The other day I was driving home with my five year old daughter after a really great day and she was going on about how sad she was that it was over. I kept trying to get her to focus on being appreciative instead. It wasn’t working, at all. (She is five, after all.) At some point she interrupted me to say, “Mom, do you even understand sadness?”
Do I even understand sadness? Well, I spent years being depressed. You’d think I’d know a thing or two, but I didn’t really understand sadness until I joined a meditation group. Through dharma talks and meditation, I realized that my unwillingness to feel sadness was actually the cause of my depression. At the time, my sadness seemed too overwhelming, too illogical, and too stupid to bear. I wanted to simply will my stupid sadness away, but I couldn’t.
So I learned to feel it. Really, truly, feel it. I had to be brave and trust that it wouldn’t last forever, and that it wouldn’t swallow me whole. I learned to let my feelings arise and pass naturally. Depression was a grey blanket of fog that covered my whole life, but sadness was a sharp breeze that would come and go, if I let it.
I was only able to be this brave because I felt so awful that it didn’t seem like things could get any worse. I was at The Bottom, the place where I usually meet the brave and inspiring people that I coach. They are so tired of dieting, so tired of hating their bodies, just…so…tired. Needing something else, something different.
It’s important to know that HAES and the process of becoming an intuitive eater is not all lightness and joy. There’s a lot of mourning that has to be done. There is both sadness and freedom in letting go of the dieting and body hating mentality. To begin accepting your body, there has to be an acknowledgement of Things That Suck.
Yep. Before liberation comes heartbreak. To move forward, you must acknowledge the following:
- Mainstream culture has a standard for the ideal body. You don’t match up.
- No matter what you do, you will never match up.
- The world around you is not set up to accommodate a diverse range of bodies.
When I say “you” I do mean you, but I also mean everyone else. Look around you and try to find someone in real life who looks like our culture’s ideal. You won’t find them.
You may be aware that you’ll never look like a supermodel, but there’s probably a part of you that still really wants to attempt some approximation, to at least get as close as you can to the ideal. From an outsider’s perspective this pursuit is absurd, but here on the inside, we’re so constantly bombarded with pressure to achieve the ideal, that it actually feels normal. (Ack!)
This is beginning to change, of course. The body ideal and the push to achieve it has become so insane that people are being forced to acknowledge it. But we’re still at the beginning of the revolution, and so there is still a lot of suckage to deal with.
When my clients tell me that it’s hard coming to terms with never having the body they wanted, I say, yes, it’s very hard. When my clients tell me how unfair it feels that they can’t buy clothes at most stores I say yes, it’s totally unfair. When they tell me that never dieting again feels as intensely sad and it feels liberating, I say yes, yes, yes.
I could go on about how awesome it feels to eat intuitively and love your body. I could talk about the rise of fatshion and squashing body ideals. And it would be all true, but it would also be dismissive of the very real sadness that needs to be felt. Demands to be felt. The loss is real.
So this is where we begin on the path to body acceptance, and eventually, body love. First, let it suck. Let it hurt as deeply and as often as it needs to. And when the pain is done needing to be felt, let it pass and make room for love, joy, and appreciation. There is time and space for all of the feelings. But first, let it suck.