I was a smoker for 17 years. The things people say to you when you smoke are fascinating. It is a free pass to be mean. “That will kill you, you know”, they offer helpfully. I would usually respond with dripping sarcasm (what can I say, I’m from Youngstown), but inside it hurt a lot to be treated like a moron, when really I was an addict. Those are two very different things.
The thing is I wanted to quit smoking. I really did. But I would try and fail, try again and fail.
Anti-smoking material would offer suggestions like plastering a picture of a charred black lung on your dashboard. Really? I already know what my lungs look like. I feel them when I cough. To me, that kind of information is not helpful. It just makes me feel worse that I can’t quit. It is like the bad advice of putting a picture of your “fat self” on the fridge. Please.
► Lie: If I really knew what it was doing to me, I could stop.
► Truth: I already know what it is doing to me. That is not enough.
I have a client who is battling her weight and she has type 2 diabetes. She went to an eye doctor recently to get her vision checked, and he brought out a chart to show her where her weight was on the chart, pointed out the obese section, then told her she was a hundred pounds overweight. Her response through tears was, “Do you really think I don’t know that?”
I know exactly how that feels. Even if it is true, it isn’t necessarily helpful.
It reminds me of when I injured my back. The first place I went specialized in something called muscle activation technique. The second place I went was an orthopedic doctor. The third place I went was physical therapy. The fourth place I went was to a massage therapist. The fifth place I went was to the chiropractor. This was over a period of 2-3 years, and I was still in terrible pain and unable to run. None of those solved the problem. They did their best, but could only offer information about my issue.
Then I met a woman who had the exact same symptoms in her back as I did. I remember the conversation well, us realizing, “ME TOO!” She lay on the floor one day and showed me this crazy three step stretch that pops the SI joint (lower back above the glute) in my back. Not just one pop, more like popopopopop. And the pain went away! And it’s still gone. It was a miracle cure.
When I finally quit smoking, it was my third week of a smoking cessation class at McConnell heart health center. I was still smoking, and had in fact had one right before class. The pack of Salems was still in the car. But they had a guest speaker that day, and he came in and talked about being a lifetime smoker. Until he quit. He mentioned everything I was struggling with! I felt like jumping up and down and saying “me too! me too!”. And I never smoked again. That pack sat in my car for two weeks, until I finally threw it out.
The client who went to see her doctor and was told she was obese? She will not heal her relationship with food and get fit because she gets information about where she is on a chart. She will heal when she is ready to stop turning to food for comfort when she is afraid or sad or angry. She will heal when she is ready.
We can get stuck in the quicksand of too much information on this journey. More information isn’t always helpful. Don’t you already know what to do? If you don’t, that knowledge is everywhere. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eat plant strong whole foods. Drink water. Get good sleep. Walk. Lift. Stretch. Do it consistently. Don't quit.
The catalyst for that moment when it all comes together and it clicks, is NOT more information. It is more inspiration and faith.
Yes, I can make better choices.
Yes, I can walk almost every day in my zone.
Yes, I can quit smoking. If you can, sir, I can.
Yes, I can heal my back. Me too, me too.
Yes, by the grace of God I can change my life.
Find those who inspire you to do better. Who make you believe that you, too, can do it!
Find what inspires you to keep going. Keep that fire lit and that light shining bright.
It is the FIRE that will take you where you want to go. And it is the LIGHT that will make your path clear.
A deep sense of unworthiness, or NEVER ENOUGH-NESS, can drive us to create a mask that we wear through life.
Everyone thinks we're OK (or maybe not), but it's not real. We've disconnected from our authentic, true self.
Once we are masked, we may do all the "right" things, do "good" things, but we'll always have a gnawing sense that we are imposters that don't belong and don't measure up.
Therefore, we'll be deeply rooted in NEVER ENOUGH.
There is a way to completely heal this loss of self. It's not by doing things right. It's not by doing "good" things. It's by learning to be REAL.
Do you know who you are?
Do you feel like you've lost yourself?
Are you stuck inside a mask of approval seeking?
Here's what I did.
I did one thing each day that I knew was from my true self.
I had to remember way back to before my traumas, before my mind created translations of events in my life and made them mean something about my WORTH.
I loved music. I drew horses all the time. I read tons of book, especially about horses and dogs. I wrote.
So my new daily practice began as this. I played MY music, the music that spoke to me. I drew horses again. I went to Barnes & Noble and I bought all my favorites from childhood that I could remember and I read them. I have a special shelf at home dedicated to them. Charlotte's Web. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Black Beauty. And I wrote. In my journal at first, it wasn't for anyone else but ME.
Those simple, small acts of RECONNECTING and honoring who I really am started to rattle the masks loose and allow a little more LIGHT into my innermost being. I started to break free of the expectations outside of me. I started to finally be ME.
It was like breaking out of prison. It was glorious, joyful and miraculous.
Try it. Is there a part of you that you left behind because you had responsibilities and expectations? Take the time. Reconnect. Find what speaks to your soul and don't ever stop doing it.
