As I Lose Weight, I Find Me
For the past nine months, I’ve been on a mission to take better care of my body, in addition to my mind and spirit. After successes and setbacks, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself and my relationship to food.
Excess weight is a form of clutter with which many of us struggle. While my recent journey certainly doesn’t make me an expert, perhaps you’ll find some of my experiences and insights helpful, whether related to your physical health or not.
Prior to changing my eating habits and introducing regular exercise into my schedule, I did important emotional excavation on how this form of clutter (excess weight) was serving me (something I stress with my clients in regards to their clutter, be it physical, mental, or emotional). I knew, like many of you, I’m an emotional eater, stress eater, reward eater, and comfort eater. What I didn’t realize was how my weight was acting as armor to protect my vulnerability.
I’ve never thought it was very safe to appear needy or show any sign of perceived weakness, so when those feelings would come up, I’d soothe myself with food. What I discovered, however, was that, to my inner child, those treats weren’t soothing at all. They were a big, huge dose of “Shut up! I don’t wanna hear it!”
Consequently, she had to work harder to get my attention, having to call out through layers and layers of “soothing”. This meant that the emotions I was avoiding got more and more uncomfortable to the point that I couldn’t ignore them anymore (this is when they usually show up in some physical way – illness, aches, pains, etc). Once I shifted my perspective from considering snack food a treat to seeing how I was really using it: as a silencer, I could pause and check in before mindlessly reaching for that candy.
(Full disclosure: Right now, I want to go to the refrigerator and find a snack because even writing about this is uncomfortable, but I know by not going there, I’m sending a loud and clear message to my little one that her needs matter; that she can be vulnerable and I’ll always be her soft place to fall – even if that place becomes more muscular than soft!).
The armor revelation became clearer as I lost more and more weight. One morning, while at a meeting, I felt really short for some reason. I thought maybe the chair was broken, but after checking it out and seeing it was fine, I realized I was just sitting lower because my butt is smaller! Ha!
While that moment felt like a success, what immediately followed was a wave of vulnerability. I felt small, and that wasn’t something I was used to. The word “meek” kept popping up for me when I checked in with how I was feeling. Meek is defined as obedient, tame, and compliant. I thought the armor was protecting my “weakness”, but perhaps I was using my weight to validate a blocking belief that it’s not safe to stand out and shine. A belief that says it’s safer to be tame.
On any given day, the thoughts and feelings sway back and forth between strength and pride to vulnerable and meek. As my layer of armor sheds, the emotional stuff is more and more exposed, so my clutter clearing focus must shift from seeing success on the scale (pounds going away) to seeing success in positive self-talk (loving my little one up like crazy).
Some days, I stand in front of the full-length mirror in my bedroom as I’m getting dressed and notice that my mental noise is changing from a tone of disgust to one of pride; from “Oh my gosh, you’ve really let yourself go,” to “Yeah, girl, great work in progress!” Now, that’s some success!
(Disclosure update: I did just go into the kitchen, and got… an apple! Even walked past the peanut butter cups! Go me!)
Another time, while heading into my family room to watch some TV, I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror that hangs on the wall. I froze, looking at myself inquisitively, almost as if I didn’t recognize the person staring back. My face looked different; smaller. My eyes were brighter. Hey, I’m kinda cute! Again, the feelings that came were a combination of joy and excitement, but also fear and weirdness. Another opportunity to remind young Kerri that she is safe with me. “I got you, little one.”
My excavation and clutter clearing is still a work in progress, but it’s a beautiful and challenging journey that is allowing me to get to know myself in a whole new way.
Do you see how the physical clutter of extra weight is directly tied to the emotional and mental clutter of negative inner chatter? It’s all connected. This is what I mean when I say clutter reaches further than you think. That pile of papers on your desk holds a lot more meaning than you just being messy.
What type of clutter is tripping you up? Have you ever considered extra weight to be clutter? I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Please join the conversation in the comments below.
I agree that weight is a shield but as someone who never felt attractive when I had the perfect size 6 body I now feel sexier and more confident
Than I did 20 years ago (I’m 50) and I’m a size 16!! How do I shift from this knowing that my weight is not healthy and it’s physically not comfortable??
Thanks for joining the conversation, Charlie! I’d encourage you to explore your feelings of sexiness at your current size versus those feelings not being there when you were smaller. My hunch is there’s some belief/emotional clutter going on there in regards to sensuality/sexuality and size, it just may be the reverse of mine! You say you don’t feel healthy or comfortable at your current size, so if you would say more about feeling sexy despite feeling unhealthy and uncomfortable, that could help…
Being slanted in your favor should not stop me from commenting about your article and physical appearance. Investment in your education shows terrific results in this article. I always wondered why you chose English as your major but this post shows it was the right decision. You have made remarkable progress in reducing weight clutter and should be proud of the results. We all fight diet problems but some do not give up and that is YOU.
Thanks for your beautiful comment, Daddy-O. Having your support and encouragement in all areas of my life means the world to me and helps me on my journey. Love you!
Thank you for this gutsy post. You nailed it. Amen to everything you said. I’ve never dug down to come up with this insight myself. Thank you for sharing. “Snack food as a silencer” — brilliant.
