Accounting For Taste

1094-relax-and-succeed-nothing-happens-just-because-we-are-awarePart of why people think too much is that they’re too idle. You can be, or think about being, but you can’t do both. Whereas healthy people invest themselves in the actions, others use more thinking to try to stop their thinking but, you don’t stop thinking; you replace it with activity. The activity of being alive.

The problem is that most people don’t even know what life activity even looks like. Even the idea of basic listening, or patience, or openness is too-often seen as unproductive; as though all of the value is in how much someone does, not how well they do it. But if we’re only doing then that means those tasks are for other people, but even if they’re for other people we should still be alive while we do them.

You can repeat an action and still be alive while doing it. You can still do something generous and do it for you. But to do so you must slow down your thinking and deepen your focus. Once you do this, you’ll see the world slow down and it will make more sense because you will be taking in more information.

1094-relax-and-succeed-life-is-a-seriesA good way to do this is through your senses. We’ll start today with your sense of taste. You’ll have to stay aware to remember to do it when you eat or drink, but otherwise your job in today’s meditation is wonderfully simple: simply taste anything you consume.

Seems weird doesn’t it? Lots of people can think, I already taste everything I eat, but that’s actually pretty unlikely. Most people are so busy using their mind to create internal dramas that they rarely just focus on the taste experience.

This meditation is two-fold in that it helps you maintain a level of awareness throughout the day so that you can catch yourself eating or drinking, and then once that experience starts you can work on adjusting your focus down to that one sense. The idea is that your brain is doing nothing but tasting the food. No commenting, no desires, no words, just taste whatever it is and be fully aware of all aspects of that flavour.

1094-relax-and-succeed-rather-than-being-your-thoughtsIt seems easy but it does require a constant low-level awareness on what you’re doing so that you’ll be more alert. But the real gold is if you can really find yourself noticing a substantial difference in eating or drinking. It shouldn’t feel like fuel even if it is. It’s not just something you do on the way to something else, it’s literally an action that keeps you alive. Invest more in it. Besides, a lot of the food you eat is presumably really good.

Pay attention to everything you eat or drink until bedtime. Tomorrow, either make a mental note in the morning of the day-before’s favourite taste experience, or share your top moments of awareness with your meditation partner. It’s a nice meditation to do. You not only gain in awareness, but it makes lunch taste a lot better. Enjoy.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Reactions to Failure

Staying conscious is being mindful. If your head isn’t full of self-conversation then much more of the world can get inside you. You notice more and that’s helpful. So when a friend and I were recently disagreeing about an important issue we were working on I noted quite clearly that in the middle of the discussion of the good friend said, “have you eaten?”

972 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes when things are falling apartMe being upset lead to a friend asking if I’d eaten, meaning she had related my mood to my food. I trust her so we ate and I did feel better as my body chemistry regulated. It turned out I just needed some sugar. You could leave it at that but if you’re going to think don’t ruminate, meditate. So I spent the next two days meditating on how that happened.

In that meditation I recalled another similar experience where I had snapped at a different friend for very little reason. At the time my reaction had been so strangely immediate that it registered with me. I remember meditating then on the fact that I loved the friend so it didn’t make sense, plus I hadn’t been thinking any relevant negative thoughts. So what was the cause? My disappointment over how I treated my friend was what motivated my meditations.

After more consideration I realised both situations reminded me of when I got upset really easily for about eight months when I was in my late teens. I was going through a growth spurt and my off-balance chemistry gave me a different personality for a short time. And now here was a friend responding to me being unreasonable by asking me if I’d eaten. Food relates to body chemistry. Can you see if you’re more aware that the truth becomes obvious? The question was, how did it happen?

972 Relax and Succeed - Never regret anythingSometimes the big challenges in life are so obvious and huge in our lives that they cause us to miss some of the smaller implications. A few years ago I underwent my life’s most difficult period where rather than an 8 hour day and a 40 hour week I needed a 40 hour day and a 280 hour work week just to avoid disasters, but that in turn lead to a series of sub-decisions that were far less conscious. Life can deliver us more than we can handle. That happens.

