Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When Dieting, Don't Forget the Emotion

By Amy Phillips-Gary

Are you a dieter?

You might be on, or have tried, the Atkins or South Beach diets or perhaps The Zone, Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig programs. There seem to be a plethora of choices when it comes to diet plans.

Not everyone is on a weight-loss diet, though many of us are.

According to a CBS news story, around 45 million Americans diet each year. About $1-$2 billion is spent on weight-loss programs annually in the U.S.

Those numbers indicate that a lot of people are dissatisfied with their bodies!

I'm not here to sell you on yet another weight-loss plan or product. I do intend, however, to encourage you to go deeper than the amount of calories or fat you are consuming.

I want more of us-- including myself-- to look beneath the surface of our body size loathing and begin to cultivate more self-appreciation and love.

And I believe that we can also all move closer to having the bodies we're wanting in the process.

I know a bit about dieting and body-dissatisfaction. Like many women (and men as well), I've practiced both since my teen years.

I've tried more extreme methods of weight loss such as self-starving and also more moderate attempts like reasonable amounts of exercise and certain food restrictions. My body size has ranged from thinner to heavier-- fitter to less toned.

Along the way, I've discovered that my body size and overall health directly relate to how I'm feeling and what I'm doing with my emotions.

Feelings matter.
Regardless of how many times I make it to the gym each week or how many salads I eat instead of chips and cookies, my emotional state of being has a huge impact on my weight and body perceptions.

Food is just not such a huge deal when I'm feeling worthy and positively about who I am.

This is an amazing observation to try to remember when I am not feeling too great about myself and the habit of battling my body and food return-- sometimes with a vengeance.

Spiritual teacher Abraham goes so far as to declare that “it's not what you eat that matters, it's how you feel.”

For many of us, these words can seem naïve and even foolhardy. Of course, our reasoned minds tell us, if I primarily eat pizza and ice cream, my body is going to get larger. There's no way around it!

Is there something to this though? Can it be that the secret to weight-loss is really rooted in how we feel? And what if feeling good, or even feeling improvement, is actually more important than losing pounds after all?

Expand your choices.
When you direct most of your attention to your emotions, you are freer to make choices.

As you shift your focus away from what you're eating, how much you're eating and how many calories you are burning off exercising and, instead, direct it toward how you are feeling, you can know your power.

You, me-- all of us-- have the power to make choices about how we want to live in these bodies we walk around in.

As you learn to tune in to how you are feeling and deal with your emotions, you can make clearer choices about food and exercise as well as other life decisions.

Pausing is one way to access your power and expand your choices. A pause means that you take even a few seconds to check in and ask yourself if you want to continue in the direction you are going.

Try the inside out diet.

If you want to alter your body size or shape, consider going on an inside out diet. Learn how to pause when you encounter difficulties or triggers.

You might still choose to eat that cookie, but the beauty is you are choosing to do so and possibly after releasing some of your inner bottled up emotions.

Set aside the judgments you might habitually make. Consider the many messages we're told, and then tell ourselves, that particular foods are “bad” and certain behaviors are “unhealthy” while others are “good” and “healthy.”

These dichotomies are not always accurate and they simply don't help us to move into the feeling space that encourages choice and empowerment.

Instead, get curious about your feelings and your experiences.

Make it your priority to feel healthy, vital and beautiful from the inside out rather than the other way around.

As you know your power and take care of your emotions, anything is truly possible-- when it comes to food, your body, exercise or your life.

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