When I was willing to let go of what I wanted, I received what was truly mine.” Anita Mooranji
I’ve heard many teachers and gurus say words to the effect that it is through our struggle where we will find peace, that there is a gift in the challenge if we can only find it.
A month or so ago I would have sneered at this idea and probably labelled it as mumbo-jumbo new age rubbish. Yet in such a short space of time I truly believe there is beauty in the struggle, in a way I couldn’t have understood without going through it directly. Although these past few months have been both painful and challenging I wouldn’t change any of it. I feel like I am uncovering more and more gifts in my struggle, like there is a magnificent purpose to it all. In my last post I mentioned that I have joined a new online community and the experience has been so enlightening. In listening to the collective stories of shame and guilt, the battles with food and body hatred it’s like I can see it all so clearly. It’s almost as if the words have come from my own soul, but the clarity in what I can see as the solution is so blinding. And it’s nothing new. You already know the answer in your heart, and it has nothing to do with food or weight loss. It is complete all-embracing self-love and self-acceptance.
However my knowledge has shifted from an intellectual understanding to an inner knowing and I truly feel it with every ounce of my being. I have witnessed all these beautiful women hating their bodies, focusing on what foods they “should” or “shouldn’t” be eating, how they absolutely HAVE to lose weight, that their lives are unbearable. And I completely get it. I can sense the emotional pain almost as much as if it were my own. In fact no more than a few weeks ago, those words could have easily come from me. As a result of falling back into the abyss of bingeing I have gained in the region of 30lbs, my clothes feel tight and I am self-conscious about the extra roll around my tummy. That knowledge a few weeks ago had me in desperate floods of tears, hating myself and berating my body for its grotesque shape. So when I say I get where these lovely women are coming from in describing their pain, I truly do. Only now I see the gift in it, of my situation and I am grateful for their willingness to share and be vulnerable. I deeply believe that weight loss is NOT the answer. Focusing on loosing weight so that we will look ‘better’, be more beautiful and therefore be more loved or accepted is just feeding the cycle of “I am not enough”. Focusing on weight loss is a rejection of the soul, a message you are telling yourself over and over again that you are flawed, imperfect, not whole.
Our culture supports this idea. It’s not surprising that so many women grow up hating their bodies, believing there is something wrong with themselves, that they are flawed and imperfect because they don’t meet up to cultural ideals of beauty. The media shows us that we are ‘supposed’ to be young and slim with flowing long hair whilst smiling with perfect white teeth, an iron flat stomach and smooth dimple free thighs to boot! Every advert wants a piece of you, their aim to trick you into believing that you need that latest eye cream/diet plan/magic pill/fat-free chocolate. Even Dove whose whole approach is about making women feel better about themselves by embracing their natural beauty are ultimately trying to sell you a beauty product to make you ‘better’ and thereby contributing to the internal and external dialogue of “I’m not good enough”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wanting to bash Dove for creating marketing campaigns that have a positive message and use women of all ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities. The point I’m making is that this message that we are not ‘good enough’ is so ingrained into our societies it is difficult not to be affected by it.
Equally there is nothing wrong with taking pride in our appearance, to want nice clothes and for our bodies to look great if it comes from a place of loving self-care. Yet so many of us fall into this dangerous trap about wanting to belong by looking a certain way and instead we constantly feel like we fall short, feeding our belief that we are not enough. I truly believe that if we changed our focus from loosing weight to become some ‘better’ version of ourself and instead focused on loving ourselves by eating nourishing foods to enhance our health and vitality we would be much happier and healthier people.
I don’t have this all figured out. There will be times when I want to binge on something that is neither good for my mind, body or soul, but I will not punish myself if I struggle or even give in to these urges. There is still a big part of me that wants to lose this extra weight and belong, to be part of “the club”. However I am not embarking on yet another diet, because I know that choosing that path ultimately causes me more pain and distress. When I do not love, accept and embrace all of who I am it is like a slow spiritual death. Instead I am choosing to eat foods that will enhance my health and vitality, that are satisfying and enjoyable, foods that when I listen to my intuition and inner wisdom truly nourish me. I am finished viewing food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Kale is no more good, than cheese is bad! I may feel better or worse physically depending on which of these I choose to eat, but they are simply some of the foods I can eat if I choose to. The reality is I will end up loosing weight when I choose to eat nourishing foods that enhance my health, but this will happen at a rate that is in harmony with my body as it heals what it needs to. I trust the intelligence of my body when I treat it well.
We are far more than our bodies, and when we start to love and embrace every part of ourselves we will start to awaken to our own magnificence and the amazing things we can experience and do with our lives. So when I said that I was starting to see the gift in my recent struggles, I truly believe it is a gift. The gift is that I see I am worthy and beautiful just as I am, now.
Beauty is what happens when we truly embrace, love and accept ourselves; it is not a physical set of criteria, but the shining of your own essence when it is fully realised and embraced. That I can embrace myself with true love and compassion is the best gift I could ask for. There is so much beauty in the struggle; like that of a butterfly which has to go through its own challenges to break free from its cocoon, but it is this struggle that makes it strong enough to fly. We are all beautiful emerging butterflies, and I for one am getting ready to soar high.