Thanks, Deb! I’m so glad to hear some of what I wrote struck a chord with you. <3
LMAO at #smallbutt in your url. Congrats on your successful personal clutter clearing journey. I’m looking forward to the course start date on Thursday. 🙂
Thanks, Rakale! 😉 So excited to having you join us! For a preview, tune into my sister’s radio show on Monday at 5 PM ET when I’ll be a guest talking about clutter – http://www.hayhouseradio.com (as if you need the url!)
Kerri, I admire, respect, and am inspired by your vulnerability and authenticity! Thank you for sharing it (even the struggles throughout the writing of wanting the snack and then the choice that you made!). I’ll look for your next de-clutter class because the timing on this one doesn’t work for me, but this is definitely an opportunity area for me! Thanks for sharing yourself with us!
Thanks very much for your kind words, Barb! I really appreciate you reading and joining the conversation.
Thank you Kerri for your honest and vulnerable post. It’s amazing how messages come at such perfect times. About a month ago, as I started a new job, and during my one hour drive (each way) I have been listening to the audio tape of your sister’s “The Art of Extreme Self Care”. I am listening to how I am to take care of myself, yet the struggles and pressures of a new job are similar to the protective shield and the late night snacking that you so poignantly speak about. There’s also a secondary thought playing in my head. If I am overweight, then people look at me differently, and as a Manager, I won’t be a threat to other women and thus get along. So best to stay THIS way. (ya, the mind plays wonderful tricks)
How do we navigate ourselves when we know one thing is better and we SHOULD do it, yet I have the extra weight around my belly growing more and more each day? How do we go about this? What got you started on the daily exercise? The balance between the good thing to do versus the “omg i must have that pizza slice” is so traumatic at times, when you give in to the latter, you feel even more shame and disgust. Welcome to the vicious cycle! I am looking forward to hearing more answers on your radio show.
Oh Kerri, I LOVE this piece. Thank you so much for sharing! My physical clutter comes and goes in waves. Everything is nice and neat and in its place, then when I get busy and overwhelmed (often when I am saying ‘yes’ to others and ‘no’ to myself) little piles of me start to appear around my flat (clothes on the floordrobe, shoes in the lounge, cosmetics left out in the bathroom).
I’m really committed to living a life I love, and being true to myself. To honour that I have enrolled for the second time around on the Clutter Course…to dig even deeper.
I believe doing the first Clutter Busting course got me to a place where I feel able to ‘follow my bliss’ – another go around will help me to really step into myself and live out loud! Wahoo! x
I’m thrilled to hear this piece resonated with you Debbie and that you’ll be joining my Clutter Buster Crew again! Yay!
I just listened to you on Hay House Radio today. You’re on to something for sure. I never heard or would think of my weight issue as clutter and hanging on to clutter. I also have a weight issue that I know keeps me protected from the outside world; e.g. dating is a big one for me b/c I’ve shut-down all together b/c of my perceived weight problem. I’m going continue with this study and see if this can help me deal with my weight issues. Thanks for sharing your story and the work you’re doing.
Thanks so much for joining the conversation. I’m happy to hear that my perspective opened a new door for you! Think about how you can be your own safe place, emotionally, so you no longer need that armor of extra weight. Young Patricia just needs you to love and reassure her often. Be a gentle, loving mother to her and you’ll see her start to release the weight.
I’m a firm believer of ‘when the student is ready, the teacher appears’ and, ‘we get what we need when we need it’. I so appreciate the honesty and vulnerability in this post. Having battled my weight up and down the same 30-40 pounds since I was 12 years old, I am finally READY to get to the core of why I can’t ‘stay’ in a de-cluttered state. I think back to the periods of time that I was ‘fit and healthy’ – it is not lost on me that in my healthier self, my house was neat and organized as well, I was organized and efficient in all areas of my life, my ongoing depression and anxiety was on hiatus. Life wasn’t perfect, it never is nor will be, but life was ‘free’, not restrictive.
Then, one thing may happen to throw any of these areas out of balance, whether it’s divorce, illness or sometimes even just a bad day – and suddenly the pounds are piling back on, the house is getting messy, I need to address anxiety again, my work performance slips….. And on it goes.
I would love to find what it is I am ‘missing’ – what is hindering my ability to get where I want to be and STAY there. I have lost the same 40 pounds three or four times over and for the life of me can’t figure out why I can’t keep it off! How do I find out what my inner child is trying to ask for that I am clearly ignoring or just not tuning in to?
BTW, I called in to the Hay House show with your sister yesterday, regarding how to move forward after divorce – and in doing follow up reflection on some of the insights you provided, I realize it really goes much deeper than unresolved resentments toward my ex. Thank you for giving me another perspective to ponder! It’s not HIM I need to look to, it’s something within me. I’m now looking for a new therapist and I hope to be able to take the Clutter Busting course!
Thanks for your comment, Cyndi. These are some beautiful insights you courageously shared here! That 40 pound keeps coming back because some part of you feels she needs it, whether for protection, security, or comfort. Start by investigating the purpose the extra weight serves and you’ll be well on your way to saying goodbye to it for good!