McKenna’s Book

May 26, 2008 at 1:07 am (mckenna) (, )

I just started reading I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna. As you might expect, it’s mostly a rehash of the information he shared in his television show. It’s only 167 pages long with rather large type; in fact, he makes the point in the book that you can read it in less than a day. But what a life changing day that could be, if you were new to the information. 

I’m glad I’m reading it. I’ve fallen off the McKenna wagon, with traveling and being busy and then getting sick. For the past few days, I’ve eaten whatever I’ve wanted, whenever I’ve wanted it, with no regards for hunger or fullness, physical hunger or emotional hunger. I’ve just eaten. (You’d think being sick, I’d have a diminished appetite, but that’s rarely the case for me!) McKenna talks about this in his book. He warns us that at some point we will not follow his guidelines. He says, “You can beat yourself up (like you’ve done in the past) and give up, telling yourself that you’re a worthless piece of shit and that you’re never going to change.” That’s what I’ve done after every slip of every diet I’ve ever been on. Or, he says, “You can RELAX, smile … and return to eating what you want when you are hungry, consciously enjoying each mouthful and stopping when you think you are full. No matter what happens, always go back to following my instructions.” So the past few days don’t have to be anything more than just a slip up. In fact, McKenna warns they will happen, so they are almost part of the plan. That’s comforting and reassuring. 

In thumbing through the rest of the book, I ran across something else that McKenna said that was really a wake-up call for me: “Life will always intervene, and there will always be things clamouring for your attention. But if you really want to lose weight, increase your confidence and feel great inside, you have to remember that you are in charge of you. Regardless of what is going on in your life right now, you are the only one opening your mouth and shoving food into it when you’re not really hungry, and you are the one letting your mind pay attention to everything but the delightful sensations and flavours of your breakfast, lunch and dinner. The system never stops working — you stop following it.”

I was — am — guilty of saying I can’t follow the guidelines because I’m too busy. Okay, maybe I was too busy to watch my new DVDs or read the book right away, but I already had all the information I need to follow the program; I got that off the television program. And how busy is too busy to eat consciously, anyway? After all, I have to eat. Yes, it takes more of my attention and emotional energy to follow the guidelines, but does it really take anymore of my time, or do I just perceive that it does? Well, I do know that meals take a little longer, eating consciously, but so much longer that I don’t have time to do it? I don’t think so! I think that was just an excuse.

I remember when I first joined the McKenna Community, there was a popular thread about not being ready to lose weight. I skimmed over the thread, nodding my head at a lot of the posts. Jane and I have talked about this through email. I’m not completely sure that I’m ready to lose weight. I want to on one level, but am I ready to? That, as they say, is the question. I’ve been heavy for all of my adult life and most of my teen life. I’m big boned (I know, everyone says that, but I really am! LOL!), so even when I wasn’t really fat, I was big. Being big — being fat — is all I know. I don’t have any mental image of myself as a non-fat person. Certainly not as a “thin” person. My fat has protected me and, well, been my identity for most of 40 years. I just don’t know if I’m ready to give that part of my personality up. So, I have to wonder if this latest bit of eating in the face of Paul’s promised success was some self-sabotage.

I’ve mentioned before that I once followed a program similar to Paul McKenna’s, written about by Geneen Roth. That program worked excellently for me, until I turned it into a diet — basically, until I stopped working the program. That very positive experience with Roth’s program gives me every reason in the world to believe that the McKenna program will work for me, too, if I just won’t turn it into a “diet”. So why am I making up excuses to  keep from applying myself whole heartedly? Self-sabotage is the only thing I can think of. Am I really that afraid of being my natural weight, that I would keep myself from pursuing this?

I know it probably sounds wacky to you — especially if you only have 15 or 30 pounds to lose, weight that you gained when you had the last baby. But if you are significantly overweight, and have been all/most of your life, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. On the one hand, the idea of being my natural weight is totally liberating. To not obsess about food all the time, to be able to shop for clothes in any store, to be confident about seeing old friends, to feel attractive to my husband — all of those things sound wonderful to me. But on the other hand, I’ve been fat most of my life, as I’ve already said. It’s such a part of who I am. And it’s no accident that I’m fat, either. I don’t just mean that I’m fat because I’m fat because I take in more calories than I expend, but being fat keeps me invisible. It keeps me off people’s radar and out of their line of sight. Being fat allows me to be shy more easily. People just don’t pay as much attention to the “fat girl” as they do to the other people in the room. It keeps me safe and out of focus, especially in sexual situations. Being fat also helps me know that people like me for who I am, rather than for what I look like (at least,  that’s the theory. Don’t get me started on the reality of this one!). 

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Friday Report

March 29, 2008 at 12:01 am (conscious eating, personal growth) (, , )

Today has been a good day. I’ve eaten consciously most of the day and enjoyed my food. I ate one time when I wasn’t altogether hungry, but it was because I had the opportunity to eat lunch with my husband. I haven’t actually taken a meal with him in several days, because I’ve been eating according to my own needs. Because I wasn’t altogether hungry, I only ate half my portion (lasagna and bread) — enough to satisfy me physically and emotionally. My meager hunger was satisfied, but so was my need for the dining experience.  He’s going away for several days on work-related travel next week, so I’ll have plenty time to each alone, whenever my need dictates.

