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> Back to Self-Care Excerpts List

Self-Care Excerpt from Don't Weight

Ride the Wave

Clients often come to me seeking control of their eating, control of their body size, control of their lives. This is a metaphor to express a new outlook on control.

Think of a lake, a big lake. This is a fresh water lake that is large enough to freeze at times or to have big waves at times. (Can you tell I grew up along Lake Michigan?) Imagine that the water is your life. Your job, as you live your life, is to stay on top and not sink. You could put all your energy into maintaining a great big condenser and freeze the lake solid in the area around you. It would take continuous energy to keep the water frozen. Then you could stay on top by walking on the solid surface in the small area around yourself. You would feel like you were in control. You would have to put all of your energy into maintaining that control. You would have to stay focused on the one small area that you have managed to keep frozen. You would be in control as long as nothing else happened to take your energy or focus away from maintaining that frozen patch.

Doesn't that sound a lot like staying on a diet, maintaining obsessive-compulsive tendencies, or participating in eating-disordered behavior? You can keep it up until something in life happens that takes your energy and focus elsewhere. When I worked for weight loss companies, I used to teach people how to cultivate obsessive or compulsive behaviors that would keep all their energy focused on controlling food. Indeed, when I read stories or see news reports of individuals who belong to the Weight Loss Registry (a national database at The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center that contains information on 3000 people who have lost weight and kept it off for at least a year), I see lots of obsessive or compulsive behaviors. One man proudly displayed stacks of notebooks where he had written down every bite of food he had eaten for the last twenty years. Another woman talked about her THREE hours of exercise daily to control her weight.

If someone who weighed ninety-eight pounds performed these very same behaviors, they would be considered eating-disordered behaviors. Why should these extreme behaviors be encouraged just because someone weighs one hundred and ninety-eight pounds?

I do not recommend odd behaviors like this. I do not recommend controlling your weight. That would be too much like trying to maintain the frozen patch on the lake. Instead, I suggest you learn new skills that will keep you safe, even though the water is fluid and ever changing. I recommend you learn to "ride the wave" and develop your problem-solving skills so you can build a healthy lifestyle (rather than trying to control your weight.)

Picture this: The lake of your life is fluid. The water swirls and has waves. Real things happen, things over which you have no control. However, you have your handy dandy surfboard (your problem-solving skills) and you learn to ride the waves of life. Sometimes you are up. Sometimes you are down. Usually you stay on the board and stay on top. Sometimes you get dumped into the water. Using your problem-solving skills that you have practiced a thousand times, you climb back onto your surfboard and get ready for the next wave.

Sometimes this is a difficult process. Often this is actually fun. You put your energy into problem solving, NOT controlling. This is an effective use of energy. It prepares you for the uncertainties of life. It leaves energy available to enjoy yourself. If you are tempted to seek control, remember the exhausting effort that goes into trying to keep the lake of life frozen. Don't try to freeze the water. Instead, polish your surfboard of problem-solving skills and "ride the wave"!

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By Kelly Bliss M.Ed., A.C.E. author of Don’t Weight, Eat Healthy & Get Moving NOW!
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