Monday, June 23, 2008

Be Yourself: Everyone Else is Taken

It does seem to me that more and more people are approaching at a new level of understanding. Despite all the confusing messages about what to eat and how to eat it, people seem to be recognizing some basic “truths”.

First is the fact that diets DO NOT work – in fact they CAUSE weight gain. They do this by enticing us with promises that are unrealistic. They say we will permanently shed pounds by depriving ourselves of food and consequently, fun. Then our bodies scream at us to feed them more because we do not feel satiated. Chances are we have not eaten enough of the foods we require to have the energy and zest we need to meet the demands of each day.

Emotionally we may feel sad and discouraged about how we have deprived ourselves and make up for that by eating double or triple the amounts and eating much more often. We then gain weight back and as each pound tips the scale, our feelings of guilt and shame grow in proportion to our waistlines. Of course, this leads us back to check in the refrigerator or cupboards for some little morsel to “take the edge off” our pain and we stay spinning in this cycle of deprivation…overeating…beating ourselves up… seeking food for comfort …gaining more weight and trying even harder to be “good” (no, “perfect”) dieters. These more fervent attempts to diet and drop 20 pounds in a weekend only reinforce our failure and cause more and more emotional eating and self-deprecating feelings.

It is clear that we do not have to exercise for hours a day at our local gym but that we do need to use our bodies and move them around every day. We can swim, walk, dance, bike, do chair exercises or whatever else pleases us. We can stretch our muscles gently with yoga postures or Tai Chi movements. We can appreciate the many ways our bodies serve us in every moment and stop beating them up or trying to force them into unrealistic shapes and sizes.

We are also beginning to understand the sleep/appetite connection. Much research has proven that lack of sleep causes an excess of ghrelin to be released in our bodies. This hormone causes an increase in appetite. Simultaneously, we slow down our production and release of leptin – the hormone which signals our brains that we are satiated. No wonder those of us who are always tired and dragging ourselves through life are eating our weight in sugar on a regular basis!

Please interpret this information as permission to slow down and to relax more. We live in a high tech, fast paced world where we can never go fast enough. Remember, this increased stress causes the release of cortisol in our bodies and this increases our appetite dramatically... caffeine also causes leaps in our cortisol levels (not to mention its contribution to sleep deprivation). I think people are getting this message.

My hope is that folks are recognizing that life is about a lot more than being thin. Thankfully, being healthy tops the list these days for many of us Chew Tamers. As the obesity epidemic in our country and worldwide grows, I like to think that a parallel movement is underway. This is the time for all of us to work towards greater energy, vibrant health, and body sizes that support our efforts to enjoy the experiences life brings to us every day. We can learn to accept ourselves no matter what size or shape we are at this time. We can find and embrace opportunities for self improvement every day. We are all works in progress moving towards our ideal state of radiant health. And remember, you are never alone. We are all on this journey together!

And, in the meantime, as a bumper sticker I saw once reminded me…”Be yourself! Everyone else is taken!”

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