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.