willendorf: loving your body to health and freedom
by byron ballard
Five: What Is Your Intention?
What do you do? People ask me this when they see my appearancethe
new me. Today, one of my favorite customers came in the
store while I was changing the window display. What have you been
doing ? he asked. Writing, a little travelling. He
looked incredulous. No. I mean what have you done to lose all
that weight? I outlined what Id been doing and smiled that
I hadnt realized what he was really asking.
however, dont mention the change. In this age of traumatic illness,
a weight loss can be the sign of something too challenging to speak
of casually. One woman who has herself lost many pounds due to catastrophic
illness was hesitant to say anything. She finally broached the subject
very carefully and told me shed been overweight her whole life
and knew how people can be careless with their words. Her question was
the best so faris it intentional?
that lovely? She didnt make assumptions that Id finally
given in to the mountain of cultural pressure to be a size 10 or that,
conversely, I might be gravely ill. Is it intentional? As you begin
to embrace the glory of your body, let it be intentional for you, too.
Be intent on flying in the face of the pervasive culture and loving
your fat/skinny/short/tall body. Loving you, exactly the way you are.
did that feel? Did it seem silly? Did it seem impossible? Did it seem...wrong?
Thats part of the baggage we must bear in Western culture, that
somehow loving ourselves is immoral, goes against spiritual law. Surely
I should expend some energy loving others? Isnt it wrong to love
yourself? Arent there rules against it?
are deeply ingrained and body-hostile rules against loving yourself.
We are taught early and often that self-obsessed and arrogant people
who are in love with themselves are bad role models. And thats
true. Selfish, monomaniacal people who are not reflective about life
are not a pretty sight and they dont contribute much to the cultural
or spiritual life of the planet.
not what Im talking about. You are not that person and will not
morph into that person simply because you dont hate yourself every
waking moment. Yes, hate yourself. People do that, Ive discoveredpeople
who are kind to children and animals, who do good works in the community,
who take care of their kith and kin. Some of these people carry around
the heavy backpack of self-hate. And theyve carried it around
for so long that theyve grown accustomed to it. I saytake
that pack off and stay a while. Have some cool spring water up here
on the porch and leave that burden be.
It is indeed
okay to love yourself. There, I gave you permission. Nowand this
may be much more difficultI want you to give yourself permission.
If you are too shy or damaged or freaked out to love yourself at this
moment in time, start with liking. Can you like yourself a little more?
Can you begin to see yourself as someone you could talk to in line at
the grocery store or the bank? Some people think more highly of that
nice teller at the bank than they do of themselves. Its easier
to like someone you dont interact with every minute of the daythats
a given. T ry liking yourselfliking your sense of humor and your
kindness and your zest for living. I think when youve grown accustomed
to thinking of yourself as likable, youll find that being lovable
is just around the corner. Its a matter of intention.
my intentionto get my blood sugar to an acceptible level and my
cholesterol under control. My plan for doing this includes watching
carbohydrates. Yes, it is popular to the point of faddishness right
now but in working with a nutritionist Ive discovered that limiting
carbs works for my body and my level of activity. But I do eat carbs150
grams each day. I concentrate them in fresh fruits and vegetables with
some whole grains. Ive had to limit portions of my favourite breakfastoatmeal.
But I still eat it and love it.
of it. Clean, filtered water is what I drink most (I keep a gallon container
in the fridge) but I also love cold spring water. My friend Bonnie drinks
a gallon of water a day but I manage to do a little over the minimum
daily requirement of eight eight-ounce glasses. I carry a water bottle
everywhere and drink all I can. Its my beverage of choice in most
situations. The occasional draft Guinness or glass of Chateau Neuf de
Pape is also quite welcome.
needs hydration to do its work. You know that. Plain water is best and
easiest on the organs. Avoid sodaespecially diet ones!and
limit your intake of caffeine, if you can. Thats hard for you
coffee-achievers, I know. But notice I said limit, not eradicate.
