One of the practices I teach to heal the roots of overeating, binge eating and sugar addiction is grounding: giving yourself regular, rhythmic self care so you feel nourished, vital and strong.
When we go through a difficult time, we often need more grounding. When we’re feeling under stress, we typically need more grounding. We also need extra grounding when going through a cycle of change, and this includes dietary change, like eating less sugar, healing a pattern of emotional eating, or swapping processed foods for whole foods.
You also need more grounding when you’ve gained weight or if you’ve returned to habits of overeating or binge eating. This may sound counterintuitive, but weight gain – or a return to a binge eating habit – is often the result of increased wounding, isolation, or emotional turmoil.
In many ways, food can be a coping mechanism, how you care for the pain and stress. So receiving extra grounding and extra support is crucial.
The shadow side to self care
This is all well and good.
And … there’s also a shadow side to grounding. This can show up whenever we’re trying to implement self care in our lives. We may turn pushy with our grounding, using it to force change. We may put it on a time table: If I exercise, I have to lose 10 pounds in 1 month. We may use it as a bargaining chip: if I do all these things to care for myself, then I’d better darn well get the results I want. I want my weight, my moods, my life, my income, and more to cooperate *exactly* as I want them to.
Oh, my friends, bargaining mind is a recipe for suffering.
I’ve seen this at work in my own life. This past year has been a difficult time for me. My grounding during this time of loss and challenge has meant rest, care, lowering my expectations, and even, yes, gaining weight. Gentle yoga and walking are all the exercise I’m doing right now as doing more takes me out of balance.
On the outside, this looks messy – and, honestly, flabby. And yet here’s what I learned: there’s grace in opening to what is and not what I want to be. In this hard time, I’ve opened to the sorrow that is as a part of life as joy. And most of the time, I feel okay about the extra weight, even though I’m at my heaviest weight in 14 years.
Judging loss as bad
We tend to see life’s losses through the lens of judgment. In our youth, success, and appearance obsessed culture, we look at things like weight gain, ageing, sickness, or loss as a failure, as something “bad.” As something we should’ve been able to control.
What if we softened some of this judgment? What if we recognized that loss and change aren’t something we need to control?
Life shows up on the body. Our weight – or any change in our physical selves – is merely a symbol of the ongoing cycle of change and impermanence. It’s something that is so much bigger than us. The fact that our bodies are impermanent is merely part of being a human being, part of being alive on planet earth. It’s deeper than this: it’s one of the ways that we belong to the earth and to the web of life.
The fact that how we love and live shows up on the body is not something to judge, but something to embrace, and care for. All our tender impermanent humanity is not something to try and control, eradicate or look upon as a character flaw, something about which we feel guilty. It it something to revere.
There is a season of everything. Sometimes we go through loss and pain. How human of that to show up on the body. How normal.
Perhaps Stevie Nicks said it best: “Can I sail through the changing ocean tides/Can I handle the seasons of my life?”
Freeing ourselves from judgment
How do we cope with life’s changes and impermanence? How do we cope with life’s seasons, with the ups and downs?
I think it starts with a fresh perspective, and a radical acceptance. We carry so much fear about needing to control life. To have it go according to our plan. We are so afraid to look messy, untogether, unglued, not coping “well,” whatever that means.
We typically don’t bemoan a pregnant woman’s weight gain, because there’s a “valid” reason for it. In fact, it’s necessary to preserve the life of her unborn child. Yet we criticize weight gain for other reasons – a medical crisis; a death, a loss; a hard year; a bankruptcy or divorce; a painful, difficult childhood that created a habit of turning to food for nurturing.
But what if we saw it – on some level – also as somewhat necessary? Perhaps the weight gain is how our minds and brains preserved functioning. If you suffered from childhood trauma or abuse, your turning to food may have been what got you to where you are today. As messy as it may appear on the surface, the weight may have been a gift.
Finding a caring, wise response
With this fresh perspective, we can offer ourselves mercy and loving care. In my case, I went to a Macy’s sale and bought myself 2 pairs of pants in a bigger size. I also bought myself new underwear, for there’s nothing more uncomfortable than tight underwear.
This was a kind, kind thing to do for myself instead of trying to squeeze into too small jeans and underwear. In accepting what is – my larger sized body – I’m not punishing myself for being human, for having a hard year, for needing rest, for feeling the sting of loss.
