You Have It In You To Take It Off You…

That sounds catchy but what exactly does it mean?
Years ago a colleague made a tape with that title for his therapy clients who wanted to lose weight. The title was so memorable that it comes to my mind now, some twenty years later. Weight management is so near and dear to my heart (literally and figuratively!) that I want to write everything I have learned about it through the years. This one line sums it all up. We have it in us to take it off us. Allow me to explain.

I grew up in a family of dieters. All the women had a dozen stories to tell about managing their weight. Some were hilarious stories that were told over and over. We could laugh as hard at the tenth re-telling as we did when it first occurred. Some of the stories were no laughing matter, they were heart wrenching. Stories of embarrassment and compromised health. Diet pills and fad diets punctuated by donuts, cakes, bagels, cream cheese, and bread; lots of bread. I have memories of being teased in school and hiding behind a bush, when a boy I had a crush on walked by, too embarrassed to be seen with my chubby thighs rolling out of my summer shorts. I was never obese, but I believe I went beyond pleasingly plump, in my younger days. My mother loved to tell the story of her sister-in-law admonishing my father to fatten her up; he certainly did just that. Photos of her in her twenties looking like a tall thin model do not even resemble photos of her in her later years. She blamed her pregnancies, saying that she could never lose the weight afterward.

Curiously, I never noticed her trying, I only noticed her eating a lot of bread, and cake. It eventually sunk in to me that in order to feel physically energetic and spry I had to be at a particular weight. I even noticed that just a few pounds more and I no longer felt as though “I could leap tall buildings in a single bound.” To reach and maintain that weight I had to eat less and exercise more. I couldn’t disagree with this direction, it was really that simple. There was no mystery, just facts. Eat less and exercise more. These are both behaviors. Behaviors come from thoughts. Pure and simple. If we want to raise an arm, it won’t happen spontaneously, we have to think: raise arm. In fact, it is necessary to think – which arm do I raise. At times a behavior emerges from a thought that is quite helpful.

I remember being an awkward teenager in a two-piece bathing suit at the beach. After long observation in front of a mirror, I figured out that I looked better if I sucked in my stomach. Since I was at the beach a lot in those days, it worked out well. I didn’t realize all that stomach sucking resulted in some pretty decent abs. Unbeknownst to me I was performing an isometric exercise, and all along I thought I was just trying to look good. After awhile it became second nature, I didn’t have to give it much thought, it was simply something I did. Like standing up straight with good posture, I walked around with a sucked in stomach. It was not at all difficult. It happened naturally; accidentally, in fact.

Sometimes we can get carried away by life; with abundance, emotion, feelings of guilt, lack of control and all of those things that can get in the way of taking good care of ourselves.

There is an old Lakota story that goes like this:

A grandfather teaching his grandson about life says: “A fight is going on inside me between two wolves. One is filled with anger, hate, fear, jealousy and greed. The other is filled with peace, love, acceptance, kindness and compassion. The same fight is going on inside of you too – inside of every person.”

The grandson thought about this for a moment and then asked, “Which wolf will win, grandfather?”

The grandfather answered,  “The one you feed.”

It is the same for all of us. If we choose to feed our fears and numb the feeling by feeding our gut, we may experience temporary relief from difficult emotions but at what price? We have so much more choice than we may realize. We can choose to ride out the anxious feelings until our thoughts change, and they will surely change the instant our focus shifts or we question what we are thinking. No matter what thought and no matter what feeling that thinking delivers to us, it will never last forever. All we have to do is to have the courage to feel it and it will eventually slip away, displaced by another thought, most likely more interesting, more satisfying and more productive. If you can bring yourself to be curious about the next thought that will come to you, it will surprise you how quickly the next thought actually arrives. There are an infinite number of thoughts we can have and feeling the feelings they bring us is the human experience, so why would we choose to numb ourselves to that experience if we remember how amazing it is to be here in a human form with access to common sense and infinite wisdom.

We are all wired in a way that allows us to evaluate our own thoughts. We are all capable of saying, no; that’s a very bad idea, I don’t have to go along with that thought. I’d rather wait for a better idea to come along that will provide me with an improved  outcome.

When we truly experience what we have inside us we can bring it forth and allow it to reign. When we recognize who we really are, when we see our soul, our deep wisdom, our essence, we want to live there as much as possible. We don’t need to control our thoughts or our behaviors then because when we access our essence, we automatically choose what is best for us. Our essence is the life force that runs through all things. It is mysterious, grand, glorious. Everyone has experienced that space, that feeling, if even just for a moment.

I had to have it pointed out to me. I had to hear stories about human essence which is what exists for us before thought is formed, the formless energy of the Universe into which we all tap. It is impossible to want to harm yourself once you see that. It only makes sense to take the very best care of this rare and wonderful gift of life. We all have witnessed people abuse themselves either through alcohol, drugs, or food. It’s hard to watch, our hearts go out to someone taking their precious life and turning it into a dump. Yet they are innocent, they only hear their own thoughts which may be quite toxic; if only they realized that they are miracles, they would surely treat themselves with empathy and love. We can always find our way back to the wisdom, common sense and health within us. We only have to know that it exists for us.

Appreciate who you really are and honor that soul with all of your love and all of your compassion; there is only one you.