There is no good way to prioritise the very serious and absolute demands presented by very elderly and sick parents, a book deadline, your life’s work, the needs of clients and the business that pays your equally important mortgage, or even your basic life obligations like the fact that you need to eat, drink, sleep, grocery shop, and personally groom, plus you’ll have needs relating to everything from house and yard work to necessary car repairs or maintenance and of course there’s the never-ending administration that life requires.

I knew during that time that I would be letting friends down and I accepted there would be a price. I worked with my doctor on a plan for so little sleep and so much work and I developed a special diet, but even then I accepted there would be both a price and a limit. I worked off an insanely inhuman schedule that I still can’t believe I maintained.

972 Relax and Succeed - A friend is someone who understandsDespite all that effort I was still constantly letting everyone down, including myself. I never had enough sleep and I had quietly developed terrible eating habits over time. I was still eating healthy, but I would often go to bed at 2am realising I hadn’t eaten since breakfast at 5am the previous day. And there in my mediation was my answer: In my busy-ness I had accidentally learned not to eat.

Because historically we can be chased by wild animals the desires to eat and to pee can be deferred to later. Pain stays, the desire to eat comes and goes. I got so used to dealing with not being able to eat that it became an unconscious habit to just immediately dismiss the desire. I needed to get conscious about food again.

For the next several weeks I watched myself closely. Sure enough, once I was watching I caught myself tons of times deferring the desire to eat. As often as possible I would remember to respond to it and I’m currently about half way to re-teaching myself to eat when I’m hungry. That’s how busy-minded we can get: we can forget something as basic as eating.

972 Relax and Succeed - Don't deny what's occurringSo can you see that I’m now glad the friends reactions were pain because I care about them? And I’m glad one defended herself by asking me if I’d eaten? Without those signs that I was off the path how could I have rediscovered the path? I needed those ditches to help me find the road. Of course we always want to treat loved ones well, but part of love is that they can help us make it through tough times like that and then we can do the same for them. That’s how love serves.

So now I’m grateful that the universe has taught me to appropriately value food and that my friends were patient and now that I do have the time to eat I’m getting conscious enough to actually do it. So this can help you too if you remember that if you have a problem don’t focus on the problem itself, ask yourself what its source is.

Believe you are a good person that is lost not a bad person that needs changing because that is the greater truth. If you approach your mistakes that way you can see your innocence and then make the change without guilt. Speaking of not feeling guilty, another great truth is that I’m hungry right now so, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to get something to eat. In the meantime, you have yourself a stellar day. Bon appetite.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Extending Kindness to Ourselves

We’re still in March Kindness Month so we want to stay on theme, but it’s Monday, so I have an easy one to start your week. Today you’re going to be kind to yourself in a Maslow kind of way. Food and shelter. Going forward you’re going to make two tiny changes for yourself.

886 Relax and Succeed - Create healthy habitsFirst, become more aware of your body. In previous posts I’ve talked about how only one in ten cells in “your body” are actually you; how most of “your bodyweight” is just the organisms that live in and on us and keep us alive. See yourself as their host and realize that when they are doing well, so are you.

Imagine your mouth as an entry port into your space station. You don’t let just anyone or anything in. You want to make sure that every arrival is about nurturing your society, not destroying it. You will get occasional attacks by viral or bacterial forces, but you have an army of white blood cells you’ll begin recruiting the moment you sense an attack underway.

Let’s make sure your troops and citizens are well-fed. Take the day and be hyper-aware of what goes into your mouth. Food and drinks. Find one that you consume fairly regularly that you know you would benefit from changing.

886 Relax and Succeed - Don't call it a dreamThere’s a tiny portion of your community up near your taste buds that likes to run things because it’s near the gate, but your Consciousness is Captain, so the orders come from you as long as you’re awake and in the Captain’s seat. So get your awareness on duty and find that one muffin or soft drink or chocolate bar or whatever, that you can switch for something else.

A doughnut for an apple. A sugary drink for a water. Candy in the drawer replaced by nuts and berries. Your morning cereal shifts from sugary to fibery. Rather than sparking yourself with coffee, try some natural sugars in some orange slices. Switch one common side dish for a healthier side dish. Stop buying one unhealthy food and replace it with one healthy one.

