When I was a young kid, mind and weight did not cross my radar. As a pre-teen I got to experience unexpected happiness. I was sent to spend a few weeks with my retired grandparents on the Florida Gulf coast. Freed from caretaking my five younger siblings, I was also free to eat pretty much whatever I wanted. Giant adult-sized fried seafood platters, corn fritters, muffins, greens, a dessert with every meal. I was in seventh heaven. I came home pudgy, yet happy. The chunk persisted into my mid-teens, for about four years.
Mind and weight were my unconscious companions in those years. My chunk came the same time as Coke-bottle glasses, a bad haircut, and serious acne. Junior high was not a comfortable time. Yet at least once or twice during those years, I got to return to the Gulf, play in the waves, and eat that fabulous food. I got a little pudgier.
The chunk was helpful for hiding my changing shape. Before that first trip to Florida, I’d spent a whole spring in a shrimp-colored homemade worsted wool sweater. The baggiest thing I possessed, it was ideal for hiding my budding form. Although it was extremely warm, I wore it all the time, even in 80 degree weather.
Extra weight was effective. It reduced my risk of social or sexual interactions, and I didn’t always have to wear the hot sweater any more, after I put on pudge.
Conveniently, my mind and weight shifted around fifteen. I got interested in young men and tired of my camouflage. With a variety of bizarre and less than sensible diets, I moved into the zone of the interacting human. Yet, all my living grandparents were chunky. I assumed I would grow up to fight chunk.
When I went away to college, this belief was affirmed. Bolstered by virtuous eating Monday through Friday, a fresh introduction to pot on the weekend offered the ecstasy of the munchies. I quickly gained forty pounds over the tidy high school weight I’d so vigorously maintained. Baggy clothes, this time hippie style, were again my friends. (Let’s face it, I just like baggy clothes.)
Toward the end of college, having transferred to Berkeley, I came upon a book, The Psychologist’s Eat-Anything Diet. It appealed to my sense of freedom and pleasure. I’d always liked to eat, and chafed against the limits of so many things. I didn’t have a lot of money, yet enough to buy the food I needed. The psychologists had a different approach to mind and weight. They wrote that embarking on a diet was like going into a kind of prison, and who wouldn’t want to break out? Instead they advocated awareness, being present when you ate, not rushing.
They had techniques for grounding in body awareness, like the mid-meal meander. In the middle of normal eating or a group feeding frenzy or even possibly a solitary binge, you could get up, leave the scene of the food interactions, take a short walk – outside, down the hall, whatever. No, you weren’t going to throw up. You were simply invited to notice whether you were full or hungry, check out your physical sensations, without the distraction of people, social interactions, or the smell and sight of food. About the same time I read One Bowl by Don Gerrard who had lost weight by eating out of one bowl with awareness.
I had not grown up with any exposure to body awareness, a conscious approach to mind and weight. This was novel and refreshing to me, and I enjoyed it. Grounding in my body and breath settled me down some, and I was less urgently hungry. I actually moved back to a healthy weight for me, more thanks to a different perspective than a different diet.
Forty-six years later, I’ve just emerged from three weeks of some focused conscious cooking and eating. It felt really good. I’m in quite another place, mind and weight-wise than I was as a young adult. Now I struggle to hold on to weight.. The faster I move, the skinnier I get. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we expect! Each of us has different associations with mind and weight, food and safety, creativity and protection, sexuality. Our place in the world.
Daily life is often considered mundane, not important. Yet it is here in the present that we make many of the most important decisions of our lives. How we save our asses is most often in the present moment.
What’s this have to do with mind and weight? We may be assuming things about ourselves and food and health that aren’t even true. For some of us, our mental starvation fuels our physical issues. Yeah, yeah, you say – yet how can I CHANGE this?
You might start by looking at your life with fresh eyes. Maybe you find someone else, a friend, who’s interested in doing something similar. You could ask yourselves questions like:
Do I feel nourished physically? Energetically? Emotionally? Intellectually? Spiritually? Trust your responses, no matter how inconvenient they may be.
You might even ask, Is there anything I’m starving for, that I yearn to devour?
Here in the U.S. “freedom” is such a sticky concept. We’re free to over eat, to get addicted to stuff that sidetracks our lives and true purpose. The culture is counting on us to over do it, to be unwise, to fuel a capitalist model of well being. What if we were to rebel? What if we were to take back our lives and minds? What if we gave ourselves what we need?
This might seem like a simple mundane topic in the midst of much more important events. This is true. Yet if we are grounded and balanced in nourishment, there’s a higher chance that we can meet the needs of these times in a true way.
For me ironically, as the author of a number of veggie cookbooks and self-care texts, giving myself what I need in this moment would be to take more time to plan, to shop, time to prep food and fix it. Then I’d give myself a relaxed space within which to enjoy it. A luxury? Maybe. Yet nobody’s going to give this to me but me. Having just emerged from these three weeks of healthy more aware eating, why give it up? It felt so good.
It means I’d have to change what I do on a day to day basis, how I prioritize my life. Am I willing to do this? Would you be?
With much appreciation to Angela Werneke for her inspiration about the power of the every day: “It’s the sacred practice of being in the moment.”
Photo Image Traveling in the West 1, much thanks to Iza Bruen-Morningstar. What’s this image have to do with Mind and Weight? It’s all about freedom….
Amadea Morningstar, MA, RPE, RYT is an Ayurvedic and Polarity Therapy educator. Currently Amadea works at a distance from Santa Fe, NM with established clients in Western nutrition, Ayurvedic nutrition and herbalism, Marma therapy, and nature-based self-care. Right now she is not taking new clients; she’ll evaluate at the end of this year whether to open up again then.
Enjoy her new 5-hour video course on Polarity Therapy Energetic Nutrition here.