As I was speaking to a client the other day, he divulged to me that he has never been able to successfully lose weight. Not in his entire life. He confessed that he never really felt the way other people did, that whole “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” thing. I agreed. There is a cheese risotto over at Caffe Vino in Fort Greene that could go up that mantra any day of the week. Supposedly, Kate Moss felt that way but that makes me more than a bit of concerned for her. There are plenty of things that taste as good as skinny feels! Living by this mantra will actually, over time, make you fat. Why? Because it doesn’t really deal with the source of hunger in the first place and deems weight-loss or maintenance a punishing discipline.
Skinny. Thin. Svelte. Slim. Lean. Gaunt. Slight. Emaciated (this is used as a compliment now). Raw-boned. The plethora of words used to describe it is kind of amazing. The other night, I was watching a doc called “How to Die in Oregon” (highly recommend it, by the way). In this documentary, a woman is suffering through liver cancer. At one point, unaware colleagues and friends starting commenting on how good she was looking, how her bone structure was really popping, she was so graceful and thin. She was flabbergasted and she would break the news to them, “Yup, I’m on the cancer diet. I’m thin because I’m dying.” Let’s just sit with that for a moment.
As a health-coach, I have become hyper aware of how emotionally charged the word “thin” and “skinny” are for so many. 99% of the clients who come to me are looking to lose weight (most of them don’t actually need to) and yes, I can absolutely help them but we need to get real about what is going on in their lives–where they are really hungry. Look, I get it. I’ve been there! Oh, the stories I could tell you about dying to be thin…(Okay I’ll tell you one)
When I was in fifth grade, I was obsessed with my weight. You can ask my parents, my family friends, the kids I walked to school with. I would ask them if they thought I was fat every single day. They would assure me I wasn’t (I was a little bit). I would stare at myself in the mirror sucking in. I would even purse my face in strange ways to make it seem longer and thinner, and sometimes I would put my head to the side so that it touched my shoulder because that is what the fashion models looked like in the magazines. I was a mess. My grandmother even begged me to stop holding my neck like that because people in her building thought “I had problems.” Well, I did a little bit. I was OBSESSED with my weight. We went on a fifth-grade school trip to Lawson’s Lake and my poor bunkmate/friend had to listen to me talk about it all the time. At 10 years old, I would explain my newest understanding of my body, “I’m not skinny. I’m not fat. I’m slender.” ( I think an adult had told me this to get me off their back). I guess my friend thought this was pretty funny because she told all the guys in my fifth-grade class. For days, I endured what seemed like endless chanting from all the boys, sing-songing and gliding their hands along their hips, “I’m not fat. I’m not skinny. I’m slennnnddder.” I was mortified. To this day, the word “slender” makes me shudder.
Through a lot of time, soul-searching and internal work, I have come to realize that being thin OR slender, while momentarily fun, will never make me happy. I will have to make me happy and then, my body follows suit. The more I am nourished by my passion, the more awesome my relationships are, the more I have purpose in my life–the less I need food to fills the void it can never actually fill. My fire burns hotter and this fire, combined with nourishment and nutrition, creates my personal best body. Kind of effortlessly.
Perfect example. Right now, I’m playing a meth addict in a play in New York. Even though I was at my ideal weight, I decided I would try to lose some weight for the role because I wanted to really go the distance with this character. I am playing an unhealthy character, an addict who was pretty sick, and this made sense. This would mean going slightly under my natural and happy weight. So, I used this as an experiment. I started with calorie counting–which inevitably led to some obsession and some deprivation and then a pretty unhappy and stressed out Beth. On some level, I was testing to see if this could even work anymore for me–even short-term. It wasn’t working. In fact, I actually gained weight. I decided to practice what I preach instead. Trust myself. Trust my choices. I am a nutritionist after all. Be loving. Enjoy every second of the show and the process. Be extra good to my boyfriend. I shed five pounds. Not that I even needed to but it actually happened unconsciously. By feeding and balancing the other parts of my life, my body followed suit.
For so many, THIN is the ultimate goal because to them, THIN=ACCEPTANCE, THIN=HAPPY. THIN=FULFILLMENT. THIN=VALIDATION. THIN=LOVE. THIN=EXCITEMENT. THIN=HOT SEX. THIN=THE LIFE I ALWAYS WANTED. You can wrap it up in any kind of glittery paper you want. You can justify it a thousand different ways. Starting to look into yourself and dig around is the first step to discovery…what does being thin represent to me? Where am I actually starving in my life? What hole is food filling for me? Why am I putting off being happy until I attain weight-loss? As a human being, the goal is never to be thin, the goal is to FEEL a certain way. Fulfilled. Signficant. Important. Loved. That you are doing something with your time here on earth. Somehow, thin has been tattooed into this equation for so many of us, especially in the entertainment industry and can give us some serious blinders as to how we can actually achieve these feelings in our lives. By equating thinness with our worth as a human being, we are creating an impossible
standard, a dissonance between ourselves and our own unique light.
So, with all that being said. Why am I talking about this? Because I realize how important it is to talk about this! There is a difference between needing to lose weight and using your potential weight-loss as the fence between you and the rest of your life. Nutrition is a huge part of the equation. I love it. It’s what I do. I’m a WHORE for nutrition! But here’s the kicker…Mindset is infinitely more important. Figuring out who you are and what you want and what gets your juices flowing is infinitely important than the kale. It’s more important than the calories, or the protein, or the omega 3’s. When you figure out what you are really “hungry” for, food loses it’s death-grip on you. When you combine mindset with nutrition and support, you are unstoppable.
I love the ideas in this poster to your left. One of my personal favorite lines in this gem is “If you are looking for the love of your life, stop. They will be waiting for you when you start doing the things you love.” The same is true for finding your best body. Do what you love. It will follow.
The more you starve yourself of food while you are already at an emotional starvation deficit, the more you are setting yourself up for failure.
From a former “slender” addict to my tribe…You got this loves.
Let me know…how is this resonating with you? Any “slender” anecdotes you’d like to share?
Rock On and Be Well,