Now it’s important that when you do this you keep in your awareness why: because you will feel good and that’s what you really want. You don’t want someone to date, or to lose weight, or to live somewhere else, you want to feel good for most of your life. Well you don’t do it by changing things outside of you, you do it by changing the inside of you.

886 Relax and Succeed - Your life doesn't get better by chanceWe also want to change what you load into your consciousness, so also look at where you live and how it impacts your senses. Remove one unhealthy reminder or thing and replace it with only one other–better–thing. So you’ve always had a broken coaster on your office chair. Fix it. Or you have a picture up of an ex and you replace it with one of a new friend. Get nicer sheets. Finally put a brighter bulb in that lamp you read by. Tidy up that crazy drawer.

Do these things and always remember to be grateful each time you encounter them. These are literally steps in your expansion as a being. Every time you eat that banana instead of a chocolate bar, congratulate yourself. Every time you wake up from a good sleep on your new pillow, be grateful that you made the switch. Live your healthy pro-your choices.

Associate your choices and your actions as being the things that define the quality of your life. Increase your awareness of that relationship and you will find yourself progressively feeling more in control. Be kind to you: one food, one thing. By the end of the day, write your switches down on a note and leave it somewhere so you’re reminded to maintain it. March. It’s half over. It’s not too much to ask. Trust me, you’re worth it. Be kind to you today. One food, one thing. Go.

peas. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

Healthy Body Healthy Mind

In previous blogs I’ve discussed how the unusual thinking that resulted from my accident caused me to be confused by people’s fear of death and their distaste for being wrong. I also find people approach their physical health in a rather strange way.

789 Relax and Succeed - I workout because I love my bodyWhy is exercise seen as work? Or an obligation? Or that it’s done to stave off aging or to prevent a loss of beauty? Why can’t it be an act of love?

Imagine you have two brains in a drawer that goes through the middle of your head. If you pull it to the one side you’re using one brain, pull it to the other side and you’re using the other brain. It’s called changing your mind. Absolutely anyone can do it at any time.

Now imagine that these two brains are filled with stories. One brain has wiring to take the world and process it as either painful, wounded, debilitating, or sad, and it can lead to feelings of isolation and a loss of enthusiasm for life in general.

The other brain is wired to see everything as a plus. So whatever is input gets processed in a grateful, strong, respectful and happy way. And you choose which drawer to use for every single thought you think.

789 Relax and Succeed - I feel energized and happySo do you want to see your food and your daily exercise as a diet and a workout? Is a restricting word and almost violent one the best way to describe something you do every day? What if you ate and were active as a part of loving yourself? Of loving your body?

What does a quadriplegic miss? What can’t they do in their chairs? These are things you currently take for granted. They see the basic movement of a human body as a gift–as something to be enjoyed. Don’t go to the gym because you hate your body, go because you love it. Treat it like Yoga. Get your mind fully immersed in the movement rather than the stillness.

And why do people find it easy to stick to healthy diets after years of junk food? Because very shortly after changing their diets they’ll notice all kinds of health benefits from how they sleep to how they use a bathroom. Their vision and hearing appears sharper. They feel stronger and they have more balance. And they crave things like carrots and spinach and yes maybe some meat too if in their own experience they reacted positively to it. Don’t let your food be a source of guilt. Honour your body and honour the food. You’re both worthy.

789 Relax and Succeed - You are what you eatDon’t turn your health regime into a cruel dictatorship. Don’t look at food as an enemy, but rather as a lover. Don’t look at exercise as working anything out, it’s instead an exploration of your own physical being. If you were an alien given a space ship you’d want to take it out for a spin and have fun with it. Same for your consciousness inside your body. Take it for a spin. Have some fun with it.

Love yourself like you love no other. And make eating, activity and sleep an honoured part of your day. These are not the things you squeeze in around work. These are fundamental human experiences and for you to be healthy they must be too. Have a wonderful day.

peas. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Conscious Soul

So you have this ego to feed. So your God-like perfect Soul heads down to the Supermarket of Consciousness and you grab your cart for the day. You start filling it up and you don’t stop until you check out and fall asleep. This place is important. How you shop here is what determines whether your life tastes good or not. With each thought you apply judgment to your experience. With each thought you shape your day with your choices and your judgments.

