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Perhaps you’ve noticed that the media is obsessed with body image. Many of us obsess about our weight and staying young. Unless we are mindful, we can fall into the trap of the messages that are out there, attempting to convince us that somehow we are not enough. Open a magazine and it’s full of bikini-clad celebrities and models, This can easily create in us a sense of discontent with our own body. It takes conscious awareness not to be drawn into this “I have to be perfect” mindset which creates inner turmoil. Beauty isn’t about perfection and it’s certainly not about feeling not good enough. True beauty must begin on the inside, and we can do this through mindfulness.

Your body is the loving reflection of your mind! Change your mind and you will change your body!

We live in interesting times. We have an obesity epidemic and fast food on every corner, and we also have an obsession with the “body beautiful” and a myriad of weight loss products on the market. It’s very polarised. There are thousands of products out there now for weight loss. Buy the product, you’ll lose the weight, and you’ll probably put it back on again too, unless you deal with the underlying issues causing the excess weight.

There are many underlying reasons why people become overweight – that person may be eating too much, but why are they eating too much? Most people put on weight as protection – they seek protection from hurts, criticism, abuse, sexuality, sexual advances and from a fear of life in general or specifically. Childhood sexual abuse, or abuse of any kind, can be a common reason why people become obese – they are afraid to show their beauty.

Some of us are stuffing down food so as to stuff down our emotions. Filling ourselves up because we feel empty. Food addiction is like any other addiction. We are using a substance to push down uncomfortable feelings. Addiction is a way we numb out from pain.

Fighting the fat with diets doesn’t work because it doesn’t resolve the underlying issues AND it creates a relationship of punishment and reward. Loving and approving of yourself, being willing to see and own your beauty and trusting in the process of life make the best diet I know of.

In her book “French women don’t get fat”, Mireille Guiliano tells us how she went to America as an exchange student in the early 60’s and got fat. She got thin again after she got home to France and the family doctor re-attuned her to the French way of eating. The difference? The French have a very different relationship with food to what most of us have (well, back then anyway!).

“French women simply do not suffer the terror of kilos that afflicts so many of their sisters in other developed countries. We don’t talk about diets. French women take pleasure in staying slim by eating well while Anglo Saxons see it as a conflict and obsess over it. French women eat with their heads and they do not leave the table feeling stuffed or guilty.”

It’s all about balance. So what is your relationship with food? Do you have addiction? Is there fear? Is there guilt? 

The messages we get from our parents also play a huge role – their relationship with food and their attitude towards body size. I had an overweight client who was constantly on diets. When she was growing up her overweight mother was always on a diet. Many parents stuff food down a baby’s mouth no matter what the problem, and we take the habit with us into our adult life.

And on the other end of the spectrum, we have anorexia and bulimia, which is to do with extreme self-loathing and wanting to disappear. I’ve done work with people on both ends of the spectrum. Obviously we have had to get to the underlying issues, but all clients, both overweight and anorexic, have all found that mindfulness is a really important part of their healing. When an overweight client is having food cravings, I’ve asked her to sit with it for at least 15 minutes and see what comes up. Even if she gives into the craving after the 15 minutes, she’s created some space and had a chance to feel into what “craving” feels like. Usually craving feels so overwhelming that we immediately reach for what we’re craving so as to satiate it.  When you sit with it and allow the feeling to just be there, very often it will shift and another layer will come up – it could be a feeling of sadness, grief, shame or a childhood memory or something else. I’ve also done this method with girls who have bulimia. Sitting for 15 minutes while feeling the urge to purge.

You can do it with any addiction or compulsive behaviour. Every time you do this, you’re creating a space between the urge and the action, and that’s where your power is. If you have a habit of compulsive eating or are overweight, try giving your full attention to a meal and slow down when you’re eating. Eat mindfully, really taste and appreciate the flavours and textures.

And then there’s our face, the part of us that represents us, that we put out into the world. Again, we live in interesting times. We have the media telling us we need to look more youthful, The use of products like botox and fillers is common. There’s plastic surgery (for our face and everywhere else). In general, there is a lack of acceptance that we all age, but I liken fighting age with pushing a boulder up a hill. No matter what you do, it’s all going to go south eventually! Why do we try so hard to hold onto our youth? And why do we see beauty only in youth? Every age has its own beauty.

Better to face your fear of aging, of getting old and eventually dying. Meditation and yoga, having positive thoughts and being willing to grow will do a lot more for you than plastic surgery. Aim to stay young on the inside and the outside will take care of itself. The old person with a permanently scowling face did not produce that by having joyous loving thoughts!

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having cosmetic treatments and cosmetic surgery, but if you, you may want to ask yourself why. The answer will be “so that I will be more attractive” – and what are we trying to attract? Love! “If I make myself more attractive, I will love myself more and other people will love me more too”.  Change that thought to “If I love myself more, I will become more attractive and other people will love me more.”

Love has to be found within first. Are you looking for love “out there” before seeking it “in here”? Are you living at a superficial level? Are you needing to go deeper to find true fulfilment? People who love themselves tend to age better than those who don’t. Those who fear being themselves, who are stuck in old thinking or who find it hard being in the NOW tend to age more quickly.

If you truly want to access your own beauty, go within. Practise mindfulness. Become the observer of yourself with all your insecurities, cravings, neediness, self-loathing and self-criticism. Observe it all with self-compassion. Love whatever comes up. By doing this, we are dealing with our not-enoughness at its root. The diet products, the botox and the surgery are dealing with our not-enoughness from the other end. Mindfulness meditation – it’s simple and it’s free!