Stupid Comfort Zone. Stupid Self-Sabotage.
My dad was obese and had diabetes. He died of a heart attack (his third) before I turned twelve. Not only was I embarrassed of his appearance when I was a kid (sorry Dad), but I also became excessively aware of (read: OCD) the health—or at least appearance—of my body.
Though for years I managed to fit within the acceptable societal standards, I was on a constant teeter-totter of exercise regularly (for a while) to eat another pastry, skip the workouts (for, like, a year.)
Psychologically and unconsciously we impose glass ceilings for ourselves based on our childhood experiences. This becomes our collection of standards that establish our comfort zone. Stupid comfort zone. (←Joke.)
Our comfort zone isn’t all bad. It keeps us from going too far below our standards as well. But it’s the other side we don’t like.
We say we want a better body, greater happiness and success, more satisfying relationships and a more fulfilling job, yet when we get close to those goals, if they’re beyond our norm, we often trip ourselves up.
Case in point: several years ago after a particularly painful break-up, which in and of itself was self-sabotaging, I decided to heal my heart by taking a trip to Peru for a month. I hiked to Machu Picchu and reclaimed myself while also losing that last 10 pounds.
I felt amazing! I felt the thin air in my lungs as pure sunshine. I woke up with a smile on my face for no reason. I had excess Tigger-bounding energy and laughed and smiled and wrote and felt curiously joyful. And there wasn’t a mirror in sight so I had no idea what I actually looked like. All this feel good came from within!
After a few days of this ridiculous natural euphoria I promptly marched my best-ever-self to the nearest bakery and stuffed my face for a week until I was back to where I’d started!
What. The. Hell?
I even knew what I was doing, but couldn’t manage to stop myself. Stupid psychological self-sabotaging mechanism.
It’s been the same for years. I yo-yo with the best of them. And because I’m not obese by any means, it’s not easy to talk about with the average person. The average person in North America is heavier than I am, so my struggle seems insignificant or simply vain. And though I can understand that perspective, my experience is real and valid for me!
Of course we’ll all feel better if we could love the appearance of our bodies regardless of vanity standards, but also…
If I can feel better—more energized, happy, positive, productive, content; and less constantly tired, depressed, negative, lazy, discontent—I deserve that as much as anyone else, no? (Um, yes!)
While vanity and self-esteem certainly are factors, the feel-great feelings are actually scientifically related to physiological changes in the body. When we are at our best weight and in our best health, we release more of those happy hormones!
I was good at my job and didn’t manage to self-sabotage my career, unless I count quitting after 20 years, but doing that was more out of my comfort zone than staying.
I could say I self-sabotaged intimate relationships, which I probably did, but then again, in hindsight, we weren’t really right for each other anyway. I’m pretty good with money. I don’t spend beyond my means. Nope, for me it’s my body. For others it may be something else, or any/all of the above.
I believe that when we complain about something that we’re ultimately responsible for in our lives, like our bodies (or partner, or job or friends), it comes down to our comfort zone.
If we think believe we deserve better (whatever better looks like for us) then we have the ability to take the first steps to making positive habit changes.
For various reasons, I developed hypothyroidism. One of the effects of this is a slower metabolism, which, depending on its severity, can cause weight gain if measures aren’t taken to reduce those effects. (Diet and exercise.)
I gained 10 percent of my previous body weight and have been two-stepping back and forth on the self-sabotaging dance floor in doing what I need to do to get that weight off. I shimmy forward with good food choices and exercise and hop back with the occasional croissant. It’s slow going but I’m getting there a little at a time.
Going slow allows me to get used to each stage of weight-loss and self-esteem gain along the way, to build a new comfort zone. If I got there too fast it would be more difficult to accept and I’d be back on that teeter-totter.
Becoming consciously aware has helped.
Before I put something in my mouth I take a deep breath, count to four, exhale by a count of eight and then eat. Being conscious and present preps me to be aware of what I’m eating and to enjoy it more. And I don’t judge myself. I don’t tell myself not to eat something.
I also no longer listen when other people who try sabotage my success by coaxing me to eat something I know I’ll regret. I tell myself that they mean well and that we all project and judge; I’ve been in my body for over 40 years and they’ve never been in my body! I am responsible for me. Stupid self-realization.
Being present is working its own magic; the weight is starting to disappear. I don’t think about food as much as I used to or at least not in a negative, compulsive way. I eat when I’m hungry. I eat a croissant if I feel like it. But I am really, totally, mindfully present while eating that flaky, buttery deliciousness! Smart me!
(Self-)Love. Hugs. Bon Appétit!
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: elephant journal archives, whoaitsaimz/Flickr