Wednesday, November 28, 2012


A lot of my friends are doing "Daily Thanks" posts on Facebook and other social media during November.  I was asked why I wasn't doing the same thing, and here's my reply:

You see, I try really hard to be thankful for what I have every day, not just during a certain month of the year.  It isn't always easy, and I don't always succeed, but it is part of my journey toward growing into a better person.  I'm not saying a person who is better than anyone else, but a better version of myself.  I look back at previous versions of myself and am not particularly happy with what I see.  I haven't been a good person at certain times in my life.

Sure, I had justification for my actions at the time.  At least I thought that I did.  The reality is, though, that no matter what the world may do to us, there is nothing controlling how we react to it but ourselves.  For part of my life I wasn't old enough to understand that hurt and pain are just part of living, and that the people who hurt my feelings may not have done so intentionally.  Even the ones who DID do it intentionally weren't really doing it out of dislike of me, but rather out of dislike for things in their own lives that they somehow saw reflected in me.

It is human nature to amplify our own faults when we see them in others.  We hate them in ourselves, but we can't admit that to ourselves so we point to others who have the same faults and use that as reason to dislike the person. 

I've hated a lot about myself in the past.  I hated people who "disrespected" me, because I couldn't respect myself.  I hated people who were obsessed with their looks because I was obsessed with my own and my weight.  I looked down on people who were willfully ignorant because I went out of my way to sabotage my own education.  I've been envious of people who had the things that I thought I wanted, and I have turned my nose up at people who were lazy because I couldn't find the motivation in myself to achieve my own goals.

There has been a lot of hard work, tears, and self-examination that have gone into making myself see what I was, and what I could be.  Sometimes it is hard knowing that I will never fully achieve the best me that could possibly exist, because there will always be something else that I need to do, some other lesson that I need to learn.  When I start to get discouraged by that fact, though, I make myself stop and realize that the never ending learning process is part of being human, and that when we stop growing and stop trying to become more than what we are, we have reached the end of life and are only existing instead of living.

In order to live we have to find joy.  In order to find joy we have to find thanks.  In order to find thanks, we have to acknowledge all of the beauty and good in our lives.  The way that I find it is by lying in bed for a few minutes after my alarm goes off in the morning and finding something to be thankful for.  It doesn't have to be big, and it doesn't have to be said aloud, it just has to mean something to me.  There have been mornings when I have been thankful for the purring of whichever cat is curled next to me.  There have been mornings when I have been thankful that there will be eggs in the fridge when I get up so that I can have breakfast.  There have been mornings when I have been thankful that the sun is shining, the rain is falling, or the earth is still turning.  Sometimes they are big things, and sometimes they are little, but they are all things that make my life a little happier for at least a moment.

If you really want to appreciate your life and the world that you live in, set aside a time every day to be thankful, genuinely and truly thankful, for something in your life.  Whether you put that moment at the start of your day, the end of your day, or sometime in the middle, make it an important part of your routine.  There will be days when life is throwing negative after negative at you, and your emotions will want to say that there is nothing to be thankful for right now, but stop and find something.  Anything.  It doesn't matter what it is, just find it.  I think that you'll discover a whole new way of looking at the world after a while.

I know that I did, and it helped me start the changes that I continue to strive to make.  And if you're doing the November Thankfulness exercises / meme, consider continuing it after December 1st.  You don't have to do it aloud or in a public way, this is something just for you.

I hope that you try, and that this little thing gives you joy. :)

Holidays and Guilt

We are officially into the holiday season now, and it is time for all of the weight loss companies to start throwing preliminary guilt at everyone in order to prime their potential customers for the Weight Loss Resolution Season.

What is it about the human psyche that will not allow us to just enjoy a holiday without throwing guilt and self-castigation around like confetti?  Why do we seem to think that we don't deserve a little fun without beating ourselves up for it?  I think that we should all take a serious look at how we approach the holidays and make a stand for a more realistic view of things.

The fact of the matter is that very few people gain a lot of weight over the holiday season.  A clinical study published in Nutrition Review in 2000 showed that the average adult gains 0.8 pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.  Yup...less than one pound.  And yet how many people will spend the entire season talking about their weight, thinking about their weight, and denying themselves because of their fear of their weight?  The experts have repeatedly stated that it isn't what you eat on Thanksgiving or Christmas (or even most of the month of December for that matter) that causes issues, it is what is eaten every day throughout the year.

If we tie this in with the basics of intuitive eating, then freaking out about holiday treats is even more ridiculous.  When we eat intuitively, and we learn to listen to our bodies, we find that while we enjoy that slice of holiday cheesecake, or that turkey dinner with gravy and mashed potatoes, we also hear when our bodies say "please stop now" and we do so.  If we really LISTEN to ourselves, we aren't going to overindulge throughout the entire season, because we'll know when our body says, "All of these treats taste great, but I would really love some vegetables right now."  We can indulge without going crazy.

What tends to happen most of the time, though, is that people stop listening to their bodies, and they deny themselves even the smallest of treats.  Then, when they are in a setting which allows for them to have things they may not normally eat, they go overboard and eat until they make themselves sick.  Then they use that to justify even stricter denial, which leads to another binge in the future.  This isn't healthy behavior, and if we stopped and got off the denial / binge cycle, we would see how it begins to rule our lives.

So take a moment right now, Dear Readers, and have a chat with yourselves.  Figure out your comfort levels when it comes to holiday treats and listening to your body.  If you've not practiced intuitive eating for a while then maybe you want to be a little more aware of how the food that you eat tastes and makes you feel.  Listen to when your body says to stop eating something or when it asks you for another kind of food.  If you have been following an intuitive eating pattern, then keep a sharper ear out than normal because there will be things available to you that aren't around the rest of the year and nostalgia or scarcity may override your body's inner voice.  No worries if it happens, don't beat yourself up over it, just adjust your inner volume up a bit so that you're more aware in the future.

We only get candy canes, gingerbread men, baked ham with pineapple rings and cherries, sweet potato casserole, and other holiday offerings for a short time each year.  They are foods made with love and with the intention of sharing.  Let yourself enjoy them.  Let yourself really taste them.  And when your body says enough, let yourself stop.  When your body says that it is time to do a little movement to work off the sluggishness, then move...and ENJOY it.

Lets enjoy our holidays this year, because as with all good things, they will never be exactly like this again.  Love your family and friends, and just as importantly, love yourselves.

Blessed Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays...whatever you prefer.  Thank you for sharing my journey with me, even if it has fits and stops now and then.  I appreciate that you read my maunderings and the feedback that I've gotten over the past year.

Now go and ENJOY!!!! :)