There's an incredible peace and divine confidence that comes from simply BEING YOU.
I believe we are building an army of empowered women who know the truth and can stand strong when the moment arrives.
Actually, the moment arrives constantly.
We are making choices all the time. When we have weight issues, we can get fooled into thinking we're choosing whether to eat or not, or what to eat. But really, it's not about food at all. It's about staying or escaping the moment.
Let's take stress eating, for example. The morning is going OK and then your boss-spouse-client-child-principal-crazy driver-girlfriend-plumber-Starbucks drive thru line-flat tire-bad hair day- ___ (insert stressor here) throws your stress hormones into a frenzy. Suddenly you are angry and your mind is racing. All you want is your peace of mind back.
There's your moment.
You can (A) work through the stress to get to a place of authentic peace or (B) escape to a place of counterfeit peace.
(A) takes longer and involves more effort. All (B) takes is a spoon and some ice cream.
This is not a choice about food. There are many other ways to escape. If I am suddenly stressed or angry or terrified, there are many means I can use to escape. Food is a big one because it is quick, easy and cheap. And it works. You absolutely leave your frenzied mind and go to your happy place. But only as long as there is ice cream on the spoon.
When you choose to run away, it is no different than if you shot up heroin. Your brain takes you just as far away from the issue you were only a moment ago standing in the middle of. But just like the junkie, the issues are still there once the high is gone and the emotions still need to be dealt with. If we keep putting them off, it's like going into emotional debt. We keep spending and shifting amounts around on different credit cards, but eventually we have to pay. We have to face what we were escaping.
And if we were escaping for a long time, now we have to face our original issue plus the feelings that come with being overweight and using food.
The moment of choice when you are HUNGRY is what to eat and how much. This is where your strategies come in, your awareness and your knowledge.
The moment of choice when you are not hungry but are FEELING SOMETHING UNCOMFORTABLE is to eat comfort food, shoot up heroin, or deal with the issue. It takes a lot of strength to deal with the issue. It may mean telling someone no and feeling afraid they will disapprove. It may mean finding your voice and telling someone what you need. It may mean taking some time to just sit with your fear to let God do some healing work in you.
Even if you choose to eat carrot sticks, if you do it to escape, you are still escaping. That is why it is not about food and why a diet will never fix this.
So, what can you do? You can get strong; physically, emotionally and spiritually strong. Because when you are in that moment and those feelings get uncomfortable, you must be empowered to stand against that discomfort and fear! You must stay put. You must know who you are, and that you are ENOUGH. You must know that there is a Power at work in your life that is stronger than anything that might come at you. You must know that you are connected to other women who encourage and support you being fully real in those moments.
Then, as that automatic tendency to escape yourself heals, you will find that the issues that were the result of that; the weight, the food, the scale, the clothes, the health scares...they all begin to heal as well. You find that food is just food, and peace is actual peace, and real comfort is way better than the counterfeit version ever was.
I am EXTRAORDINARILY grateful for my coaches, mentors and teachers.
Without them, I'm afraid I would have stayed stuck in my head, spinning webs of pain and self-loathing. My thoughts, memories and translations of the events of my life had gotten so twisted.
Every experience I'd had over the course of my life had gone through my fear filter before getting placed in storage.
Then, on cue when triggered, those thoughts would come up and wreak havoc on my present situation.
I started to believe that every situation I was in was wrecked, but that wasn't true. It was the story I was TELLING MYSELF about the situation.
My translator was broken.
Since it had a root language of "Never Enough/Worthless", the result was seeing everything though that lens.
I needed Divine Intervention.
I knew I could not solve this with my own mind. I'd been through the same cycle of trying to change, managing the mess for awhile, trying to hold on, losing a grip, letting go and ending up right back where I started. Exhausted and no further along, feeling like a failure, ready to give up.
It was horrible.
Then, at the low point of my life, an amazing life coach who reflected my words back in such a way where I could see my patterns and my role in them, and stop being a victim. Empowerment.
Then, a personal trainer who saw I was on as much of a spiritual-seeking journey as a fitness one, and talked to me about God in a way I could hear. Amazing Grace.
Then, a support group leader that led the most broken-hearted of us back to the light of day without judgment. Unconditional Love.
Then, a coach who talked to me about purpose, authenticity and greatness. About shifting perceptions from fear to love. Breaking though the blocks that had been silencing my voice and disowning my story. Purpose.
It is extremely tempting to believe that AS SOON AS I get this food under control, find the right workouts, get my calories in/calories out right, lose this weight, get out of this job, get more money, find the right partner, ETC...that I will feel peace, joy and freedom.
Go deeper, my spiritual-seekers.
Step into your empowerment.
Receive amazing grace.
Experience unconditional Love.
Align with your purpose.
Through Divine Intervention, watch your old thought patterns unwind and start to align with the Truth.
Watch the fear filter lose its power over your thoughts.