707 Relax and Succeed - Your emotions emergeNow your Mom and Dad had certain brands they preferred. These are like moods. People get locked on to them often for no good reason. But what’s especially weird is that—because their brain is looking for the brand they’re used to, every other brand is just kind of a wash of out-of-focus stuff. So you don’t really see anything you’re not actually looking to see. You’re not usually open when you shop. You’re on a mission. You’re not looking to place happiness in your cart. You’re trying to buy what you were taught to buy. You’re trying to accomplish something. And by doing that, you miss out on what’s there.

So your Soul has all of these choices. There’s the healthy unprocessed fruits and vegetables that produce feelings that are very pure and intense and rewarding. But there’s also the frozen aisle, where all manner of food-shaped goop is for sale. This kind of food/experience is a completely different kind of thing. It still has value. But if you did the frozen aisle too much you would start degrading your ability to make it to the store every day, so it would be a case of diminishing returns. Figuring out what to buy is easy if we’re paying attention to the feedback we get when we eat it.

707 Relax and Succeed - Actually I just woke upProcessed food has lots of thought put into it. But our Soul feels, it’s our ego that thinks. It analyses and speculates and calculates and compares. Our Soul just tastes. It’s not judging. It’s having a taste experience. It’s not buying a product with nutrients and a flavour. It’s chewing and tasting the food as a verb. It doesn’t have something to show someone, it has an intense, rewarding and empowering in-the-moment experience. Egos think about life. Souls eat it up.

So how do we become a wise shopper? Well, we stop just buying the labels our parents unintentionally taught us to and we start seeing the whole store. We stop buying things because of the ads and start buying them because we know how much we enjoy them. There’s no right or wrong choices in this store, there are only consequences to the choices. But your overall direction can always change the very next moment—with the very next choice you place in the shopping cart of your day. Stop choosing quickly and blindly and start recognizing these choices as your true salvation. You’re choosing anyway. Why not choose something more favourable to you?

 This kind of selfishness makes the world a better place. Enjoy whatever tastes you choose to enjoy. Of course there’s a balance point between healthy and taste and convenience but where that is for you is something only you can answer. But you can’t even find that truth within yourself until you learn to block out all of your conditioning.

707 Relax and Succeed - Your world is a living expressionIf you want an exercise in becoming more conscious, plan a bit more time on your next visit to the grocery store. Start looking at the areas between your stuff and you might be surprised at what you find. This is why I say there are separate realities. Because for some people their parents taught them to buy the brands you’ve ignored, and to them it’s yours that are invisible. You walk through two stores that look totally different and yet you’ll talk as though you’ve been to the same place. You can’t make the best choices if you’re not even seeing most of the choices to be made.

Get conscious. You choose all day. So start choosing more tasty, rewarding and nutritious experiences. Do that and you’ll be as healthy on the inside as you are on the outside.

Have a great day.

peas. s

Addictive Behaviour

Through my years of practice I’ve had numerous addicts express the same curious concept to me: their addiction had a limit. Now not all addicts have the same limits, so while one person might be able to do one thing, another could do something else. So, for instance, one alcoholic couldn’t stay sober unless there was an event important to her daughter, yet in another case531 Relax and Succeed - And once the storm is over another alcoholic couldn’t stay sober even for a wedding, and yet they could if they were going to church.

There’s all sorts of forms of these limits. Crack users that stopped at needles even though they fully believed the next high would be even better. Or people who will crave painkillers but they won’t touch the one that killed their mother even if they’re jonesing. People that think they can’t control their eating and yet all day long they control their eating by making choices. I’ll give you a great example of that last one.

I like to travel by mixing with the locals and trekking etc. I think I’ve tried everything else except a cruise. I was once on a bus trip (that will seem so strange to my friends) in Europe. We arrived at a hotel where we picked up some other Canadians who had just landed late the night before. I was seated behind a woman who could be fairly described as obese. She got on the bus with a very large purse/bag, and in it she had an assortment of snacks like chips and cheezies and candies, and she shot through them very quickly.