Hey, Im not a monster.
reduce your use of refined sugar. Eliminate it from your diet if you
can, with the possible exception of dark chocolate. This was the hardest
thing I did and I did it cold turkey when I found out my blood sugar
was high. Now, diabetes educators will tell you that eating too much
sugar doesnt cause high blood sugar but I wasnt taking any
chances. I weaned myself from my excessive sugar intake by eating fresh
fruits like apples and grapes. But the most important thing in that
process was dried fruitspecifically dates and figs (both mission
and calimyrna). They satisfy my sweet tooth (or should I say teeth?)
and are very nutritious. They saved me from my heavy candy habit.
As a non-caffeinated
woman in a caffeinated world, I used candy as a pick-me-up anytime my
remarkable energy flagged. Mid-morning, mid-afternoon, anytime. I walked
around all day blissed-out on refined sugar. Empty calories, sure, but
what an effect. So the hardest thing I did was cut it out of my diet.
I confess I was a little afraid of it. Afraid that one bite of birthday
cake would send me over the edge and Id eat the whole damned thing.
So I avoided
sugar for a long, long time. But I recently added the occasional dark
chocolate square to my diet. It tastes, oh, so good. And I find I can
limit my intake without having to think too much about it. I dont
have the urge to buy a bag of Mounds bars and eat them in the car as
Im going down the road. Okay, thats a lie. I do sometimes
have the urge to do it, but I dont. I eat some fresh dates instead.
Or I drink more water.
Halloween I encountered while working with Willi was much harder
than I would have ever thought. Halloween is a convenient excuse
for everyone to eat lots of mind-altering sugary treats. There are bowls
of candy everywhereat the bank, the Red Cross, the auto mechanics.
Tiny Tootsie Rolls, Jolly Ranchers (which I despise but looked strangely
delicious to my sugar-deprived brain), chocolate Kissesthey were
everywhere, there was no escaping it.
store, the drugstore, the discount storeeach one had shelf after
shelf of large bags of cheap candy. Irresistible prices, tiny bites
of perfect heaven. I thought I would lose my mind. Talk about visions
of sugar plums.
this would be much harder than avoiding birthday cake. I was feeling
pretty cocky about my exercise routine, about the way my silhouette
was shaping up, about my ability to process healthy food into lean muscles
and boundless energy. Maybe I could eat a little Mounds bar, maybe I
could eat a tiny KitKat bar, maybe...
No. I listened
to my deep self, past the chocolate lust and the craving for crunchy
sugary bites of bliss, I listened to the part of me that felt better
with sugar out of my system. And, yes, I listened to the tiny frightened
voice that said I still wasnt ready to risk it, to risk all that
Id done. I listened and brainstormed options for going underground
or leaving the country to go some place that didnt do trick-or-treating.
what I came up with, the same technique that got me off big sugar in
those early weeks:I went to a local gourmet store and bought an enormous
quantity of fresh dates and I carried them with me everywhere I went
during the week before Halloween. I ate them slowly with great
delight. Sometimes I ate one or two, sometimes I ate a handful. My weight
didnt change appreciably, my blood sugar levels were fine. I made
it through the dangerous, vulnerable time by listening to my deep self
and forming a strategy that worked for me. I did my best not to panic,
and to be strong.
about it is, I think, the key. And Halloween taught me a valuable
lesson in personal responsibility. My friend Kayla and I have a running
joke about opening up a can of personal responsibility on your
assa derivation of a popular Southern saying. We both think
that personal responsibility is fast becoming a lost art, and Halloween
was a good chance for me to test that theory for myself. One part of
me wanted to embrace that sugar-lust and sayits only once
a year, surely I deserve a break from all this rigor? What could it
hurt? I might have the equivalent of a hangover for a few days but no
long-term damage was probable, was it?
self-talking and rationalizing was very tempting. But I took the opportunity
to embrace Willendorf and listen with love to my deep self. Would I
have been able to binge out on sugar and then get back to the program.
