Part 1 of this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-johnson/addiction-recovery_b_1929196.html addressed the dynamics of excess body weight being a side effect of addiction whereby food is used to repress and numb unbearable (often unconscious) emotional content. In other words, in order to really understand the dynamics of weight gain and loss, we need to shift our focus away from obesity as the result of the simple physiological equation of calories in and calories out. Instead, we need to consider that the real problem is the emotional weight that put the physical pounds on in the first place. In order to maintain a physical weight loss, we have to lose the corresponding emotional weight as well.
Part 2 now speaks to emotional weight loss. There are all kinds of physiological theories about why the vast majority of people who lose weight regain the lost pounds and then some. My own experience on this journey has given me a different answer. As mentioned in Part 1, I engaged in deep inner work using NET (Neuro-Emotional technique) http://www.netmindbody.com/for-patients/an-explanation-of-net for two and a half years before being ready to begin my physical weight loss. Since writing Part 1 of this article, I went on to cooperate with ease and grace through the process of losing a total of 126 of the 144 pounds I wanted to lose. Then I hit a wall and suddenly began to revisit my addictive behavior of acting out with chocolate and becoming less rigorous with my weight loss program for a period of five months. I regained about 20 pounds. The good news is I am not horrified! I know this is not simply a matter of me lacking discipline and being helpless and hopeless. I don’t believe that it is just a matter of time before I regain all 126 pounds and then some. Instead I have a new perspective that has to do with the correlation between my physical and emotional weight loss.
Throughout my weight loss, I continued to work with an NET practitioner. Then, some events in my current life triggered yet another pile of deeply repressed emotional issues coming up for release. I think my addictive acting out was an act of self-protection whereby I was trying to keep these emotions at bay as I had in the past – that was my go-to method of self-protection. Much like pulling up a blanket when cold, I had lost 126 pounds of physical weight, but only 106 pounds of emotional weight and felt the need to pull back on those 20 pounds to protect myself while catching up with my emotional weight loss. I simply wasn’t ready to maintain the smaller physical body yet let alone to lose the additional 18 pounds that would have brought me to my target weight. It freaked me out at first until I recognized that my “acting out with chocolate” was happening for a very good reason. This was simply a red flag letting me know that my physical weight loss was getting ahead of my emotional weight loss and I had more inner work to do before I could continue to lose more pounds.
I no longer see this as gaining or losing weight or the battle that typically represents. Rather, I am inhabiting my life’s journey with greater conscious understanding and compassion. I see now that when I entered into addictive eating again (which had been gone for a year and a half), that was an act of self-protection in relationship to emotional content I had not yet released that was being triggered by events in my current life. Seen in that context, it’s far less scary and far more manageable. The answer was NOT to stop eating the chocolate, but to figure out what emotional experience I was attempting to protect myself from. The good news is I am finding my answers and beginning to drop weight again. I have come to realize more deeply than ever before that this entire process is FOR me – even the regaining of lost weight.
I strongly suspect that I am not the only one challenged with body weight issues for whom this is true and perhaps this is a key to all addictive behaviors. We seem to focus too much on stopping the out of control behavior and not enough on what throws us into these coping mechanisms and why.
I think it is interesting to note that we live in a society that doesn’t even have lingo for emotional health. We speak of physical and mental health, but not of emotional health. We are highly complex creatures with conscious and unconscious physical, mental, and emotional dynamics all intertwined. Unraveling the knots takes courage, willingness, time, patience, wisdom, and in many cases – competent help.
Here are some of the specific things I have learned on this journey of releasing my excess physical and emotional weight:
- Sometimes the experiences and emotions that were repressed from childhood look very minor through our adult eyes, but at the time may have been overwhelming to us, and so we buried them and have avoided them ever since.
- Rather than freaking out at a backslide, it helps to explore its origins with self compassion and the assumption that it is simply feedback that you have some more inner work to do to prepare yourself to be able to sustain further physical weight loss.
- Long-term weight loss is a balancing act of physical, mental, and emotional dynamics.
- Don’t give up because of a backslide or if the rate of your weight loss isn’t keeping up with your desired timetable. Stay present in the reality you are experiencing and work with that reality rather than trying to change reality.