A new year has dawned. I invite you to take a moment to reflect on your experiences of the year past. The pull of looking forward can be hard to resist. It can feel good to think about the changes you want to make with high resolve. But there is value in making time to sit quietly and honor your journey over the previous 12 months. Whether you are actively recovering from disordered eating and body-image problems, just beginning to face them, or have a friend or loved one who is, your relationship with yourself is the most important thing in your life. It’s the foundation for your relationship with your body and with food. Take time to nourish it.
What has happened? How did you feel when it happened? Your struggles and triumphs are uniquely yours, and the work you’ve done, the things you’ve learned, the frustration, hurt, or disappointment, as well joy, contentment, and satisfaction you’ve experienced, had an impact on you that can never be undone.
You might want to journal about your year, describing the events and what they were like. If you’re more visual than verbal, you might like to make a collage or timeline with pictures from magazines and photos. Then, read or look over what you’ve done. Focus on what you’re pleased with and what you’re grateful for. How have you been kind to yourself, accepting of whom you are and how you acted and felt?
Notice, too, when you’ve been harsh or judgmental with yourself. Simply study these things, from a neutral standpoint, without any negative self-talk. Then look at how you handled emotionally challenging situations and relationships. Did you use strategies and tools that were good for you, or did you engage in self-damaging behaviors?
Finally, if it hasn’t come up already, explore your relationship with food and your body. Have you misused food or exercise? How have you honored your physical, emotional, and psychological well-being when it came to food and body?
As you’re ready, shift your focus to the year ahead. What can you do to treat yourself with more compassion and acceptance? How can you be more mindful, more aware of your internal experience—your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations? These are the main ingredients of health and wellness. A happy and healthy life starts with mindfulness. An unhealthy relationship with food is about mindlessness, which involves being so caught up in thoughts and feelings that we’re not noticing that we’re experiencing them.
A healthy relationship with food is moderate, and based in meeting our needs for nourishment, physically and socially. Anything extreme or obsessive is not healthy. An extreme focus on eating “clean” or “healthy” foods is not healthy, just as a steady diet of highly refined, processed foods is not. Any type of eating that’s intended to push away painful emotions or reduce anxiety is not healthy.
A relaxed relationship with food that is based not in changing the size, shape, or weight of our body, but rather in supporting our bodies’ health and fitness, is healthy. A healthy relationship with exercise is one that is not compulsive, not designed to burn off what you’ve eaten or make you feel better about eating, but to support your body’s health. This means being able to rest as needed, as well as to move regularly but not rigidly.
Toward this end, I encourage you to make resolutions not to lose weight, but instead to be more mindful: to eat mindfully, to live mindfully, and be present to yourself so you can tend to your body and spirit with food and movement.
Why do I say spirit? Let me circle back around to the idea of your relationship with yourself. Just who is relating to whom here? I believe there is a place inside each of us that is, by its nature, centered, compassionate, accepting, nonjudgmental, and intuitive. I believe we each have within us an innate energy that moves us toward growth and healing; that intangible thing that is our spirit. I believe that accessing the first place inside of ourselves, and regarding our thoughts, our emotions, our physical sensations, from this place, connects us to our spirit. And I believe that actions that support our physical well-being, if undertaken by that place at our center, support our spirit as well.
So, write, draw, or make a collage or sculpture of what you want to create for yourself in 2015. What steps can you take toward living day to day from that place inside that seeks to be present, engaged, self-accepting, and feeling the full range of emotions that humans are blessed with? When you’ve determined that, start taking them.
Best wishes for a mindful and rewarding year!
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