My Journey Towards Compassionate Self-Care
For the first thirty years of my life, I continuously struggled with my weight and body image, thinking there was something wrong with my body that needed to be fixed. It began in my early childhood, watching people around me constantly shifting from one diet to the next, and beating themselves up about their looks and poor discipline. Then kids at school would tease me for my size, I wouldn't be able to find my size in clothing stores, my boyfriend would give me ‘the look’ if I ordered dessert. And the media all around was certainly not kind either (sounds familiar?). As a 'larger-than-average' teenager, I began the endless cycle of yo-yo dieting that continued more or less until I was about 30. I had moved from Italy to the US by then, and 2010 marked a big turning point for me. That was the year I decided to move permanently to New York City after earning my doctorate in Neuroscience.
Along with that decision, came the determination to step up my self-care to a new level, and so I did the only thing that seemed reasonable at that time: I decided to try yet another diet. I joined a popular program that involved counting and measuring food and exercise, and over six months I lost a considerable amount of weight. I was probably the lightest I had been since growing up.
Sounds great, right?
To my surprise, despite the temporary weight-loss, I was far from being at peace with myself. My issues were still there, my relationships were still challenging, my job was a nightmare, my personal fears had not gone away. And on top of that, I was now constantly preoccupied about every ounce of food that would enter my mouth or minute of exercise I could squeeze in my day.
Under my own emotional distress - and due the natural physiology of weight loss, which unfortunately I didn't know about at the time - my body weight slowly started to increase again to my "original" levels and beyond.
It felt clear to me, at that point, that something was really f&*!d up about this diet stuff I had been fed since my early age. Was I really supposed to go on for a lifetime hating myself and tracking points and obsessing about that half pound gain or loss week after week? That sounded like a pretty miserable prospect.
There had to be something deeper. There had to be another way.
It was a pivotal moment of my life, and my perspective about my relationship with food and weight started to change.
Over the next years, I decided to look for, learn and practice a new approach towards my self-care. An approach that could be sustainable, joyful and grounded in love and acceptance. An approach that would involve tapping into my own 'body-wisdom', rather than trying to follow some external arbitrary rules.
Rather than trying to force my body into a particular shape, I started exploring my relationship with my body as a doorway into myself.
Rather than trying to 'lose' weight, I started learning to allow it, understand it and respect it.
Rather than postponing my happiness to some unspecified point in the future once I would lose a certain amount of weight, I started cultivating love, presence and acceptance right NOW.
Along the way, I learned - and I am still learning - from many amazing teachers, practitioners and fellow humans who also have undertaken the brave and revolutionary path of detoxing from diet mentality to embrace "health at every size".
I have trained and got certified both by the The Institute for the Psychology of Eating and The Body Positive to provide tools, skills and support to people who are willing to make a shift in their relationship to their weight, body image and food, moving from a place of blaming and self-hatred to a place of love, nurturing and peace. People who want to learn to love their bodies and become powerful, healthy individuals. I know from my own experience that it is possible.
Today, regardless of my weight, I feel a completely different person, my life being so much more vibrant, juicy and colorful.
It's not an easy journey, because of the numerous cultural (and distorted) messages about health and weight we're immersed in, which are so pervasive and so hard to unlearn. That's why we don't just need 'new knowledge', but also support and community. And that is what I want to share with you.