Notice the new story you begin to tell yourself. That you are loved, good enough already, beautiful, forgiven, HEALED and set free to live in peace, joy and freedom.
That was the gift of FINALLY admitting I couldn't do this alone. I needed help. The old story of, "I am strong and independent, I can control this, I can manage this, I can fix this", didn't work anymore. I needed help. The miracle is, as soon as I asked, the ideal coach, mentor and teacher was right there for me.
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."
Oftentimes, the way of the Empowered Woman is upside down from the rest of the world.
The world says collect enough money and you will be happy.
Empowerment says find deep gratitude for what you have, and you will live abundantly.
The world says find the perfect relationship and you will be happy.
Empowerment says fall crazy in love with your own path, life and best self, then good relationships will come.
The world says sculpt the perfect body and you will be happy.
Empowerment says to practice love, acceptance and deeply honor the body you have now, and you will begin to care for and see it differently.
When I first started working out, I was surprised how drawn to fitness I was. I was just coming off 17 years as a smoker, had recently been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, and was about to get a divorce. My self-worth was in the pit and I was desperately seeking answers. I had no idea who I was and what made me happy.
I still believed all three of the lies listed above. If I could just get enough money, the right guy, and six-pack abs, I would be happy. I am so glad it didn't go that way.
About the time I got divorced in '03, I decided to become a personal trainer and leave my pretty-good-paying corporate job. Self-employment gave me the professional freedom I longed for, but just starting out was not going to require me to open any new bank accounts.
I also realized shortly after that period of time, that there was no way I was going to find the right guy until I healed some junk I'd been carrying around for a long time. The broken me attracted some sketchy characters. So, no rescue from Prince Charming.
And, it turns out, I really like to eat. So, although dieting always sounded appealing on Sunday night, by Monday afternoon I was eating something I judged to be bad, and had given up on sculpted abs yet again. I was going to have to learn to live with this body.
Then came fitness.
Turns out my body could do some awesome stuff like run slow, long distances and lift weights.
I could make my way through a Hatha Yoga class and actually hold some of the poses.
I could do a plank.
I learned that my body loved to walk, and when I walked it gave my mind the boost it needed to start seeing things more clearly.
I also got to see amazing stuff just from walking. Metro Parks, Red Mountains, canyons.
I love that body. I am grateful for what it can do.
If I had been a good dieter, I believe I may have gotten that six-pack I believed would fulfill me, but I would also be a slave to the scale. I would get on it every morning and ask it, "Am I worth anything today? Am I good or am I a failure? Can I eat today? How much do I need to work out today?" No, thank you. I prefer to love myself at any weight.
Freedom isn't found in money or other people or our bodies. True freedom and peace of mind comes from knowing who we are, and that we are formed from worth and love. It's what we're made of. It's what lines each cell of our body. Muscle cell, fat cell, skin cell. All lined with worthiness and love.
Thinking this way takes practice and commitment. It's tempting when we overhear someone talking about their new diet/fast/cleanse/juice/pinkdrink/supplement. Let it go. Take care of yourself, lift weights, do yoga, walk or run because you're awesome and you want to see cool stuff!
We empowered women are on a different path. One rooted in truth, that doesn't demand any kind of performance or perfection to know we are already, at any weight, good enough.
Self-loathing is hard to define.
For me, one of the biggest issues is I hid it, so no one knew I felt that way. But inside, guilt and shame were running my life, and all my decisions. No matter how hard I tried to WILL myself to change, that darkness inside me would trip me up again and again.
When I thought I was a terrible person, it was hard to care what I ate, what I smoked, whether I exercised. Guilt kept winning. Shame kept winning.
I hated that battle and did everything in my power to hide it. I worked harder than everyone else. I didn't have boundaries so I could people please continually for small doses of counterfeit worth. Like a beggar, I went around looking for approval handouts everywhere I went.
It sucked. And I stayed stuck like that for decades.
Do you know what the magic secret was? I'll tell you first what it wasn't. It wasn't a new diet. It wasn't harder exercises. It wasn't changing the voice in my head (I couldn't if I tried). It wasn't getting a new job, boss, husband, kids, house, body, bank account, or any of that.
ALL I DID was tell someone the truth, who I trusted would listen and respond only in love and acceptance, which they did. Because guilt was a liar. And shame was a liar. I wasn't a terrible person. I was a sensitive human.
When I told my story for the first time, I shook and cried and could barely talk. It had been bottled up for so long, getting more and more twisted as time went on. But I told it anyway.
And every time I did, I felt more and more FREEDOM from the self-loathing and the old, tired lies that I'd never be good enough. Turns out I already was good enough. I'd just been through some shit, translated it poorly, and then clung to it as my identity.
Not anymore, friends! I'm free now, no longer weighted down by guilt, shame or the false beliefs about WHO I AM. The TRUTH set me free.
Founder of LYBU, Specialized In Home Personal Trainer for Women 40+, Coach, Speaker and Author of I Know What To Do, I Just Don't Do It ©