Throughout the drive the woman was telling her seatmate all about her various attempts to lose weight. Each time she said she just did not have the will-power necessary to succeed. Keep that statement in mind for later in the trip when she’s run out of cheezies. Because as an inexperienced traveler she was shocked not to see all the brands and items she would expect to see at home. Everything looked different. She was fickle and she curled her nose in distaste. No. No, none of this will do. She’ll eat at the next stop.

531 Relax and Succeed - Believe in the powerThat happened stop after stop. She would go in, not recognize any of the packages for the foods that she ate, she would turn up her nose and she would leave without eating. There were other foods she recognized—like many chocolate bars—but she didn’t like those. She was craving a bag of Old Dutch chips or Hawkins Cheezies but they—especially way back then—didn’t have anything like that in Europe. They had their local brands. And so she went all day without eating. Not because there wasn’t crisps or chips or whatever. And not because there wasn’t chocolate in various forms and shapes. She didn’t because her thoughts told her not to. Her thoughts told her that those other foods weren’t foods because she didn’t like them. And so she does have will-power against food. She just doesn’t have it when it comes to her own thinking.

The simple fact is, that woman was hungry and there was food all over the place and yet she stopped herself by simply telling herself a story that there was no food she would accept. Because if she stayed in Europe long enough, eventually she’d get hungry enough and she would try some new things and she would eventually develop new favourites and then she would have the same problem she has now, only with European foods. The point is, on that bus trip her barriers to those foods are were made purely of thought. She didn’t believe those were foods for her so they weren’t. And until she changed that belief, turning those foods down was easy for her.

531 Relax and Succeed - Try notIf you’re battling an addiction you’re not really battling the substance or behaviour. You’re battling your thoughts about it. You see yourself as an addict and everything is weighed against that. That identity holds you back. Instead be no one. Study your thinking. Study your addictions and your restraints closely. Get to know them so well that you can see that they are subtle forms of the same idea. Your thoughts will lose power and control over you, and you will be able to exercise more volition over what you do with your time on this Earth.

Thinking you have no control is having no control. Knowing that you are capable of control means that it is simply a matter of enactment. Turn your wisdom into a verb. As Yoda said, “Do or not do. There is no try.” You don’t try to quit an addiction. You simply no longer see it as yours. Change who you think you are and a different life will seem more appropriate for you to live. Enjoy.

peace. s

Tortured by Weight

Can you write about over-eating? And I don’t mean eating disorders or people with actual medical issues, I mean people like me. People who eat as a way of coping with stress. I’m sitting here again at my desk today with a drawer full of unhealthy food and this really
has to stop before I start looking like the hippo my dragon mom is so worried about.

signed,
Tortured by Weight

Dear Tortured,

You have my condolences on having the Dragon Mom. I’m sure she’ll whip you toward some material success but, as you note, she might kill your spirit in the process. You can’t manufacture kids to meet specifications, you can only cultivate their seeds in an effort to help them realize their potential. All else will carry the sort of tension that leads to one having a drawer full of candy.376 Relax and Succeed - What a strange illusion

Let’s start with your Mom. Over time she has implanted ideas in your head that you are not worthy as yourself and you must achieve certain physical or material or social status and then you will become worthwhile. But your Mom is crazy and she’s lying to you. She didn’t mean to be crazy or to lie but she absolutely is. But she’s doing it just as innocently as you are. She got taught to do it and now you’re learning it too, and if you’re not careful you’ll extend that to your potential children in the very same way, so I’m glad you wrote. Let’s stop this unhealthy manufacturing before it pollutes too much of the environment.

I’m not worried about your weight. If we get you mentally healthy your weight will become whatever is natural for you. If people outside of you want to judge that then the problem isn’t with your weight—their problem is their judgment. So forget about weight and focus on health. What’s important is that you’re experiencing stress. Your reaction is just a symptom. We don’t battle symptoms on this blog, we focus on root causes.

