I moved to Homer, Alaska from Los Angeles a year ago. When I arrived, my body was a bit of a mess. In LA I had been working as a program director with Yale researchers to implement a mental health program for teens and young adults throughout 30 cities in Los Angeles.
With our office in Compton, we worked in the most disadvantaged and resource poor cities in Los Angeles County. It was hard work, with youth in difficult circumstances, both mentally and physically. I loved this job, but it took me over an hour each way to get to work and back. And much of my time during the day was spent driving all over the county in some of the worst traffic to be found in the world, with it's accompanying smog and stress.
I have struggled with several autoimmune disorders, and hormonal issues. And with this job, I did not have time to adequately focus on myself. I used several medications to manage physical symptoms so I could fulfill the functions of my job. By the time I got to Alaska, I was 70 pounds over weight and had a gut microbe that had been severely damaged by all the medication I had taken. I hurt all over, was exhausted all the time and felt like crap.
My family and I took a hike to a nearby glacier shortly after I arrived. It was an easy one mile hike, but I was exhausted when I got there. While the others explored around the lake, I laid down and enjoyed the beauty, and eventually fell asleep. When the others got back, we took a quick picture before we started our hike back.
As I gained weight working in Los Angeles, I also worked hard to be kind to myself. It was a demanding job that required a lot during the regular work day, but also required that I be on call 24/7 for emergencies. When I held that job, there was just not enough time in the day to take care of my children, my employees, my home and my body. My body took a seat on the back burner.
I learned and gained so much from working with the Yale researchers, with the clients and with my team. As I gained the weight, I tried my hardest to be kind to myself, calling my growing belly, my Buddha belly. I just tried to sit in a place of love instead of a place of loathing. I was proud of how kind I had been able to remain to myself and my body during this time.
But when I got home from the hike and looked at my protruding belly in the picture, loathing crept it. I wanted to keep the picture and post it for my family and friends back home. But I was embarrassed of my body. So I cropped out my Buddha belly.
Over this last year I have been able to focus on nourishing my body, giving it what it needs to heal, rather than just giving it something to manage symptoms. One by one, I have been able to come off all medications. I've slowly, but steadily gained back more and more movement, and yes, I have dropped a lot of weight.
I woke up this morning thinking about my belly, my solar plexus, my third chakra. It is located around the navel, where the umbilical cord was once attached. It is the area of nourishment. This chakra includes our digestive organs; our intestines, our gallbladder, spleen and pancreas. As I rubbed my belly, smaller than it was a year ago, but still rounded with extra weight, I thanked it for enduring all it's been through.
I got up and went out for a morning walk, and continued to thank my belly for all it has done. How it managed and filtered through harsh medications, tried it's best to extract nutrients from food that wasn't very nutrient dense, how it always worked as hard as it could even though there was inflammation and dis-ease present.
Tears welled up as I contemplated on this feeling of appreciation. I laid down on the grass and wept, holding and nurturing my belly as it heaved, comforting it as it gasped for air, calming it after each muscle spasm that accompanied each sob. I let it release it's sadness. It had been mis-treated; physically through problematic foods and medications, but also emotionally, through me hiding it and being embarrassed by it.
I let it release all of it's pain. I remained present as it poured out it's sadness. I listened to it's story. I allowed it's story to live. I didn't try to force death upon it through banishing it, loathing it, hiding it or trying to obliterate it.
"Livet", don't "Diet".
Live the truth that your body has to tell. Our bodies are the way they are for a reason. There is a story in each cell. Don't loath your life story. Silence your mind so you can hear your body's story. And don't just hear it, listen closely to it. There is so much wisdom in our bodies. It holds every memory in it's muscles. Just like remembering to ride a bike, even after decades of not doing so, your muscle memory stores all of your life's experiences.
If we diet, by simply trying to kill off the weight we don't like, we will be dieting forever. Our story can't be killed. Our muscle memory can't be erased. If we livet, we tap into those muscle memories. We listen to them, honor them, give them space, appreciate and love them...and as we do they find their way to health.
Provide your body with kind words for all it's been through. Don't loath it. Reward it with affection and comfort. Don't punish it. Nourish it with nutritious foods and liquids. Don't deprive it.
Be comfortable with your body, whatever state it may be in. Don't be embarrassed by it or ashamed of it.
Don't Diet. Livet!
When I got home I felt remorse that I had cropped that picture...that I had hidden my belly and just cut it out of the picture as if it didn't exist, that I had treated it with disrespect. I had banned my belly to no-man's land. I went back to check if the original picture was still there in the gallery of saved pictures, and was saddened that it was not.
I decided to give it one more shot, and checked among the thousands of pictures in the cloud. And there it was, hidden away. I smiled with relief, and rubbed my fingers over my belly in the picture. "Hello, Buddha Belly. I am sorry I tried to ban you. My embarrassment came from a place of childish fear, and not from anything that you did wrong. I love and appreciate you and everything you've done for me."
I felt the deep breath deep inside my belly as I slowly breathed in. I felt the life force, the power in my core strengthen as I provided it with unconditional love and appreciation.
When we diet, we restrict, we limit, we control, and we kill. When we livet, we free up, we liberate, we support and we nourish. Doesn't your body deserve the latter? Mine does. And I could feel it gain strength and confidence as I let it know that.
In today's world, our bodies endure a lot of chronic abuse that goes unnoticed. From the chemicals in our food, water and air, to the judgemental messages that come at us from all the screens we use.
Be kind. Apologize. Make amends, and be a trustworthy friend to your body. It does so very much, and deserves your gratitude and appreciation.