When we numb to avoid pain, we also block joy

I just finished the Gifts of Imperfection class with Oprah and Brene Brown. It’s been an incredible class with lots of breakthroughs. And I especially love the art journaling component.

One of the big realizations I had was around numbing. I love how Brene discusses this idea of numbing.

She says the following:

1. I don’t like how I feel so I numb.
2. Numbing the pain numbs the joy.
3. I feel like I have no joy in my life so I numb some more.
4. Only when I let myself feel the struggle do I open myself up to feeling the joy. And feeling both of these gives me the courage and strength to make changes and feel whole.
5. Feeling the struggle gives me the courage to change what’s happening and practice gratitude for what’s going well (even if I have to look hard for it).
6. Feeling the joy gives me the strength and perspective to move forward, out of the dark.

This has been my introduction to motherhood for sure. For me Overwhelm = Numbing. And becoming a parent has been the most overwhelming task I have ever taken on. So it makes sense that I chose to numb. And it makes sense that I have been saying that I want more joy or that I have been missing out on joy.

I invite you to do the following exercise:

1. List out all the things that cause you to numb.

For me it’s overwhelm, anger, feeling out of control, isolation, sadness, helplessness and hopelessness.

2. List out all the ways you  numb.

For me it’s TV, Facebook, iPhone/iPad, chocolate, isolate myself and wanting to sleep all the time.

3. List out all the things that bring you comfort.

For me it’s a bath, music, yoga, tea, sweating at the gym or steam room, getting quality sleep, self help books, audios, courses, creativity, talking to trusted friends, being loving and patient with myself.

4. Create your comfort wisdom list – what creates joy?

Mine are teaching people how to have full, loving lives and bodies, personal development, bath, tea, music, dancing, yoga, working out, massages, coloring, creativity, journaling, being around women, snuggling with my hubby, hearing my baby laugh, and self care.

After completing this course I am happy to report that I feel incredible joy. I love the ordinary moments I share with my loved ones and my crazy, little baby.

I don’t feel more joy because I bought something. Or because I accomplished something. I feel more joy because I woke up, stopped numbing and started living. The joy was already here, I just couldn’t feel it.

Fitting In and Belonging

In my behavioral change class we have been discussing the ideas behind how conformity influences our decisions. One of the studies that discusses the importance of conformity is the Asch experiment.

In the Asch experiment we witness a person change their answer to a simple test of line lengths in order to be like the rest of the group. When interviewed after the study, those that did change their answer (which was the majority) stated the reasons they changed their answers. Some said it was because they didn’t want to draw any attention to themselves by being the odd man and others said it was because once the entire group answered the wrong answer they changed their mind about their answer.

Let me repeat that last part: Even when the answer was blatantly obvious, they would actually change their mind about which answer was correct.

No judgement here, I’ve done this many times in my life… Questioned my own answer when the rest of the group answered differently. So let’s see how this plays out with our weight.

Imagine you have been on the dieting roller coaster for over 20 years. Your days are filled with food obsessing thoughts, shame over exercise and an overall disgust with your physical body. The people around you, even the ones that love you most, consistently ask how your weight loss endeavors are going. And they often share the next fad diet, pill, or strategy that you need to try.

One day you read about an approach that requires you to stop dieting. Furthermore, it claims that you are not lazy, weak or pathetic. The more you read, the more you resonate with the  words in front of you. With excitement bubbling up inside of you, you reach out to a loved one to tell them about what you found. Their response, “that will never work”. And just like that you release the dream of living a life free of dieting.

When groups of people have decided that weight loss happens a specific way it feels impossible to jump out of the stream their swimming in and tread water in your own. Your innate desire to fit in forces you to question whether you may drown in that pond all on your own. Or worse, whether you would be swimming in it alone forever. The fear of not belonging becomes so strong that not only will you change your beliefs, patterns and thoughts to align with those around you, you may actually fear being alone more than death itself.

Group pressure will transform the way we experience life. If we are choosing thoughts, beliefs and actions that aren’t aligned with what we desire, we experience fitting in, but we lack the experience of belonging. When put in more critical positions we can make immoral, out of character decisions, grasping to the potential to belong to something. And in the case of weight.. the group has it wrong.

One of the fascinating results of the Asch experiment is that when they had just one person give the correct answer, it increased the odds that another would go against the majority. This shows us that it doesn’t take a majority to give us the confidence to stand strong in our answer, it just takes one.

Many people believe the information I teach is too good to be true. Or it’s the first and only time they’ve heard it, so they lack confidence that it could work. So let’s look at another person who agrees with the words I write to you about non-dieting. Geneen Roth stated the following on Facebook earlier today:

“After 30 years of working with emotional eaters, I can confidently say that I’ve never met anyone who has ever lost weight — and kept it off — by deprivation. We are sensory, pleasure-loving beings. It is not just calories that fill us up, but the joy we take from eating them.

We don’t overeat because we take too much pleasure from food, but because we don’t take enough. When pleasure ends, overeating begins.

Imagine what your life would be like if you let yourself eat with passion. If you felt entitled, no matter what you weighed, to eat with gusto. You may discover that foods you loved — as well as those you didn’t — truly do give you pleasure, and there’s no price tag attached. And that’s how it should be. Why not be astonished by the crisp taste of an apple? Why not revel in the smooth texture of an olive? Since you need to eat to live, why let one moment of joy — even one — pass you by?”

Imagine you’re back reading about this non-dieting approach to weight loss. You really believe that this information can work for you even though your loved one shot you down the other day. You begin looking at the credentials of the writer. Not only has she been studying non-dieting weight loss for years, she has the education and certifications to back it up. This time you show a group of your dieting friends, hoping to get them on your side to try this approach. Each one of them says there is no way it will work. And so you are faced with a decision: Fit in or risk being vulnerable and alone.

In order to be the one who swims in a pond all on your own, you must be wiling to examine the feelings of scarcity, isolation and vulnerability. Those courageous enough to do this will find several others they naturally belong with, ready and willing to swim with them. There may not be another in front of you to go against the grain, it may be you. 

A Real Solution for Emotional Eating

I’ve always been the type of person that refuses to accept a solution that is out of alignment with the life I want to live.

When I was struggling with my weight, I searched and searched, knowing that there absolutely had to be another way to lose weight that wasn’t about deprivation and extremes, and I found it.

When my baby went 9 months without sleeping, I found the perfect sleep coach that was in alignment with everything I believe and my baby has been sleeping ever since.

When I wanted a variety of workouts that weren’t about force and punishment that I could do from home, I found it.

And when I knew I wanted so badly to cook a variety of healthy, delicious food without hunting for recipes for hours every week, I found that too.

These are just some of the solutions I have found for the problems that arise in my life and I invite you to take on the same tenacity to create an incredible life for yourself.

Mostly,I invite you to live a life 100% FREE of deprivation. Because you simply cannot heal over eating, binge eating, stress eating or any other eating disorder in deprivation.

I invite you to live a life where your weight is not based on how fast, hard or often you exercise, but about willing you are to be vulnerable, honest and alive.

A life where you can focus on moving toward the dreams in your head and allow your body to take care of the physical removing of pounds.

A life where you no longer are at war with food, exercise and your body.

When you close your eyes and envision your dream life without limitations, what do you see for yourself? What if you could have it all and more?

It does take work, but not the grueling, blood, sweat and tears work you are used to.

It takes presence, a commitment to your dreams over your fears and full out honesty.