Posted by: innerpilgrimage | May 7, 2011

Hunger and the Natural Woman

      I just finished Hungry by Crystal Renn (and Marjorie Ingall). Ms. Renn is a plus-sized international model, who may well indeed become a modeling icon. I hope very much that she pursues her dream to become a plus-sized designer once her career as a model comes to a close. I would love to see someone to create fashion for women who have embraced their natural weights and natural beauty.

      It’s an inspiring story, one which I believe–along with Geneen Roth’s story–is one of the paths from compulsive food behavior to a healthy life. Her message was clear to me–we all have a natural shape which we can fight or embrace. After spending a few years fighting to control her body size (when she started modeling, she was less than 100 lbs. at 5’9″) and causing harm to herself by undereating and over-exercising? She recognized that she was careening toward death. Instead of fighting it, she had a wake-up call and began to eat into a sensuous, curvy woman whose shape is reminiscent of classical Rubanesque beauty.
      As the book wraps up, she hits on something I strongly believe: Within us is a source of strength we can tap, thereby aligning ourselves with reality. It really is a battle of two selves–we can fight reality and kill ourselves in the process (addiction), or we can begin to flow with reality and find peace and joy (recovery). Though not in a 12-Step program, her sense of spiritual centeredness is uncanny. It took a power deep within her after a shocking self-revelation that no matter how she attempted to prune her body into a perfect human bonsai, her body rebelled. She began to listen to it instead of other people, and the zoned-out control freak desperate to eat but denying herself because the fashion industry would not accept her as beautiful at her natural body size (well, until she surrounded herself with people who believed in her drive to become an international icon of sensuality and strength in her womanhood) became a driven woman pursuing goals instead of chasing perfection.
      I recommend Hungry to anyone struggling with the concept of diets instead of a realignment to reality. Diets don’t work. Diets can even kill. Diets encourage insanity. Diets aren’t about health as much as thinness. Like Geneen Roth, Crystal Renn had an awakening moment when she realized that she couldn’t live within the strictness. That her body rebelled against the diet-culture. That she was meant to take up some space in order to be a vessel for change. And to do that? She began to trust her body’s messages–Crystal began to eat rebelliously at first to overcompensate then found balance and began to use food to reflect that balanced life. Enjoyment of food is important. Awareness of eating is important. Her body wants to be a sexy and powerful size 12, and that is beautiful.
      The struggle she faces (as we all do) through her desire to become a model is a testament to how we minimize ourselves as women. How I minimized myself as a woman. How I felt like I didn’t deserve to take up space. How I don’t feel I do sometimes–even now. My vessel is supposed to carry me to do powerful things. Geneen Roth’s powerful thing is to tell women: “Trust your intuition over even the well-intentioned advice of all others.” Crystal Renn’s powerful thing is to tell women: “Beauty is within, and it reflects without.” These two messages came through battles with food. And, as amazing as it is, these two women did it at two different stages in their lives: Crystal Renn did it in her late teens (what a fantastic and powerful act for a young woman to courageously undertake when most women are still searching for self-validation!) and Geneen Roth did it in her late twenties. And I’m seeing I started out doing it in my late thirties.
      As I progress, I am learning about the power of the Higher Self, that often ignored insight (in + sight, looking within for answers instead of to others) stops us from giving up our innate power to others. As each of us rounded the bend to our next decade of life, we began to develop ourselves. At twenty, Crystal Renn was breaking boundaries by showing college-aged women that curves are part of the power of womanhood and should be seen as such in public media. At thirty, Geneen Roth was breaking free, becoming a teacher of self-respect by listening to one’s own inner voice and becoming responsible about food and for our personal food issues. Me? At forty, I got this little journal up here and am working a 12-Step program to do it. All three of us, through different means, reached an understanding: The only person who can know what is best for us . . . is us. Surrounding ourselves with supportive people makes a difference in how we reach this. And none of us can get away from that whispering voice of self-obsessed control . . . though the voice is getting quieter as we pursue a richer life of purpose through looking within instead of beyond ourselves.
      Our bodies reflect our individuality as human beings. Why not appreciate that reality? Some women are naturally thin, like Twiggy was. She couldn’t gain weight, as much as she wanted to. Some women are curvy and sensual, like Queen Latifah. What is important is that when we take our personal power–a gift from whatever one wants to name one’s Higher Power (Source, Higher Self, G-d, G-ddess, whatever)–we cannot fail because we have gained faith in our personal journeys. Respect the vessel by knowing it.
      That Crystal Renn book did something even more powerful–it pointed out how I have intuitively known I am supposed to be eating at about 165 lbs., yet I am still fighting to stay under 160 lbs.–and it’s not natural. Yes, I can maintain it. I seem to be. However, I am finding that I am tired most of the time and do not exercise. This is a problem for me. I also am rebelliously eating within my food plan. I don’t see this as much of a problem, because denying myself wasn’t the purpose of entering Overeaters Anonymous. Dieting is not part of the program. Becoming healthy is. And I realize that I am probably about 5 to 10 lbs. underweight for my natural self. Or maybe I am at my natural weight and am just too afraid to take that leap of faith. Of course, I am still re-training myself to understand what “Normal Eating” looks like. But I am learning, as we all should be. And my food plan, which has recently taken on a lot more calories, reflects this.
