The following is an amalgamation of dozens of conversations I’ve had with clients:
Me: What do you want to work on today?
Client: You know, I want to lose weight.
Me: Yes, let’s pick up on what we worked on last time. Tell me more about why this is important to you. What would losing weight give you that you don’t have now?
Client: Less pounds. Ha ha.
Me (smiling): What else?
Client: I’d feel better about myself.
Me: Say more.
Client: I don’t like how I feel. I feel ugly.
Me: What does that feel like?
Client: I feel like people don’t like me. People don’t like heavy people. I feel like I’m on the outside looking in.
Me: Outside of what?
Client: Life. The good life.
Me: Be more specific.
Client: Relationships. I want to be in relationships.
Me: And you don’t think you can be right now?
Client (getting a little emotional): No, not really.
Me: What does that feel like?
Client (after a deep breath): Scary. It’s my worst nightmare to be alone.
Me: What does it feel like in your body?
Client: Really stressful. I can feel my heart beating faster.
Me: Stay with it. What else is there?
Client: Well, the stress is starting to chill out a bit actually.
Me: What are you feeling now?
Client: I’m aware I’m not really alone. Olivia and I have been friends since high school. My parents have always been there for me. I like the people I work with. You’re super supportive.
Me: Even with that, the way you said that, I sense you’d like more from your relationships.
Client: Yeah, I want someone to really love me.
Me: Say more.
Client: I want someone to love me unconditionally. I want someone I can totally be myself with and it’s okay.
Me: You want to be accepted for who you are?
Client: Yes. I want to be with someone who considers me okay just the way I am.
Me: Do you feel you are?
Client: What do you mean?
Me: Do you feel you’re okay just the way you are? Do you accept yourself just the way you are?
Client (getting more emotional): No, not really. I’ve always hated my body. I’ve kind of always hated myself in some ways. I’m really, really hard on myself. I talk to myself in ways I’d never to talk to anyone else.
Me: Say more.
Client: I don’t like being fat. I mean, you know, we [women] are supposed to have these perfect bodies and look a certain way. I’ve been told that by everyone in my life since I was…as long as I can remember.
Me: What’s that like?
Client: Impossible. Impossible is really the best word. It’s like I can’t win. I mean, I might be able to lose the weight I want to lose. But I’ll still never be perfect. I mean, I’m 36. I already have wrinkles and a few gray hairs. Even if I lose the weight, I’ll always have flaws.
Me: It seems like you feel a lot of pressure to look a certain way.
Client (getting really emotional): It’s exhausting. Utterly exhausting.
Me: I can tell this is very intense for you. It feels like a really big load for you to carry. A huge burden.
Client: I hate it! I absolutely hate it!
Me: Let’s take a moment and pause. This is hard work you’re doing.
Me (after a brief pause): It seems like you’re fed up with this pressure to look a certain way. Is that accurate?
Client: Totally. What the fuck? I’m a hard worker, I’m intelligent, I’m a good person. And, yet, I feel like all that matters is losing weight. All that matters is looking good. For as long as I can remember, it’s felt like losing weight is all that matters. The pressure is eating me alive.
Me: Would you like to explore some other ways of approaching this?
Client: Yes! That’s why I’m working with you. Pushing myself to lose weight and get “a good body” hasn’t worked no matter how hard I’ve tried or no matter how many times I’ve tried and I don’t think I can keep doing that.
Me: I’d like to ask you to really look at your beliefs. Is that okay with you?
Me: What would it be like for you to accept yourself as you are right now?
Client: I had a feeling we were going there.
Me: What’s it like to go there?
Client: It’s a mixed bag. Part of me is feeling a lot of fear. For a really long time, I’ve felt that losing weight was the key to accepting myself. Giving that up feels a bit scary. But I also feel something else. It honestly feels bigger than the fear. A sense of relief. A weight off my shoulders. I mean, I think this is what I’ve wanted all along.
Me: What have you wanted all along?
Client (letting out a big sigh): To accept myself as I am. Damn, it feels good to say it. Really good.
Me: What does it feel like?
Client: Again, like a weight off my shoulders. Like I’m releasing a huge burden. I didn’t really know this was an option.
Me: Take some deep breaths and enjoy the feeling. Savor it. Take as long as you like.
Client (after a minute or so): This feels really good, but I feel awkward keeping you waiting.
Me: Ha ha. I get it. I think that’s probably good for now.
Client: It just feels so good. It’s like when I need a nap and I let myself take one. Or like when I’m craving a certain food and I have it and it’s perfectly fulfilling.
Me: Yeah, acceptance is super nourishing. You need it. I need it. We all need it. It’s like a vitamin. I sometimes call acceptance vitamin A. We need acceptance like we need vitamins and other nutrients. It’s essential to our wellness. And vitamin A might be the most important nutrient there is. Without vitamin A, life can be really hard.
Client (smiling): I like that analogy.
Me: So as we move forward, are you starting to see a new way of approaching weight loss? Instead of weight loss as a path to self-acceptance, you have the ability to accept yourself now, and always. And you can build exercise habits, eating habits, and other wellness habits on top of that self-acceptance foundation. Does that approach sound good to you?
Client: Yes! It already feels like it’ll be easier. Like I’m not doing all this stuff to lose the weight so I can accept myself, since I’m already in the process of accepting myself as I am. I have to say, I think this accepting myself as I am will be a work in progress for me. But like I said, it already feels good. And it feels like everything else will be easier and more fun.
Me: Of course, yes, it’ll be a process. Big changes like this can take some time. We’ll work on it together. You’re well on your way by being willing to open the door today. This is great work you’ve done today! Really great work!
Client: Thank you.
Me: And, yes, now you’ll be free to exercise well, eat well, and otherwise take care of yourself without being in this box that you’re doing it only for weight loss and with weight loss as they only way you can accept yourself. Let’s work together now to make your THRIVE plan [wellness plan] for the coming weeks with all of this in mind. Are you ready to do that?
Client: Yes, that sounds really good.
Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.
There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.