I’m going to take a nap today. I might go for an afternoon walk as the sun just peaked out. I might call my grandma or a friend because I’m feeling lonely. And I’m going to make soup for dinner, something healthy and comforting.
All of this is only possible by releasing my wishful thinking: by accepting where I am, not where I wish I could be. All of this is possible only by opening to my inherent neediness, and my need for care, help and support. All of this is only possible by being honest about my limits.
Self care is love in action
Grounding is a concrete way of showing ourselves kindness. It’s a responsive dance of, “What do I need now?” and answering with honesty, wisdom, kindness…and willingness when the answer is “rest” and not “burn off that extra weight.” It’s letting go of shoulds and trusting the unfolding of our path.
Self care is not about guaranteeing externals, but is a force of love arising from internal wisdom, an internal desire to embody this love in our daily lives.
For years my biggest fear was gaining weight, or looking flabby. Here I am, sitting with both. And unlike before, I’m not using it as ammunition to turn on myself. I will not make war against my own heart, or my own body. When I bought myself bigger pants – and no, they are not dowdy fat pants, they are compassion pants, stylish and lovely – I stopped the war.
This freedom – the freedom to love myself unconditionally – is something I never found, even when I was at my thinnest. It’s the real reward. As Cheri Huber asks, If you face your deepest fear (feeling unlovable, fat or like a failure) and discover it’s not true, what else do we have to fear?
Welcome to my world, Karly! I am also at my highest weight right now and I am also making soup for dinner for the very same reason you are. 🙂 This last year has been stressful and that stress went into my mouth and reappeared on my body. But now I am digging my way back out with extra kindness, extra naps, extra caring. We are not failures for gaining weight, in fact I would say that things were working perfectly – we had stress, we dealt with it (in the most comforting way we knew how), and now we are caring ourselves back to health. Yes, things are working perfectly. 🙂
LOVE. I shared this on Own Your Beauty's Facebook page. LOVE.
Thank you for this article. It’s very hard for me to be kind to myself after gaining 30 pounds the past year. (I lost 55 pounds in 2007, then gained back 30 in 2010). I don’t want to buy size 14 pants–I see it as a sign of failure. It never occurred to me to think of it as being kind to myself.
I found you by searching for help with sugar addiction and bought your Growing HumanKindness material, and saw in your intro that you knew Jill of the Sassy Pear. Small world that it is, Jill & I have been blog friends for years. Jill & I also tend to weigh the same–going up & down–even though we are miles & miles apart, and have never met in person.
Anyway, I’m learning more about myself from you than I have from any other diet book or program I’ve done. I’m just getting started, and I know I’ve found a real kindred spirit in you. I can’t wait to learn & read & listen to more of your knowledge. Thank you for sharing with Us.
I am almost ready to love my rolls after that post!!! Really! I did go a few weeks ago to buy a pair of “fat jeans” but when I saw the price I just could not do it, but, I did find a great danskin track suit on clearance that fit and that is my fat suit for now, or maybe I should call in my celebrating Lynns Challenging life suit, because it has been one heck of a challenge, almost right from my first day here on this lovely planet. Oh, and my lovely suit is also a very bright nice raspberry color too!
Your post was fantastic, I know I for one have always thought pregnant women are so beautiful and hate it if I hear someone in that condition talking about how fat they are, I don’t see fat, I see pregnant. It is too bad our culture has turned fat into such a four letter word, it is really so very sad, but maybe if one by one we change our thoughts on this we can change the world.
I know I have personally struggled with weight my entire life and have gotten very big before, but yet when I lose weight I have caught myself making horrible super judgemental statements in my mind about other “fat people.” and then of course, beat myself up unmerdifully for that. I can’t stand it that I do that and maybe that is why when I gain weight I automatically assume everyone else is thinking horrible thoughts about my fatness. So, from this day forward I am going to make a conscious effort when I see a large person to try and see their humanity, and see their fat as a badge of honor or pain but not a condemnation. It is so not fair, how often do you hear people yelling nasty comments at alcholics and drug addicts like they do at fatty’s?? No, we typically see they have a problem and think wow they need treatment. HMMMM…..
This is such a beautiful article. Thank you for being a shining example of self love and care. 🙂
Thank you, Bonnie, for the shout out. Thank you everyone for your kind words here. Your taking the time to write feels me with gladness, and helps me feel less alone.
As you are showing me, self acceptance – heck, life acceptance – is a beautiful, beautiful thing. It is the path to freedom.
