My mom has always been very fit and thin. My dad was always heavy and not athletic. I am more like my mom with some serious tendencies from my dad.
How do people get fat as they get older? Is it their age, an aging metabolism, abuse of the body in your youth? Did you give up on yourself, did you settle, does it not matter to you anymore?
When you consider the penetration of weight into our current society, how is it possible that the US is the heaviest country in the world. We are constantly bombarded with images of beauty, youth, physical perfection in a way to sell sell sell.
I myself have been a part of this journey: insane fitness at 6% body fat and tipping the scales at 260lbs! Neither extreme was healthy. I was never a bigger dick then when I was at my fittest: a flawless body was the projection of unhappiness. I was never more afraid then when I was at my heaviest: afraid to make a choice that would change my life in unimaginable ways.
In Yogic philosophy, there exists a map of the human system that is called the pancamaya: literally translated as panca (five) and maya (bodies or layers). There is a physical body, a breathing body, a mental body (how you think), a behavioral body (patterns of your mind, body, and lifestyle), and an emotional body.
These layers are interconnected and permeate each other at all times in all ways. At the center and not connected is purusa (the ideology of the spirit, soul, the witness). Purusa is untouched by the system but is seated at its center to experience and witness. So that means that what I do physically affects the way I way I feel. It means that my behavior to exercise daily affects my body, the way I breathe and even my emotions.
This may not seem so revolutionary to some of you, but it is a fundamental understanding and tenant of yoga therapy. Where things get really interesting is watching these things play out in unexpected ways. It’s easy to say to a depressed person, go for a short walk every day and you’ll feel better, but what do you say to a happy person that isn’t even aware that something is seriously not working in their life?
In my experience, I am deeply sensitive and even the things that I’m not aware of play out in my system. When I met my partner Mick, I was finishing Law School at USC. I was about 27 and in spectacular physical shape. I was painfully depressed and taking anti-depressants. I was angry. Furious with God, life, family and the world at large. I was entitled believing that life owed me the prosperity I believed I deserved.
Being in a relationship was enormously helpful. Being in a relationship with Mick was very healing. But then How did I end up more than 65lbs heavier than I used to be?! How did this all happen?
There’s no one specific thing, but there are important trends that are worth discussing. On the one hand, I’ll give myself the out that after 15 years I’m older, my metabolism changed and in several ways, I abused my body in my youth.
But that’s not really it. That would explain a few pounds and some changes but not the totality of what was my reality.
I am deeply sensitive. When something happens to one of my mayas, everything else is affected; even if I am not cognitively aware of it. My relationship with Mick was very beautiful, in many ways we were a wonderful pair and in other ways, it was deeply challenging. Anyone who knew Mick would agree with me that he was the most stubborn person in the world.
Interestingly enough, Mick and my relationship was a factor but I am responsible for what happened. The first time that Mick had melanoma, our relationship got really tough. His cancer was serious and it required multiple surgeries. His family was nowhere to be seen. He got laid off immediately after his surgeries. It was a super painful and challenging place for him and he made it no easier for me. I felt shut out as he made isolated choices and retreated.
Surviving this oncological nightmare changed us. The innocence of our relationship was gone. A deep affection grew from the shared experience but new patterns fell into place. Intimacy was one of the first things to disappear. Mick was traumatized by his scars and refused to share himself physically from then on. I was too weak or afraid to address the situation choosing only to complain or be passive aggressive. The loss of physical intimacy led to the weakening of emotional intimacy too. As I grew in new directions due to my path in Yoga, Mick dug his heels into what he knew and felt safe. Like many marriages, we ended up like loving characters rather than living partners.
And just like everyone else, life threw us many curve balls that tested us. The financial part of life was the most toxic. Mick spent the last few years of his life scrambling and drowning in debt and hustling to make ends meet. I carried an increasing financial load disproportionate to our relationship. I was bitter, frustrated and resentful.
Does this mean that my relationship caused me to gain weight? That would be a very convenient answer and would eliminate the pain of acknowledging my own responsibility. It depends is the best answer I can think of. My relationship was the reality that I knew. I loved my partner. I loved our life. I was afraid to throw it away. I was afraid to be on my own. I had continuing faith things would get better. And yet, I knew that something was wrong. I knew the truth and couldn’t face it. I knew what would happen and was prohibitively paralyzed.
So what did I do……I ate. I cooked. I cooked really well. I poured all types of creativity in hosting parties, into making ice creams, into cooking dinners, into my work, into my friendships, into my education and so on and so on. In many ways, I was always deeply happy and fulfilled and there was always an underlying knowledge of something that was wrong/broken/breaking.
In the last few years of my relationship with Mick, I put on 40lbs. For someone who works in wellness and fitness that’s difficult to do! This goes beyond a correlation and provides a very helpful explanation.
Although it’s painful to admit it, there was a lot of personal suffering in my relationship. The level of dissatisfaction grew and manifested outwards: so my emotional body was deeply affected and it changed my physical body, my mental body, and even my behavioral body.
You might ask, “how do you know this now?”. When Mick passed away this past winter, it was the most painful experience I have ever had. As a primary Pita individual, order, control, understanding, comprehension run as foundational pillars of my personality. It’s true that hindsight is 20/20: looking back has been quite helpful. It’s particularly useful so that I can learn, and perhaps share, the wisdom gifted by experience.
It’s important to note that the problems in my relationship/marriage were not insurmountable. I count myself enormously blessed to have shared 15 years with Mick. Furthermore, gaining a bunch of weight is not the worse thing that could have happened. Through it all, I was enormously active, teaching, moving with no other physical ailment silently ashamed of where I was permitting all of me to drift.
In my work as a yoga therapist, I see situations that are much more egregious. A person in a broken marriage getting recurring cancer. A child having mental issues because of a painful relationship with their parents. All types of physical conditions because of stress, daily life activities and a deep unhappiness that they are not truly living their dharma.
No one is perfect, so please don’t think that I am in any way blaming you for challenges in your life. And on the other hand, I encourage you to be accountable to who you really are. Living in fear of the unknown is poison. Our minds are so powerful that they can rationalize anything drowning out the subtle perfect intuition inherent in each of us.
Don’t go out and blow up your life! Don’t make a rash decision that ends your marriage, your relationship, your job, your security. Treat yourself the way you would your very best friend. With tenderness, compassion, and lots of patience. Begin gradually to move into the direction you feel is correct. At first, these behaviors are hard, unpleasant, foreign. Keep listening to that subtle and powerful voice. Over time, things will shift. I can’t promise that the journey is easy or that you will even end up exactly where you wanted. From experience, I can tell you that you will end up where you are supposed to be and if you pay attention you can even enjoy the journey.
Each of us has a “thing” that is not concordant with our truth. It’s hard to see it and it’s even harder to change it. Now single, widowed, 35lbs lighter, a bit lonely, grateful, unsure of my future, living at home, cautiously optimistic I have never felt more like myself.
I’m unsure of how this entry ends because I don’t know the answer. I think perhaps looking for an answer of what makes us unhappy is not the solution. In my experience, it is infinitely more useful to continually move all the pieces of our lives appropriately to what we “know” is right. There are no outside markers for this and comparison is a trap. We each must be self-responsible and we must try to see that truth in ourselves and each other.
Your musical inspiration: Joni Mitchel Both Sides Now.
This entry was posted on Thursday, October 5th, 2017 at 2:22 pm
Posted in: Blog Stories