It’s highly likely that the sneaking of food (it is in a drawer, hidden after all) was also taught by your Mom or someone she influenced, like a sister. It doesn’t really matter what the specifics of the math is, but the formula is essentially the same: if your mom was made to be ashamed of her weight and to feel guilty about eating then she would hide her eating and in doing so she would subtly teach the behaviour to you. You likely hold the phone the same way as your Mom, you likely speak, walk and stand like her too. You’re likely to buy the same brands—or avoid them—for the very same reasons. So this action isn’t you, it’s what you were programmed to do.

376 Relax and Succeed - I need to be skinnierEating is done for nourishment and/or joy. You have the caloric and nutrient value on one side, and you have taste and social interaction on the other. So there’s nothing wrong with eating per se. It’s necessary, important and worthwhile. But you want to eat in a way that enriches your life and not in a way that detracts from your life.

What you essentially have is an addiction. Not to food, but to the act of eating. This is much more like smoking than you might realize. Nicotine isn’t why most smokers can’t quit. The chemical aspect is relatively short-lived, the problem is in their thinking. They have triggers that will cue them to smoke. Times of day, collections of co-workers or friends, locations etc. etc. Smoking is weaved into their lives and they feel odd and “wrong” if they’re not doing it. This “wrongness” is merely a reaction to a thought dead-ending. It’s an actual sensation. You can feel it, as though you have left something out. If you always drive with your seatbelt, it’s like when you go to a foreign country that doesn’t have them—you almost feel naked riding in a car without one after the habit is formed. We wouldn’t say I’m addicted to seat belts and we wouldn’t run out to find a seat belt dealer on some dark corner, but it’s really the same thing. I have something my brain is used to and if it’s not there it notes the absence and I interpret that notation as discomfort.

So it might be helpful to figure out what your triggers are. Work stress, maybe mirrors, maybe a slim co-worker, maybe even a phone call from your Mom. However you slice it, your brain is very selectively collecting information all day long, and something you collect incites you to eat. Maybe you and I walk down a hallway where you work and I notice the pattern of the tiles on the floor and you notice and analyze the weight of the girl walking in front of us and you use your thoughts to compare yourself (likely unfavourably) to her. Start paying more attention to your thinking and you’ll find your triggers. But you need to get into the habit of actually actively listening to the narratives that make up your ego.

376 Relax and Succeed- Food is the most abused anxiety drugUsually before someone can simply Be healthy they need to un-ego their ego by arguing it out of existence. This act is meditation. You see that you are not over-eating, you are free and you are choosing to eat out of a kind of mimicry and blind repetition. You need to recognize this freedom and slowly break the habit by doing otherwise. This can be done in a variety of ways—maybe your reaction to these motivating thoughts are always met with a debate. Maybe you substitute another behaviour like exercise. It doesn’t really matter what you choose, as long as you’re breaking the unconscious pattern and challenging it, then you are rewiring the matrix in your brain that is this habit. You won’t be “getting healthy” though, you’ll just be “living differently.” The value judgments exist only in your consciousness—they are not things in and of themselves. Someone can eat creme pastries for every meal and die of heart disease at a young age, but if they enjoyed every minute of that then they got more joy out of life than most people do. There’s no right or wrong way to live, there’s just the way you choose and its consequences.

Can you see that you can’t sit there are try not to eat? Because that’s another way of thinking about eating, and that’s your actual problem. You have to change your thinking, not your eating habits. Otherwise you’re getting the cart before the horse. Simply put, you eat because you tell yourself to. You stop by telling yourself to do something else instead. Everything works that way. And yes, it really is that easy. The reason most people don’t try it is because they think the solution must be hard because they perceive that they have a big problem rather than a small thought issue.

I’m sorry your Mom got loaded with these crazy ideas and I’m sorry she downloaded them into you. I don’t even have to see you know you are divinely beautiful and worthwhile. You don’t need to achieve anything to be acceptable, you were acceptable when the universe deigned to collect a bunch of atomic-star-bits and 376 Relax and Succeed - You are beautifulassemble them into the energy-being that is you. Your existence alone is proof of your value. There is nothing you need from outside yourself, you just need to have a true sense of how miraculous it is that you exist at all. It’s a stunning gift that we all take so much for granted.

