Written By: Louisa Latela, MSW, LCSW
Louisa is a psychotherapist with 17 years experience in working with persons struggling with food/body/weight issues.
I have come to learn through years of working on myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually, as well as working with my clients, that there is a common thread among all of us who have ever struggled to truly love ourselves. It is that we lose our authentic power when we give something outside of us the power to control how we feel. Authentic power as defined by Gary Zukav, (author of The Seat of the Soul) is when the personality is aligned with the soul. When one is living in line with his/her authentic power, they act in ways that support their highest good. They are respectful and loving to themselves as well as to others. They are aware that the only thing that they can control in this life is their actions and are able to consciously choose to live and behave in a way that truly honors who they are. They hear and act on their inner wisdom, their intuition, their higher power, in essence their truth, their soul.I have come to learn through years of working on myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually, as well as working with my clients, that there is a common thread among all of us who have ever struggled to truly love ourselves. It is that we lose our authentic power when we give something outside of us the power to control how we feel. Authentic power as defined by Gary Zukav, (author of The Seat of the Soul) is when the personality is aligned with the soul. When one is living in line with his/her authentic power, they act in ways that support their highest good. They are respectful and loving to themselves as well as to others. They are aware that the only thing that they can control in this life is their actions and are able to consciously choose to live and behave in a way that truly honors who they are. They hear and act on their inner wisdom, their intuition, their higher power, in essence their truth, their soul.Time and again, I work with bariatric patients who are 2-3 years post-op and still struggling with their obsessions with food. It is not that they do not know how or what to eat. It is that they feel powerless over the control it still has in their lives. Hours each day are spent agonizing over what they should! should not eat, being angry about what they did eat, being angry about what they want to eat but cannot eat, feeling guilty about the fact that they ate at all, and ultimately feeling like a failure because they are still having to deal with this issue. They are allowing the thought of food to stop them from being present in their lives and it continues to define how they feel about themselves. This is where authentic power is lost. The way to reclaim your power is to be willing to sit with the uncomfortable feelings of not giving in to the urge to eat when you are not physically hungry, or when you are wanting to eat in a way that is not in line with your meal plan. It is as simple as that, and it is as difficult as that. We begin to discover in a deeper way wiry these compulsive behaviors exists in the first place.
It has often been said that we are always operating from a position of fear or love. When we are operating from a position of love, we are connected with our authentic power. We come from a place deep inside that is rooted in knowing that we are perfect in this moment, that it is safe to act in a manner that supports our highest good and that we know how to truly self nurture. When we are acting from a place of fear, we will look to things outside of us to stop whatever emotion we are experiencing.
So I guess all this new age mumbo-jumbo sounds good in theory, but how do you put that into practice? The only way I have discovered to do this, is to take a risk, and keep my word to myself. To make a commitment to myself, as I would to someone I loved dearly, to be conscious of my thoughts and actions, and begin to choose to act in ways that support what I say, are my intentions for my life. While morbidly obese persons are often the victims of prejudice and have to deal with things that average weight persons do not, on some level we are all the same. I have never met anyone who does not have some sort of addiction to some degree. It may be an addiction to alcohol, drugs, work exercise, obsessive thinking, worrying, relationships, shoes, sports, nail biting, cleaning, chaos, gossip, the internet or sex, but we have all created intricately deceiving ways to help us avoid our feelings. We have all kinds of reasons to defend our behaviors, and it all sounds good, but the truth is, the only person we are really deceiving is ourselves.
I encourage you to take the risk to experience the feelings of not giving in to the compulsion to eat when you are not physically hungry. You can always go back to the old way of living, just experience it and see what it feels like. You might just like it, then again it might be scary, just notice. When I have a client sitting in front of me struggling to reclaim their lives from compulsive eating, I often get an image of them holding onto a ledge of a mountain, high up in the air. They are â€œwhite knuckling itâ€™ to hang on, then they take the risk and â€˜let goâ€™. I then have the vision of them falling through darkness, and I actually experience this in my body. I get a nervous sensation and a feeling like my stomach is dropping, and for a moment, I lose my breath. Then all of a sudden I experience a calm, the tension in my body leaves, I am able to breathe, there is light, and I experience a glimpse of what I believe paradise to be, something that is difficult to describe in words. To know this sensation of paradise, I now understand that it comes from the willingness to go through the darkness in order to experience the light.
We are faced with decisions every moment of everyday. We are always faced with the decisions of what to think, how to feel about what we think and what to do about that feeling. Because of the work that I do and because of my desire to grow emotionally and spiritually, I am very conscious of my thoughts and actions. As I stated earlier, I sometimes astound myself at how many times I do not choose to think or act in a way that supports my highest good. However, I have also noticed that by putting my attention to wanting to live in a way that is loving and respectful to myself and others, I make many more choices that are self-loving than I have in the past. I trust that the number of self-nurturing choices that I make for myself will continue to increase, because I have come to realize that keeping my word to myself feels better than eating a cookie or engaging in negative thinking.
Knowing all of this and believing it does not mean that it is always easy to take the high road. It takes a great deal of constant conscious effort. However, the more times you are able to not give in to your strongest urges to overeat, the better the chances are that the next time you are faced with a similar choice you will choose the behavior that supports good health.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself as you travel down the path of recovery from morbid obesity. Give yourself credit for having had the courage to have weight loss surgery in the first place. Next, although it is not easy, allow yourself to take a hard look at emotional issues that may have contributed to your obesity. It fakes time, patience and self-compassion. Every time you are faced with the decision of what and when to eat and consciously make a choice, you are taking responsibility for creating your life experience. Each time you are faced with that choice and choose health, you are reclaiming your authentic power.