Most of us, even if we haven’t had children of our own, have looked after a very young child for a period of time. If not a baby, then possibly a puppy, a kitten, a fledging bird (insert whatever you want to here).
Have you noticed how attentive you are to it’s every signal? When it shows signs of being unhappy or uncomfortable, you check to see if it’s hungry, thirsty, needs a nappy change or a cuddle. You try to cajole and care for it so that it can be content once again. If babies (or baby animals) have their basic needs met and are loved and cared for (nourished) they thrive.
So why then, do we seem to think that punishing ourselves into good health, high energy and/or weight loss is good idea? Where did that bizarre notion come from and how is it possible that it’s taken such root in our collective consciousness that very few people think there’s anything wrong with it?
I also used to advocate punishing myself through low calorie diets, removal or entire food groups, restrictive eating, prescribed quantities and meal times and punishing exercise regimes and prescribed the same for my patients. Thinking back on that now, it’s a wonder that I’m still in practice.
Interestingly enough, it’s the fact that patients try and fail and then seem to come back for more that set me on a quest to discover if there is possibly a different strategy that we can adopt to become healthy.
The problem is of course, that these punishing strategies seem to work – in the short term at any rate. I’ve lost countless kilograms and built a lot of muscle over the past thirty or so years using the very strategies that I now condemn – condemn is a strong word and I don’t really condemn them, I just believe that there are alternative strategies so that punishment is no longer necessary. They work so the rewards of the weight loss and the increased energy or health seems worth it. You have to punish yourself in order to be rewarded with good health right! Wrong!
Not just wrong: fucked up in what it is!
When patients have been very ill and are convalescing, we nurture them back to health. We recommend lots of rest, highly nutritious food and love and care form those to whom they are close. So if we’re not sick enough to be in hospital or have a set of symptoms that are considered life threatening or are just unhappy with how our bodies look and feel, we can’t we nourish ourselves back to wellness? Why can’t we let go of the ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality that keeps us trapped in the endless cycle of losing weight and then regaining it (and more) or getting fit, only to fall off the wagon and then become unfit again. That whole cycle is just exhausting! I’m tired writing about it and you are probably tired just reading about it!
So here’s a radical idea – not really radical and not my idea although I’m happy to take some credit for at least recognizing it’s validity! What if we adopted a nourishing strategy to get to our ideal weight or reach our health goals instead? What would live look like? What would we feel like? How joyful and inspiring could it be?
But how do we do that I hear you ask? (I hope I you’re still reading this far down and haven’t given up out of boredom!)
The same way we take care of a young child. We pay attention to the signals from our body. We feed ourselves when we experience physical hunger (we learn what real physical hunger actually feels like first); we drink water when we’re thirsty (we practice feeling what the thirst signal feels like); we allow ourselves to feel our emotions without judgment; we ask for help when we need it; we don’t feed any other hunger except physical hunger with food; we don’t overfeed ourselves until we’ve got stomach ache or heartburn or feel exhausted; we move our bodies regularly because we can and because it makes us feel alive, not as a punishment for overeating; we rest when we’re tired, we get enough sleep, we spend time in nature; we love freely; we practice kindness towards ourselves; we give ourselves permission to have fun and the list goes on.
We cultivate awareness and pay attention to ourselves and in becoming more sensitive to our own inner signals, we pay more attention to others. We connect to ourselves and that deepens our connection to others and our connection to life!
How different things would look next year this time if we valued ourselves enough to nourish ourselves fully to health and vitality!
I’m in. Are you?
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