As we head into a new week, the last one in January, my mind is on where I started the year and how I want to move forward with the rest of it.
Contrary to the idea of setting a New Year’s Resolution, I spend much of the month of January reflection and marinating on how I want to set my course for the rest of the year. I set intentions that excite me and have me feel lit up about the year ahead.
Since January is the deep heart of winter, I find its the perfect month to be still and quiet, to listen deeply and pay attention to what my body & soul wisdom are asking for.
But along with it, I’ve been thinking about this idea of resolutions. Because like most of us, I felt the seductive pull of the grand gesture that is setting a resolution; the alluring promise of big sweeping change in my life, the dreamy promise of being a totally new person in one of any ways I chose to set my resolutions around. Don’t get me wrong, the energy of renewal and a fresh start is truly life affirming, but the methods we try (and fail at) to get there usually don’t match the intended promise of a resolution.
Statistics show us that by this time in the month, most folks have given up on their resolutions and are back to their habitual way of living.
Why is it that we can’t stick to the things we know we want and need to change in our lives?
It isn’t that resolutions are inherently bad, it’s that the approach we’ve been taught to take is broken: 1. Identify problematic behavior 2. Fix problematic behavior. 3. Live happily ever after.
Except that, you can’t merely fix a behavior without going to the source of why that behavior exists in the first place. I believe that true change starts with intention and identity.
First comes Intention…..
When I finally broke free of disordered eating, it wasn’t because I made a resolution and white knuckled my way through a diet plan, avoiding foods that I binged on or that physically & emotionally made me feel bad (although believe me, I set MANY resolutions over the years trying to do just this), it’s because I began addressing the root of why I had a disordered relationship with food in the first place.
At the outset, what they call “rock bottom” in 12 step programs, I knew that in wanting to change my relationship to food, I had to focus on the root cause of my relationship with food. I had tried and failed many, many, many times by focusing on the food, trying to eat less of this, more of that, even going so far to try an actual incredibly restrictive diet masquerading as a 12 step program.
Setting the intention of wanting to be at peace with food and body was the first step. I gave up on the weight loss goals, threw away all the judgment I had about myself and the way I ate and focused instead of feeling sane around food, breaking the habit of restricting and binging by putting concerted effort and attention into my relationship with myself, which meant changing my identity.
Next comes the identity shift…
I believe intention and identity are sisters when it comes to true change, that you can’t have one without the other. Setting an intention is vastly different than setting a resolution because an intention is forward facing, it focuses on what you want rather than the problem at hand.
Consider that most resolutions are focused on the problem “I need to lose weight”, “I want to stop smoking” “I should exercise more”. Problem after problem after problem.
Then each time you attempt to change the behavior around smoking, exercise or food, you merely reinforce the problem, rather than looking at why the problem might exist in the first place. Or a layer deeper, that “problem” was once a coping mechanism for circumstances you didn’t have a better solution for.
As I began to shift my identity, working through my feelings instead of running from them, acknowledging the backlog of fear, insecurity and anxiety that ran me, I stopped eating over them and started a relationship with them (with myself, really).
I did the hard work of getting to know myself in a whole new way. I would feel the desire to restrict or binge and instead, I’d have to slow down and pay attention to what was happening underneath that.
I found my center. I (continue) to learn to touch into my power and above all, I let the voice of my Body Soul Wisdom guide my choices and actions.
In fact, this process I went through is where the foundation of my work around Body Soul Wisdom comes from. In learning to listen to myself and feed myself what I actually need (compassion, attention, courage, love, this goes on and on) I was able to stop feeding myself the diet culture insanity of being focused on food, weight loss and being “good”.
And from there, over the course of many months, my desire to binge on whatever I could whenever I was uncomfortable started to lift. From a destructive behavior, I set an intention that I wanted a different experience of my life and then, brick by brick, built the skills and emotional bandwidth to meet life on life’s terms, rather than stuff it under starving and binging.
But it wasn’t the behavior change that did the work, it was the identity change…
In essence, what I did was change the way I saw myself and my life. I shifted from an identity of being bad with food to someone who was willing to come into loving relationship with her life, her body and emotions and as a result, learn to be friends with food. The food was merely a symptom, the anxiety, judgments, insecurities and lack of self acceptance was the root cause.
It wasn’t an overnight process or a 21 day reset; there is no quick fix when it comes to changing your life, as much as marketers want to convince us otherwise. Real life change is incremental, root deep and creates results that last a lifetime.
And herein lies the flaw with resolutions- we “resolve” that we aren’t going to do x,y,z behavior without really addressing the WHY of that behavior.
Most of us are so identified with that behavior, or with the root cause it’s covering up, that we can’t let go of the behavior because it serves such a fundamental purpose in our lives.
In my case, I was really, really attached to my binge-restrict behaviors with food, it gave me the salve I needed to both feel like a good person when I was restricting and a rebel when I was soothing my feelings through food. I was at war with the rebel “bad girl” part of me- the part that felt too much, talked too much, wanted to much, had too many opinions and whose body was decidedly TOO MUCH- so my only acceptable outlet was binge eating away the shame and discomfort of being too much, but then I felt so much shame for the binge and how I’d given into being a bad girl yet again, that I’d effort to restrict my little heart out until I couldn’t anymore and the cycle repeated itself. (Consider that most of the rhetoric around “clean” eating is based on the cultural and moralistic values of being a good girl or a bad girl…more on that in a different essay).
When I got right with all that I was feeling and all that I was when I began to identify myself differently in the world and accept the parts of myself I’d previously shamed, food took its rightful place in my life- as nourishment, as pleasure, as sustenance, but not as a salve for hiding my self loathing, insecurities, anxieties and lack self acceptance.
From that identity shift, I got the peace of mind, confidence and centeredness I craved, not just around food, but as a powerful woman in the world. And many years (and professional certifications) later, Body Soul Wisdom School was born, to help other women, perhaps like you, shift from a place of self criticism and judgment to a place of real inner connection, confidence and power.