Eat because it tastes good. Exercise because it feels good. Enjoy other people’s company while you do both. But your thoughts about food and your thoughts about your value cannot be fixed by changing things in the outside world. Health is an internal issue. It’s a state of mind. And you don’t achieve it by wanting to be healthy because want is the core of the ego’s problem. You don’t become healthy, you realize health. You do that by refusing to think the thoughts of a person you are not. You are not the computer program your Mother programmed into your memory. You are the computer itself, and you can change your software whenever you become conscious that you are the hardware and not the software.

You are a flexing, changing, malleable, incredible being and yet you are talking as though you are some weak and fractured creature. This is a classic case of thinking small. Yeah, your Mom will still have her thoughts about how you look. But that’s her issue. She lives with those judgments. Let her have them. But don’t consume them yourself without checking to see how healthy they are. Because that’s about as helpful as a drawer full of candy.

peas. s 😉

When Your Mother Says She’s Fat

Often on Friday’s I’ll include a video. This week I’m offering text. My heavy Australian connections lead me to encounter a thoughtful, well-presented and very poignant blog posting by an author there. Kasey Edwards may be best known as the author of 30-Something and Over It, but don’t think that just because this piece of work is shorter that it can’t be equally as powerful. That is easily proven by her writing, kindly reprinted here with Kasey’s blessing.168 Relad and Succeed - You are beautiful

Dear Mum,

I was seven when I discovered that you were fat, ugly and horrible. Up until that point I had believed that you were beautiful – in every sense of the word. I remember flicking through old photo albums and staring at pictures of you standing on the deck of a boat. Your white strapless bathing suit looked so glamorous, just like a movie star. Whenever I had the chance I’d pull out that wondrous white bathing suit hidden in your bottom drawer and imagine a time when I’d be big enough to wear it; when I’d be like you.

But all of that changed when, one night, we were dressed up for a party and you said to me, ‘‘Look at you, so thin, beautiful and lovely. And look at me, fat, ugly and horrible.’’
At first I didn’t understand what you meant.

‘‘You’re not fat,’’ I said earnestly and innocently, and you replied, ”Yes I am, darling. I’ve always been fat; even as a child.’’

In the days that followed I had some painful revelations that have shaped my whole life. I learned that:

  1. You must be fat because mothers don’t lie.
  2. Fat is ugly and horrible.
  3. When I grow up I’ll look like you and therefore I will be fat, ugly and horrible too.

Years later, I looked back on this conversation and the hundreds that followed and cursed you for feeling so unattractive, insecure and unworthy. Because, as my first and most influential role model, you taught me to believe the same thing about myself.

With every grimace at your reflection in the mirror, every new wonder diet that was going to change your life, and every guilty spoon of ”Oh-I-really-shouldn’t,” I learned that women must be thin to be valid and worthy. Girls must go without because their greatest contribution to the world is their physical beauty.

168 Relax and Succeed - Life is your mirrorJust like you, I have spent my whole life feeling fat. When did fat become a feeling anyway? And because I believed I was fat, I knew I was no good.

But now that I am older, and a mother myself, I know that blaming you for my body hatred is unhelpful and unfair. I now understand that you too are a product of a long and rich lineage of women who were taught to loathe themselves.

Look at the example Nanna set for you. Despite being what could only be described as famine-victim chic, she dieted every day of her life until the day she died at 79 years of age. She used to put on make-up to walk to the letterbox for fear that somebody might see her unpainted face.

I remember her ‘‘compassionate’’ response when you announced that Dad had left you for another woman. Her first comment was, ‘‘I don’t understand why he’d leave you. You look after yourself, you wear lipstick. You’re overweight – but not that much.’’

Before Dad left, he provided no balm for your body-image torment either.

‘‘Jesus, Jan,’’ I overheard him say to you. ‘‘It’s not that hard. Energy in versus energy out. If you want to lose weight you just have to eat less.’’

