Weight Loss, Cowboys and Scarlet O’Hara

The United States is a nation known for its fast food chains, processed foods, high fructose drinks (weren’t we called the Coca Cola nation at some point?) and fostering an increasing sedentary lifestyle. We are known as a nation of cowboys – men who give one-word answers and whose actions express their deepest feelings – and Scarlet O’Hara’s – overly emotional and superficial women who only want to be taken care of. Although these are two pretty outdated and unfair stereotypes, a lot of Americans seem to wear them proudly.

Our nation is also one of the most overweight countries in the world and, therefore, obsessed with weight loss. Most magazines, television talk shows and nutrition experts claim that our unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity is the root of most overweight issues of Americans. I believe the impetus of our weight challenges is not just our negative physical habits; it’s our emotional, mental, and spiritual states of being.

I have had challenges with my weight since by early twenties. I remember graduating from college, moving back home and launching my job search. I mailed out hundreds of resumes and rarely received a response. Although I worked as a temp to make money and networking connections, I became increasingly disillusioned and unhappy. I started eating more to hide my hurt and frustration. Before I knew it I had gone from a size 10 to a size 18 in a matter of eight months. Although I was working out a couple of times a week, I was so focused on my job search that I didn’t realize my additional weight until I finally got a job and went shopping for appropriate clothes. I was devastated.

I immediately joined a gym and started working out four days a week. I lost all of the weight in less than a year. I could conclude that my weight loss was because I became more active, but the more I think about this time period in my life, the more I remember how I was extremely happy, fun-loving and joyful. I had great co-workers and I felt I was on my to my life long dream career. My weight loss was a combination of my emotional high and physical actions.

When I analyze my up and down journey of the pounds, the times I gained weight, I was frustrated, disillusioned, doubted myself and insecure about whatever a twenty and thirty year old agonizes over in life. The times I lost weight, or what I like to define as “achieved balance”, are when I was my happiest and fully expressing and being who I wanted to be at that time. I didn’t care what people thought about me; in fact I would laugh and say, “We agree to disagree.”

During these times of my life, I noticed I was able to deeply express how I felt, why I felt, where I felt, when I felt and who I felt. I was in touch with my emotions and able to express them in a healthy way. In fact I remember living in South Africa and being in touch with my feelings so much and living so fully that I lost weight without trying that hard! Of course, my diet changed but this isn’t the reason I lost weight.

I was living in Johannesburg right after apartheid ended. Everyone South African I met shared their deepest feelings about their past and present experiences. They each had a story to tell and wanted the outside world to hear it. At the same time they wanted to hear my story. Our sharing conversations were not the normal American conversations of “Tell me about yourself. What do you do?” These questions were probing: “Tell me about your family. What does your father do? Is he proud of you? What motivates you in your life? What do you really desire to learn or do in your life?” The expectation was for you to go deep and tell your emotional truth; they would know if you were not being authentic.

My weight melted away as I tuned into my feelings, understood my real motivations, learned to be honest with myself and released my emotional baggage. My weight melted away as I became emotionally lighter and allowed myself to be open, real and happy. I remember why I gained some of this weight back. I came back to the United States and, in order to fit in again, felt I had to close a part of myself off; most Americans are not comfortable with fully expressing their feelings.

I read a statistic that stated 80% of all people who lose weight gain most or all of it back within a year. Looking at my own personal journey of the pounds, I think part of our weight loss program must include learning how to live a fully expressed life. We will be a much healthier, happier and spiritually centered nation of cowboys and Scarlet O’Hara’s.

Copyright © 2010 by Shirlyn Wright

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