Chapter 6: The Thick and the Thin

This is an ongoing story about my life and my body and yoga. I began posting the story on Jan 24, 2009. Scroll back to that date if you want to begin at the beginning. Otherwise, just jump in.

I like to go through the check out lines at the grocery store. I like talking with the clerk and the odd small talk that I have with other people in the check out lines. I like semi-anonymous conversations and the chance to interact with cranky babies and fidgety toddlers. I also like to read the tabloid headlines. I rarely buy them, but this week I bought People Magazine. The cover photo is of beautiful blonde woman, busty, soft bodied with a big smile. The headline reads: “Jessica Simpson weight debate. She’s proud of her body! Stop calling her fat. Inside the star’s bold choice to lead a real life.” The other tabloids on display presented the debate in short head lines. Some mags simply called her fat. Other’s critiqued her clothing choices. Some reported her retorts. The magazines that if you are a famous woman in America you lose the right to have a body larger than a size 0. If you are larger than a 0 you are fair game for sacrifice at the altar of American pop culture. The sacrificial altar is the grocery check out line.

The words on the magazine covers strike me hard. A personal assault that mimics my own internal dialogue: “You are fat.” “I’m proud of my body.” “You look fat in those clothes.” “I love my thighs.” “You are aging and droopy.” “I feel strong and vibrant.” I practice the positive retort. I recite mantras, affirmations, and prayers. I believe in the power of positive thinking. But the inner critique has not been silenced. The inner critique does not need reinforcement and thrives no matter how much I ignore her. She carries on in spite of my trying to listen to her with love and affirm her presence. I would love to give her a quick burial. She has longevity DNA.

I have been on too many diets: Pritikin, the grapefruit diet, vegetarian, fasting (aka short term starvation), raw foods, meat and vegetables only, ice cream only, and many more. Some of the diets were clearly unhealthy and focused solely on rapid weight loss. Some diets carry threads of righteousness and morality. My wise mind knows that diets don’t work. My inner anorexic is ever hopeful.

I avoid placing value words on my diet. I avoid labeling myself good or bad based on what I have been eating. My value is not dependent upon what I eat or how much I weigh. And yet one voice inside me still believes that life would be perfect if I was only 10 pounds thinner. Another part of me believes that a chocolate bar can cure any wounds of the heart, mind or body. I don't want to die still trying to lose "those last 10 pounds."

My body feels good when I make healthy food choices and balance my life with adequate exercise. At 50 years old I feel best if I eat very little wheat or dairy, as much locally grown produce and meat as possible, and a few sweets. I eat chocolate. I occasionally overeat. I weigh myself infrequently. My weight goes up and down by about 5 pounds. When I am 5 pounds heavier I feel beastly and fat. When I am 5 pounds lighter I feel self righteous and 'good.' All of this judging is happening in my own mind. And either end of the spectrum is a dangerous place for my mind.

The weight and food battle feels hard wired into my head. I have brief periods of immunity. I am more vulnerable to the battle when my mental defenses are down and when I spend time with my family or in Los Angeles. I start noticing things about myself in LA that I don’t see when I am at home in Corvallis. If I am feeling insecure about my work or my family the battle might rage as well. And there is something about the winter holidays, no matter where I spend them, that can instigate the battle.

And I loathe and judge the battle itself. I don't want to have this battle. I want to rise above it. I want to be better than it. I try hard not to talk about it. I avoid people whose conversation revolves around their weight. And then I judge myself for judging. Argh.

I am coming to accept and appreciate that I am of more than one mind. I don’t have a split personality. But within this mind of mine live conflicting thoughts. Eat. Don’t eat. Be thin. Be who you are. I have to work to find the center between the extremes in my own mind. Yoga helps me find the center. Yoga helps me to observe the thoughts. I don’t have to be my thoughts. I can be this person who exists with many thoughts, many moments, many bodies.


a meditation

Lie on your back on the floor
Get comfortable
Close your eyes
Rest quietly

Tune into the sensations, the presence, of your body.
Notice the awareness of your form.
Notice the places that feel tense, tight, painful.
Notice the rest of you.
Invite youself to shift your position, to release tightness, to find ease, to reduce pain.
Continue to turn your attention to the sensory collage of the body.

Listen to the internal sound of your breath.
Listen to the internal sounds of having a body.
Open up your listening to the sounds in the room around you.
Without attachment or aversion, listen.
Open your listening to the sounds in the world outside the room.
Without attachment or aversion, simply listen.
Imagine you can extend your hearing far away.
Listen to the distant roar of the ocean.
Listen to the wind blowing across mountains, over plains.

Return your awareness to your body. Into your form. Into it's sounds. Into it's sensations.

As you are able, invite the exterior awareness to overlay the interior awareness. Simply. No forcing, no doing, just being in this moment of sensation.