“J, I lost 200 pounds and nothing changed,” my friend said to me. “Nothing.”
He really made me think. I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last few days. My friend lost this much bodyfat long before I knew him, so we had not talked about it much even though we’re very close. He told me all about how committed he was to getting lean and how hard he worked at it. And when he reached his goals, he told me how it was. “It was easier to move around, sure, but everything else I thought was going to change didn’t change at all. I had this whole new body. People hardly recognized me I looked so different. I thought I’d have all this confidence in my work and in my relationships. I thought I’d have a whole new sense of self-esteem. I thought I’d feel amazing. But I didn’t. I felt the same. Going to work had all the same ups and downs. My challenges in relationships were still right there staring me in the face. Nothing changed, J.”
I was talking with him about something I’d like to change in my life and his words were words of caution. Sure, make that big change, he was telling me. Go for it with all of your heart. But don’t put too much faith in this change bringing you all the peace, joy, and the everything you’re thinking it will bring. Just like that person who takes trips to faraway lands and finds that wherever they go, there they are. Their worries, their doubts, all of their insecurity—it’s with them just as much in the Alps as it is in the Jersey suburbs. This is what my friend experienced. He literally traded in his body for a new one and he was still exactly the same on the inside.
We do this in our culture. We set our sights on the great body, the dreamy partner, the ideal job, our dream home, the ultimate vacation. We set our sights firmly—certain that this is the answer to the nagging upsetting feelings we live with. Like the triumphant scene in a Disney movie, we see ourselves attaining our prize with the sounds of trumpets in the background and doves fluttering overhead, while all our problems fade away.
Life isn’t like that. Peace and joy—feeling great—is an inside job. It’s inside of us. As another friend, and yoga teacher, described in a class I took with her recently, “You are powerful. You are special. Just for being alive.” She guided our class in feeling the natural rhythms of our bodies and helped us to connect these natural rhythms within us to the natural rhythms of the world around us. I felt the life inside of me. I felt alive, powerful, special. As my friend would say, “special, but not better than anyone else”.
I often guide my clients to getting in touch with their inner wellness. It sometimes takes some time, but we almost always get there. We’re a culture of outside wellness, so it’s foreign for many people at first. And despite being well aware of this, I was falling into the trap myself. My friend’s story that he lost 200 pounds and nothing changed was a strong cautionary tale for me. The things I want to change in my life, the things I want to attain, they will never by themselves bring me the peace and joy I desire to live with. And as my other friend reminded me in yoga class, that peace and joy is always instantly available to me. I find that comforting.
Is there something you’re pursuing without being grounded in your inner wellness, in the inherent peace and joy of your being? Perhaps like my friend did years ago, you want to change your body as so many people do. If so, I offer this inside-out approach:
- Enjoy the unconditional peace and joy that is your birthright. (Use yoga, meditation, time in nature, creating and taking in art, and anything and everything that helps you to do so.)
- Take great care of your body, just like you take care of children in your care. Lovingly meet your needs.
- Let your body naturally conform. As you take good care of your body (without any concern for specifically altering its weight, body composition, or shape), you will naturally get more vital, fit, and well. As a natural side effect of wellness, you’ll get leaner over time.
With this approach you get a huge result, not just snazzy before and after photos and a new wardrobe to go with your new body. You’ll be winning right away, not in some distant future when you reach your body-change goals. Feeling great is available to you right now. How does that sound?
Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.