I’m still working with the Geneen Roth book Why Weight?. Currently I’m supposed to be writing down my food intake for one week; I began on March 26, so I’ll be doing it through April 02. Because I’m doing the conscious eating exercises along with the workbook, I think I’m missing the point of the exercise. The stated point is to look for patterns in my eating. In the column labeled “feelings before eating”, I almost always put “hunger” and in the column labeled “feelings after eating”, I almost always put “satisfied” or “full”. 75% of the time where I eat is the dining room table. In the workbook, eating guidelines have been introduced, but not worked with, so I think I’ve kind of “jumped the gun” by working with Paul McKenna’s guidelines. But, I was moved to do something about my eating before I started the workbook.

The Geneen workbook is starting to get issue oriented and hard. I breezed through the first several exercises as they mimicked discussions that a friend and I were having or things that I’d already journaled about. Don’t get me wrong — they were still valuable. It was reinforcing to hear myself say it again. But the exercises now are asking me to dig deeper and to make commitments to specific actions that I’ll take in the upcoming days, and that’s scary. Even making the commitment to dance around the house or call about yoga classes is kind of scary, but these commitments go further than that. 

I told my friend (should we give her a name? Jane, perhaps?) a few days ago there comes a point when we have to take the step from thinking about things to doing about things. In fact, what I said to Jane was, “I think writing about and talking about why we overeat is a good first step. And maybe second step and third step, too. But ultimately, one day, we have to make a different choice. And that’s the scary part. One day, we have to say, “Instead of eating my feelings [for example], I’m going to reach out to someone.” or “I’m going to put myself out there and be visible.” I know from all my time in therapy that insight and understanding isn’t enough. Ultimately, it takes action. And, like I said, that’s the scary part. That’s where change happens, and that’s where the hurt is possible. There’s a certain amount of vulnerability in just talking about stuff, true. But the real vulnerability comes from doing things differently. And that’s where I always trip up.”

That’s why these current exercises in the Geneen Roth workbook are so hard and anxiety producing. Because the ask me to commit to action, to change. And that’s where I always trip up.

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Why This Time Is Different

March 25, 2008 at 10:52 pm (inutitive eating, Uncategorized) (, , )

So today wasn’t my best day! I followed McKenna’s conscious eating guidelines as much as I could — it was really hard today for some reason — but I wanted to just say “Fuck it!” and eat some Easter goodies. I wasn’t aware of anything triggering my emotions, as I woke up with this attitude. I could have had them for breakfast, but I didn’t wake up particularly hungry for them. I was hungry for Cheerios. I just wanted the candy. It was a strange dynamic going on in my psyche this morning.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not on a diet. The guidelines say I can eat whatever I want am hungry for. This is the same basic approach championed by Geneen Roth, and the authors of Intuitive Eating. In fact, I am reading the Intuitive Eating book right now, and working through Why Weight? by Geneen Roth, a workbook aimed at helping you overcome compulsive eating. I’m enjoying the working book, even though I’m stuck on one of the exercises that says to set aside an hour to complete. When am I going to find an hour to do one exercise? I guess I’m going to have to make an hour.

A friend and I were talking today about why this time feels different. I haven’t dieted in quite some time, but the usual pattern was this: Get motivated to “be healthier” (i.e., lose weight) because I felt poorly after a recent weight gain, do something about it (go on a diet, make healthier choices, etc.,), lose enough weight to feel better, lose motivation, gain weight. Sound familiar to anyone?

This time feels different though. This time, it feels like a keeper. For one thing, I’m working on my head for the first time. I’m really working on why I eat, what I’m getting out of the food I eat, out of being fat (Yes, Virginia, there’s an upside to being fat for me. It was just so hard to admit). I have a therapist who really “gets it”. I told him I wanted to talk about my weight and we spent the next half hour talking about being invisible and how that works, being my size (I’ll talk about that sometime). For another thing, I’m working on my relationship with food, not my weight. I’m working on how I deal with food and my emotions. I’m working on recognizing my emotions and dealing with them outright, rather than eating to stuff them down or to distract myself from my emotions. I feel as though by taking this approach, I can get my head straight, and my weight will stabilize naturally.

The question was, do I think I’ll lose the impetus to work on this once I lose enough weight to feel better? My answer: I don’t think so. Not this time. That’s not to say that I won’t experience little — or even big — blips along the way. I may even temporarily lose sight of my goal. But I really think that I’ll get back on track because, as I gain control over my eating and my head, I’ll be happier and more whole. And once I experience that peace, I’ll want it back. Hopefully, I’ll fight to get it back.

Another thing that makes it different is my public declaration to experience this healing: this blog. I haven’t told many of my friends or family what I’m doing. I’ve talked a little bit to my husband and a great deal to my best friend. But by creating this blog, I’ve made a public statement, even if it’s an anonymous one. This blog will be my inspiration on days when I can’t find it in myself. I’ll have an outlet for my thoughts and feelings, but I also have a responsibility to whomever may be reading this. I have to assume that at least one person is reading this, and gaining something from it. That will help keep me honest and inspired.

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