      While I do eat within my food plan, a lot more sweets have entered it. But they’re starting to leave it, as well. Where I have denied myself is making a hard correction to center. As I work to stay mindful of the intuitive eating messages (eat when I’m hungry, eat what I want, actually consciously enjoy it in the moment), I am moving toward that as a way of life. And even though I sleep a lot now, respecting my body’s messages that I need to rest (something I denied myself for years)? This, too, shall pass. I have a weak and malnourished body . . . for me. I am getting the signals even as I “eat right” most of the time. I am tired much of the time, too tired to exercise. I can’t lift as much as my mind and heart believe I can. And I struggle with sliding doors, something I find slams hard against my reality. My mind and heart know I can do this, though my body is failing to be able to act because it is not at its optimum health (for it, not for what society says it should be). As an innately failure-prone person who has an all-or-nothing approach to life, I find that I will not even try if there is a chance of failure.
      But this is changing from within. And I have hope that those changes will manifest themselves into a joy of exercise which is not excessive. The creation of a powerful body (which I am deeply sure is what I should be doing, since I am finding that my mind and spirit ask my body to perform tasks that I can complete–despite the extreme effort required to do them). As I lost weight, I knew I was missing something in my day-to-day life. A sense of wanting to exercise was pervasive. I innately want to move, even as I also want to sit and complete the quiet and restful self-care tasks as well. I want to crochet and bead and write, which are not particularly athletic activities. But they do feed my soul, so I enjoy them. The problem which requires a solution is to balance that rest with activity. To find a place between exercising eight hours per day and sitting on my butt whining that I don’t wanna get up and exercise.
      I do walk a lot more, which is good. Even this afternoon, when my husband wanted me to walk the block to a store nearby, I didn’t want to go. But the intuitive part of me let me know I would feel better doing it, so I got up and went. And my Higher Self was right. I feel better for having done it. I am adding motion to my life by having a yes-driven life instead of saying no. Of accepting that yes doesn’t have to look like a pound of cookies followed by a pound of chips followed by a pound of candy as I hide behind a set of cream-colored vertical blinds in a dimmed room. By saying yes to little achievements, I am sliding toward a life I want through daily practice–just as I once slid toward a life of excessive eating through daily practice. I didn’t start out capable of eating that much. I had to stretch my stomach day by day. There is no way I can eat as much as I used to be able to eat five or ten years ago. I just am physically unable to today. And, if I take the awareness that I don’t want to eat after I reach satiety, if I eat sweets until the desire switches off (which it has today, even though I had a half-cup of ice cream and six chocolates–as opposed to my one-time pound-plus candy binges and pint-plus ice cream binges), if I catch myself eating compulsively (stuffing food into my mouth without tasting and enjoying) then slow down and taste what I am consuming? I am practicing a daily life of enoughness. I may feel that I ate more sweets than I “should have”, but I must accept that in reality, I ate the right amount for today. And some days, I don’t even eat sweets by choice because I’m not interested in them. So, I won’t kick myself, because I ate what I wanted and reached satiety. And that is a process of progress and growth which I never imagined possible five years ago . . . or even three years ago, when I realized that perhaps walking in the door of an OA room might be the solution.
      I require a connection to my intuitive, to practice it daily in order to find joy and gratitude. It took a long time to call failure a lesson. It took a long time to reduce my shame and guilt when I made mistakes. It’s a process of growth, a slow movement toward something amazing–turning a life which seemed to be barreling out of control toward the edge of the falls and my own death by my own hand by using food.
      I have faith that some day I will eat intuitively because I am moving toward that. I really, really, really, really wanted to be an intuitive eater, and its happening in my Higher Power’s time. I am grateful for the growth I have experienced in the last eighteen months. Yes, I wanted it to be immediate all of my life, but having a wish like that granted overnight doesn’t really work with my reality. I have held the truth that anything I have ever found of value had to be worked for. This aligns with my personal perception of nature and growth. And as I align with how I am to walk through life, I am more thankful and more joyful and more hopeful than I ever could have imagined.
      Three years ago, I would have complained life was not fair and that people were cruel and that I hated life. Today, I am thankful that I woke up this morning. Today, I am thankful that my strongly held opinions about how I was a failure because I make mistakes (as if no one else did and I was some magical exclusion to the rule!) have turned into childlike excitement that I get to fail and learn from it. Yes, I actually said, “that I get to fail”. I actually appreciate when I don’t surmount obstacles because the lessons within are like precious amethyst crystals hidden in a lump of gray geode.
      I have no idea how or when it changed or happened, but I appreciate that it is still changing. I am slowly turning away from disappointment, also. Recognizing my expectations and assumptions allows me to live a more peaceful life moment-by-moment . . . just as I recognize that I am wolfing down food instead of taking time to enjoy it. And I do stop in both cases. I shift mindset completely and choose the path of awareness and self-care. And each time I do, I am creating a new habit. And this habit is one of self-respect and self-care . . . from which I can finally serve others from abundance instead of overextension.
      To help people without resenting them . . . that is a wonderful gift that is manifesting itself slowly every day. I am delighted that the tiny victories–these scale models of huge successes–are breeding a confidence I never imagined could be within me. Jess? A confident woman? Seriously? Yet it is happening. Somehow, some way. And it’s part of that Higher Self, the part that’s connected to the spiritual within all of us–which connects me both to a source of power to bring unimaginable possibilities into everyday reality and to every last spiritual being on this planet who happens to be currently occupying a human body–which is doing this.
      Others don’t have my answers. That was the secret of the Big Book, about looking for G-d inside of me instead of outside. My answers are sourced from within.
      Just like every woman I have ever admired has done before me. I may be following what they did, but I am not following them. The lesson is the same wherever I turn:
     
