 years, and I, too am at peace with my body - about 99% of the time.

Mary K. said...

count me in

briacolleen said...

Ya, I like that a lot. I have struggled with this topic since jr.high. I'm on board!

joyce said...

michelle, and bria, if you could send me an email at then I know how to add you to the reader list.

(and anyone else interested. You don't need any special skills or anything, just respect, curiosity, and the willingness to examine some of our motives and hang ups.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joyce, I always find your writing inspiring,challenging and lots to ponder..

Thanks for giving so much

Karla said...

Oh, I want in. but I think you know that already.

joyce said...

Patti, I don't know if you could imagine how much those words mean. Thank you so very much.

jenn said...

I want in too!

brenda said...

Aah, tis a fine and noble art to learn to love pursued in the company of good friends. I feel some good girl-bonding going on...I'm in!

Anonymous said...

please include me!!

The Naked Chef
(email sent)

Lucy said...

Beautifully expressed as usual, Joyce. I can really identify and would love to be part of this. Lucy