Thank you all so much for the outpouring of admiration for my Grandma and sharing how touched you were by my celebration and tribute to her. I cried reading each of your emails. I showed my Mom the beautiful replies and she cried too. Each response was like an essential oil drop on our wounded hearts.
One of my reasons for writing her tribute was to make sure another woman’s story wasn’t left out of history and “her”story.
If you ever want to get out of dieting and body image hell and purgatory, you need to see stories of women contributing to society in deep and meaningful ways. And the challenges, not perfection, that accompany these callings.
What I’ve discovered (and wrote a Masters thesis about it) is that it isn’t just the stories we see that affect us, it’s equally the stories we don’t see that shape our image of ourselves.
Without great female heroines, women stay stuck in the only other narrative mainstream culture offers: become the pretty princess so you get rescued. The fairytale used to be a prince would save you. The 21st century, “liberated” version of rescued means the right weight, wardrobe, and exercise leads to your happily ever after.
Same story, different savior force. A force outside of a woman herself that hopefully chooses her.
It takes effort to find different stories. Not because they don’t exist but because often women’s contributions are left out. For example, I’m currently reading The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self—Not Just Your “Good” Self—Drives Success and Fulfillment, written by some pioneering psychology researchers. In the book, they refer to John Kabit Zinn as the “Father of Mindfulness.”
The authors failed to mention Dr. Ellen Langer, known as the “Mother of Mindfulness”. She’s kind of hard not to know about as she was the first woman to ever be tenured in psychology at Harvard.
Now imagine this one example multiplied by millions. What if we had billions of stories of women who chose themselves, their own fascinations and a three dimensional life filled with challenges, emotional highs and lows and the daily commitment to choose themselves.
Would the gaping holes in his/herstory be filled with dieting entertainment media? Would it be so seductive?
The good news is there already are millions of women like Dr. Langer choosing themselves and their own curiosities everyday. And plenty from the past. Part of why I love my work is I get to work with these women as clients!
Just last week I got a touching email from a client who has three agents who want to represent her novel! If you aren’t familiar with the literary world, this is beyond incredible.
She was writing to thank me for telling her, as part of our coaching work, that she had to own her writer identity. Developing that side of herself was intricately tied into reducing the pressure of body image.
And, creative energy devoted to weight loss will never get you the results you want. The everyday choice to honor her commitment to herself gave her a deeper self-approval that is ultimately what we are seeking from weight loss. There’s a deep sense of safety that arises from choosing yourself that makes numbing out with food and a weight loss rescue fantasy gradually obsolete.
If you want to really understand the power of stories told and not told, I challenge you for one week (or longer!), to detox from diet, nutrition or health information. Unfollow those Facebook pages, save your magazines for later and stop reading all the health books that have a different cover but say the same thing (eat more veggies, get off sugar and sleep more). And don’t engage with your friends about food or weight either.
Eliminate the noise that crowds out the value of your own unfolding health story.
Instead, try reading articles or books that illuminate the richness of women’s lives that are independent of approval of others. I’m currently reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It is a soul stirring read that will bring a sense of grounded wisdom to your life that the strongest grandmothers provide.
In one of my favorite lines in the book, Dr. Estes says, “If you have ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, cunning, insurgent, unruly, or rebellious, you’re on the right track…If you have never been called these things, there is yet time.”
As summer reading lists start, I highly encourage you to focus more on the material that makes you feel safe to approve of yourself. The full (not just the shiny parts) of stories of any woman will certainly provide that. And see what that does for your emotional health, resilience and the downstream effect on your eating.
To the fullness that the whole story of live provides.