Much love and gratitude, Karly
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Karly, you truly inspire me to be more open about these things that still feel "embarrassing" to us. I just loved Lynn's response too. Why is it that there is such a stigma about gaining weight. You couldn't be more right. It depends upon the flow of your life. There are times of gain (for me, the beginning of 2010 when I was working like crazy and not working out much at all), and there are times of loss (taken off a couple pounds at the beginning of this year). I stressed out SO MUCH about the gain. Really, it is just a sign of living. And hopefully soon– of loving. Thank you for your honesty and courage.
Karly, I don’t know who leaves me as speechless as you. You said it all, girl. I really felt like you must have written this directly to me (and I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that way)!
I am also at my maximum weight. I have also had to take action on the undies-size front. Reading your words is one of the most important forms of grounding to me. It is a way of centering, a meditation, sanity, love, and peace.
I should have all my longstanding technology problems resolved by the weekend, and then I hope to have fewer excuses about participating with all of you more fully. I have always had some sort of weird self-sabotage mechanism in me that seems to be a combination of perfectionism and unworthiness. I have spent my life searching for answers, resources, what rings most true. I have eventually found some of these resources — First Ourselves and the sugar abstinence work, in particular — yet because of this mechanism, I don’t invest myself in what I know to be most important and special. It’s confounding. But anyway, I know this is where I want to be. I even have a half-written blog around here somewhere….
Thank you for every extra calorie you may have consumed or nap that you needed to take, in the name of giving — sharing yourself and the messages and methods that so many of us need and want to hear. We love you so, Karly. 🙂
I love this post. I take a medication that caused me to gain 50 pounds. I feel like i have to justify it to everyone. like I have to wear I big sign, I can't help it that I'm fat. I now take another medicine that helps me not gain more weight. But it is very difficult to lose the weight. I want to love my weight but I look in the mirror when I'm naked and I cringe. I look in the mirror when I put on a bathing suit and I want to hide.
Karly maybe some day I can reach your level of peace. I can accept the weight gain until I see my body in the mirror.
Thank you so much for this! I am trying so hard to focus on my relationship with food first, but I strain to lost 15 pounds first and then build a long term healthy relationship with food. But, I know that isn't the best order. i'm trying to accept the stress from this last year or so and realize that maybe I gained some weight, but there are some other things to deal with first. Thanks!
Thank you so much for this. Last year was a nightmare for me, and I gained back 30 of the 70 pounds I'd kept off since 2004. I felt that the stress of the past year had turned me into a physical and emotional wreck, and it's only just now that I'm realizing that the way back to health is slower and will take more time and care than I might like. My body has limits, and I ignore them at my own peril.
The message on grounding was simply beautiful. I was an intense cardio-and-weights girl and enjoyed it, but now my body almost literally cries at the thought of a workout like I used to do. Yoga and walking it is then, and the gentler the better. I wish you and the others on this thread the very best as each one of us finds and travels our healing path.
Thank you for this. I have been wearing skirts all winter because well, a) I like them, but also b) because I don't fit in my pants anymore and I feel crummy when I put them on. I think I might just go buy some compassion pants today!
Love to all 🙂 ~Kellie
Your honesty and vulnerability leave me speechless. Thank you for writing and sharing your story.
I just posted a link to an article in the forums here (they're free to join if you're not a member): http://www.firstourselves.org/forum/articles-and-…
If you're going through a challenging time with lots of stress as I am, I think you'll find this article incredibly helpful. So much of why we gain weight or turn back to overeating is because our bodies are under chronic stress. It's not our fault.
In love, Karly
This is so timely for me. Finding you and this post.
The truth is I talk the talk but I don’t necessarily walk the walk. I am in new relationship (divorced after 16 years) and have a new baby (4 months) and 3 other older children. Just prior to this babes birth (at home, in the kitchen) I was as fit as I’d ever been. The lowest weight. The most muscular. I looked good for the first time in years and I was completely obsessed. And not happy. And now… it’s all for naught. I know I should cut myself some slack. And I know I should celebrate that I had a 10 and a half pound baby in my kitchen. But I just see flaw after flaw. I obsess about my husband finding other women attractive. I obsess about my body and what I should be doing and yet, do nothing. I compare myself to other women relentlessly. And then I have days where I say “You’re good enough. Stop this. No one is perfect.” It’s a vicious cycle. I hate it. I’m crying about it now.
This gave me a few minutes of peace.