Probably. Would I have felt badly, both physically and emotionally?
Certainly. Did I choose instead to open up a can of personal responsibility
on my own ass? Yes, I did. I made a conscious choice that came out of
my commitment to my self.
always make good choices but I now know that the choice really is mine.
The culture is permeated with excuses for me to rationalize my way through
bad choices. Maybe one day Ill need to use some of them. But not
today. Not today.
I have salmon at least once a week and I eat the aforementioned canned
tuna in olive oil on a bed of spring greens. My preference in life would
be to be a vegetarian, but when you limit your intake of carbohydrates
and are sensible about fat, youve got to make up those extra calories
somewhere. Protein. Yes, there are non-meat ways to do that, but they
mostly involve high carbohydrate solutions. So I eat fish and chicken.
I joke that Im a chicka-fisha-terian.
the spirits of the animals who gave their lives so that I may live and
because I am a Pagan, after all, I also honour the lives of the vegetables
that I consume. All that honouring slows down my consumption a bit and
gives me time for reflective chewing, something Ive found healing
and quite meditative. I recommend chewing slowly, looking at your food,
conversing with your companions. Eating isor should bea
pleasure. Bite after bite of healthy nutrition, delicious fuel for your
low-carb eating is everywhere, you have the option of buying ready-made
low-carb meals and treats at your grocery store. I saw some ice cream
today that has only 8 grams of carbs in a half-cup serving. Look at
the list of ingredients: crap, crap, crap. Better to occasionally eat
a half-cup of real ice cream made with nutritious cream, some sugar
and vanilla than to poison your system with non-nutritive chemicals
that have fewer carbs. Eat a big salad, grill a chicken breast and then
really enjoy a half cup serving of the best ice cream you can afford.
my favorite treats in the long-ago, sugar-drenched glory days of my
early middle age, was to eat a lot of chocolate-covered cherries on
Boxing Day. I was steeling myself to forsake a cherished but unhealthy
tradition. But as the holiday sneaks closer, Im thinking of a
tiny box, maybe four pieces, of Godiva chocolate, one a day for the
days after Yule.
probably a good place to talk about portions. When you sit down to a
plate of pasta, is it a sea of linguini covered in rich red sauce? Does
the thought of eating a half-cup of pasta make you feel sad and deprived?
too. Thinking seriously about portions required me to keep a measuring
cup handy any time I was cooking or eating. And there are some things,
pasta being one, that are not at this point worth it to cook and eat.
Maybe at a later date, I will add pasta, albeit whole-wheat pasta, to
my diet. I have to admit that I miss it.
out? Ha ha ha. In order for a restaurant to survive in a very competitive
business, they must give each diner an enormous quantity of food. Theres
a restaurant in my town that serves a small Greek salad
thats enough food for an entire family. The salads arent
such a big deal as entrees, however.
I got very
good advice early on and I happily share it hereas soon as the
meal arrives, ask for a to-go box. Immediately. Nibble until it arrives,
then divide your dinner and put half of it away. Just like that. Then
you arent tempted to graze through the whole thing. Out of sight,
out of mind. And lunch for tomorrow.
the only way this works is if you make sound decisions about your entree.
Listen, always listen. What does your body want? What does the machine
need today? A little more protein than usualare you doing weight
work? Or would you be best satisfied with a big salad with a chicken
breast on top? Sautéed vegetables with brown rice? An omelet
with portobello mushrooms? Listen and try to override your treacherous
taste buds. Or gently remind them that onions and garlic sauteed in
olive oil are just as yummy as a sub on white bread.
getting hungry just writing about it. But, as I listen to my body, its
telling me to take a swig of cold water and remember that dinner was
less than an hour agotofu sauteed in olive oil with a sprinkling
of almonds on a bed of spinach on top of a romaine salad. Am I eating
high on the hog or what?