DR. ELLEN'S STORY
Today… I love my body. I’ve stopped worrying about it and started enjoying it. My body is a marvelous temple, a vehicle that transports me through life and facilitates emotion and pleasure.
But it wasn’t always like this… At first, I believed the path to well-being was weight loss. I thought that obtaining the “perfect” body would solve all my problems. But focusing on weight WAS the problem—blocking joy, personal growth and connecting with my genius and passion.
I tried so many things… I was a weight loss warrior/worrier focusing ridiculous amounts of time and energy on weight and helping my clients do the same thing. Counting calories, restricting food, following rigid meal plans, beating myself up for eating a cookie, exercising excessively and weighing and judging people, FOR WHAT?
It got so bad… Trying to control my body was destroying my life. I was addicted to exercise. If I didn’t work out I freaked out! I ran away from problems and uncomfortable emotions and punished my body for not being “perfect”. No one knew because I looked “great.” Besides, as a personal fitness trainer I worked in the insane fitness industry where grueling workouts are glorified.
The breakthrough… My daughter, Aly hit puberty. Distraught by her changing body, she started mirroring my dysfunctional, body hating behavior. Going clothing shopping was worse than root cannel. She’d emerge from the dressing room in tears because nothing fit and diet. Her behavior was a powerful wake-up call that roused me from my self-centered, self-loathing trance. To help her, I had to make peace with my body and food.
I started therapy and learned to safely connect with feelings and emotions. I confronted fears and questioned many long held beliefs, including my ridiculous fear of fat and view that everyone could and should strive to have a perfect, thin body. When thoughts like, “I feel fat” crossed my mind I crossed examined them. For example, I was out on a winter walk when I started feeling heavy. I realized I felt fat not because of body weight, but because I was wearing a bulky coat to stay warm.
Gradually my body stopped being a dumping ground for all that was wrong with my life. Movement and eating became joyful again. When I looked in the mirror instead of flaws and imperfections I saw beauty and glimpsed my soul. I realized my body was not my masterpiece, my life was.
That’s when I discovered Self-compassion, learning to treat yourself the way you would a good friend. I was working on my doctoral dissertation and wanted to provide women with something more than flat abs and a sexy bum. My dissertation chair suggested I offer meditation. Initially, I was uncomfortable with the idea because I didn’t meditate. Years ago I had meditated and been passionate about spirituality, but life and my quest for the perfect body had crowded out space to expand my soul.
The minute I said yes to meditation doors started opening. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field of Mindful Self-compassion (MSC) agreed to be on my dissertation committee. I studied extensively with Kristin and eventually become a Mindful Self-compassion teacher. MSC changed my life. As I meditated and practiced self-compassion I started to fall in love with my Self. The drive for perfection was replaced by self-acceptance, and the nagging, critical voice that had haunted me disappeared.
Things started to get better… When things were difficult in my life I used to automatically say, “I feel fat”, restrict my eating and go for a run. Now when things are difficult I give myself what I need to feel better. I’ve stopped struggling and started flowing. Each day is an opportunity to see what there is to see, feel what there is to feel and know what there is to know. And difficulties are just doorways to grow and glow.
Today, I’m happy to report… My life is filled with passion, purpose and meaning. Sometimes it’s a hot mess, but now I can accept and handle it. I love and care for myself deeply, and I’m able to use my gifts of healing, insight and intuition to help others heal and live happier, more fulfilling lives.
Here’s what I want to leave you with: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. When life feels heavy, harmonize the dance of your life with the song in your heart and flow with grace, beauty and ease.