Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"I thanked my legs for walking 7 miles that morning, and immediately felt better."

In a society of airbrushed models and fashion that seems to show every dimple and bulge, it has become more than natural for our generation to cut ourselves down at every turn. Magazines and movies seem to demand perfection from models and actors, and as a result we demand perfection from ourselves. Rather than focusing on the positive aspects of our lives, we seem to be constantly bogged down with self loathing thoughts of not being pretty enough or thin enough, not having skin that is clear enough or hair that is shiny enough. What is enough? When do we decide that we are good enough? We beat ourselves up for every night spent watching tv and for every french fry or cookie that we eat. And what for? Our self confidence is crumbling and we're more miserable than ever.

I found this to be especially true last year. Starting in July of 2010, I lost roughly 30 pounds over a 4 month span. Even though it felt really good seeing the weight come off, I couldn't help but think that it wasn't enough (as it happens, I still want to lose 25 more pounds). I dropped 2 pants sizes and was then upset that I didn't drop another. Whenever I skipped a workout or ate a burger, I felt so guilty and awful that it was almost unbearable. Then, I read this article by Jennifer Barnett in Shape Magazine:

"Silencing my inner critic": While I'm thrilled with the changes in my body, I still can't stop beating myself up. It's time to banish those negative thoughts for good

A few weeks ago, I went out to dinner with my husband and treated myself to a rib-eye steak, mashed potatoes, and some dessert. The next day, before I even opened my eyes, thoughts like "I have no willpower" and "I'll never keep the weight off" entered my head. Then I got mad: After losing 38 pounds, why was I being so hard on myself? I worried that if I didn't act fast, my self-criticism would undermine my motivation.

Mind over meanness

That's why, when a friend told me about a two-day workshop called Never Diet Again: Welcoming Weight Loss and Wellness, I signed up. Led by Nina Smiley, Ph.D., co-author of The Three Minute Meditator, it was a series of seminars about how to silence cruel thoughts through meditation.

We began by closing our eyes and breathing deeply. After a few minutes, Nina taught us the next step: The moment you have a negative thought, label it, dismiss it, and turn your focus back to your breath again. So as soon as my mind started wandering (I wondered if I was going to hit traffic on the ride home), I named that thought "worrying" and pushed it out of my mind. Once we got the hang of that, we were ready for the last part: calling up a good feeling on demand. Nina asked us to picture a happy moment; mine was reading a bedtime story to my son. By doing this, you can instantly improve your mood.
Then we put it all together. Nina told us to take a negative statement about a body part and replace it with a kinder one. I zeroed in on my thighs, which I feel are flabby--despite all the time I spend in the gym. After classifying that thought as "bullying," I willed myself to come up with something nice to say to them. I thanked my legs for walking seven miles that morning, and immediately felt better.

Practice makes perfect 
I had the hang of it by the end of the weekend, but I wasn't sure I could control my inner critic in the "real" world. I found out when I ate a cupcake at a baby shower and felt the familiar disappointment. Since the technique should work anywhere, I named that thought--again, "bullying"--then focused on how proud I was for not also snacking on the chips. I was able to enjoy the rest of the day guilt-free--a huge milestone in an already eventful year!
"I thanked my legs for walking seven miles that morning, and immediately felt better." I find that this line in particular motivates me like none other. It reminds me to not take myself for granted. It reminds me that even if I'm not perfect (which P.S., no one is), I still have a lot going for me. It keeps me from thinking that my journey is futile, and gives me the confidence to keep going. I hope this article can help others as much as it helped me. .

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