This is a wonderful post and so reflective of my life in the past nine months. By December 2010 I had also reached my heaviest weight. I went through a big transition with my job and had multiple volunteer committments that were all colliding together. Then along came Christmas and I ate my way through the holidays…just as that was winding down we had a family crisis as a member of my extended family fell extremely ill and sadly passed away…It was a hard time for me and my family.
In spite of it all, I have never felt more at peace in how I value myself. For the first time I feel comfortable in my own skin in spite of my heavy weight. I was handling alot of new responsibility at work. I was extending alot of kindness to my family and I could see that it was appreciated and people didn’t care about how large the size of my thighs had grown.
I experienced a very unexpected sense of calm that I have never felt about myself and my body image before. Being at a heavier weight taught me that I am more than I ever valued myself to be.
Reading your post reminded me of this.
Now that I am starting to release some of the weight I gained from last year, my bargaining mind is already cutting lots of deals to see how soon I can lose ten more pounds in time for Spring.
In remembering your wise words that we are all simply human beings living and embracing change as best we can…that is all we can do and that is enough.
Simply astounding. Karly, your words are so much from the heart! So simple, yet so pure and so touching! It is an amazing experience to keep reading your articles, one after another… nourishing the soul with this kindness… I feel blessed to fiund your site. It is a place of Love. : ) Blessings! I hope you feel Peace at heart!
I feel so happy we found each other, too! I feel so grateful that you took the time to write and say hello – it means so much to me.
I also feel happy that reading my experiences (in all their messiness!) helps you feel nourished. That is the motivation behind my work – to create connection, understanding, freedom, and belonging. May we all practice kindness (it's such a practice – at least for me!) and find the freedom of unconditional love, of unconditional acceptance.
Peace to you, as well, dear one.
Thank you for your thoughtful post. I'm in a similar place. Over the last year or so I've gained 10-15 lbs back from my lowest weight. I get down on myself because I worked so hard to lose the last 20 lbs and kept if off for 2 years. But when I was at my thinnest I was also really unhappy. I'm now happier than I have been in my entire life. I feel balanced and am in healthy relationship for the first time in years. I know I will get back to the place where I can be more focused on weight loss and in the meantime, I'm working on trying to be kinder to myself while I get there.
This was honestly such a perfect post; and coming to me at a perfect time. I have been struggling with weight gain due to medication (that I truly needed) and have been trying to accept my new body rather than despise it; and it has been challenging. I have saved this post on my web browser as it is one that I want to come back to again and again. Thank you so much xoxoxo
I’m so glad this was nourishing to you — thank you for writing to share your thoughts. Your experience makes so much sense. Because our culture celebrates power, being in control, success, and achievement and shuns things like weight gain or “fat,” we can feel responsible, guilty, punished, and ashamed when we gain weight, as if we should’ve done better, known better, or prevented the weight gain or health challenge from happening in the first place. In a word, we feel bad, like it’s all our fault.
These voices of “I should’ve done better” or “you should’ve done better,” are not true, but they can feel true, and are so painful to the heart. The truth is that we are not in charge and there is much that is out of our control.(wrestling with that truth for many years brought me tremendous relief in letting go of 10,000 pounds of overresponsibility.)
This can include our health. Those times call for communion, belonging, unity, mercy, understanding, a soft heart, wisdom, and often, grieving. Through this softness and the powerful alchemy of grief, we can let go of the judgment for not doing better and the wish for things to be different and take up a relationship to whatever health challenge, body change, or weight gain that we’re facing. Through this loving relatedness, we find wisdom, healing, and, yes, a loving response.
In my own life, I also found that those times of surrender and of not being in charge, such as my journey through depression and eating disorders, were experiences that deepened me – growing qualities in me that would not have come to pass otherwise. For that I am very grateful. Our grief and sorrow makes us richer human beings, and often, more compassionate. It’s the treasure that the dragons bring.
May your body and heart feel wrapped in care and understanding! Love, Karly
I’ve struggled with an eating disorder my whole life. Finally at the age of 24 I felt like I had sorted it, I lost 6 stone healthily and was fit and healthy. 2020 turned everything on its head and reignited my eating disorder and battle with my body image.
It took my all year to get to grips with it again, I had just started to get my mojo back and the UK just announced a last minute lockdown with gyms closing just a few days before Christmas.
My anxiety about weight gain was through the rough and then I stumbled upon the article at the perfect time. Thank you for this, it really helped.