The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Path and weight/abuse issues

“I've tried therapy, because I truly believe that my weight is a combination of having a very physically traumatic childhood and my mental state. But all the therapists only want to talk and most of the seminars like you are doing warn "to see a therapist is you have severe abuse issues". ::double sigh::

Gwenny: All right, you instantly have my attention.  All right, you have severe abuse issues.  I am incredibly sorry for that fact.  However, there is hope, and in my mind your best bet is a multi-phasic approach, and some of that is under your control…and for some of it, you’ll need outside allies.

Imagine a pyramid pretty much set up like this:


In other words, the foundation of all of it is
your mental/spiritual/emotional well-being. 
2) Then the establishment of health: joint integrity, posture, general energy and well-being.  Waking up in the morning feeling good.
3) Fitness: Cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, strength, flexibility, coordination under stress, etc.
4) Skill: specific coordination and development of attributes.  Specific endurance to specific muscle chains used in your chosen activity.  Selective deep relaxation for recovery, etc.
Competition: ability to perform skills under pressure.

Note that Skill and competition are not necessary for health.  In some ways, neither is “fitness” by most people’s definitions.  Fitness and health are NOT the same thing, and Health should NEVER be sacrificed for fitness.  NEVER.

In your situation, I picked up on the following thoughts in your post:
a couple of years ago I joined a free form exercise class, to "up the ante" on my daily 3 mile walks, and went every morning. After a few days I was feeling really crummy. But I kept pushing myself until I collapsed and now, over 2 years later, I still am in terrible shape. Not only have I re-gained the 60 pounds I had lost, they diagnosed me with fibromyalgia”
Sweetie, you screwed yourself, with Society’s happy cooperation.  We are encouraged to race toward the finish line, and in the process, our Shadow-self gets to fulfill its intention (to keep you right where you are!) by inducing you to push yourself too hard!  Hurting yourself in training is another way to stop yourself from changing.  It is an absolutely standard tactic of our Shadows, and you need to look at that WITHOUT experiencing guild, blame, or shame—three MORE ways that our “Shadows” screw us over and keep us from blossoming.
So…here’s what I’d suggest:
For the “base” of your fitness pyramid (adapted from the fine, fine work of Scott Sonnon) you need therapy, meditation, dream journaling, and good friends who will love you and support you 100%.  As you begin to change, you WILL run into bad emotions, you WILL experience a wide variety of ab-reactions.  The deeper your abuse issues, the more important actual professional counseling becomes.  Prayer, positive visualization…anything that allows you to “drain the swamp” on that emotional level. Make your peace with the fact that it will be hard.  Be the mother to the little girl inside you, and simply put on your war face, sweetheart. You are going to go through the fire, so that the beautiful child within you can dance in the sun.  Parents have done this for millions of years.  You can do it too.
2) For the basic health, I would suggest Yoga.  Find a class that knows how to deal with different body-types, and do NOT let some body-Nazi “ripped to the bone” gymnastic-wannabe guy or gal impose their standards on you.  I suggest Iyengar (if you can find a compassionate instructor), Viniyoga (very good at adapting postures) or Bikram (I’ve seen a number of round ladies doing quite well in class.) 
3) Fitness.  Walking is GREAT for fitness.  Remember that your body grows while it is RESTING, not when it is exercising.  So the day off is as important as the work.  Think of working RELATIVELY hard (say, 5-7 on a subjective scale of ten.  You should be able to talk, but not sing!) three days a week, with three days off—or possibly, additional days of even lighter work.  THIS is where Coach Sonnon’s FLOWFIT could come in well.  I suggest whole-body work, NOT machines.  You need to amp up your metabolism while protecting your joints and back. 

You don’t need skill work, although a goal of taking dance classes or something else you enjoy would be great.  What you DO need is to take a closer look at your food intake.  Master the physics of this, and the physics are simple: if you take in fewer calories than you burn up, the body HAS to lose weight.  This means adjusting your lifestyle, not “going on a diet.”  Make no changes you are not prepared to sustain.  A good suggestion?  One day a week is “Cheat Day,” on which you can have that ice cream or pasta.  The rest of the week, discipline.
As for The Path—we had several round ladies in the workshop, and some round guys, too.  No human being walking this planet is perfect, sweetheart.  We are all carrying wounds: some of them show up in silhouette, most don’t.  My insistence, from the very beginning, is that The Path must be designed for people at all levels of development and health.  I would say that if you have a severe abuse issue, TALK with your health professional, but unless they disapprove, get to the next Path workshop—we can adapt the movements to your needs.

And good luck to you!

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