      To find my serenity and my power, I have to journey for it on my own. I cannot be led to it; I cannot lead others to it. Yes, people can walk beside me until they move off to their own trail at whatever intersections send us in different directions. The world is filled with people who will guide me to the trailhead, but it is up to me to choose which path to the summit is right for me. And the same goes for each of us.
      Personal power comes from following my path, not someone else’s–something I know because I will always rebel and become resentful when I find myself choosing someone else’s journey as my own, even if I am well-intentioned. My path to self-respect is self-responsibility, to opening myself up to the truth that I am the only person who is me, who can be me, who knows what I have gone through since I can remember. And that begs me to ask the question, “Why let someone else–someone who has not lived inside me and has not been present for every last experience that built me and who has not been privilege to every last perception I built from it–lead me?”
      Despite being rhetorical, this question does have an answer. Truth lies within me, as me. It belongs in the silent space of the now, and I cannot impart it upon anyone else because it is no one else’s truth but my own.
     
      Just like Truth lies within each and every one of us, as us. And even if we are well-intentioned in our compassion? Real compassion is accepting that our truth is no one else’s but our own . . . and that it belongs in the silent space of the now.
     
      Of course, this is just me. Some people may find their path following others. However . . . if we rebel and resent? Something inside is saying that something is out of alignment, and a correction will be made–even if we don’t wish it to be. Power comes from trusting that we are connected by our unique experiences and unique beauty, that if trying to have others guide us doesn’t work? We experiment with listening to ourselves to see if that works. There is a solution. By being honest to ourselves, open to the possibilities, and willing to work toward them? The solution manifests itself . . . and I really think that this is a shared truth, because if any person honestly looks back at a time when something inspired (in +spirit, moved us–sometimes abruptly–into that more-than-we-expected mode) us? Somewhere in that mess was self-honesty at our vulnerability to something, openness to our ability to be awestruck, and willingness to embrace that energizing power that came from experiencing it at all. Even if it only lasted a few moments or minutes or hours or days or even weeks.
     
      Jess. Addict. Food. Approval. Recovering. Learning. Grateful. Joyful.
     
      Enough.

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