Okay, so I found the diet of all diets! Obviously, by the title, you can imagine that it has something to do with being guilt-free, while engaging in any type of diet. Are you wanting to lose weight, stop spending, exercise more, quit smoking, spend more time with your sweetie, take time away from electronic companions? I get it! A guilt-free diet may be the way to go!
Throughout my life, my body image has been really important to me – the ‘image’ part is one thing, but the health that comes as a consequence of eating well and exercising daily is another. I’m not as successful as I want to be, yet I’ve been able to maintain my weight within a five pound band-width for about twenty years. Not bad, eh?
Now, being close to sixty years old, there’s nothing that will stop my body from doing all those things bodies do as they age: the sagging, creping and wrinkling; well there’s nothing to do but to appreciate and value the degree of health and vitality that I do have today. I’m so grateful to have the stamina and strength that I do have. As grateful as I am, I keep pushing to lose those five extra pounds – it’s a constant conversation in my head. I realized the other day that for the majority of my sixty-plus years, I’ve laid an incessant barrage of guilt upon myself. So far, guilting myself has been the primary strategy responsible for staying thin and fit. But I realize the price I’ve paid using this strategy over any other.
I decided to create an experiment: I would stop working toward my particular weight goal. I would also stop the barrage of “Shoulds and Shouldn’ts” regarding everything to do with food, which has only solidified my belief in my inadequacy in fulfilling my commitments to myself.
Within moments of my creating this little experiment, I had an “OMG” (Oh, My God!) moment. A reem of attack thoughts spewed out of my mouth, all pointing to “I am not enough.”
I listed a minimum of 10 statements of guilt and shame that were so automatic I didn’t even know they are there. “If you don’t ___ (fill in the blank), you’ll look like an old lady; you’ll get fat and lazy; you won’t be beautiful anymore; your clothes won’t fit; you’ll be out of integrity with who you say you are; on and on and on. That’s when I decided I needed to go on a Guilt-Free Diet!
So, while on this guilt-free diet, my practice is to notice the thoughts that are embedded with guilt: Notice, for instance, when at lunch time, the voice in my head says: “You should have a salad.” That “You Should” is most likely laced with guilt.
When I’m about to do something based on that guilt-laced thought, my practice is to say STOP! Then re-think my thinking and choose based on what I really want. This requires me to think like a mature and wise adult, instead of that more adolescent part of me that constantly wants what I want when I want it, then feels guilty for indulging my impulses. Heaven Help me!
I heard the guilting voice in my head ask: “What will keep you from gaining tons of weight and being a lazy good-for-nothing if I stop listening to me? I didn’t have an answer – I wouldn’t know until I tried.
I began to wonder if the harmful side-effects of a lifetime of guilt could be worse than the extra pounds I might put on during this experiment. The only way I would know the answers to these questions would be to engage directly in the experience of giving up guilt.
I did some web browsing, and found that guilt leads to stress, which can lead to headaches, body aches, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal diseases and has a tremendously negative impact on your immune system. And, though our religions want us to belief that guilt will save our souls, in actuality, guilt severely deteriorates the life-force of an individual’s spirit. The self-deprecating nature of guilt contributes significantly to depression. And because there is often a sense that there is no right way to be, an individual begins to experience anxiety – the fear of being wrong and doing wrong when there isn’t a clear right way to go.
Is it possible to live a guilt-free life?
Guilting oneself is not uncommon. in fact, we have been trained through religions, family and culture that if you aren’t doing something “right,” you should feel guilty. For many of us, we don’t know any other way to manage and control ourselves but through guilt. Once I realized how I use guilt regarding food and beverage consumption, I also saw how I use it regarding work, productivity, and my financial where-with-all. I use guilt to make things happen and not happen, in every aspect of my life.
Does guilt have to be the only source of motivation?
I’m now more aware of making choices based on integrity and accountability, rather than guilt. My intention is to enjoy life, and I certainly enjoy it more when feeling good and looking good. It’s a fascinating process, revealing those thoughts that control and manage my behavior, yet are harmful and actually create dis-ease, self-hatred and other behaviors, which compensate for the guilt and shame. Brow-beating ourselves usually creates the desire to anesthetize that voice and the feelings – so we choose to eat, drink, shop, sex, TV – you get the idea. SHEEESH!
Is There Another Way?
I want to be in alignment with my highest truth and my highest good. I know that spewing guilty thoughts at myself, and at others, for that matter, isn’t in alignment with my highest truth or good. I want health and well-being, and I also want to enjoy freedom and flexibility.Guilt allows for neither of these desires to manifest.
It’s interesting just to notice what happens when I take guilt out of the equation – not try to replace it with something else, not try to fix or heal the source of the guilt; just stop the guilt. I consider being a parent to myself and speaking without guilt – only loving thoughts – not manipulative, candy –sweet, but just love and care. It’s just an investigation, an experiment. I’m not trying to loose weight or fix my behavior in any way – I’m just exploring what IS without guilt.
Little by little, so far in this experiment, I’m realizing a greater degree of peace and relaxation – something I’ve not experienced for a very long time. I realize too, the degree to which the incessant pressure to be productive, effective, appropriate, worthy, attractive and desirable, never, never stops. It doesn’t take a vacation, and neither do I.
An invaluable resource that grows with aging is wisdom. Inevitably, we come to discover that who and what we think we are isn’t actually who and what we are at all! In service to cultivating more wisdom and peace in my life, what matters to me more than anything else now, is that I compassionately reveal and dismantle any self-loathing thought that impedes my capacity to be the fullest expression of my essential self. How can I be anything but fit and attractive if I follow this advice?
I enjoy the adventure that comes with being curious about myself – how I’ve come to this reality within which I live, in this current moment. I have no idea what will unfold from this exploration and practice. I do know that my experience thus far is that it’s contributing to a greater degree of well-being that’s guilt -free!