That night at dinner I watched you implement Dad’s ‘‘Energy In, Energy Out: Jesus, Jan, Just Eat Less’’ weight-loss cure. You served up chow mein for dinner. (Remember how in 1980s Australian suburbia, a combination of mince, cabbage, and soy sauce was considered the height of exotic gourmet?) Everyone else’s food was on a dinner plate except yours. You served your chow mein on a tiny bread-and-butter plate.

168 Relax and Succeed - Beautiful in my opinionAs you sat in front of that pathetic scoop of mince, silent tears streamed down your face. I said nothing. Not even when your shoulders started heaving from your distress. We all ate our dinner in silence. Nobody comforted you. Nobody told you to stop being ridiculous and get a proper plate. Nobody told you that you were already loved and already good enough. Your achievements and your worth – as a teacher of children with special needs and a devoted mother of three of your own – paled into insignificance when compared with the centimetres you couldn’t lose from your waist.

It broke my heart to witness your despair and I’m sorry that I didn’t rush to your defence. I’d already learned that it was your fault that you were fat. I’d even heard Dad describe losing weight as a ‘‘simple’’ process – yet one that you still couldn’t come to grips with. The lesson: you didn’t deserve any food and you certainly didn’t deserve any sympathy.

But I was wrong, Mum. Now I understand what it’s like to grow up in a society that tells women that their beauty matters most, and at the same time defines a standard of beauty that is perpetually out of our reach. I also know the pain of internalising these messages. We have become our own jailors and we inflict our own punishments for failing to measure up. No one is crueler to us than we are to ourselves.

But this madness has to stop, Mum. It stops with you, it stops with me and it stops now. We deserve better – better than to have our days brought to ruin by bad body thoughts, wishing we were otherwise.

168 Relax and Succeed - You're amazingAnd it’s not just about you and me any more. It’s also about Violet. Your granddaughter is only 3 and I do not want body hatred to take root inside her and strangle her happiness, her confidence and her potential. I don’t want Violet to believe that her beauty is her most important asset; that it will define her worth in the world. When Violet looks to us to learn how to be a woman, we need to be the best role models we can. We need to show her with our words and our actions that women are good enough just the way they are. And for her to believe us, we need to believe it ourselves.

The older we get, the more loved ones we lose to accidents and illness. Their passing is always tragic and far too soon. I sometimes think about what these friends – and the people who love them – wouldn’t give for more time in a body that was healthy. A body that would allow them to live just a little longer. The size of that body’s thighs or the lines on its face wouldn’t matter. It would be alive and therefore it would be perfect.

Your body is perfect too. It allows you to disarm a room with your smile and infect everyone with your laugh. It gives you arms to wrap around Violet and squeeze her until she giggles. Every moment we spend worrying about our physical ‘‘flaws’’ is a moment wasted, a precious slice of life that we will never get back.

Let us honour and respect our bodies for what they do instead of despising them for how they appear. Focus on living healthy and active lives, let our weight fall where it may, and consign our body hatred in the past where it belongs. When I looked at that photo of you in the white bathing suit all those years ago, my innocent young eyes saw the truth. I saw unconditional love, beauty and wisdom. I saw my Mum.

Love, Kasey xx

www.kaseyedwards.com

I didn’t make many and none struggled with their weight, but regardless I deeply regret many of the offhand comments I made in front of former girlfriends or my ex wife. I’m glad an increase in my awareness has lead to very little of that programming seeping out today.

168 Relax and Succeed - You are lovedI believe you can now easily see why I wanted you to read this. Please do forward it on to as many women as you can. This inheritance of self-loathing must stop, but that will only happen if there is a change in the attitudes of both men and women–regarding each other as much as ourselves.

We cannot idly stand by while our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends choose to paint themselves with such dangerous and ugly ideas. We all must share more compliments. We must focus on more meaningful attributes in our discourse. We must make sure that there is a force running counter-current to the advertised position that you are not enough without a product or service to make you more or less. Your problem was never that you needed to be different than you are. It was that the rest of us had to learn to properly appreciate you.

The truth is, life is a privilege. And absolutely everyone who gets to live it is astoundingly beautiful. Including you.

Hugs and love, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.