Likely all of us have seen an ad for “lose 10 pounds this week,” “one pill does it all,” or (my favorite) the before and after photos that look like a Shrinky Dinks demo. In fact, it’s so prevalent that I pray this post doesn’t make it into your spam filter.
Because weight is tied to self-image in our society, it’s no wonder that companies play on the fear of being rejected, the frustration of not being good enough and the unrealistic association of beauty as a single-digit dress size. As someone who used to eat to assuage stress or to reward myself for overcoming a challenge, I can relate to the angst associated with the climbing digital numbers on a scale.
See, I come from a robust Scottish German background where every guest was encouraged to “eat up” and multiple servings showed appreciation for the cook. Food was a celebration, a competition, a connection and a comfort. Until college, I did pretty well balancing my activity level with my eating habits. It was then that I fell into the university cycle many of you know so well: work multiple jobs, study late into the night, eat whatever is handy and indulge with friends during your precious free time. Stress was rising, rest was declining, food was shoveled in instead of thought through and life was throwing me painful curve balls.
At my lowest emotional point, my weight crept to its highest—gaining over 50 pounds. Two years of my life went by in a blur of graduation, relationship adjustments, personal identity struggles and deep hurt. I did my best to hide my loathing for myself with larger clothes, a resistance to photos of anything below my shoulders, declined social opportunities, lots of work and rollercoaster eating. Looking back, I am grateful for this sharp memory. It gives me empathy as I work with others and, more so, it reminds me that physical weight is a manifestation of our spiritual health.
How did I lose the weight? It started with a tearful and honest conversation that my dad initiated. “Ace, I don’t want to hurt you, but I can tell something’s wrong and your weight reflects that. I’m gonna work harder at this and I hope you will too.” While it hurt momentarily to have my father be my mirror, it was a blessing. He struggled with stress eating, overindulgence and weight most of his life. So, it was that respectful love that helped me ask myself how much I respected and loved myself.
But it takes more than a push, a hug or a cheerleader to overcome the darkness we allow to consume us. It takes fortifying your hope through these things:
- A tough look at your crutches and coping mechanisms (self-assessment)
- An awareness that you deserve and are more (self-love)
- A willingness to really work toward change (self-motivation)
- An ability to let go of negative thinking (self-talk)
Your mind, body and spirit are connected. It’s a beautiful chemistry that determines how we face each day and how we live to our fullest potential. The unseen weight we carry comes from fear, disappointment, worry, bitterness and guilt. To release it, we must do spiritual exercise in love, giving, gratitude, forgiveness and hope. After all, hope is nourishment.
If you want to tip the scales in your favor, you have to choose to let go of those thoughts and feelings that undermine your happiness. Visualize yourself casting off the burdens you accepted from others and tucked away within yourself. We are literally energetic beings with the amazing ability to rejuvenate and sculpt our reality. Try prayer, meditation, cleansing in the shower or ocean (if one is handy), and nurturing the Holy Spirit guiding you past your troubles.
This world will challenge you with temptations and trials. So, as further support in your journey, be watchful of these internal triggers—they are not coming from a loving source:
- “You already splurged today, what’s one more thing? You can do better tomorrow.” No, each choice is an instant and unique. Don’t get caught up in a day, a week or any period dictating your “right time.” This moment is new.
- “Everyone else is drinking, eating or doing that. Why should I be denied?” No, everyone else is accountable for their own happiness, and may be hiding their pain or stress. Listen to your spirit and do what will lighten not laden you.
- “This takes the pain away for a while or helps me wind down after a long day.” Masking the root of the concern only perpetuates it and keeps you from processing your feelings. Do this, feel rotten, regret and repeat? No, break the cycle.
You will hit bumps, as life is ever-changing. It’s ok. Go easy on yourself and reset when you realize what’s happening. Spiritual weight loss is not a quick fix, but a long-term shift in self-image and lifestyle. If you could see the spiritual burdens you are lugging around, you would be astonished. Let go, forgive, breath and filter. Temptation, doubt, fear and anxious thinking are all companions you don’t need. It’s time to lighten the load and live.